Jordan Edward left the restaurant scene for the cheese counter at Pastoral Artisan Cheese & Winery six years ago, where he immediately fell in love with cheese. His appreciation for the rich history and complexity of cheese is clear. We talked to Jordan about everything an cheese novice needs to know in oder to "Flex on your family and friends with your cheeseboard skills" this holiday season, as well as his signature cheese board, inspired by his ideal day off. Check out Jordan's cheese board here. 

This post is part of our Holiday Cheers to Cheesemongers series, for more monger spotlights, click here. For more holiday recipe and pairings inspiration, thumb through our recipe collection here.

Name: Jordan Edwards

Hometown: Chicago, Illinois.

Cheese shop: Pastoral 

Cheeseboard: “Vermont and Chill.”

How long have you been a cheese monger? Six years 

What brought you to the cheese counter?
I saw that Pastoral was hiring a delivery driver, while searching craigslist for a new Job. I looked Pastoral up on google. I saw they supplied 90+ restaurants with cheese. I figured I would drive for Pastoral and meet chefs from some of the best restaurants in Chicago. I made a plan to get my foot in the door at one of the wholesale customers. I would try to taste and learn about at least one cheese in each delivery. As a way of being able to talk to cooks and chefs. Hopefully opening the door for a new kitchen job. 2 things happened at almost the same time. First I got my car stolen. Second I seriously fell in love with cheese. I grew up on deli Munster and a certain "cheese" that rhymes with pita.  The history behind cheese and all the different flavors coaxed out of 4 ingredients (Milk, salt, rennet, cultures) is pretty much the coolest. Thankful the owners Greg and Ken gave me a shot behind the counter. 

Let’s talk about cheese.

What’s the most common question you get asked behind the counter? 
The most common question I get is " What’s good right now?" We’re a cut-to-order shop with 100 cheeses and no shortage of opinions and ideas on how to cook with, pair, and ways to enjoy cheese.
 
What should a novice cheese buyer look for in a cheese? 
Just ask your monger, we have a connection the maker. Also, look into  cut-to-order shops. Each of our shops spends about 15 hours a week just caring for cheese, facing and re-wrapping.   

What do you say to a customer who declares that they, “Don’t like goat cheese,” or are put off by an appearance or aroma of a cheese? 
I try to sample Cremont or a younger Bonne Bouche. They are great examples of clean flavored and approachable goat cheese. The few goats’ milk cheese I had tasted before working at a Pastoral were all large production crumbled chevre that tasted some where between chalk and wet pasture.  Its unfortunate that a few bad cheeses gave a bad rep for goat cheese as a style. 

What advice do you have for novice cheese buyers who are building their first cheeseboard? Are there rules? 
Keep it simple; you do not need fifty cheeses and seven accouterments. I also think a 1 oz of each cheese per a person is a good ratio, if your using 3-5 different cheeses. Mix it up with textures, style and milk types.  Any Cheesemonger should have a recommendation of a jam, honey, dried fruit, cured meat, etc.  I love helping customers put boards together; Pastoral also does a rad class on building cheese plates. The next one is December 14, teaching you every thing you need too be able to flex on your family with your cheese skill for the holidays.

What's one thing about cheese, cheesemaking or the cheese world that would surprise or excite an average cheese buyer?
The comradery between cheesemakers and mongers. I love the connections I have made with cheesemakers over the years. Being able to put a face to the cheese I am selling is a really special thing in my mind. 

Describe your board and the inspiration behind it. Explain why your particular pairings work well. 
The inspiration behind my board is my ideal day off: good cheese and good music. Both are things best shared with others. The pairings I came up with are simple and easy. It’s "Vermont and chill" not "Vermont and cook a ton."  St. Albans is a little cheese Jacuzzi of love. I really love the fence of sweet and savory that the Quince and Apple shallot confit bring.  Coupole is rich and creamy with the perfect amount of salt to make me keep coming back for more. Being from the Midwest, fall means apples, and I really dig honey crisp apples. The crunch from the apple the richness from the cheese and a little sweetness from the honey is almost as good as gets. The cranberry orange chevre log with kettle corn reminds me of the way my grandma’s house smells during fall, but in tasty snack form.