meet the monger: kyra james
December 01, 2016 // by Kara Young
Kyra Jame's love of food culture and production brought her from her hometown of Danbury, Connecticut to Formaggio Kitchen in Boston's south end.
Kyra has four years of experience behind the cheese counter and according to her, her love for cheese continues to grow.
We caught up with Kyra to hear about the questions she hears most often from customers, her advice for novice buyers and how her love of sports influenced her signature cheeseboard. Check out her holiday cheeseboard 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: Kyra James
Hometown: Danbury, Connecticut
Cheese shop: Formaggio Kitchen South End
How long have you been a cheese monger? 4 years
What brought you to the cheese counter?
A love for food culture and production brought me to Boston, from there I was lucky enough to get a job at Formaggio. My love for being behind a cheese counter hasn't stop growing since.
Let’s talk about cheese.
What’s the most common question you get asked behind the counter?
“What's your favorite cheese?”
What should a novice cheese buyer look for in a cheese?
Flavor! There is no better way to know what you like than tasting first. It's hard to argue with your own pallet.
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 first ask, “why?” Usually the answer refers to a specific cheese type or single experience. From there it depends on the customer, I may challenge them to try something new! If nothing else I'll try and educate them as to why they may not like the flavor of goat cheese or explain what causes that appearance/aroma.
What advice do you have for novice cheese buyers who are building their first cheeseboard? Are there rules?
First rule is there are no rules! Your first cheese board should start with what you know you like and/or the people you are sharing it with like. From there, work with your cheesemonger to find cheeses that will round out the board. It's more fun when the cheeses have different flavors and textures!
What's one thing about cheese, cheesemaking or the cheese world that would surprise or excite an average cheese buyer?
To me, there's so much! People are always surprised how big the cheese world is and even more surprised when they begin to understand how important and influential it is to so many cultures. Not just the government and organizational support (AOP, DOP and ACS) but the history and stories behind each cheese. It's so interesting to learn how a cheese began and the people behind it.
Describe your board and the inspiration behind it. Explain why your particular pairings work well.
I'm a huge sports fan and have been playing all my life; my favorite is American football. In my experience, the food served on game day (pizza, wings, dips) are so predictable so I wanted to class up Sunday afternoons.
For my pairings, I wanted to make sure that everything good be enjoyed on their own or in combinations with all the other food being served. I knew the cheeses had to have different textures and distinct flavors to keep even the most distracted eater going back for more. So I focused on the pairings first and knew that meat and nuts are usually included. I choose three local cheeses since me and my friends are from New England where the local team is the favorite...not me, GO GIANTS! Having a nice mix of salty, sweet, smokey, tangy and spicy was important in order to prevent food boredom during the big game.