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Meet Our Cheese Masters

Meet Our Cheese Masters

Today, we introduce you to the cheesemonger. And this isn’t just any cheesemonger, but a Di Bruno Bros. cheesemonger — a rare specialist with an abnormal amount of cheese enthusiasm. This cohort doesn’t just sell cheese, they eat cheese day in and day out, sharing their discoveries and stories with anyone that will listen and try a taste.

They are men and women dedicated to spreading the good word of cheese. Individuals who spend their days trying upwards of 20-30 different types of cheeses, identifying flavors, pairing cheese with everything around them, and becoming every customer’s best friend. For example, take any wedge of cheese… any wedge at all. A Di Bruno cheesemonger can tell you the story of the farm that makes it, why the cheese is extra special, and the best way to eat it. Whether it’s straight up, paired with a jelly or jam, on a sandwich, with your favorite mac, or maybe even something cool that no one even knows about. They’re that good. The best part about them is they love seeing other people excited about cheese.

 

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WHAT IS A CERTIFIED CHEESE PROFESSIONAL?

On top of being incredible cheesemongers, these mongers are Certified Cheese Professionals (or CCPs as they're known around these parts). A Certified Cheese Professional is a cheesemonger who has passed the American Cheese Society's CCP test—the highest standard possible for cheese professionals. The three hour, 150 question test aims to unify the industry so cheese professionals speak the same “language” and basic philosophies of cheese.

Emilio Mignucci, our VP of Culinary Pioneering, along with revered leaders in the cheese world like Sue Sturman, Max McCalman, the late Daphne Zepos and ACS members, wrote the CCP exam over an eight-year period, finalizing the exam in 2012. To date, ten of our cheesemongers are CCPs and more will take the exam each year!

EMILIO MIGNUCCI, VP OF CULINARY PIONEERING

The Cheese Cave Godfather

Emilio is a third generation owner at Di Bruno Bros. and serves as the Vice President of Culinary Pioneering. He’s always on the quest for the latest and greatest eats, and loves telling the stories behind them. His expertise and passion for food has helped him to grow the cheese offerings here at Di Bruno Bros. from the 50 varieties it offered in its earlier days to well over 600 cheeses from all over the world–each with their own unique story. He's helped write the esteemed Certified Cheese Professional Exam—the highest standard for cheese professionals, and has been recognized for his work in the food industry. In 2010, the Italian Trade Commission acclaimed Emilio for “Distinguished Service” in importing, representing, and educating on Italian Food and Culture. The James Beard Foundation also honored him for his help in making Philadelphia a world-class food city. What a guy!

What is your favorite go-to snack?
Aged provolone and hot soppressata. The classics.

What's your catch phrase?
Life is too short to eat bad food!

Mark CCP

MARK BOMALASKI, CCP

The Traveling Cheeseman

Destined to be cheesy at an early age, Mark’s family hails from Wisconsin, so he spent a lot of time visiting dairy land as a kid. Mark’s favorite cheese is Comté from the Jura Mountains of France. One of his favorite things about this cheese is the range of flavors and textures depending on the age profile. It tends to be mild, but endlessly complex and subtle at the same time. It is amazing alone but made to melt! He uses it for everything. The biggest cheese myth Mark would like to debunk is that there is no such thing as a favorite cheese!

What’s your favorite cheesy dish?
For me pizza is one of the perfect dishes, and definitely my favorite cheesy dish. I like to think that you can never make the same pizza twice, though each one is always super satisfying. Being in the cheese industry affords me amazing opportunities to make outlandish cheesy pizzas using ingredients some people might not have regular access to at home.

How did you prepare for the CCP exam?
The CCP Exam is something that we all take very seriously. My other fellow mongers and I who were up for the exam that year made a point, no matter how inconvenient, to meet once a month for several months in the beginning of the year. These group study sessions increased in frequency all the way to twice a week for the last month or so leading up to the exam. I also studied plenty in my own spare time.

LESLIE UHL, CCP

Princess of Pairings

Originally from Indiana, our Certified Cheese Professional, Leslie, came to us with passion, motivation, an incredible sense of humor, and a cover letter full of cheese puns. We called her the next day and we’ve never looked back. She wants you to know that cheese isn’t as perishable as you think; it’s built to last, baby! And her favorite cheese of the moment is Rush Creek Reserve. In her own words, “Can’t stop. Won’t stop.”

Your favorite cheesy fun fact:
There’s a story about how blue cheese was discovered that involves a young cheesemaker’s apprentice, who was left to finish the daily cheese production but skipped out early to meet up with a lover.  When he returned later and found his now-moldy curds, he sought to hide his rendezvous by mixing the moldy curd in with the fresh, therefore creating wheels that sprouted blue veins and exposed him and his lover’s secret tryst.  A delicious mistake, but also a romantic (and probably untrue) tale.

Rocco CCP

ROCCO RAINONE, CCP

Italian Market Head Honcho

A resident of South Philly, Rocco is a true cheese lover. He doesn’t have a favorite cheese, but he has a “cheese of the moment.” We dig it. Right now, his favorite cheese is Ricotta di Pecora. His eye-opening read while he studied for the CCP exam was Paul Kindstedt’s "American Farmstead Cheese".

Favorite cheesy dish:
Grilled Cheese— constructed with at least two types of cheese shredded and mixed with a Di Bruno Bros. Spread, mayo on the outside of the bread, all made in a cast iron skillet.

What is the biggest cheese myth you would like to debunk?
The first domestic refrigerator was invented in 1915. Cheese has been made for thousands of years. Most cheeses are safe out of the fridge for a couple of hours.

HUNTER FIKE, CCP

Overall Cultured Chap

An Italian Market regular as a young’n, Hunter grew up with cheese all around. After getting his first job with us as a teen, he joined us full-time after graduating college. A passionate and voracious omnivore, Hunter is a lover of seasonal cheeses and identifies with Pecorino di Pienza as his spirit cheese. After receiving his CCP certification in 2013, Hunter judged at the first-ever Pennsylvania Cheese Awards and was an official judge at the 2015 American Cheese Society Conference.

Favorite cheesy dish:
Mac and Cheese, the old fashioned way: by making a roux with bacon fat and butter. I always use a different combination of cheeses, but Gruyere or anything Alpine should always be part of the equation.

What's your favorite cheese?
While I am always infatuated with whatever is in season, or whatever is perfectly ripe on any given day, I always go back to Montgomery’s Mature Farmhouse Cheddar as my favorite. My son’s middle name is Montgomery, after the cheese, so I am pretty committed to it.

Jeff CCP

JEFFREY DIMAIO, CCP

CCP, Sommelier, Cicerone, AKA "The Triple Threat"

Triple-certified as a Certified Cheese Professional, Sommelier, and Cicerone, you could call our cheesemonger, Jeff, certifiable! Formerly sommelier at the Borgata in Atlantic City, Jeff was drawn to the cheese life by our passionate Emilio Mignucci after a staff cheese training. Jeff’s writings have been published in cheese publications like Culture, Cheese Connoisseur, Dupont Registry, and The Wine Advisor. Jeff would eat a Sottocenere omelet every day if he could.

What is your favorite wine and cheese pairing?
Amarone and Cravero Parmigiano Reggiano.

What’s your Spirit Cheese?
Red Hawk—because it sounds like it should be a spirit cheese but also because I love it.

Amanda Bernhardt, CCP

Di Bruno's Sweetheart

Leading the charge at our newest location at The Franklin, Amanda is a busy lady! Everyone would agree though, Amanda is one of those people you just like to be around. She's a fun-loving, cheese-eating adventurer with a soft spot for Labrador Retrievers, the great outdoors, and a good book. Not to mention she’s a CCP and recently honored by ZAGAT Philadelphia 2014 30 Under 30. What's not to love?

Favorite cheesy dish:
Asparagus with a grated pecorino under the broiler. So simple and delicious. It reminds me of my mom's cooking when I was growing up!

What's your favorite cheese?
Ossau Iraty—classic, flavorful, and stoic.

Rich CCP

RICH MORILLO, CCP

Captain of the Cave

Certified Cheese Professional and our very own affineur (mature-r of cheeses) at our Rittenhouse location. He enjoys cheese straight up on a crusty baguette or with pickles and kimchi if the cheese is a stinker. Rich’s favorite cheese is Vacherin Mont d’Or, an inaccessible softy. Originally a holiday hire, he stayed on and learned from our experts and his passion for cheese grew even stronger. Seven years later, this still rings true. Rich says one of his greatest accomplishments is any time a customer comes back into the shop just to tell me how much they enjoyed the cheeses we picked out together.

Your favorite cheesy fun fact:
Most aged cheeses are actually very low in lactose, so there's no need to deny yourself some nice Parmigiano or Gruyere.

What's your favorite cheese?
Well, it changes batch to batch, but right now I'm loving the Bel Canto from Andante Dairy. The best way to find out what's good is just to ask your cheesemonger, "What are you liking right now?"