Getting Personal with Kowalski's Imported Cheese Director, Joe Moore
Posted: Sunday, December 1, 2013
Since he first ventured into the kitchen at the tender age of 5, Kowalski's Cheese Specialist Joe Moore has been living a pretty delicious life. Our former chef at Catering by Kowalski's finds himself most at home in the world of cheese; our customers reap the benefits of his knowledge and passion. From Gruyère to Griottes, Joe and his team work tirelessly to source the best of the best both locally and from around the world.
Occupation: Kowalski's Imported Cheese Director
Q. When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A. When I was 5, my mother hurt her back and was not able to get out of bed for several weeks. Until then my father had never spent a day of his life in a kitchen! I made scrambled eggs (with a little help from Dad) for the family! From that point on I knew food was my future!
Q. What was your first job in this field?
A. I worked as a sales rep for a specialty foods provider who sold everything from gourmet chocolates to specialty cheese. It was there that I really started to appreciate everything that the world of cheese represents.
Q. What are your favorite cheeses for nibbling?
A. This one's tough. I am a big fan of Evalon from LaClare Farms in Wisconsin. This raw goat's milk cheese is smooth and creamy with a hint of caramelized sweetness! I am also a HUGE fan of Bent River Camembert from Alemar Cheese Company in Mankato. This gem has all of the characteristics of its imported counterparts, and it's made just a short drive away from the Twin Cities!
Q. Do you have a favorite Imported Cheese "recipe"?
A. Yes, every fall I make a Sweet Potato and Celery Root Gratin which uses Gruyère! My whole family loves this recipe!
Q. When it comes to sourcing cheese for the stores, what do you look for when deciding what to bring in?
A. There are a number of factors to consider before bringing in a new cheese. The two biggest things are taste and uniqueness of the product; we try to source cheeses that set themselves apart from other cheeses within their category.
Q. Do you try all the cheeses you bring in?
A. Of course! It is the job of a Cheese Specialist to convey what we like (or dislike) about certain cheeses. This is what builds credibility with our customers. We have to have a basic understanding of what our customers are looking for and base our recommendations off of our experience with the cheese.
Q. Is that as fun as it sounds?
A. YES! It's hard to think of any other job that allows you an opportunity to sample artisanal cheeses from all around the world...then share this info with customers!
Q. What about the "cheese-related" items in the Imported Cheese Department – condiments, crackers, accompaniments? Do you have any favorites there?
A. I'm a sucker for Griottes! These little brandy-soaked cherries are FANTASTIC on everything from triple crèmes to ice cream!
Q. What is your favorite food from Kowalski's?
A. I have to say the Kowalski's item that makes it home with me most often is our Signature Fresh Mozzarella! Whether we are doing a grilled margherita pizza or just putting together a Caprese salad, it's a staple in our house!
Q. Many people don’t know you worked for a long time as a chef at Catering by Kowalski's. What was that experience like?
A. Working as a chef at Catering by Kowalski's was a great experience! Having this background truly comes in handy when customers come to me looking for ideas on cheeses to use in certain recipes. If I can get them to share with me what they want to make, I can usually help them come up with the right cheese for the recipe.
Q. What kinds of dishes are your favorites to make at home?
A. As you would imagine, our menus are quite "cheese-centric." Sometimes it's just a salad with cheese and bread, and other times it's homemade mac 'n' cheese! If I had to choose a favorite, I'd say I LOVE Coquilles St. Jacques [a scallop gratin made with Gruyère and breadcrumbs].
Q. What are you most proud of in your department?
A. I think I can speak for all the Cheese Specialists when I say that we all take great pride in the selection that we offer our customers. We all work very hard to ensure we are offering a good mix between new and traditional cheeses.
Q. What's something few people know about you?
A. In addition to cheese, I'm also a huge music fan! I like going to the record stores and rummaging through the vinyl!