Talking with Amanda DeMann about cheese is a transformative experience. She proselytizes with as much fervor as a church full of Pentecostals, so it's no wonder that people have started calling her "Cheesus" (rhymes with Jesus... get it?!). She got her start innocently enough when she happened upon a French cheese book. Crammed with historical info and sexy photos, it appealed to her "super dork-out side," her Dairy Belt roots (she's from Minnesota), and her education (she studied photography in NYC). It wasn't long before her hobby turned into a full-blown passion: One fine day she was lunching at Bluehour, which had just started a new cheese program. Disappointed that the waiter could not tell her whether the Catalonian goat's milk cheese had an ash rind or a natural rind, or whether the hoch ybrig (sounds like "hockey brick") was similar to cave-aged gruyere, DeMann called the restaurant the following day to offer her services, and a legend was born. Since then she's been plucked from obscurity by upper-crust lesbians to lecture on an Olivia culinary cruise of the Mediterranean and, most recently, headhunted by New Seasons to oversee their cheese department in lovely Happy Valley.
Are you liking your new job?
Yeah! I went from having 25-30 cheeses to over 300; I also get to learn more about olives. The Happy Valley demographic can support a menu of higher-end cheeses, $35-45 a pound. Of course nobody should eat a whole pound. You're not gonna shit, or you're gonna shit your face off, if you eat that much cheese.
You were a cult figure at Bluehour. Do you miss that?
Yeah. I miss the hustle and bustle of Bluehour. I was kind of iconic there; people would call and make reservations on nights I was working. It almost became less about the cheese and more about how excited I got. I could have been pushing Cheez Whiz and they would have bought it.
Have you ever met a cheese you didn't like?
I don't think so. I've learned to appreciate milder cheeses that maybe aren't my favorites. I tend to like really full-bodied, super-stinky, eat-in-the-backyard crazy cheeses.
What about Cheez Whiz?
There's a time and a place for it, like on a road trip with a Bugle, and you make a little ice cream cone out of it. That's super good.
Époisses! If it didn't stop me from getting a job I'd have it tattooed across my knuckles. It's a Burgundy cheese that dates back to the time of Louis XV. It's been washed in Marc de Bourgogne—a burgundy brandy. It's so unctuous, when you cut into it, it just oozes. It's the sexiest cheese ever. I'd rub it all over my face if I could.