2017 Big Cheese Superstars

Waldemar Albrecht

Waldemar Albrecht studied law and business administration in his native Venezuela. After immigrating to the US to follow his passion for gastronomy and culinaria, he received training in cheese from industry leaders like Debra Dickerson, Janet Tarlov, Daphne Zepos, and Juliana Uruburu. In May 2003, Waldemar moved to New York City to become a full time Maitre Fromager at Artisanal restaurant, as well as member of the faculty at Artisanal Premium Cheese, nurturing his education through his mentor and friend Max McCalman. Currently, Waldemar works as a spokesperson for Lactalis-USA, conducts food tours with friend and partner Clarisa Penzini, and is the cheese buyer for the Battery Place Markets in Manhattan.


Jennifer Bice – Founder & Managing Director, Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery

Jennifer Bice is the Founder and Managing Director of Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery, where she produces artisanal cheese, yogurt, kefir, sour cream and other specialty dairy products under two distinct brands: Redwood Hill Farm goat milk dairy and Green Valley Organics lactose-free cow milk dairy. The oldest of ten siblings, Jennifer Bice took over her parents’ goat farm in 1978. Her interest in dairy goats and artisanal foods let her to become an award-winning goat breeder and cheesemaker and, over time, she built Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery into the business it is today. Always on the cutting edge of taking care of people, animals and the planet, her herd of dairy goats was the first to become Certified Humane® in the U.S. in 2005. 


Liam Callahan, Owner/Cheesemaker Bellwether Farms

After finishing a degree in Political Economy from U.C. Berkeley, Liam Callahan’s education shifted to the farm.  He learned about sheep milk and cheesemaking and joined his mother, Cindy Callahan, in the family business.  Working with farmstead sheep milk and a neighbor’s rich Jersey cow milk, Liam uses traditional methods to craft a diverse range of award-winning cheeses and yogurts. 


Vanessa Chang, ACS CCP

Vanessa Chang considers herself an all around food nerd. Before preaching pork for her day job as Marketing & Education Manager for Creminelli Fine Meats, she worked as an education director and consultant for specialty food retailers and producers. Her food and travel writing has been featured in the New York Times, Sunset, VIA, and other publications. In addition to charcuterie and cheese (she earned Certified Cheese Professional status from the American Cheese Society), her other great food love is another fermented beauty: chocolate.


Sue Conley

Sue Conley is the Co-Founder of Cowgirl Creamery.  Food and community have followed Sue Conley just about everywhere. She caught the restaurant bug early, watching her grandfather hold court at Sholl’s Colonial, the popular Washington DC cafeteria he managed throughout her childhood.  After her time at the University of Tennessee she moved to the San Francisco area in 1976.  11 years later she migrated out to Point Reyes Station where she started Cowgirl Creamery with Peggy Smith. 


Kiri Fisher, Owner of The Cheese School

Kiri Fisher is a dedicated entrepreneur who found her heart in artisan cheese. She has worked for The Pasta Shop, Raymond & Co Cheesemongers, Tumalo Farms, the California Milk Advisory Board, and has interned with Monteillet Fromagerie. Previously, she's managed educational programming for California's Artisan Cheese Festival and was a board member of the California Artisan Cheese Guild. In 2011, Kiri purchased The Cheese School with Daphne Zepos. When not at The Cheese School, Kiri is working on Fisher's Wine and Cheese, coming to the Marin Country Mart in Spring 2017.


Janet Fletcher, Author

Janet Fletcher publishes Planet Cheese, a weekly blog, and writes the “Cheese Focus” column for Specialty Food magazine. She is the author or co-author of more than two dozen books on food and beverage, including Cheese & Beer, Cheese & Wine, and The Cheese Course. Janet is the recipient of three James Beard Awards and the IACP Bert Greene Award for her journalism and is a member of the Guilde Internationale des Fromagers. Her writing has appeared in numerous national magazines, including Culture, Saveur, Bon Appetit and Food & Wine. She lives in Napa Valley but teaches cheese-appreciation classes around the country. (www.janetfletcher.com)


Jill Giacomini Basch

Jill Giacomini Basch, together with her sisters and their father Bob, launched Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company in August, 2000. On their family dairy, they produce their award-winning line of hand-crafted cheeses. Jill acts as Co-Owner/Chief Marketing Officer and Director of The Fork business unit (a culinary and educational center on the farm), utilizing many years of experience in advertising and marketing in the hi-tech industry.  Jill’s responsibilities at Point Reyes cross various strategic areas of the business, including marketing, communications, sales, planning and brand management. Jill is a current Board Director for the Artisan Cheese Festival held every Spring in Petaluma, CA.  She recently completed two terms as a Board Director for the American Cheese Society (ACS) and was a founding Board Director and 2-term Vice President of the California Artisan Cheese Guild (CACG).  From 2009 to 2014, Jill was a Board Member of Marin Organic.


Lynn Giacomini Stray

Lynn Giacomini Stray is from a third generational dairy family in Marin County, California.  Together with her sisters and their father Bob, she launched Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company in August, 2000. On their family dairy, the company produces Original Blue, California's only classic-style blue cheese, as well as Bay Blue, Fresh Mozzarella and Toma, a buttery-flavored anytime table cheese. Lynn is COO as well as Director of Sales. She serves on the Board of Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT), is a founding Board Member of The Agricultural Institute of Marin (Marin Farmers Market partner), Member of the American Cheese Society, founding Director of the California Artisan Cheese Guild, Member of Marin Organic and Member of the International Dairy-Deli Bakery Association.  


Kirstin Jackson

Kirstin Jackson is the author of “It’s Not You, It’s Brie: Unwrapping Amiercan’s Unique Culture of Cheese.” Kirstin Jackson is both a cheesemaking teacher and a wine and cheese educator.  She loves showing people how to make creamery burrata pillows as much as she adores pairing her new favorite local wheels with wine. She blames her parents who took her on trips to the California dairy country at a very young age for feeding her obsession.


Michele Anna Jordan

Michele Anna Jordan, an award-winning writer and chef, operates micheleannajordan.com, a website that gathers together her passion for writing, home cooking, and Sonoma County. The site augments her work for The Press Democrat, her radio show Mouthful, in its 22nd year on KRCB-FM, and her books, 24 to date. Jordan grew up in the North Bay and raised her children on a dairy farm in Lakeville, east of Petaluma. Among her many awards are a James Beard Award for Magazine Feature Writing (1997). She was a 1994 Sonoma State University Distinguish Alum for the School of Humanities and was voted Best Sonoma County Chef in 1989. Jordan lives in Sebastopol, with her two long-haired dachshunds, Lark and Joey.


Charlie Kalish

Charlie Kalish is a cheese industry professional and expert on French and American artisan cheese. He obtained his training in traditional French cheesemaking in central and southern France, making cow, goat and sheep milk cheese. He trained in affinage (professional cheese aging) with two of the world's leading cheese aging companies, Mons Fromager et Affineur in France's Rhône Alps and Cellars of Jasper Hill in Vermont. He is a contributor to Cheese Connoisseur magazine and active member of the American cheese community, leading industry workshops to cheesemakers across the USA and Australia. Charlie and his twin brother, Michael, have made several appearances on Food Network, including “Chopped” (Finalists), “Great Food Truck Race” (Champions) and their own show, “Big Cheese”.


Michael Kalish 

Michael Kalish began his food career in commercial beekeeping and wine crush work. He was the first American to receive formal training in dairy and meat processing in the Piedmont, Italy, at istituto lattiero caseario e delle tecnologie agroalimentari. He has since worked for, and trained under, some of Europe's finest artisan cheesemakers and affineurs (professional cheese agers), including Mons, Fromager et Affineur (FR) and Luigi Guffanti (IT). In the USA, Michael managed operations for Artisanal Premium Cheese in NYC and now teaches affinage workshops and provides consulting across the United State, Canada and Australia. Michael and his twin brother, Charlie, have made several appearances on Food Network, including “Chopped” (Finalists), “Great Food Truck Race” (Champions) and their own show, “Big Cheese”.


Chef Daniel Kedan

Daniel Kedan began his professional cooking career in Connecticut in 2004. Kedan enrolled in the The Culinary Institute of America, in 2006, being part of the school’s first Associate Occupational Studies program on the Saint Helena campus. While attending school, he began working under Chef Dave Cruz, at Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc restaurant in Yountville, as part of the opening team. Kedan worked at various restaurants in Sonoma and Napa counties while gathering skills and accolades along the way. Kedan and his wife Chef Marianna Gardenhire started their own restaurant in 2012: Backyard is a seasonal, sustainable restaurant nestled in the small town of Forestville, California.


Chris Munsey, Certified Cicerone®

Chris Munsey discovered his passion for cheese while learning how to make Bergkäse on a tiny dairy farm in Alto Adige, Italy during the summer of 2003. His next cheese related endeavors took him to Vermont for a short stint working at Provisions International and volunteering at Vermont Shepherd followed by several years behind the counter and in the wholesale department of Murray’s Cheese in New York City. Chris’ passion for cheese is only matched by his love of good beer which he explored professionally as general manager at 61 Local, a craft beer bar in Brooklyn, NY for two years. He returned full time to the cheese world as Vermont Creamery’s West Coast Sales Director and has been enjoying the dynamic California beer and cheese culture ever since. Chris is a Certified Cicerone® and has taught classes on beer and cheese appreciation since 2005 in New York and California.


Peggy Smith

Peggy Smith, Co-Founder of Cowgirl Creamery, knows her way around a kitchen. Born in Texas and raised in Northern Virginia, she started her culinary career serving hearty suppers to food and folk music lovers at Gallagher’s in Washington, DC.  Her move to San Francisco in 1976 coincided with the food revolution begun by Alice Waters.  Peggy worked at Chez Panisse in Berkeley for 17 years before Sue Conley asked her to consider starting a cheese company in Point Reyes; she jumped at the chance.


Laura Werlin

Laura Werlin is one of the country’s foremost authorities on cheese. She is a James Beard award-winning author of six books on the subject, is a sought-after speaker and spokesperson for consumer and trade organizations, and is a frequent television and radio guest.  Laura has been featured on numerous local and national television and radio shows and writes for a number of national magazines including Food & Wine, Sunset, Culture, and Saveur. She is known for her approachable yet authoritative teaching style and frequently conducts cheese and wine pairing, cheese essentials, and cooking classes across the country and is a regular instructor at The Cheese School of San Francisco.


Clark Wolf

Clark Wolf is a nationally known food and restaurant consultant, forbes.com commentator and host of At The Table with Clark Wolf on KSRO 1350 AM 103.5 FM. He was a founder of the American Cheese Society and founded the California Artisan Cheese Guild. He is the author of American Cheeses from Simon and Schuster (2008) and a recent contributor to The Oxford Companion to Cheese. He helped found the nation’s first Food Studies program at NYU and splits his time between Manhattan and a hundred-year-old loggers cabin in the redwoods in Northwestern Sonoma County.