Monday, June 18, 2012

Day 841 : Root, root, root for the hometeam - Martin Johnson

This coming Saturday is the Cheesemonger Invitational in Long Island City -- it is going to be a competition of epic proportions! 100 cheesemongers, 8 different rounds, plenty of cheese knowledge, care, and preparation on display! For spectators, there will be cheese, nibbles, wine, beer, and spirits galore, if you haven't bought your tickets - don't wait too long as you wouldn't want to miss this amazing opportunity :

Over the next week, we will take a look at some of the hometown competition and give you a window into what makes them stand out from the pack.

Today's let's give you a window into the world of Martin Johnson - cheesemonger extraordinaire at Gastronomie 491 on the Upper West Side. An eat in / to go joint that opened on Columbus and 83rd in March, Gastronomie features a selection of fresh fruits and vegetables, prepared foods, breads, cheeses, beers and more along with a sit down cafe area in the back area. Their cheese selection on any given day has anywhere between 50 and 60 different cheeses with approximately 200 cheeses in their full rotation. They get new cheeses in on a weekly basis and are always infusing new blood into their offerings.

So how did Martin Johnson come to end up here and as a competitor in Saturday's competition you might be wondering? How about a little bit of background?

For the majority of his career, Martin Johnson has simultaneously been involved in the world of cheese and the world of freelance journalism for publications such as the New York Times, New York Magazine, Vogue, the Wall Street Journal, and many more. Johnson started out working for Bloomingdale's now defunct food division in the 80s and 90s while still furthering his writing career. In 1998, decision time came! Should he leave the world of food for writing? The opportunities were too great in the writing world so he took the chance. In 2002-2003, Martin decided to return to the world of cheese and made his name mongering at Garden of Eden. A year into his time at Garden of Eden, he returned to the written word part time, working at Bedford Cheese part time and starting the Joy of Cheese -- both an educational cheese blog with a fromage of the day highlighted along with Cheese pairing classes taught at the 92 Y in everything from Cheese and Wine to Cheese and Tequila and more. The Joy of Cheese aims to arm you with knowledge to appreciate the tastes you are enjoying and what flavor profiles create a sense of harmony with others. As Martin himself said, "It's about giving people a route in...that route will empower you with knowledge into your food, cheese, wine, spirits and more." Through the Joy of Cheese, Martin has had the opportunity to curate the cheese selections at a few wine bars around town and has consequently taught both private and public classes in their spaces.

Fast forward to 2011, Martin got approached to run the cheese department at Gastronomie 491 - a place that specializes in an intellectual yet fun and informative approach to your food with uniquely curated selections of everything from beer to cheese to prepared foods, baked goods and more. What a perfect fit! He still writes daily for the Joy of Cheese and teaches a few times a month at the 92Y.

Of the three main aspects, the Cheesemonger Invitational judges contestants based on -- knowledge, care and preparation, Martin definitely has a leg up on the knowledge end!!

Let's hear it for Martin!!!!

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