Meet the Mongers

The cheese business brings together people from a myriad of backgrounds, and the tie that binds us is simple: a great love of cheese.

We've posted some interviews with our cheesemongers below so you can get to know the folks behind the counter.


Juliana Uruburu

juliana_smWorking at The Pasta Shop Cheese Counter since: 1987

First cheese memory? When I was three years old my dad used to take me to our favorite cheese shop every weekend. He would stand me on the counter and the cheesemonger would always hand me a big chunk of sharp cheddar to nibble on. I would savor it for most of the afternoon.

Favorite moment behind the counter? My favorite moment behind the cheese counter was meeting my husband.

What do you do when you're not mongering? I'm an expert organizer and color specialist.

Alma Avalos

alma_smWorking at The Pasta Shop Cheese Counter since: 1991

First cheese memory? I was a little girl shopping with my siblings and my mom and we used to run by the huge and stinky wheels of cotija cheese. We loved the taste but could not stand the smell….

Favorite moment behind the counter? One holiday season we received our British cheese selection from Neal’s Yard Dairy and we had to taste 40 wheels of Stilton and put them in order of ripeness. The entire building smelled like Colston Bassett Stilton. It was amazing.

What do you do when you're not mongering? I'm an adventurer and thrill seeker.

Noelle Mosolf

Working at The Pasta Shop Cheese Counter since: 2011

First cheese memory? Eating Monterey Jack when I was a little girl. I had been swimming all day with my sister and cousins at the community pool and I still remember how delicious that cool, salty simple piece of cheese was.

Favorite moment behind the counter? Too many to name just one... Many of them are centered around my coworkers, who are hilarious and very passionate people, and their stories about cheese, food or other random happenings.

What do you do when you're not mongering? I like to attempt to cook recipes that are way over my head, read, go camping or just hang out at home with my sister and fiancé.

Jane Lyon

Jane-Lyon-newAt which location do you work, and how long have you been at The Pasta Shop? At The Pasta Shop in Rockridge Market Hall since September, 2012

First cheese memory? My dad tormenting me with the “stinky” cheese he would occasionally bring home from the cheese shop, or my mom crafting after-school snack platters with yellow cheddar, Ritz crackers, pickles and salami.

Favorite moment behind the counter? I love discovering all new and unfamiliar cheeses. The fun is sharing those moments with the customers. Also, all the goofy times we mongers share — randomly breaking out in song and dance never hurts!

What do you do when you're not mongering? I love the outdoors, water and animals! A great day includes the lake, friends/family and my favorite yellow labrador, Maggie.

Mika Kerautret

mika-croppedAt which location do you work, and how long have you been at The Pasta Shop? At The Pasta Shop in Rockridge Market Hall since 2012

First cheese memory? With my dad and sister in Seattle. We cut the top off a wheel of Chaource and savored bite after bite. It has been one of my favorite cheese ever since.

Favorite moment behind the counter? Receiving holiday orders with Alma at 5am!

What do you do when you're not mongering? I am bartending, demoing and networking. I also like traveling.

Luciana Villanueva

Luciana-VillanuevaAt which location do you work, and how long have you been at The Pasta Shop? At The Pasta Shop in Berkeley since November, 2013.

First cheese memory? My mom made the best lasagna, and I would watch the mozzarella brown and bubble with great anticipation.

Favorite moment behind the counter? Celebrating a young customer's 17th birthday with a tasting of washed rind cheeses.

What do you do when you're not mongering? Hanging out and training my two English bull terriers, Cosmo and Casey.

 

Jason Plunkett

Jason-PlunkettAt which location do you work, and how long have you been at The Pasta Shop? I've worked at The Pasta Shop at Market Hall since November 2013, first in the Grocery department and now at the Cheese Counter.

First cheese memory? My earliest cheese memories are of Longhorn cheese, also known as Colby, probably because my grandmother was a big fan of Colby and Colby-Jack. In fact, I remember visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium as a kid and being charmed to learn that the cheese we ate back home was named for this dramatic coastal town. One other big memory is my Mother's love of Swiss cheese — Baby Swiss in particular. The sweet aroma and acidic, fruity flavor is so familiar and reminds me of sliced salami and Swiss cheese sandwiches, with mustard of course.

Favorite moment behind the counter? My favorite moment behind the counter was probably filming with Chef Joanne Weir for her television program. I was honored to represent Market Hall and have a chance to crack a big wheel of Grana Padano for the cameras. It was exciting, but the day-to-day fun is in seeing familiar faces and building a rapport with our regular clients. Nothing is better than a new cheese instantly bringing to mind a great customer and being excited to show them that cheese.

What do you do when you're not mongering? When I'm not mongering I love to go hunt for treasures with my wife. We scour antique shops, junk stores and flea markets in search of the strange and beautiful, including French Bulldog figurines that resemble our Frenchie, Roxy. I'm a foodie and love everything from fine dining to food trucks. I also love music, concerts, vinyl records and anything musical... Did I mention I like cheese?

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Rockridge Market Hall
5655 College Avenue, Suite 201
Oakland, CA 94618
phone: 510-250-6000

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