Domain Nine: Cheese Service

A broad knowledge of the interaction of the cheese types with other food, condiments and beverages is essential to the knowledge base of cheese professionals. In order to broaden market appeal for the variety of cheeses available, knowledge of proper cheese presentation and display with appropriate tools and tableware is required.

Any cheese professional should also know something about cheese as incorporated into recipes: melting qualities, how to determine rudimentary melting properties by pinching the cheese, kinds of cheeses classically used for various applications: grating as condiment, gratinée, sauces, soufflés, baked, soup infusions, etc.


I. Restaurant cheese service

A. Choosing and buying cheese

  1. Offering a balanced selection
    1. Region
    2. Style
    3. Seasonality
    4. Harmonizing cheese selection with menu
    5. Cheeses for cooking vs. for the plate

B. Determining the number of cheeses for your program

  1. Choosing Vendors – a few vendors vs. many vendors, consider delivery minimum
  2. Suiting the personality of the restaurant
  3. International, local, or both
  4. Large selection or small sampling
    1. Must have the means to move product (Large selection)
    2. Must have the ability to train staff in cheese styles, regions, and milks, or have a designated fromager (large selection)
    3. May be able to reduce inventory (small selection)
    4. May require less knowledgeable staff (small selection)

C. Handling Cheese

  1. Managing inventory
    1. First In, First Out
    2. Storage temperature for different cheese types
    3. Size of inventory – Storage containers, wrapping and handling

D. Day of service storage

  1. Temperature for serving cheese
    1. Health Dept. Issues – cleanliness
    2. Optimal flavor
  2. Cart
    1. Amount and organization of cheese at any given time
    2. Cut or only presented
      1. Maintain appearance if used for serving
      2. Keep back-up at proper serving temperature
      3. Many choices- Please refer to Domain Four,
        Cheese Types and Categories)
      4. Grouped for speedy descriptions
        1. By style of milk type
        2. Or a hybrid

E. Service considerations

  1. When to serve the cheese course
  2. Printed menu or not
  3. Present cheeses at table or not
  4. Cart or tray service
  5. Presentation by fromager or by servers
  6. Customer issues: allergies, pregnancy, etc.
    1. Potential issues of liability
    2. Please cross reference Domain Ten,
      Cheese Nutrition

F. Sales Approach

  1. Solicit information from guest
    1. Types of cheese they enjoy
    2. Adventurous vs. safe diner
    3. Perhaps match cheese to what they are already drinking
  2. Make the cheese “alive” with anecdotes, info about cheesemaker, etc.
    1. Entertainment and showmanship value
  3. Concise without seeming rushed
  4. Individual selections or “for the table”

G.  Staff Knowledge

  1. Broad knowledge of cheese categories
  2. Specialized knowledge of individual cheeses
  3. Ability to guide customers towards suitable selections, make substitutions, etc.

H. Plating Cheeses        

    1. Tableside or in kitchen
    2. Train staff to cut and plate
      1. Portioning
      2. Balance
      3. Respecting the cheese
      4. Presentation order (lightest to strongest, textural diversity)
      5. Use of proper cutting tools – knives, wires, other utensils
    3. Proper cutting techniques
      1. Respect the cheese different styles call for different approach
      2. Include rind
      3. See graphic below, from
      4. Use proper utensils (see Werlin , Cheese Essentials, p238)
    4. Portioning
      1. Approximately 1-1 3/4 oz. per cheese per person (may differ from business to business)
      2. Adjust per number of cheeses being served

I. Types of Plating

  1. Themed plates or flights
    1. Can be fun or educational or can be used to “move” product
  2. Selected by guest – determining the guest’s preferences, guiding guest to wise selections
  3. Chef or cheese driven (i.e. composed plates using cheese as an ingredient or a plate that is focused on cheese)

J. Serving Cheeses

  1. Proper flatware – cheese knife, fork
  2. Plateware – china, slate, other


II. Pairings with cheeses

A. Condiments

  1. For enhancement of guest experience
  2. Subjective, but broad rules apply
    1. Sweet matches well with salty flavors: fresh and dried fruit, honey, preserves, membrillo, etc.
    2. Salumi
    3. Seasonality
    4. Working with the chef – harmonizing with the menu
    5. Similar or contrasting flavors? Neither cheese nor condiment should “win”  Look for a 1+1=3 formula
    6. See “Pairings That Please”
  3. Generalized selections or matched to individual cheese
    1. Controlling guests experience vs. letting the guest experiment – or finding a balance

B. Starch

  1. Styles
    1. Plain bread
    2. Flavored bread (fruits, nuts, etc.)
    3. Crackers
    4. Gluten free options
  2. Paired with individual cheeses or generalized for the table (or serving a medley)

C. Beverages

  1. Subjective, but broad rules apply, and “classic” pairings exist, i.e. port with Stilton, Sauternes with Roquefort (,,
  2. “what grows together goes together”
  3. Balance:  neither should overwhelm the other
  4. Considerations include: texture, saltiness, strength, acidity
    1. Complement or contrast


III. Home cheese service

The same rules and considerations listed above apply, albeit ease and simplicity are paramount.

A.  Buffet

  1. Themes, style of Cuisine – American, Asian, European, Kosher, Vegetarian, etc.
  2. Self-serve or pre-cut
  3. Labeling
  4. Appropriate accompaniments: bread, crackers, condiments, etc.

B. Plated as a dinner course

  1. Timing: before or as dessert
  2. Plates, utensils

C.   Beverage considerations

  1. Buffet is probably most general
  2. Dinner plating can be more specific


IV. Cooking With Cheese

A.  Cheese Characteristics: Meltability

  1. Meltability is determined by acidity
  2. Whereas the science of this is complex, knowledge of cheese styles can help determine a cheese’s suitability for a recipe
  3. Different cheeses melt in different ways. See Robert Wolke; ,
  4. Increasing surface area (chopping, grating, shaving, etc.) eases melting
  5. Low temperatures yield more consistent texture

B.  Grating Cheese

  1. Not directly melted… heat of dish may cause softening
  2. Hard cheeses, Parmigianino Reggiano, Pecorino Stagionato, etc

C.  Cheese as non-melting ingredient

  1. Shaved hard cheese
  2. Non melting cheese incorporated into salads, etc