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From Beverly Hills, California:

They Call Him the Cheese Doctor

Tony Princiotta Shares His Love of Cheese
by Alain Gayot

Nothing cheesy about it: Princiotta flipping a steak in his backyard

We recently caught up with Tony Princiotta, manager and buyer at the famous The Cheese Store of Beverly Hills, over tri-tip and Colgin…and a few chunks of cheese. Tony's passion for food started quite a few years ago, and he puts it in practice daily at his job, at home and on his travels. When customers forget his name they call him "the cheese guy." But his knowledge of food goes far beyond cheese along with his appreciation for wines, history, classic American automobiles and golf.

He is an instructor at many of the Southland's cooking institutions and a judge at food competitions including the prestigious Royal, put together by the Kansas City BBQ society. He is involved in many food organizations such as Slow Food and the AIWF, and restaurateurs and chefs call on him for advice on cheese buying and pairing. In other words, he has earned a reputation in the culinary community.

The Food Paper: What are your favorite cheeses?
Tony Princiotta: Basques cheese made of sheep's milk like Onitik, Ineguy or Istara, because they go so well with wines. I also fancy sheep and goat milk offerings from the Loire area of France and finally Manchego from Spain.

TFP: Who were your mentors in the food and wine world?
TP: Definitely my parents; growing up was all about food with a German mother and an Italian father. Then there were Julia Child, James Beard and Graham Kerr. Today, I like Jamie Oliver because what he does is simple, tasty and quick.

TFP: What's your favorite thing to do in the store?
TP: I love to introduce our customer to new products, and not just cheese. We are constantly bringing in new stuff, most of which is totally new to them. I am always on the lookout for a special wine or hard-to-get olive oil etc.

TFP: What is your favorite thing to do out of the store?
TP: Food is my life, so cooking comes next, followed by gardening. There is always something for me to use at dinner directly from the garden, and then I make wine here and there (for myself), sauces, liquors. I enjoy traveling to discover new products and visiting the wine country.

TFP: What's a great cheese and wine pairing?
TP: Boy, there is so much but as a general rule, the terroir is the common denominator. Take, for example, Camembert and cider.

TFP: In your many years in the cheese business, what are current buying behaviors and what do you see in the future?
TP: Truly, the Baby Boomers are setting the pace and they are getting more full flavor goat and sheep cheese and moving away from Brie and Jarslberg. As well, you see chefs using a multitude of cheese in their recipes and quoting the name of the cheese in the dish on the menu.

The Cheese Store of Beverly Hills
419 N. Beverly Dr.
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

(Updated: 12/19/06)

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