One of a Rind: Hannah Morrow '09 Makes Cheese Her Business
Hannah tells us how she turned her passion for food and media into a career.
Why did you choose to attend Simmons?
Simmons was one of the few schools outside New York City I’d discussed with my college counselor. I had my heart set on going to New York but ultimately Simmons was my number one pick after visiting campus and staying overnight with the MOST program, experiencing the social life, attending a class and seeing the class size/engaging class content. Above all, the contact and personal touches (a handwritten card and Simmons swag) after visiting campus were enough to assure me this was the personalized college experience I’d been hoping for.
How did you make the transition from media/journalism to the food industry?
In 2012 while working full time as a media specialist at a design/build firm, I took a night job as a food runner at the newly opened Barcelona Wine Bar in Brookline. I didn’t want to work “on the line” making the same food every night and I didn’t want to be a server — I wanted to work as a right-hand-man to the chef and pick his brain about food concepts, pairings and techniques while engaging with customers in the front of the house and experiencing their reactions to the food. I also took professional photos for Barcelona Wine Bar social media, attended server wine trainings and occasionally came in early to prep with the cooks — all in an effort expand my knowledge on all things food and drink.
What's the most daring move you've made in your career?
I moved to Israel in 2013 to pursue a couple food-related internships that ultimately changed my career path and my outlook on life. I’d been out of school for a few years and tried a few jobs within my areas of interest, but nothing felt quite right. While I was in Israel I held three internships with “Career Israel” — I had my foot in the door into the food industry and my other foot was still firmly planted in the journalism/media field. This was no mistake, I’d been interested in a career in culinary photojournalism since my first year of college (thanks Anthony Bourdain).
While in Israel, I photographed/wrote content for a culinary tour company and a wine writer, both based in Tel Aviv. I also traveled to Jerusalem twice a week to take/edit photos for stock photo company. Instead of an office, I reported to “work” everyday at the shuk (market). I'd meet with a Yemenite restaurant owner operating a hole-in-the-wall culinary exploration through regional dishes using simple ingredients, I traveled to Zichron Ya’akov to experience small wine makers creating regional Israeli wines (shout-out to Israeli Cab Franc), I traversed the streets of Jerusalem while photographing and editing shots that are still being used worldwide, and some days I’d just explore the city and scout out the perfect cafe to edit content.
All of these adventures made me realize I love hearing other people’s stories, experiencing their lives and communicating those stories to others via words and pictures (sounds like a journalist to me!) — food and drink just happen to to be the avenue I’ve chosen as most interesting. Ultimately this six month trip to Israel helped me realize I could be independent in another country while combining food and media and being successfully published. I returned to the states with a new sense of self, adventure and most importantly an openness to what lay ahead career-wise.
What’s a typical day like as a cheese specialist?
Each day is a bit different for me which is what makes it so exciting but typically we get to the shop at 7 a.m. and clean every cheese wheel on the “cheese wall” which is the wall of cheese we build on the countertop above our cold case. There are about 70 cheeses to clean.
We arrange domestic soft cheeses on the wall as well as setting up international goat cheeses in the case. Cut cheeses and samples go out on tables, the cheese cave is “watered” to maintain humidity, and then we open at 9 a.m. That’s just the pre-show.
As cheesemongers we also grill and serve sandwiches/soup/hot meals, answer the phone, check in deliveries, field customer questions and of course, we recommend cheeses/pairings and cut to order. This is all while maintaining stock on the floor with dry goods and cut pieces, replenishing cheese we’ve sold from the wall and case, and filling any restaurant or customer orders we receive. Frequently I’ll teach an event after work either at our classroom location (where we also operate our online business) or offsite.
How did Simmons help prepare you for what you're doing now?
Simmons prepared me for my current turophile career in more ways than I can count and I’m still making associations to my schooling every day in unexpected ways. From reducing fractions (4/10 of a pound is not a valid request for cheese!) to metric system conversions (this is a European-centric cheese shop with some international clientele). I also compose, photograph and edit content for Formaggio’s social media, create stylistic menus for classes and teach themed classes and events.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
I love the camaraderie on the counter with fellow cheesemongers, introducing customers to new cheeses and products they didn’t know they wanted and learning about new cheeses/pairings.
Do you have a favorite cheese?
This is such a tough question since there are so many amazing cheeses out there for every occasion. I suppose if I have to choose, Marcel Petite Comté is my favorite cheese (a raw alpine cow’s milk cheese from the Jura), but that includes multiple vintages — at Formaggio we have 7.
What advice would you give to current Simmons students?
Be open to where life takes you! If you get a degree in biology in college, you can still be an artist. Explore different avenues. Interests change and you have your whole life to explore what the world has to offer.