Mariah Christensen, a specialty cheese buyer for Harmons Neighborhood Grocer, was nominated and inducted into the Garde et Jure by the Guilde Internationale des Fromagers, making her the second person in Utah to receive this honor.
The Guilde is comprised of 6,000 members representing 35 countries and is dedicated to educating and maintaining knowledge and respect for the art of cheese making. The Guilde’s “dedication to this craft mirrors Harmons’ commitment to bring customers the finest specialty domestic and imported cheeses so that they can experience premium products not normally found at other grocers,” says Harmons, a family-owned and locally operated grocery chain based in Utah.
“To be recognized with this distinction is a significant honor in the cheese industry,” said Christensen. “I am proud and honored to be inducted into the Garde et Jure on behalf of Harmons. This honor showcases our commitment to quality, selection and service in our specialty cheese department, and I am grateful for this opportunity.”
Christensen is one of eight Certified Cheese Professionals (CCPs) working for Harmons and leads the certification program for all of Harmons’ cheese mongers at the retailer’s 18 locations. The CCP process is intensive, requiring several months of studying, training and passing a comprehensive exam—a process similar to that of becoming a sommelier of wine—but Christensen wouldn’t have it any other way, says Harmons. Educating others and sharing her passion for cheeses comes naturally. It is this passion that has taken her across the globe to develop relationships with some of the world’s top cheese makers.
“When it comes to cheese, Mariah’s knowledge and excitement is contagious,” said Bob Harmon, Harmons co-owner and VP for the customer. “She is proud to share her knowledge with other Harmons cheese mongers and our customers, and we can’t think of a more deserving person for this recognition.”
For Christensen, being part of the Guilde Internationale des Fromagers means Harmons customers can expect to see the finest quality and selection of cheeses available, the company adds. Each of Harmons 18 locations carries from 150 to 200 unique cheeses, and new products are continually added thanks to Christensen.
“For us, it is all about developing a true relationship with the cheesemaker, whether they’re close to home or in another country. When we look to bring a new product into Harmons, we examine the maker’s production methods, animal welfare, milk source and more,” she said. “The result is finding delicious, unique cheeses that will appeal to our customers. When I can introduce someone to an amazing product they’ve never tried before, I know that I’ve done my job well.”
Watch Harmons employees, including Christensen, tackle a 200 lb. wheel of Emmentaler cheese below.