Blueberry Stilton from England to raw milk cheese from Switzerland to sheep milk cheese from the Netherlands…Venissimo cheese is the reigning cheese store of San Diego. Founder Gina Freize has a passion for cheese… I can see why her love for it has turned into such a successful business AND she gets to do what she loves everyday (#goals). As a cheese lover myself, Gina understands when eating cheese, it’s the type of comfort food where you feel your soul is being soothed and eating it is an experience within itself. She just gets it. I was happy to chat with this lady boss and how she started her cheese empire.
| What lead you to starting Venissimo Cheese? |
G: I was working at a PR company for a few years but always wanted to be an entrepreneur. I like salads but it wasn’t something that got me excited… Then it came naturally to me one day to open an artisanal cheese shop. I absolutely love cheese, my mother is from Austria and there are a ton of speciality cheese shops around Europe but none here. So I decided to quit my PR job and open my first cheese shop in 2004 with my husband, Roger in Mission Hills. We started with 50 different cheeses (now they have over 2000 cheeses on their shelves).
| That must’ve been a big risk quitting your stable job and opening up a cheese shop! |
G: Definitely; I took a big chance and took a huge pay cut into starting something I was passionate about. I’m a believer on if you do something you love, it morphs into something more…I lived and breathed Venissimo and took a leap of faith. Seeing it become such a success now and getting to do what I love every day, is something you can’t equate to dollars. People I know have told me about this feeling before but you really don’t comprehend it until you actually do it yourself. There was definitely more joy than pain in the end and it was completely worth it!
Here are a few of the instagram photos on the Venissimo cheese pages… The four stores have friendly competitions between each other to see who can create the prettiest cheese platters.
| How much did you know about cheese before starting? |
G: Not much except that I loved it. It’s one of the best foods in the world. There’s a reason why it’s classified as a “comfort” food, it’s an emotional experience when eating cheese. Whether it’s eating Raclette in Switzerland or taking a bite of the bread you just dipped in fondue during the cold winter nights in Quebec… it brings a sense of ease.
| Where do you get your cheese? |
G: We import them from around the world. We work closely with Specialty Produce and also receive our cheese from local farms, such our burrata and mozzarella cheese we get from an Italian family in LA County. We also order our meats from a variety of markets; some of the local vendors we order from are MeatMen and Angel’s Salumi and Truffles.
| What are your favorite cheeses at the moment? (Because like me, I’m sure it changes haha)|
G: Hmmm hard to say but I think my top two right now are:
- The white truffle Boschetto cheese. I love everything truffle and this cheese has the nice aromatics of truffle and the delicious taste of milk cheese. F: (Side note, this cheese goes well with a glass of Pinot Grigio)
- And of course, I absolutely love a great alpine Swiss cheese. It’s like you’re drinking raw milk and you can taste how the cows were grass-fed.
| What do you think of American cheese, since it seems like you receive a lot of cheese from around the world? |
G: Back then, people used to laugh at American cheese but now, it has become some of the best in the world and places such as Wisconsin, Vermont and California are high up there with cheeses from France, Italy, Switzerland etc.
As you can see, Gina is very hands on in her shops (they now have four around San Diego). She said she’s going to keep her stores local, as she prefers to physical go in and help out!
| What are the next ventures of Venissimo?|
Our mantra is “sharing the goodness and glory of cheese” and that is what we are continuing to do. We launched a podcast “Noon on Tuesday“, discussing all about cheese, live every Tuesday, and also eventually launching Venissimo TV. We also have a cheese cookbook in the works with cheese recipes from all over the world (um, yes please!!) We are always thinking of ways to expand and grow and I get to do something that I enjoy every day.
Gina’s energy is extremely contagious. I got to try a variety of her cheeses and trust me, they are phenomenal. When purchasing from Venissimo, you can find descriptions of each cheese on the receipt as well as the pronunciations and recommended wine and beer pairings (genius). Visit one of the Venissimo shops today or order amazing platters or some cheeses at Venissimo. Don’t forget to listen to their podcast every Tuesday.
Feature image: https://www.facebook.com/VenissimoCheese/