Kent Torrey is mad for mozzarella. He has a passion for picodon and adores appenzeller. He is, in short, a man pleased by cheese. Good thing, since Torrey has been the Big Cheese at one of the country’s most respected cheese and wine purveyors, The Cheese Shop in Carmel, Calif., for the past eight years.
Kent, who grew up in a family devoted to good food and wine, says his real introduction to fine cheeses came at Puget Sound. He and his roommate, Joe Davis ’83, hosted what he says were “the best off-campus parties in town.”
After graduation, Kent moved to California’s Monterey Peninsula and worked in a couple of wine shops before heading to Europe on a wine- and food-tasting adventure. When he returned, he hired on at The Cheese Shop. His first day on the job was July 4, 1986, the store’s second busiest day of the year.
“I got my butt whopped,” he says. “That night I took home some cheese books, and a couple cheeses and a couple of bottles of wine. The subject was so intense and so in-depth that I started to wonder if I’d ever learn it, but I did and I still do. The learning is ongoing. And the more I’ve learned the more I realize that this isn’t just about cheese. It’s about history and economics and geography. Every subject people know can be related to food and drink. I find that fascinating.”
Kent bought The Cheese Shop in 1998 and has continued to build on its reputation for both quality products and service. He’s become a regular presenter at food festivals and shows across the country. The shop has been featured on a handful of network travel and food shows and ships to customers in all 50 states and 20 countries.
“And one sea,” adds Kent, noting that a customer had him ship eight pounds of cheese to her son on the USS Roosevelt when it was stationed in the Red Sea.
“It was pretty aromatic by the time it got there, so the contents weren’t much of a secret,” he says. “The poor guy probably only got to eat a half-pound of the cheese himself because everybody knew what he had.”
— Mary Boone
The Cheese Shop is in the Carmel Plaza at Ocean and Junipero; Kent’s virtual store is at www.cheeseshopcarmel.com.