7 Whole Foods Cheese Section Hacks To Know Before You Go

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You probably don’t need me to tell you that Whole Foods’ cheese section is a magical place; we can all agree that anywhere that holds an annual event called the 12 Days Of Cheese is basically the cheese equivalent of Disney World, right? And wouldn’t you know it, just like Disney World, there are tons of secrets hidden in the Whole Foods cheese section — hacks, if you will — that will truly let you get the most out of your next trip to the market.

Of course, many of these secrets require you to — horrors upon horrors — actually approach the cheese counter and have a conversation with the person behind it. If that sounds terrifying to you, I feel your pain; I also find it extremely anxiety-inducing to talk to real, live people, especially in retail situations. But, uh, folks? It’s worth it. As Cathy Strange, a former president of the American Cheese Society — an organization based in America that focuses on cheese, not an organization that focuses on “American cheese” — and current Global Cheese Buyer for Whole Foods notes, the team behind the market's cheese section is the real deal; said Strange in a Q&A on the Whole Foods website:

“The passion of our Team Members and customers is outstanding. I take great pleasure in honoring their passions as well as those of the cheese makers producing the high-quality cheeses we bring to our stores. Cheese takes a wonderful journey to get to our stores and our Team Members do a great job in honoring that journey. Truly natural foods like cheese should be a part of everyone's joyous experience.”

I concur: Cheese should be a part of everyone’s joyous experience. It is delicious. Also, “Global Cheese Buyer” is absolutely my dream job title.

Anyway, these seven tips might reveal a side to the Whole Foods cheese counter you didn’t know about — and did I mention that there are free samples involved? Because there are. You’re welcome. Read on for more:

1There’s A TON Of Variety

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According to Whole Foods’ Cheese Department page on its website, each Whole Foods store stocks anywhere between 250 and a whopping 1,000 different cheeses — the “best cheeses we can get our hands on from all over the world,” as they put it. And they do actually visit farms all across the globe in order to make their picks, too. There is, quite literally, a cheese for everyone.

2You Can Ask For Free Samples

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Not unlike ice cream and gelato shops, Whole Foods offers free samples of their cheeses. You just have to ask for them. (But also maybe don’t go overboard on the number of samples you ask for — free sample etiquette is a thing.)

3You Can Consult A Certified Cheese Expert At Some Stores

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All of Whole Foods’ cheesemongers are incredibly knowledgeable — but some of them are certified experts: When the American Cheese Society held their first-ever Certified Cheese Professional exam — kind of like a sommelier exam for cheese people — 70 of the 121 cheesemongers who passed were from Whole Foods stores in the United States and Canada. At the time, that made Whole Food “the retailer with the largest number of certified cheese experts in North America.”

But whether or not your friendly neighborhood Whole Foods’ cheese team includes an ACS Certified Cheese Professional, definitely ask questions of them if you’re, say, not sure what to pair with the wine you’re planning on having available for your next dinner party or what have you; they’re all super, super helpful, with a vast store of information tucked in their noggins.

4The Sales Flyer Lets You Know About Any Deals Currently Going On

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The Sales Flyer page on the Whole Foods website lets you know about any sales or discounts Whole Foods currently has going on, including big one and what Prime savings are available each week. Plus, if you search for your own nearest Whole Foods, you can pull up all the deals that specific store currently has — which often includes deals on cheeses. For example, at my local Whole Foods, Roth Buttermilk Blue Cheese were recently 30 percent off per pound (the sale ended March 12). Heck yes.

5You Can Have Your Cheese Cut To Any Precise Measurement You Want

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Say you want to get yourself an extremely fancy cheese, but either don’t want a ton of it, or don’t have the budget for a ton of it. What do you? You ask for a chunk of it that’s exactly the right size for you, of course. The folks at the Whole Foods cheese counter will cut any cheese to your exact measurements, letting you walk away with the perfect amount — no more, no less.

6Whole Foods Has Some Cheeses You Won’t Find Anywhere Else In The United States

Hervé Mons Cheese, a French cheese brand, is sold in the United States exclusively at Whole Foods. A third-generation, family-owned business, Hervé Mons creates, among other things, a highly, highly recommended Camembert; additionally, their Tommes des Bois Noirs — a goat’s milk cheese with a natural rind and a mild flavor, perfect as a sort of gateway goat cheese if you’ve not hitherto been a big goat cheese eater — was created specifically for Whole Foods.

7In-Store Events Let You Learn About And Taste Cheeses For Free

Whole Foods locations often offer free, in-store events that let you both learn about food and taste things. Cheese Nights, for example, are focused specifically on cheeses; usually, each night is themed after one particular variety, although sometimes they’re based more around region of origin or themes like holiday entertaining. But other events, like the store-wide Taste of Whole Foods Market events some stores hold regularly can often include cheeses as well. Check your local store’s “Events” page to see what’s on the calendar.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a cheese plate to plan...