Scott McKenzie wishes he could say the dairy farm in the tiny Nova Scotia town he grew up in had a big influence on him. But his family ate cheese from the grocery store.
And McKenzie, now 41, had a bigger taste for the theatre at the time. He studied drama and education at Concordia University in Montreal, and eventually moved to Toronto where he acted, directed, wrote and danced.
But 15 years ago, he decided to change careers. “I’ve always said theatre is something you do because you can’t not do it.” He took a job as a waiter while he though it out.
He dabbled in other careers, taking up massage therapy at one point. But then he realized he was meant to work with food and drink. “This is the stuff I love, so I should be doing it all the time.”
By the time he was working a manager in the high-end Auberge du Pommier, he decided he needed a specialized skill to go farther in the industry.
Everyone he knew was getting into wine. But seven years ago, he read The Cheese Plate by Max McCalman. “That’s what I want to do,” he thought.
So he enrolled in the first ever courses offered by the Cheese Education Guild. After graduating — and now able to call himself a fromager — McKenzie immediately found himself in demand.
Whenever he wasn’t at his manager job, he was doing freelance work at other restaurants, doing talks at wineries, running seminars and creating cheese courses for weddings.
Three years ago, he left the restaurant and went freelance. Around the same time, he got a part-time job at George Brown College, coaching students in the school’s restaurant.
To keep up on the latest in his industry: “I eat cheese from morning ’til night.” Breakfast is a hunk of Saint Marcellin, a Swiss cheese rich in omega 3 fatty acids. Whenever he can, he stops by Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market or a cheese shop for an array of cheeses: He’ll set up as many as 20 on a board and do a tasting for himself.
You’d think that’d mess with his health but McKenzie is trim and has low cholesterol levels.
He credits cheese’s enzymes that some say help your body break down fat.
Health benefits aside, more people are getting into gourmet cheese. “I think cheese in Canada is where wine was 20 years ago, I think it’s going to go through the same crazy surge the wine industry experienced.”