Charlie and Michael Kalish call themselves the Cheese Twins, and it’s hard to imagine two more manly mascots for coagulated milk protein, which — let’s face it — could use a little sex appeal to spruce up its workaday image. Young, handsome and articulate, they’re also six-and-a-half feet tall, which makes them difficult to miss. Big cheese indeed!
Yes, they’re twin brothers, born on Aug. 13, 1982. But they weren’t christened the Cheese Twins; that came later.
“In college I was working for a beekeeper at UC Santa Barbara,” Michael said. “We serviced 2000 beehives all over the Central Coast. I loved being outdoors and working in agriculture, meeting interesting people, enjoying great food and wine.”
The cheese thing came on a whim. “I walked into a cheese shop in Sonoma and asked if they’d hire me. They said, ‘You start Monday.’ I ended up apprenticing for a couple of cheese farms, including one that sources The French Laundry (Napa’s most famous restaurant). That gave me the opportunity to go to France.”
Charlie’s induction into the world of cheese came later, thanks to his brother. “I was in Norway on a Fulbright scholarship; I was studying 19th-century American playwrights, and I needed a break. I went to see Michael, who was working in this big cave in France where each wheel of cheese weighed 80 to 125 pounds. They had to use forklifts to move it around.”
Charlie had a blast, and the rest is cheesy history. After learning the tricks of the trade in France and Italy, Michael returned to the U.S. just as the cheese revolution was getting underway. Charlie worked at a fromagerie in Vermont, where he met his wife, a microbiologist who studies cheese rinds.
These days, the brothers live in their native California – Charlie in San Diego, where his wife teaches at UCSD, and Michael in San Francisco – but they travel,…