Locally farmed cheeses are a passion for Brooklyn South Deli owner Matt Bonano.
The Brooklyn transplant is excited about St. Petersburg’s energized downtown scene and the influx of new residents.
“We fell in love with the place. We had a vision,” says Bonano who is a chef and studied culinary arts at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. “St. Petersburg is exploding with a lot of culture. It’s also getting a lot younger. There are more foodies and people who travel around and enjoy fine foods. People are realizing it’s not just a retirement area anymore.”
Early on, his career path as a chef took a slight detour one day at Alon’s Bakery & Market in Atlanta when a tall tub of French blue cheese (Fourme d’Ambert) arrived. It was a gooey mess that other employees stepped away from.
“To me it was love at first sight,” says Bonano. “I was entranced by it.” He read everything he could find about artisan cheese making. And eventually he became wholesale production manager for Murray’s Cheese.
Currently he serves on the judging and competition committee of the American Cheese Society, an industry organization that promotes American cheese production.
“We try to promote the American artisan movement,” Bonano says. “Cheese is at the top of the heap.” But he says there also is support for a return to small farms and locally grown meats from cattle, hogs, goats and fisheries.