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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, June 15, 2024

The Cheese Club, now officially recognized, is here to stay


Tufts certainly has its share of quirky clubs -- Tufts Free Compliments even received the attention of USA Today in 2012 for its quirkiness -- and it now has another.

The Tufts Cheese Club, which meets every other Tuesday in Olin, has been quickly gaining size since it was founded last year by two current sophomores, Zachary Graziano and Ryan Johnson. As the name implies, its members meet to discuss -- and consume -- cheese of all kinds.

“The community has always been something special," junior Conor Ward, a member of the club, said. "It [has] grown pretty dramatically since its inception."

Though the club is currently funded internally, it was officially recognized by the Tufts Community Union Judiciary just a few weeks ago, and it may be slated to receive TCU money in the near future.

The Cheese Club was born at the start of last year's fall semester, when then-first-year Graziano and Johnson first met.

“I met Ryan probably the first day ... and we had a conversation about cheese, and I told him about this idea that I was thinking about over the summer that I wanted to start a cheese club here," Graziano said. "We ended up having our first meeting within a month."

The co-founders have drawn inspiration from similar cheese-centric clubs at other universities.

“The communication with other cheese clubs has happened more recently," Graziano said. "We have been in touch with the College of Charleston Cheese Club and the Cornell Cheese Club."

Not only are they connecting with other college cheese clubs, but they also hope to develop similar goals.

"The Cornell Cheese Club is really cool, because they actually make cheese. They have a working dairy farm on their campus," Graziano said. “We’re looking at other clubs around us and what we like about what they’re doing and seeing how we can make it different."

Johnson and Graziano also hope to partner with existing organizations and departments on campus, including Tufts Dining.

“We don’t have a formal partnership with the dining facilities yet, but it is something that we have at least thought about going into for future events and opportunities," Johnson said.

The club's leaders also expressed interest in working with other local groups, including those off campus.

“This is a long-term goal, but we are looking to establish relationships with some of the businesses that are involved in the cheese world, especially around here," Graziano said. "So we’re trying to establish a relationship with the cheese retailers that we’ve been shopping with when we started, to make sure they know what Tufts Cheese Club is."

According to Ward, the dynamic of the Tufts Cheese Club differs from other clubs, even those at Tufts.

"It’s always been a quirky scene," Ward said. "What I like about it is there isn’t a political hierarchy, like you see in most Tufts clubs … no one is here for any reason, except that they like cheese. For that reason, we get a very eclectic group of people."

At typical Cheese Club meetings, members of the group interact, plan future events and taste cheese purchased with the help of members' donations.

“In our meetings, we generally have a cheese tasting," Johnson said. "We get together, plan events, come up with ideas ... Now that we’re recognized, it’s becoming more formal and more organized.

"We’re hoping to work with the American Cheese Education Foundation, which is a charitable organization run by the American Cheese Society, and it promotes the spreading of cheese-related knowledge and the education of cheese," he added.

Graziano and Johnson said that, through the club, they're hoping to host a variety of cheese events including guest speakers, and they hope TCU Judiciary recognition will help the club grow.

“One thing that we have sort of toyed with since early last year has been the idea of a cheese making demo ... open to anyone that would sign up," Johnson said. "That’s also been an issue in getting this to work: finding space in which we can do it, because there [are] a lot of requirements for ventilation and things like that in this process."

According to Johnson, the club's goal is to make cheese knowledge more accessible to the Tufts community through a focus on educational opportunities.

“We want as many people [as possible] to learn that there’s more to cheese than they think," Johnson said. "It would be more nice to go into more like an education focus, if that means doing cheese-making demos on some scale frequently, more visits with guest speakers, future partnerships with groups on campus and definitely increasing the appeal of the club -- reaching out to as many people in as many ways as possible."

Graziano, meanwhile, has big aims on the side of cheese production.

“My long-term goal in starting was to eventually, at some point, be a producer of cheese on some scale," Graziano said. "That’s a goal that has become more feasible now that I see what the Cornell Cheese Club has been doing. It’s a far-fetched goal, because there [are] a lot of things that have to come together to make it happen, but that’s what I envisioned the club to begin with ... cheese production, commercial or otherwise."

Whatever direction they decide to take, the Cheese Club has found a base on campus.

“We’re going to be more of a presence this year, and if there were people who didn’t know there was a cheese club ... by the end of this year, they will know that there’s a cheese club," Graziano said.