We at Adams are thrilled to welcome a master mozzarella cheese maker to our team! Greg Laraia has been in the cheese business for over 35 years. Greg is passionate about making high quality, artisanal mozzarella cheese. Talking with him even once will get you excited about it, too. Recently, we had an opportunity to sit down with Greg, watch him work, and ask him some questions about making cheese.
How did you get into the cheese business?
My family had a delicatessen during my teens, so naturally you worked in the family business after school and summers. One of the many things I learned was how to make mozzarella from curd. Over the course of a few years our mozzarella became a favorite in Rockland County and soon other “cheese shops” were asking if they could purchase our products to sell in their stores.
How did you come to specialize in mozzarella?
We decided to specialize in mozzarella products once we realized we were spending more and more time in the back room of the deli just making cheese to fill orders. In 1980 we closed the deli and incorporated into Laraia’s Cheese Co. Inc.
What changes have you seen over the years in the cheese business?
Over the years the biggest change is the machinery. What was once only done by hand can now be duplicated with various machines. Also the profit margins are shrinking due to the high cost of milk, along with an abundance of manufacturers who can produce larger volumes of product at discounted prices.
How did you end up to working exclusively for Adams?
My company started to head in a direction that I wasn’t comfortable with. We were becoming a company that was just about making a profit. Since I was supplying Adams with my products, I approached them with an idea that would allow me to bring back the artisan side of mozzarella making – keeping it simple and fresh and allowing the customers to get a sense of what goes into the making of such a versatile cheese.
Why don’t you make your own cheese curd and where do you get it from?
Making curd requires the space and ability to store raw milk, along with having the special vats to cook and curdle the milk. If you make curd you also have to be able to make products from the byproducts (whey) to stay profitable. Lets just say I give a lot of credit to the companies that go that route. For now it’s in Adams best interest to purchase from suppliers.
Adams is currently purchasing curd from a few sources. I work closely with the production managers giving them constant feedback on the products. These facilities use a cooperative of dairy farms to supply them with the raw milk. It’s closely monitored for consistency and quality. All the milk used is from the Northeast region, such as Providence, Rhode Island and many New York and New Jersey Farms.
Your “Making Mozzarella Cheese” video is the most popular video on our YouTube channel. Why do you think making mozzarella is such a hot topic?
Everyone, and I do mean everyone, has heard of or tasted mozzarella. That and the ingredients are readily available; why not give it a try? You can eat the finished product almost immediately afterwards!