Mike Feeney has been called just about every name on the block: Cheese Whiz. Big Wheel. Even the Big Cheese.
As a senior executive at the online distributor CheeseGuys.com, Feeney’s certainly been around the dairy aisle more than a few times. “Basically, I’m a cheese broker,” says the 1972 public relations grad. “It’s not very glamorous. It’s kind of a quirky little business, a closed fraternity.”
Skim his résumé and his creamy credentials rise to the top: regional manager with Welch’s Grape Juice, sales manager with Beatrice Co., liaison to Gordon Food Services and finally, the CheeseGuys.com. As the website announces: “Feeney’s vast experience and practical product knowledge make him an excellent resource for any cheese question.”
Any question? We take him up on it.
The worst cheese mistake ever? Culinary horror stories abound, though one error is unforgivable. “Freezing it. We cringe at that whenever we hear it. Freezing drives out the flavor,” says this cheese cognoscente.
The best selection for all-purpose use? No stuffy Stilton or connoisseur’s Camembert for this proud Midwesterner. “My personal favorite is a 50/50, mozzarella-provolone blend. It has a nice stretch and rich flavor.”
The best location to shop? France, perhaps, or Switzerland? “No,” he growls, curdling at the suggestion. It’s only herd mentality that promotes Bleu and Brie from overseas. “Wisconsin alone has 12,000 dairy farms,” says Feeney, who claims some neutrality on this point as a resident of Michigan.
Feeney—a first-generation college student whose dad worked in a Steubenville steel mill—keeps true to his campus roots. During his second day on campus, he met his wife of 41 years, Pam Weniger, an English and MEd graduate. Their son is named Benjamin Xavier Feeney. True story. (“We still joke with him that he should be glad we didn’t go to Slippery Rock.”)
And he’s thrilled to help cheese—once characterized as plain milk’s bid for immortality—in any way possible. “My Michigan license plate is CHZ GUY.”
“Again, it’s not very glamorous,” says Feeney. “My wife, the English professor, affects far more lives than I do. I just raise cholesterol.”