Barrie Lynn Krich
From: Advertising executive
To: Cheese expert
Turning point: She attended a wine-and-cheese tasting
As an account manager for a Los Angeles advertising firm, Barrie Lynn Krich enjoyed a generous entertainment allowance and often took her clients out to dinner. One afternoon in spring 2004, she invited a client to a wine-and-cheese tasting at a restaurant. “I liked cheese,” says Krich. “I loved cooking and having friends over, and I’d serve cheese, although not with passion.” But at the tasting, she says, “my whole world shifted.” Krich sampled a Wisconsin raw cow’s milk cheese called Pleasant Ridge Reserve, produced only during the warm months, when the cows feast on lush pasture, and it was “as if Cupid’s arrow came out of the sky and hit me,” she says. “The cheese had a deep, ultra-complex, meaty flavor, and it almost melted in my mouth. It was amazing paired with wine.” Krich tried all the samples and sat riveted as the instructor talked about the cows, the goats and the land on which the animals grazed. “I thought, These family cheese makers care so much,” she says. “I wanted to learn everything I could about them and their cheeses. The event was a visceral, emotional experience—like falling in love with a man.”
Over the next two years, Krich, now 65, read every cheese book she could lay her hands on. She took classes at the Cheese Store of Beverly Hills. She invited friends to her apartment for cheese fondue or barbecued cheese or macaroni and cheese. And she read to them from her cheese books. One night, to test how much she’d learned, she invited 23 friends to a tasting on the rooftop of her apartment building. Under the stars, she gave a little talk about the cheeses—where they came from, how they got their flavors and when it was OK to eat the rind. “I developed an act, and I was funny,” she says. She began staging seminars for small groups of friends and contacts in the advertising and public relations world. She paid for the cheese and wine out of her own pocket. “I wanted to help cheese makers and artisanal cheeses reach a wider audience,” she says. “But it was all just a hobby, a way to explore and share the joy.”
Then, as the 2006 Academy Awards neared, Krich saw an opportunity to make a bigger statement: The Academy gives every Oscar presenter and nominee an official gift bag. Calling herself the Cheese Impresario (thecheeseimpresario.com), Krich offered the Academy gift certificates for wine-and-cheese tasting events, each valued at $1,200, for inclusion in its bags. Through her friends in the public relations business, Krich found wine and cheese companies willing to donate their products. When the Academy phoned to say her certificate was among the goodies chosen for the giveaway, she was shocked—and even more shocked when the press started mentioning her gift a few days before the awards. “I knew as a marketer how difficult it was for a product to get noticed,” she says. She decided right then, before the Oscars aired, that she’d try to make a living from her passion. In 2005, without a plan, Krich quit her advertising career of 30 years. “I’d saved a little money,” she says, “and figured the worst that could happen was that I’d have to get a couple of jobs—weekends, nights—to recover. But my dad was angry. He said, ‘What are you going to do? Give out cheese samples at Costco?’ I said, ‘No, Dad, for the first time in my life I’m going to follow my passion and see what I can do.’ ”
After the Academy Awards, Krich tracked down the rap group Three 6 Mafia, winners in the Best Original Song category, and they agreed to redeem their certificate. Then she pitched the event to Variety, which covered it. About 25 more certificates were redeemed, including the one belonging to Mira Sorvino, who wanted a wine-and-cheese tasting adventure at her baby shower.