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Vanessa Tilaka Kalb

Episode 152

From Thai Market to Cheesery: a Culinary Journey

Vanessa Tilaka Kalb’s family has been in the food business for several generations, beginning with her grandparents in Thailand who owned a restaurant below their apartment and her father’s Thai market in Los Angeles, which was the first of its kind in the city.

Her culinary career has spanned from working as Sous Chef under Bryant Ng at Spice Table, to San Francisco’s Flour+Water and Octavia, then back to LA with M. Georgina. While Vanessa shined as a chef, cheese kept calling. Her passion and desire to keep learning quickly grew into cheesemonger positions at Fisher’s Cheese and Wine, followed by Monsieur Marcel and Cookbook Market.

Today, Vanessa has settled into her newfound home in Pasadena alongside her husband and business partner, Thomas Kalb, and their beloved pets, Clementine, Rhubarb, Shiitake, and Mochi. Together, the Tilaka Kalbs helm the independent venture Agnes Restaurant & Cheesery in Old Town Pasadena, serving classic American regional dishes alongside artisan cheeses and provisions. Vanessa is officially Head Cheese, focused on the cheesery offerings that span day to evening, takeaway wines, and overall operations.

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Vanessa Tilaka Kalb Quotes

“Cheese is like a new car that you drive off the lot; as soon as you cut into it, the clock starts ticking.”

“I’m a cheese shop, so I only carry things that will go with cheese.”

“I make it my life’s mission to get people into some stinky cheeses, blue cheeses, goat cheeses, anything. It’s my passion.”

“What grows together goes together.”

“I wouldn’t show up to my accounting class, but I would show up to every single French class [at culinary school].”

Cheese Passion and Education:
– Vanessa’s journey into the world of cheese began with a love for diverse flavors and a desire to learn more. Her education at the Cheese School of San Francisco was a pivotal point in her career, transforming her from a curious enthusiast into a knowledgeable cheesemonger. She emphasizes the importance of tasting and education in her field.

Cheese Shop Dream:
– Vanessa shared her dream of opening a cheese shop, a vision that became clearer during a vacation in Thailand. Her mentor at the Cheese School of San Francisco helped her develop the skills necessary for running a successful cheese business, including attending an intensive professional series on cheese.

SGV Roots and Cultural Exposure:
– Born and raised in the SGV, Vanessa’s upbringing in a diverse neighborhood exposed her to various cultural cuisines. This background fostered her appreciation for different foods and played a role in her culinary journey.

Agnes Restaurant and Cheesery:
– Vanessa is the proud owner of Agnes Restaurant and Cheesery in Pasadena. Her establishment combines a cheese shop with a restaurant, offering a unique dining experience that reflects her expertise and passion for cheese.

Certified Cheese Professional:
– Vanessa recently achieved her Certified Cheese Professional (CCP) credential, signifying her extensive knowledge and dedication to the craft of cheesemongering. She described the rigorous process and the significance of this achievement in her career.

Cheese Advocacy and Education:
– Throughout the interview, Vanessa advocates for trying new cheeses and understanding the nuances between different types. She educates listeners on proper cheese storage, pairing, and the impact of regional characteristics on cheese flavor.


Music Credits

Like it Loud, Dyalla, YouTube Audio Library

Scarlet Fire (Sting), Otis McDonald, YouTube Audio Library

Indecision, Dyalla, YouTube Audio Library

Picture of Vanessa Tilaka Kalb

Vanessa Tilaka Kalb

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