Andy Fitzgerrell is one of the two Cheese Category Specialists at KeHE Distributors and part of the three-person team that runs the category. He got his start in the Cheese industry in 2009 at Whole Foods in Salt Lake City and quickly went down the rabbit hole that is the endless pursuit to know and understand more about what makes cheese so interesting and fun! Since then he has worked as a store level buyer, manager, educator and website content manager for multiple cheese counters across Utah.
In 2012, he was part of the inaugural group of 150 people to take the American Cheese Society “Certified Cheese Professional Exam,” and was also 1 of the 120 who passed it. At the 2017 American Cheese Society conference, he was the creator/presenter at 1 of 7 tasting seminars – the pairing of cheese with both chocolate & beer, alongside friends Adam Dick, owner/chocolate maker of Dick Taylor Chocolate and Kevin Crompton (former brewmaster) of Epic Brewing. In 2018, he was part of the inaugural group of people in the cheese industry to take the American Cheese Society “T.A.S.T.E.” exam (Technical, Aesthetic, Sensory, Tasting Exam) and 1 of the 30 to pass and become a “Certified Cheese Sensory Evaluator.”
In addition to loving most things food/beverage, he is also a freelance contributor for the Utah independent periodical Slug (Salt Lake Underground) Magazine, where he works as both a photographer and writer.
Mariah Christensen started working at Harmons Grocery in 2005 as a Delicatessen Sales Associate where she had her first taste of Gruyere and was hooked! Mariah is the Specialty Cheese Buyer for Harmons Grocery and directs the selection, education, and experience of the Cheese Department for the company. She is an ACS Certified Cheese Professional and ACS Certified Cheese Sensory Evaluator.
Harmons is an upscale supermarket chain located within the state of Utah, United States, with 19 stores throughout the Wasatch Front and in the St. George area.
Albert Straus is the Founder and CEO of his company, Straus Family Creamery, and is a pioneer in the Dairy Industry. Mr. Straus’s journey began in 1970 when he returned to his family’s dairy farm after receiving a Bachelor’s degree in Dairy Sciences at Cal Poly. Upon taking over the management of the company, he decided to make a change. From stopping the use of herbicides to using a no-till method, his company became the first 100% certified organic creamery in the entire country. His radical and innovative farming practices lent a helping hand in the ever so changing industry.
Tom Ditto, a graduate of San Diego State, Tom joined Challenge Dairy Products 1979 after a short stint teaching elementary and middle school. Tom started as a driver and worked his way to become the Northern Region Vice President in 1989. With a Company realignment in 1987, Tom became the VP of Foodservice. In his current position, Tom is involved in a multitude of responsibilities including sales, purchasing of products and vehicles, negotiating Union contracts, and much more. He enjoys the many challenges that this diversity brings. Like many of us in the dairy business, Tom is a second-generation butter guy, as his Father also worked for Challenge Dairy starting in the 1950s.
Tom joined the CCBA in 1991 and has attended 28 conferences during these 29 years. Tom served on the CCBA Board of Directors in the 1990s, was Chairman of the 2001 convention at Squaw Creek. Tom served as President of the CCBA in 2002 and 2003.
In his spare time, Tom stays active working around the house or at the gym, golfing and spending time with his family.
Rebekah Baker has been working in the Specialty Cheese Industry for over a decade. She got her start working for nationally acclaimed Pastoral Artisan Cheese in Chicago, went on to work with Whole Foods in Northern California and as the Category Director at Nugget Market. In 2016 she transitioned to distribution and worked as the Category Director of Cheese and Specialty at Tony’s Fine Foods. She is currently helping Tillamook launch specialty cheese as their Specialty Western Regional sales manager. Passionate about the cheese community and education she has served as the President of the California Artisan Cheese Guild, is a Certified Cheese Professional through ACS and is a co-host for the upcoming ACS conference in Portland.