July 26, 2022
The Philly Cheese School, which teaches people how to serve, pair and enjoy cheeses, is getting its own storefront in Bella Vista.
The Philly Cheese School, founded in 2020 by Montgomery County native Julia Birnbaum, hosts fun and informative classes on dairy basics. Her brick-and-mortar location in South Philly will double as a BYOB, and feature in-person classes.
Birnbaum has been hosting virtual classes for the last two years, shipping products and supplies directly to people beforehand. But the new storefront, at 701 S. Ninth St., will allow guests to sit and hang out while learning about the basics of cheese.
"This new home for Philly Cheese School makes my heart the happiest, as I'm very excited to bring my passion project to a physical iteration in Philadelphia, where my family and close friends are," Birnbaum said. "Here at the Cheese School, we want to make learning about cheese fun and slightly silly, while still being informative and educational."
Visits to the Cheese School will begin with Birnbaum showcasing a wide selection of charcuterie sides, allowing guests to taste-test before beginning their lessons. Birnbaum told KYW that she will spend a lot of time asking what students taste before going into detail about where each cheese comes from and discussing food and drink pairings.
Philly Cheese School's most popular lesson is Cheese Basics, which runs for 90 minutes. For $90 per person (plus 30% gratuity), Birnbaum allows students to have the entire venue to themselves. Each course includes four to five cheeses — one soft cheese, one young gouda, aged cheddar, blue cheese and typically one additional offering.
Participants also will be offered gluten-free charcoal crackers and additional charcuterie pairings, like jams, honey, sweetened nuts and olives.
Though Philly Cheese School opened at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Birnbaum has been working as a food and cheese educator since 2014. She got her start in New York City at the renowned Murray's Cheese, which has locations in Greenwich Village, Grand Central and Long Island City.
There, she was promoted to head monger before heading back to Pennsylvania to start her own business.
Birnbaum routinely updates her website with additional classes, including a Cheese & Cookie Pairing class on Aug. 18. Tickets are $70 per person, and will include four artisanal cheeses paired with four classic cookies. Birnbaum will assist in helping students taste through their plate, providing information about sourcing, other pairings and the best way to serve each item.
The Philly Cheese School also includes a gift shop stocked with cheese-themed merchandise, which visitors can access at the end of their classes.
Birnbaum also hosts private classes for individuals or groups, both in person and on Zoom. Guests can rent the classroom for a private event, like parties, anniversaries, birthdays and other celebrations.