One of only two Alaskans to have achieved the designation of an American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professional (ACS CCP), and one of fewer than 1,000 individuals worldwide, community member Jacob Chrisman shares his passion of cheese at his newly opened specialty food market, Alasandro’s Market.
Named after the Italian side of his family who immigrated to the United States in the early 1900s and settled in San Francisco, Chrisman is proud to pay homage to his heritage and to those whose introduced him as a child to fine imported cheeses, fueling his lifelong passion.
At Alasandro’s, he carries a selection of 30 cheeses, including several staples in the way of Gouda, cheddar, Gloucester, French brie, paneer, goat milk, Humbolt Fog and blue cheese, a local favorite. He also rotates others, depending upon requests he receives and those he finds to be fun, interesting and exciting. These include, among others, pecorino, an Italian sheep cheese made on the isle of Sardinia from raw sheep’s milk, aged for eight months and lightly smoked over balsam wood, and Valdeon from Spain, made from a mix of pasteurized cow and goat milk with a flavor that is strong and earthy.
“First, I just love cheese and second, I come from a chef and cooking background and that level of good food and sharing the varieties of cheeses available are things I want to bring this community,” he said.
In addition to cheese, Chrisman carries honey, jam, bulk nuts, crackers, an olive and pickle bar, and dry cured meats, along with kitchen items like towels and mini cheese tools. Within the next month, he will have twice as much inventory as he does right now, adding gluten-free pastas from Italy, additional gluten-free crackers, truffle products and cheese-making kits.
A favorite with locals are his charcuterie boards that include meats, cheeses, fruit, nuts, olives, pickles, sweets and spreads. Ranging in size and price, he offers custom boards for weddings, parties, events and other occasions. Most recently, he created two charcuterie boards for Pier One Theatre for their 50th anniversary celebrations. Several customers order boards on an ongoing basis, and businesses including restaurants, lodges and other local establishments purchase his cheese to share with their own customers and clients. His tasting platters, small 1-ounce samples of cheeses and olives are available to eat on-site at Sweetgale Meadworks & Cider House on Main Street. He has also shipped cheese across the bay by plane to Seldovia, Port Graham and Nanwalek.
Located on Heath Street, Chrisman operates his specialty shop out of a small, two-room building, which includes a gluten-free and Department of Environmental Conservation-approved kitchen he remodeled and plans to finish so that he can make his own cheese, like fresh ricotta, as well as jams, pickled items and small batches of handmade pasta. He also wants to be able to offer more cut to order items, like he currently does with his meats.
Managing the business on his own, he plans to be open year-round. Looking to the future, he wants to offer fondue nights and intimate, cheese-focused dinners on the weekends, something he began experimenting with during the past year and a half, running his small cheese shop at Odin Meadery out East End Road. There, he hosted Raclette Night, featuring raclette cheese from the Swiss Alps, and Manchego Night with cheese from the Mancha region of Spain.
“Raclette is made to be melted and during Raclette Night we heated it and scraped it onto meat and potatoes, which was a big hit,” he said. “On Manchego Night, we did a tasting of three different ages of the cheese which was also really popular.”
He would also like to offer cheese classes in collaboration with the local Classic Cook store during the fall and winter months and welcomes the opportunity to work with other businesses. With distributors in Washington and Oregon, his freight is barged from Washington with a two-week wait time and he takes special requests when he can get items in and it is affordable to do so.
Raised in a large Italian family on his mother’s side in the Bay area of California, Chrisman shared that imported cheeses were an ever-present part of his life, from visiting delis to family dinners. After several years of hands-on experiences, including classes, conferences learning the ins and outs of milks, cheeses, cheese-making, FDA and European standards and more, as well as interning at dairy farms, Chrisman took his ACS CCP exam in Pittsburgh in 2008.
After his first year of college, at the age of 19, he traveled to Alaska on summer vacation. Since that time, he has moved in and out of Homer and has been living here full time since 2020. His first time running a cheese shop was at the former Maura’s Café in Old Town Homer, followed by the cheese counter at Odin Meadery.
“I’m forever grateful for the start I got at Maura’s and at Odin’s and now I’m excited to have my own place I can grow into,” he said. “This local support is what gave me the confidence to leap into my own building. I’ve taken so much of what I learned and am now creating opportunities for myself. I’m proud of my family name and my heritage and I display it proudly and I love cheese and want everyone to love cheese. Sharing something I am so passionate about and that is such a large part of my heritage makes me very happy.”
Find Alasandro’s Market at 3850 Heath Street, and follow him on Facebook where he provides regular updates on available cheese selections. Market hours are Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday, noon to 7 p.m.