Cheese lovers rejoice! Astoria, New York, resident Matthew Van Vorst picked up a new hobby during the COVID-19 lockdown — a unique one at that. He’s devoted many hours to sculpting and shaping the beloved foodie favorite: cheese. Featured in the latest Ripley’s book, Out of the Box, his “Cuttin’ the Cheese” project was actually Matthew’s first venture into sculpting. Who would’ve thought?

A Gouda Idea
It all began with a couch-shaped block of cheese (that his co-quarantiners got a good chuckle out of), which quickly became a series of very detailed sculptures posted to an Instagram account devoted to the project. He’s made just about everything you could imagine, from feet to the Empire State Building and everything in between.

Gator Skull in Madrigal Cheese.

Brie-lieve It or Not!, the only material used in the process, aside from the tools, is cheese. No glue or anything to hold the sculptures together. Some varieties of cheese are better than others, Matthew says. He claims cheddar is the best for gouging and carving designs into, Swiss and Jarlsberg hold together well (and are perfect for hole-y structures), and Parmigiano-Reggiano is a cheese of all trades. It scrapes, cuts, and slices really well, which allows for the fine details to shine. Plus, it also is very sturdy and obviously the most delicious — at least in Matthew’s opinion!

We asked the artist what his most difficult cheesy venture was. He told us that his project titled Feet Slippers in Sharp Cheddar was the hardest, but also his favorite piece of work. The inspiration behind the idea was from an art piece by Emily Blythe Jones, which happened to be a pair of latex feet slippers. Matthew said it wasn’t easy to cut and shape like some of the more angular pieces. This was a part of the human body. It involved movement, life, and variation that had to be depicted effectively, which he accomplished. Matthew calls it “deliciously weird”.

Grate Tips From the Master
Matthew’s refrigerator is undoubtedly always stocked with a variety of cheeses. He says that’s one of his biggest tips for any aspiring cheese artists out there: keep it cool. It gets more strenuous as the cheese warms up. It’ll sweat, get soft, and fall apart as it warms up while you’re trying to construct the sculpture. Take time to refrigerate and ensure there is good air conditioning at your place of work to avoid any melty mishaps.

Once the hard work is complete (and photos are taken), Matthew gives you the go-ahead to take a bite! He let us know that once his sculptures are done, they get eaten. Pass the cheese, please.