Next Generation Artisan Cheesemakers

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by Jeanne Carpenter of Cheese Underground

With more than 1,200 licensed cheesemakers crafting more than 600 types, styles and varieties of cheese in America’s Dairyland, do you ever wonder what the face of the next generation of cheesemakers will look like? Well, in good news, they’ve already arrived. Let me introduce you to two up-and-coming rock stars, each of whom has taken a different path to establishing their cheesemaking career in Wisconsin.

Andy Hatch, Uplands Cheese, Dodgeville, Wis.

If what Uplands cheesemaker Andy Hatch says is true — that half of the secret to making Pleasant Ridge Reserve is simply getting out of the way of the milk and letting its unique properties and flavor profile shine through — then I’d say the other half to the secret of this near-perfect cheese is Andy Hatch himself.

Hatch joined the Uplands team in 2007 and today, crafts nearly every wheel of Pleasant Ridge Reserve – giving owner and head cheesemaker Mike Gingrich a long overdue break from the make room. Before joining Uplands, Andy worked at Neal’s Yard Dairy in London, and spent time making cheese in Europe and Wisconsin. He earned his cheesemaker’s license apprentice hours by working for two Master Cheesemakers – Bruce Workman at Edelweiss Creamery, and Gary Grossman at the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research.

Today, Andy’s working on crafting a new signature cheese for Uplands. Similar to Vacherin Mont d’Or, a soft, rich cow’s milk cheese made in the Jura region of Switzerland and France, Andy’s new cheese will be sold in little round boxes and will be designed to be consumed out of the box, perhaps warmed, and served with a spoon. Look for it in specialty stores this fall.

Jon Metzig, Union Star Dairy, Fremont, Wis.

Jon grew up – literally – on top of his family’s cheese factory near Fremont, Wis. As young as seven years old, he would help out in the cheese factory. During the spring of his senior year in high school, and with the blessing of his parents, he took a week off from school to take a cheesemakers course at the University of Wisconsin, then took the Wisconsin cheesemaker license test and passed. At 18 years old, Jon was one of the youngest licensed cheesemakers in the state of Wisconsin.

After graduating from high school, he attended UW- River Falls, studying under Ranee May and working in the dairy plant on campus. Jon graduated with a degree in Agriculture Business and a minor in Food Science. After graduation, he took a job with Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese near Waterloo, Wis., learning to make different types of cheeses in a farmstead environment.

That may have been Jon’s career path, if it were not for a two-month trip he took in the spring of 2009 to work with cheesemakers in Ireland, England, Switzerland and Germany, learning Old World techniques that he brought back to the United States. Today, the prodigal son has returned home to Union Star Dairy, where he’s working with his father to craft an artisan, washed-rind cheese that he hopes to have on the market later this year. It’s name? St. Jeanne, named after his grandmother.

If you’re interesting in learning more about these two up-and-coming cheesemakers, be sure to sign up for the Next Generation of Wisconsin Cheesemakers Seminar at the Second Annual Wisconsin Original Cheese Festival in November. The seminar is set for Saturday, Nov. 6 at 4:30 p.m. Tickets will go on sale in September. Watch for updates at http://www.wicheesefest.com/.


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