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GENERAL BOARDS => Introductions => Topic started by: blashyrkrh on February 12, 2013, 09:53:33 PM

Title: Question for professional cheesemakers
Post by: blashyrkrh on February 12, 2013, 09:53:33 PM
I am a professional chef/cook at the moment, and went to culinary school several years ago. I have taken to cheesemaking as a hobby as of lately. I absolutely love it. I wish I would have got into it a long time ago.

My question is this. I want to do this for a living, but I dont want to just dive in with no experience. I have worked in restaurants with owners who have no experience, always with the same results. Epic Failure. How do I go about doing this professionally?

My Idea was to go to a local cheesemaker, and ask about an becoming an un-paid apprentice while I still work my job. Would any of the pro's on here take on someone like me?

 I currently live in Salt Lake City and there is one artisan cheesemaker here that I know of. I am most likely moving to SE Washington very soon. I'm from Oregon, and its closer to home. Off the top of my head, I know about Mt Townsend Creamery in Port Townsend, and Beechers in Seattle. Im sure there are more.

Anyways, let me know what you think.

Thanks in advance for any information
Title: Re: Question for professional cheesemakers
Post by: Back 2 The Frotture on February 13, 2013, 03:23:47 AM
An apprentice-ship is a great way to get your foot in the door.  You will unfortunatly start with washing the spruce boards, cleaning the moulds, flipping the cheeses.  Hope you have a strong back.  After about three months of daily exposure you could become comfortably, but not experienced enough to go out on your own.  Take a science course, and observe everything closely.  Dont forget that what works well for one cheese maker wont necessarily be the same for you, and cheese houses are have their own symbiosis.
Title: Re: Question for professional cheesemakers
Post by: Tomer1 on February 13, 2013, 05:37:59 AM
Buy some books too to catch up on theortical side of things. Threre are plenty suggested in this board.
Read up on the legal side of things and start thinking about your business plan. 
Title: Re: Question for professional cheesemakers
Post by: Tiarella on February 13, 2013, 08:03:14 AM
Gianaclis Caldwell has two cheesemaking books and is working on a third I think.  I have the artisan cheesemaking one but she also has one for running a small farm-based cheese business so you might want to get both.  I think you'll find both well worth the investment!  Good luck and keep us posted all along the way!!!   :D

Mastering Artisan Cheesemaking: The Ultimate Guide for Home-Scale and Market Producers:
http://www.amazon.com/Mastering-Artisan-Cheesemaking-Home-Scale-Producers/dp/1603583327/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1360764011&sr=8-1&keywords=Gianaclis+Caldwell (http://www.amazon.com/Mastering-Artisan-Cheesemaking-Home-Scale-Producers/dp/1603583327/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1360764011&sr=8-1&keywords=Gianaclis+Caldwell)



The Farmstead Creamery Advisor: The Complete Guide to Building and Running a Small, Farm-Based Cheese Business :
http://www.amazon.com/The-Farmstead-Creamery-Advisor-Farm-Based/dp/1603582215/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1360764011&sr=8-2&keywords=Gianaclis+Caldwell (http://www.amazon.com/The-Farmstead-Creamery-Advisor-Farm-Based/dp/1603582215/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1360764011&sr=8-2&keywords=Gianaclis+Caldwell)
Title: Re: Question for professional cheesemakers
Post by: blashyrkrh on February 14, 2013, 09:05:16 AM
An apprentice-ship is a great way to get your foot in the door.  You will unfortunatly start with washing the spruce boards, cleaning the moulds, flipping the cheeses.  Hope you have a strong back.  After about three months of daily exposure you could become comfortably, but not experienced enough to go out on your own.  Take a science course, and observe everything closely.  Dont forget that what works well for one cheese maker wont necessarily be the same for you, and cheese houses are have their own symbiosis.

Yea, I figured thats about what it would be. Its somewhat applicable to the way a kitchen works. Start off washing dishes and dicing onions. I wouldnt mind washing stuff, and flipping cheeses. Its an oppurtuity to learn and get hands on experience for free the way I look at it. My back is fine, but being the lowest on the totem pole might bruise my ego a bit ;)

Thanks for your input by the way.
Title: Re: Question for professional cheesemakers
Post by: blashyrkrh on February 14, 2013, 09:22:54 AM
Gianaclis Caldwell has two cheesemaking books and is working on a third I think.  I have the artisan cheesemaking one but she also has one for running a small farm-based cheese business so you might want to get both.  I think you'll find both well worth the investment!  Good luck and keep us posted all along the way!!!   :D

Mastering Artisan Cheesemaking: The Ultimate Guide for Home-Scale and Market Producers:
[url]http://www.amazon.com/Mastering-Artisan-Cheesemaking-Home-Scale-Producers/dp/1603583327/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1360764011&sr=8-1&keywords=Gianaclis+Caldwell[/url] ([url]http://www.amazon.com/Mastering-Artisan-Cheesemaking-Home-Scale-Producers/dp/1603583327/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1360764011&sr=8-1&keywords=Gianaclis+Caldwell[/url])



The Farmstead Creamery Advisor: The Complete Guide to Building and Running a Small, Farm-Based Cheese Business :
[url]http://www.amazon.com/The-Farmstead-Creamery-Advisor-Farm-Based/dp/1603582215/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1360764011&sr=8-2&keywords=Gianaclis+Caldwell[/url] ([url]http://www.amazon.com/The-Farmstead-Creamery-Advisor-Farm-Based/dp/1603582215/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1360764011&sr=8-2&keywords=Gianaclis+Caldwell[/url])


Thanks! I will definately be investing in those books. I have, American Farmstead Cheese by Paul Kindstedt for tech stuff, and Artisan Cheesmaking At Home for recipes. On Food And Cooking by Harold Mcgee has an entire section on cheese also. I've had that one for cooking reference for a while.

Mastering Artisan Cheesemaking was one of the next ones on my list, right after I buy Heritage and Landscape, the Art of Traditional Cheesemaking. That one is kind of expensive though. I found out about it in the Further Reading section of American Farmstead Cheese.

And ofcourse, this site is a good learning tool. I spent a long enough time for my eyes to dry out, just typing random cheese stuffs in the search section. I learned a good amount just doing that. Before I knew it, it was 3:00 am
Title: Re: Question for professional cheesemakers
Post by: Tiarella on February 14, 2013, 10:58:56 AM
Sounds like you're diving in and that's great.  One thing I've noticed is that for me, searching on this forum using the forum search function isn't very helpful.  I get better luck doing a google search for a phrase wtih an "AND Cheeseforum.org" in the search field.  That way I get google's search engine working on the forum's site.  Otherwise I get so many possible links and many of them are to threads that aren't really relevant to what I'm trying to find out. 

Have fun!   :D

And keep us posted!

P.S. another book for you to buy, or borrow from friend or library is "The Cheese Chronicles" by Liz somebody....don't remember.  She talks about many of the wonderful artisanal cheesemakers in the US and the cheeses they are making and how they're doing it, what is working, what hasn't worked, etc.  This book is from her perspective as a buyer and restaurant sales person from the famous Murray's in NYC.  Read this one!  It'll make you want to find and try many of the cheeses she reviews.
Title: Re: Question for professional cheesemakers
Post by: Tomer1 on February 14, 2013, 12:16:48 PM
Also its important to taste alot of great cheeses, make friends with a cheesemonger (who you might in the future be able to sell your stuff) and visit his shop on a weekly basis buying different cheeses. (it can even be 100gr each, if your budget is tight).
Title: Re: Question for professional cheesemakers
Post by: blashyrkrh on February 17, 2013, 02:51:48 AM
Thanks for the search tip! I wasnt looking for anything specific though. Just typing random cheese related phrases and seeing clicking on whatever came, took notes on the trials and errors of others for my own future endeavors.

I do have wonderfull news though!

I just had an interview over the phone for a cooking job at this place in Washington
http://www.saffronmediterraneankitchen.com/#/Menu/ (http://www.saffronmediterraneankitchen.com/#/Menu/)

I told him that in the grand scheme of things, I want to make cheese for a living in the future, and he told me he is a good friend of the people here at this place.  http://www.monteilletcheese.com (http://www.monteilletcheese.com)
He told me that he was there having wine with them one day, and randomly ended up helping them birth a new goat

I am going to give a months notice at my current job, and my landlord aslo!

The place offers cheese workshops, but I think after I taste all of what they have to offer, and work on a good cover letter, I am going to see what I can do about an apprenticeship.

and thank you for the books by the way. I am going to take a page out of Napolean Hill's lessons, and spend 10% of my income towards books about cheese for a while. I remember hearing about a school in Washington devoted to cheese, but one lesson I learned by overpaying for culinary school, is that some educations can be obtained through books and hands on experience
Title: Re: Question for professional cheesemakers
Post by: blashyrkrh on February 17, 2013, 02:52:44 AM
Sounds like you're diving in and that's great.  One thing I've noticed is that for me, searching on this forum using the forum search function isn't very helpful.  I get better luck doing a google search for a phrase wtih an "AND Cheeseforum.org" in the search field.  That way I get google's search engine working on the forum's site.  Otherwise I get so many possible links and many of them are to threads that aren't really relevant to what I'm trying to find out. 

Have fun!   :D

And keep us posted!

Thanks for the search tip! I wasnt looking for anything specific though. Just typing random cheese related phrases and seeing clicking on whatever came, took notes on the trials and errors of others for my own future endeavors.

I do have wonderfull news though!

I just had an interview over the phone for a cooking job at this place in Washington
[url]http://www.saffronmediterraneankitchen.com/#/Menu/[/url] ([url]http://www.saffronmediterraneankitchen.com/#/Menu/[/url])

I told him that in the grand scheme of things, I want to make cheese for a living in the future, and he told me he is a good friend of the people here at this place.  [url]http://www.monteilletcheese.com[/url] ([url]http://www.monteilletcheese.com[/url])
He told me that he was there having wine with them one day, and randomly ended up helping them birth a new goat

I am going to give a months notice at my current job, and my landlord aslo!

The place offers cheese workshops, but I think after I taste all of what they have to offer, and work on a good cover letter, I am going to see what I can do about an apprenticeship.

and thank you for the books by the way. I am going to take a page out of Napolean Hill's lessons, and spend 10% of my income towards books about cheese for a while. I remember hearing about a school in Washington devoted to cheese, but one lesson I learned by overpaying for culinary school, is that some educations can be obtained through books and hands on experience

P.S. another book for you to buy, or borrow from friend or library is "The Cheese Chronicles" by Liz somebody....don't remember.  She talks about many of the wonderful artisanal cheesemakers in the US and the cheeses they are making and how they're doing it, what is working, what hasn't worked, etc.  This book is from her perspective as a buyer and restaurant sales person from the famous Murray's in NYC.  Read this one!  It'll make you want to find and try many of the cheeses she reviews.
Title: Re: Question for professional cheesemakers
Post by: Tiarella on February 17, 2013, 07:02:18 AM
Thanks for the search tip! I wasnt looking for anything specific though. Just typing random cheese related phrases and seeing clicking on whatever came, took notes on the trials and errors of others for my own future endeavors.

I do have wonderfull news though!

I just had an interview over the phone for a cooking job at this place in Washington
[url]http://www.saffronmediterraneankitchen.com/#/Menu/[/url] ([url]http://www.saffronmediterraneankitchen.com/#/Menu/[/url])

I told him that in the grand scheme of things, I want to make cheese for a living in the future, and he told me he is a good friend of the people here at this place.  [url]http://www.monteilletcheese.com[/url] ([url]http://www.monteilletcheese.com[/url])
He told me that he was there having wine with them one day, and randomly ended up helping them birth a new goat

I am going to give a months notice at my current job, and my landlord aslo!

The place offers cheese workshops, but I think after I taste all of what they have to offer, and work on a good cover letter, I am going to see what I can do about an apprenticeship.

and thank you for the books by the way. I am going to take a page out of Napolean Hill's lessons, and spend 10% of my income towards books about cheese for a while. I remember hearing about a school in Washington devoted to cheese, but one lesson I learned by overpaying for culinary school, is that some educations can be obtained through books and hands on experience


That's wonderful news!  DO read the Liz Thorpe book "Tne Cheese Chronicles" very soon.  it'll give you context and make you regard everything else you read differently.  It's like having a way to get the overview of US srtisanal cheesemaking that allows you to make sense of everything else.  I guarantee it'll support your education about cheeses and you'll learn things that will be catalyzing sparks about particular cheeses you will focus on in the future.
Title: Re: Question for professional cheesemakers
Post by: xyztal on February 17, 2013, 04:23:34 PM
Best of luck to you blashyrkrh!!!

I have spoken to Joan - believe she is the cheesemaker at monteillet cheese.  She is a very, very, very nice lady.  A few weeks later I find that she is actually a good friend of one of my colleagues in the States!  I hope to visit them this Spring and attend a workshop... if I am not too busy taking care of my own sheep!
Title: Re: Question for professional cheesemakers
Post by: Back 2 The Frotture on February 18, 2013, 02:03:41 AM
Good luck with the change.  Reconsider the physical abuse that large scale cheesemakers take.  Slippery floors, heavy and sharp metal parts, not to mention hands soaked in acid and sulfuric cleaning agents.  30% of the work is the actual making of cheese the rest is maintenance and cleaning (not as glorious).  Without citing any particular book, cheese literature is a useful resource and essential to understanding milk.  Would your local library have any dusty books about microbiology and milk composition?
Title: Re: Question for professional cheesemakers
Post by: blashyrkrh on February 19, 2013, 12:50:59 AM
Good luck with the change.  Reconsider the physical abuse that large scale cheesemakers take.  Slippery floors, heavy and sharp metal parts, not to mention hands soaked in acid and sulfuric cleaning agents.  30% of the work is the actual making of cheese the rest is maintenance and cleaning (not as glorious).  Without citing any particular book, cheese literature is a useful resource and essential to understanding milk.  Would your local library have any dusty books about microbiology and milk composition?

Meh, I'm not worried about all that stuff. The restaurant industry (it varies from place to place depending on who you work for) has the potential to be the most physicaly abusive and immoral line of work in existance. I have worked up to 14 hour days with no breaks, had my cuticles literaly eaten away by grill and oven cleaner, been lied to about what I was going to be paid during interviews then end up getting lowballed with no proof for the Labor Comission, had paychecks bounce,not been paid on time (several times),seen other cooks/chefs cut themselves to the bone only to get stitched up and come right back to work high on pain pills, pregnant women working on their do date, worked against doctors orders, etc. I could go on forever, seriously. Besides, this place isn't what I would call large scale
I am used to being around hot/sharp things, and slippery floors.
As far as library books go, I dont know. On Food And Cooking by Harold McGee is my go-too for things food sceince things like that. American Farmstead Cheese also has alot of things of that sort.
Title: Re: Question for professional cheesemakers
Post by: blashyrkrh on February 19, 2013, 01:05:04 AM
Best of luck to you blashyrkrh!!!

I have spoken to Joan - believe she is the cheesemaker at monteillet cheese.  She is a very, very, very nice lady.  A few weeks later I find that she is actually a good friend of one of my colleagues in the States!  I hope to visit them this Spring and attend a workshop... if I am not too busy taking care of my own sheep!

Yup, thats her! If things keep going as well as they have been, I may just see you in the Spring at the workshop you go to! Its a great part of the country. Lack of rain, long Summers,early Spring, mild'ish Winters, lots of rivers to irrigate all make for alot of wineries and farms. I grew up in the area, havent been back in several years though. I could always just go back to Portland again (kill me) but I would rather not be in rain for 9 months out of the year.
Title: Re: Question for professional cheesemakers
Post by: Alpkäserei on March 02, 2013, 02:29:59 PM
You could always take the approach that I used,

1: Learn German
2: Go to Switzerland
3: Spend the Summer in the Alps on a farm making cheese.

This is what you could call a super-apprenticeship
It helps to grow up in a family/community that speaks a dialect of German like I did  ;)

Think a lot about HOW you want to make cheese. Do you want to be modern, slick, scientific, mechanized, etc? Or would you rather be hands-on, simple, and traditional? There are advantages to both ways, and also both ways appeal to a different kind of person.
We do things the old way, because that's where my heart is. A big advantage to me with this is the low cost at startup for this -our vat, for example, is a 40 gallon copper round bottom kettle we had made special for our operations at a cost of $1200, as opposed to the $5000+ you would pay for a similar item out of USDA approved stainless steel. (But, you HAVE to have the traditional approach to get by with copper, otherwise they wont let you have it)

Overall, the best thing you can do before you get started is to amass a good deal of personal experience. Make cheese at home whenever you can, go to classes/courses, etc. and maybe even volunteer/apprentice some labor for a cheesemaker like you said.

Think also of the scale you want to have. Do you want to produce at high volume, gathering from many local farmers, or do you want to run a small-scale operation, with your own cows/goats to supply your needs?

Title: Re: Question for professional cheesemakers
Post by: klschnepp on March 03, 2013, 11:49:39 AM
I have just made the leap from hobby to profession and I might add that you might want to find out early what kind of cheese you are passionate about making, if you want to be working with cow, sheep or goat milk (or a mix!), if your goal is to have your own business or be a cheesemaker at someone else's company, and what your timeline is.    Naturally, all experience is extremely valuable, but the more targeted you are, the faster your learning curve can be (not necessarily will be, but it increases the odds).     

Naturally, I have met a ton of cheesemakers who just get started and follow the opportunities that come their way and this certainly works!!   But if you want to start your own business relatively soon, there needs to be opportunity in the marketplace.  For example, I live in the UK -- there is absolutely no need for another cheddar!!  So, if I happened to love cheddar, I would really need to set my sights on working for someone else unless I came across a concept that was really viable in the marketplace.   So, I say the first question is what does the market want or need in the area that you plan to live in?   

Hope this helps.
Title: Re: Question for professional cheesemakers
Post by: OpheliaBlue on March 10, 2013, 02:49:34 PM
There's also the VIAC: http://nutrition.uvm.edu/viac/ (http://nutrition.uvm.edu/viac/)

It's a little pricey but I plan on doing it once I've saved up. That certification plus some apprenticeships would be great to have under your belt. I'm excited for you, hope you end up making and selling some great cheeses!