Santé Specialty Foods, maker of gourmet roasted and spiced nuts, has received a Gold Medal Endorsement from Chefs in America, a nationwide network of over highly-esteemed 7,500 corporate and executive chefs. In a triple-blind taste test, all 10 flavors of Santé Nuts scored a nine or higher, with the company’s newly-released Roasted Salted Mix receiving one of the highest scores. The nuts were judged according to six distinct factors: appearance, aroma, taste, mouth feel, aftertaste and overall impression.
“Chefs In America believes that Santé Nuts superior-tasting product line of value-added nuts respects the history of this great food,” the organization said in a statement. “Santé’s products are obviously crafted with respect for tradition while offering a modern gourmet air. They are a delicious treat that can lower bad cholesterol and provide heart healthy nutrients—all while tasting great.”
Specialty food producer The Discerning Palate is asking for support from the specialty food community. The company has applied for a $100,000 grant from Chase’s Mission Main Street Grants®. The Discerning Palate will be submitting a questionnaire outlining a business plan that will result in growth of the business and needs to receive at least 250 online votes to be eligible for a grant. Customers, fans and community members can show support for The Discerning Palate by voting at www.MissionMainStreetGrants.com/b/3325 using Facebook Connect. Direct voting links are available on The Discerning Palate and MacDaddy’s Rollin’ Smoke BBQ Facebook pages or at www.TheDiscerningPalate.us.
The Discerning Palate’s family of great foods embodies our original commitment to good food – clean ingredients, no preservatives, nothing artificial, vegetarian-friendly and made from gluten-free and non-GMO ingredients. We are excited about our growth in the last three years, but receiving a grant like this would allow us to expand our distribution further and create more New Hampshire jobs,” said The Discerning Palate Owner Mary Macdonald. The voting deadline is June 19, 2015 and grant recipients will be selected by expert panelists.
About The Discerning Palate
The Discerning Palate’s products are a direct reflection of being a small NH family business. The gift of a small vertical charcoal smoker started the family on an unexpected journey and the evolution began. Smoking food became a family activity, which in turn became a family-based KCBS competition BBQ team. That became a mobile barbecue catering business (think of a food truck serving low and slow barbecue and you’ve got MacDaddy’s!). The sauce and spice rub recipes were originally created for competitions, but were a natural fit for use in catering, and then customers began asking where they could buy the sauces. And so it began.
Fast forward eight years and now The Discerning Palate offers Swineheart’s Signature Sauces, Our Local Table gourmet condiments, Old’s Cool Wild Game Sauces and MacDaddy’s BBQ Sauces. The products are currently available throughout New England and New York. Each of the brands offers an all-natural twist on familiar favorites. The family’s goal is to simply ensure everyone enjoys something delicious every day. For more information visit: www.TheDiscerningPalate.us; www.OurLocalTable.com; www.SwineheartSauce.com; www.OldsCoolFoods.com and www.MacDaddysRollinSmokeBBQ.com.
By Lorrie Baumann
Polska Foods is bringing a traditional pre-Soviet Polish culinary staple to American grocers’ freezer cases. The young California company goes to great lengths to make its Organic Potato Cheese Pierogi, Mushroom Cabbage Vegan Pierogi with Sauerkraut, Organic Spinach & Feta Pierogi and Savory Beef & Pork Pierogi from high-quality organic ingredients and time- and labor-intensive methods to produce products that honor the culinary traditions of Chief Operations Officer Tomasz Piszczek’s Polish grandmother, says Bridget McQueen-Piszczek, the company’s CEO.
McQueen-Piszczek discovered pierogi when her new husband, Tomasz Piszczek, took her to Poland to meet his family in 2010. “Everything we ate at his parent’s farm was from the garden, the fields, or wild-picked from the neighboring forest – even the meat we ate was from a neighbor,” she says. “When I had their pierogi with all the fresh ingredients, I thought, this is incredible.” Piszczek’s parents and grandmother didn’t speak any English, and McQueen-Piszczek didn’t speak any Polish. “We ended up communicating through the food,” she said. “Good food allowed us to share a moment of love and appreciation when the language barrier prevented us from connecting.”
“When I came back to California, I said that we had to get some of these pierogi,” she continued. “We tried everywhere, even went to the East Coast, to delis where there were lines out the door.” But none of those pierogi compared to the ones made by her grandmother-in-law in Poland with thin delicate dough and stuffed with savory fillings. So finally, the Piszczeks decided that they were just going to have to learn how to make their own. They asked Piszczek’s grandmother for her recipes. “We started out making it just for ourselves, but when you make pierogi, you make a lot and you want to share them,” McQueen-Piszczek says. Dinner parties with friends turned into requests from friends and family members for a chance to buy the pierogi for their own tables, and then that turned into sales at local farmers markets and then a sale to the local Whole Foods market. “We just kept taking one step after the other, and then one day you wake up and think, Wow, we’ve got a whole company,” McQueen-Piszczek says.
It took a year after the Piszczeks decided to make the pierogi for the farmers market to find the right ingredients. “We visited the farms and the plants of all ingredient providers to guarantee quality and authenticity. Some of the ingredients, such as the cheese, had to be custom made to mimic the quality you find in Poland,” McQueen-Piszczek says. “Today we work with one of the only local organic mills in the Bay Area. Starting with exceptional ingredients is essential to gourmet pierogi, and all our pierogi are made fresh and flash frozen to preserve the flavor, texture, and nutrients.”
The Potato Cheese and Mushroom Cabbage Sauerkraut Pierogi were the first on the market. The Savory Beef & Pork Pierogi were added later because customers were asking for it, and the Organic Spinach & Feta Pierogi were added to the line as a more Americanized version of the traditional dish. “You see Spinach Feta pierogi in Poland today, but it’s not a flavor from many generations ago,” McQueen-Piszczek says.
The Potato Cheese Pierogi are certified organic and use handcrafted farmers cheese. The filling includes organic potatoes, organic caramelized onions, whole grain organic millet, roasted garlic, and fresh herbs. McQueen-Piszczek says that she occasionally gets questions about whether the inclusion of millet in the pierogi filling is quite authentic, but it’s true to the traditional Old World recipes from past generations. “The millet gives it more fiber and also has a nutty flavor. It’s a very old, ancient grain, and a lot of pierogi just had millet in them. It was used before potatoes,” she says. There’s a whole-wheat version and one made with unbleached, organic wheat flour.
Mushroom Cabbage Pierogi with Sauerkraut are made with a recipe that’s several centuries old and is the kind of pierogi that Poles eat during the Wigilia Christmas Eve vigil, when traditionally, people didn’t eat meat while they waited for Christmas Day. “It’s the tradition of giving something up in order to gain. Religious tradition has changed, but this flavor is still very popular year round,” McQueen-Piszczek says. “This recipe is from our family in Poland, from many generations of eating at Christmas-time. When Polish natives try this flavor for the first time, you can see in their facial expressions that this is the way their grandmother made it, and many tell us they haven’t had it for 20-plus years. We get that a lot.”
They’re vegan, and raw, fermented gourmet sauerkraut is the key ingredient, McQueen-Piszczek says. “ The second key is a slow cooking process where you caramelize the onions, and slowly cook all the herbs and vegetables together for hours, creating a complex, well-balanced flavor. We make pierogi just like home – no short cuts in our processing.”
The Organic Spinach Feta Pierogi are award-winning and vegetarian, made from organic spinach, organic caramelized onions, portabello mushrooms, roasted red bell peppers and feta cheese in a whole-wheat organic dough. They offer 16 grams of whole grains per serving. Savory Beef & Pork Pierogi are made with organic white flour, hormone- and antibiotic-free minimally processed beef round and pork along with caramelized onions, whole-grain organic buckwheat, crimini mushrooms, roasted garlic, smoky paprika, spicy peppers and herbs in a tomato base. “You almost don’t need a topping on the beef and pork ones,” McQueen-Piszczek says. “We used the best-sourced meats and ingredients that you can get.”
“We were the company that had the ‘weird’ fruits and vegetables,” explained Melissa’s Produce Director of Public Relations, Robert Schueller, describing the company’s early years in slightly amused tone. Whether the thorn-covered durian fruit from Thailand, or 60-pound jackfruit from Mexico and Costa Rica, Melissa’s prides itself on always offering customers something new and unique, a feature particularly prized by the company’s gourmet clientele.
The company, founded by Joe and Sharon Hernandez, has a catalog of approximately 1,200 items, many offered seasonally. The selection includes conventional and organic fresh specialty produce, as well as dried items. One of the first national organic brands to begin selling 15 years ago, Melissa’s variety is among the U.S. leaders for both organic and conventional specialty produce, as well as hispanic and Asian specialty produce.
While Melissa’s – named for the Hernandez’s daughter – distributes to the nation’s top 20 retailers as well as independent gourmet markets, it started out catering to local specialty ethnic food retailers. First delivering traditional favorite items to Hispanic markets and shoring up supply chains that had left stores with inconsistent stock, Melissa’s soon branched out to bring original, sometimes unusual produce to a range of retailers.
While many distributors source quality produce both locally and globally, Melissa’s prides itself on pioneering a path for American consumers to taste new fruits and vegetables. When the company identifies an item it thinks would go over well stateside, but for one reason or another cannot be imported – often due to the lengthy regulatory process required to clear international produce – Melissa’s innovates by bringing new farming to the U.S. “Ten, 15 years ago, people would visit Southeast Asia, or Central American, and taste the delicious dragonfruit,” explained Schueller. “Then we started getting emails and calls, with people saying, ‘I had this terrific new fruit, how can I get it? You guys are the company to get it!’ But 15 years ago, we couldn’t get it. It wasn’t yet legal for import into the U.S.”
Knowing that dragonfruit is in the cactus family, the company approached one of its growers, a cactus fruit producer in Fallbrook, California, to attempt cultivation of the plant. The crop was a success, and that producer now turns out 80 percent of all domestically grown dragonfruit. Still a relatively expensive item, due to the plant’s sensitivity to swings of cold and hot weather, Melissa’s now has a source of dragonfruit for late summer and fall, which it pairs with Florida-grown fruit that became available in 2010. When the USDA finally approved Melissa’s import of year-round Vietnamese dragonfruit in 2011, this completed the company’s move to supply American consumers with a delicious new exotic fruit whose sales continue to increase.
While some of the company’s unique fruit offerings catch consumer eyes, its flagship product is actually the routine-looking Dutch Yellow Potato, sold in retail stores and also favored by gourmet chefs for its buttery flavor. This creamer potato, grown in Idaho and often referred to (erroneously) as ‘Baby Yukons,’ is uniquely resistant to toxic greening, a common problem with creamer potatoes. Other proprietary items offered by Melissa’s, of which there are many, include kale sprouts – imagine a Brussels sprout appearing plant that produces miniature kale sprouts instead of balls of Brussels sprouts – and Muscato grapes.
While Joe Hernandez has brought Melissa’s a long way – he continues to serve as CEO and President of a company whose staff includes 25 family members, and the company has evolved to include the most exotic of produce from around the globe, Melissa’s remains true to its roots, covering those same – and some new – hispanic staples that gave the company its early success. Known for its variety of both fresh and dried chile peppers, one of the company’s exclusive partner farmers will begin growing the new world’s hottest pepper – the Carolina Reaper at 2.2 million Scoville heat units – this summer in California, to pair with the dried product the company currently sources from Mexico. The pepper will be one of many produce varieties that Melissa’s procures as exclusives from its growers.
For more information on Melissa’s Produce, visit www.melissas.com.
By Lorrie Baumann
In his fourth season as an artisan cheesemaker, Jeff Fenwick, cheesemaker at Back Forty Artisan Cheese in Lanark, Ontario, doesn’t regret leaving his job as director of admissions at a college in downtown Hamilton. His wife Jenna simply brought her own art and design business with her when they made the move, and although she’s streamlined the retail channels for her line of women’s bags and accessories to accommodate her new rural location, her studio still thrives. “We turned a barn into her studio here when we moved,” Jeff says. “She has a big Etsy store.”
Jeff and Jenna were living and working in Hamilton when his job at the college began to feel a little stale. The couple had always been interested in food, cooking and entertaining, and they’d started growing some of their vegetables. Jeff had gotten interested in fermenting and was making his own beer and cider. “I had made the odd batch of yogurt, but no advanced cheese making,” he says.
Jeff’s job required long hours at the college, and the two of them began to regret how little time they were spending together, too. All those yearnings prompted Jeff to start searching for a chance to leave his office job for a business related to food. They thought of opening a small cafe, perhaps. “While we were researching, this cheese business came up for sale. It’s a beautiful area, and we had some family in the area, and it turned out to be a great fit for us,” Jeff says. “A big part of moving out here was to spend more time together. The college job was very demanding. We weren’t seeing each other a whole lot.”
In business since late 1999 or early 2000, Back Forty Artisan Cheese was one of the first in Ontario to make raw sheep’s milk cheeses. Its former owner was ready to leave it behind but he wanted to leave the business in good hands, so he stayed involved long enough to teach Jeff how to make cheese from his recipes. “I had to learn a whole new art,” Jeff says. “I used his recipes, did some trial and error, made some mistakes. It took a good year to settle into it.”
Milking the sheep is outsourced to a nearby farm where the farmer has more livestock experience.“He has a flock of 200 sheep this year,” Jeff says. “He does what he does best and gives us high-quality milk that we can make good cheese with.”
Jenna handles the marketing and website management for the business, and today the cheese is being sold at specialty cheese shops and upscale grocers all over Ontario, with the majority going to the eastern half of the province, including Ottawa and some farmers markets and small retailers in Toronto. They just added the farmers market in Kingston to their distribution network.
Back Forty Artisan Cheeses makes four products in its regular line. Flower Station is a traditional-style feta. Highland Blue is a natural rind blue cheese that’s flavorful but a little smoother than most blue cheeses, with some extra butteriness from the sheep’s milk. “We’ve had a lot of success with that one,” Jeff says.
Bonnechere is a semifirm cheese, unique because it’s influenced by a Basque recipe. Its rind is flame-torched for a mahogany exterior and a hint of smokiness that gives it an interesting flavor on the rind around a body that’s tangy and a little fruity. It’s aged from three months to a year or more. Finally, Madawaska, a bloomy rind raw milk cheese that’s tricky to make. “It ripens from the outside in, so you get that ripeness right under the rind, with a little firmer body to it near the center,” Jeff says. “Madawaska is frequently back-ordered due to the high demand for this unique cheese and the fact that we can produce only limited quantities.”
Now that Jeff has settled into his new life, he’s growing it too. The couple just bought a new farm in North Frontenac, where they’re building a new facility that they expect to have in operation this summer.
For further information, visit www.artisancheese.ca. For more information about Jenna Fenwick’s line of screen-printed textile products, visit jennarose.ca.
By David Bernard
When it comes to frozen desserts and toppings, a number of the overall trends in gourmet food continue to push the category, such as healthful, and unique and global flavor profiles; but the producers of pints, novelties and toppings have taken things a step further, turning out surprising products, and in some cases turning back the clock as well.
In the freezer case, as in the snack, cereal and most other aisles, healthful trends are front and center. “Starting with frozen yogurt’s resurgence 8-10 years ago, the more healthful frozen dessert trend hasn’t really gone away,” explained Jillian Hillard, Marketing Manager for PreGel AMERICA, a supplier of dessert ingredients.
With the frozen pint being the dessert world’s currency of choice, and lower fat on the minds of many Americans, sorbet is gaining traction, according to Hillard, both in traditional single, smooth fruit and other flavors such as chocolate. Adventurous sorbet mix-ins are also appearing, like sea salted caramels, passion fruit sauce with seeds and peanut sauce with crispy cereal.
For healthful options that include a little more cream, or rather, “cream,” think non-dairy, a fast-growing subcategory fueled by 50 million lactose intolerant Americans, two million dairy-allergic children and one million vegans, and those avoiding saturated fats. Cashew milk ice cream is the latest iteration, wowing samplers at March’s Natural Products Expo West. Almond and coconut milk ice cream are players as well; one leading dairy-free producer now offers 17 varieties of coconut.
While healthful is in, flavor has always been in, and today’s consumers want more and varied taste experiences. “We work a lot of trade show circuits, and vanilla is still one of the top things we see requested,” explained Hillard. “But more and more, the variety of flavors is expanding, and global, more remote tastes are coming through. So while strawberry has always been an idealistic flavor, for example, now we’re seeing things like mango and guava come into play.”
There’s no need to search globally for one of the hottest flavor trends – savory. Hillard reported that PreGel recently launched popcorn, and pancakes and maple syrup flavors for frozen desserts, and they are selling briskly. “Tastes are really evolving and changing,” she said. “Look at salted caramel; when that flavor first emerged, people said, ‘Who would put salt in a dessert?’ And now … many dessert companies are actually adapting the flavor as a core part of their lines.”
As consumers embrace the frozen new, they’re also reaching out for the old. Nostalgia is in, with childhood-reminiscent flavors such as cereal-infused ice creams and novelties. And Hillard points out that with advances in food technology, those peanut covered cereal crisps and other mix-ins stay crunchy in ice cream.
Frozen pops are back, now often made of ice cream dipped in a flavorful coating like coffee or chocolate, rather than fruit centric. Novelty trends include both decadent and healthful, as more bite-size and mini ice cream sandwiches and other confections emerge.
Topping trends include simple-and-healthful, a dash of the exotic, and another page of nostalgia. A simple, thick honey sauce; ginger sauce with bits of the root, and graham cracker sauce containing pieces of the nostalgic treat; these are a few of the newer toppings that are changing the way people eat frozen desserts.
By Lorrie Baumann
A presidential task force has released a plan to curb illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and seafood fraud. IUU fishing circumvents the rules to save the costs of complying with sustainable fishing practices, sometimes by taking chances with food safety or using slave labor on fishing boats. Seafood fraud involves mislabeling or other forms of deceptive marketing that take place after the fish is off the boat, such as techniques that make tuna steaks look more red or that add weight to the product. Seafood fraud overlaps with IUU fishing when illegally caught fish are then sold as a legal catch.
The action plan released on March 15 details proposals by the Presidential Task Force on Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing and Seafood Fraud, which is co-chaired by the U.S. Departments of Commerce and State. The proposals correspond to recommendations that the task force made late last year, with action expected on them during the remainder of this year and next year.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. fishermen landed 9.9 billion pounds of fish and shellfish worth $5.5 billion in 2013. Those U.S. fishermen, as well as others engaged in legal fishing, feel the effects of IUU fishing and seafood fraud in their pocketbooks when their products are undercut in the market by cheaper illegally caught or mislabeled seafood.
“The U.S. is a global leader on building sustainable fisheries and the seafood industry is an incredibly important part of our economy,” said Kathryn Sullivan, PhD, NOAA Administrator. “IUU fishing and seafood fraud undermine economic and environmental sustainability of fisheries and fish stocks in the U.S. and around the world. These actions aim to level the playing field for legitimate fishermen, increase consumer confidence in the sustainability of seafood sold in the U.S., and ensure the vitality of marine fish stocks.”
Because American fishing boats are regulated and heavily monitored, seafood fraud is not a big problem in American fisheries, although there are problems with species substitutions at the retail level in grocery stores and restaurants. Substitutions can also occur when U.S. product is processed abroad, according to the task force’s report. All seafood imported into the U.S. is subject to inspection by the federal Food and Drug Administration and must be documented to ensure that it meets the same standards as domestic seafood products – it has to be clean, safe to eat and properly labeled.
The plan offered by the presidential task force identifies actions that will strengthen enforcement, create and expand partnerships with state and local governments, industry, and non-governmental organizations, and create a risk-based traceability program to track seafood from harvest to entry into the American market. The plan also highlights ways in which the United States will work with other countries to combat IUU fishing and seafood fraud, including efforts to secure enforceable environmental provisions in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a regional trade agreement among countries that together account for approximately one-quarter of global marine catch and global seafood exports.
“U.S. federal fisheries are managed under a landmark piece of legislation called the Magnuson-Stevens Act that has cut overfished fisheries stocks in half from 1999 to 2012. Seafood Harvesters of America are extremely proud of the fact that 91 percent of U.S. fisheries stocks are not experiencing overfishing. Because our domestic fisheries are doing so well – and Americans should be so proud of the way we manage our fishery resources – we encourage all Americans to consume more domestic seafood because, almost by default, it’s sustainable, based on the Magnuson-Stevens Act and how it’s worked to rebuild our fisheries stocks,” says Brett Veerhusen, Executive Director of Seafood Harvesters of America, the national organization of commercial fishermen based in Washington, D.C. “Because our U.S. fisheries are managed at such a high level, it’s important for American fishermen to be playing on a level playing field with imported products. When you import seafood, you import the ethics and ethos of that country of origin’s fishery management practices. Meaning, as a world leader in sustainable fishery management, American consumers demand that our imported seafood is of the same ethics and ethos that American fishermen nobly harvest.”
On the international front, the task force would like to see the U.S. conclude Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations during 2015 that include commitments to combat IUU fishing and first-ever provisions to eliminate harmful fisheries subsidies. The report calls on Congress to enact legislation implementing a Port State Measures Agreement and for at least 14 other countries to join the agreement. The task force also calls on regional fisheries management organizations and others to advance best practices to regulate international fisheries.
Enforcement measures should include a strategy to optimize the collection, sharing, and analysis of information and resources to prevent IUU or fraudulently labeled seafood from entering U.S. commerce by September 2015, including tightening existing laws that currently exempt fisheries violations and increasing civil and administrative penalties for illegal fishing, according to the task force’s recommendations. The task force also calls for greater attention to combating seafood fraud and the sale of IUU seafood products by federal and state fisheries agencies and for better identification of seafood species that are likely to be involved in seafood fraud and development of better ways to trace seafood and to convey information from the traceability system to American consumers. The first phase of this traceability program to track seafood from point of harvest into the American market is due to go into effect within 18 months.
By December 2016, the task force will identify the next steps in expanding the program to all seafood entering U.S. commerce, after taking into consideration the experience from this first year. This action plan reflects the Obama Administration’s commitment to supporting sustainable fisheries in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a regional agreement that includes four of the top 15 global producers of marine fisheries products by volume. The agreement is expected to be the first-ever trade agreement to eliminate some of the most harmful fisheries subsidies, including those that contribute to overfishing. The U.S. is seeking similar commitments in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) negotiations with the European Union (EU).
Native to Louisiana, but appreciated nationwide, Frontier Soups™ gluten-free, non-GMO New Orleans Jambalaya Soup Mix contains saffron- and turmeric-seasoned calasparra rice and peppers in the mix. Home cooks add broth, ham, tomatoes and shrimp for an authentic taste of the French Quarter in just 30 minutes.
Suggested retail price: $5.95-$6.49 for 4.5 ounce package.
Call Frontier Soups at 800.300.7687.
Vegan Hot Fudge from Massachusetts, Wagyu Beef Jerky from New Mexico, and Grilled Olives from central Italy are among 125 finalists for the Specialty Food Association’s sofi™ Awards for the outstanding specialty foods and beverages of 2015. The list of finalists is here.
Winners will be announced June 29, 2015, by Ted Allen, host of Food Network’s Chopped, at the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York. A sofi Award is the highest honor in the $109 billion specialty food industry. “sofi” stands for Specialty Outstanding Food Innovation. The contest, now in its 43rd year, is open to members of the Specialty Food Association, a not-for-profit trade association for food artisans, importers and entrepreneurs.
There were 2,715 entries across 32 awards categories, including outstanding chocolate, cheese, and savory snack. The finalists were selected by a national panel of specialty food experts. The contenders will go on to the last round of judging, which takes place during the Summer Fancy Food Show. “A sofi means a product, and the people behind it, have arrived,” says Ann Daw, President of the Specialty Food Association. This year’s finalists represent a devotion to excellence and innovation in specialty food that continues to fuel our industry.”
This year’s judges included top buyers from Whole Foods Market, Bristol Farms, Brooklyn Larder, Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurants, Food52 Shop, Kroger, Mouth.com, Williams-Sonoma, Fresh Direct, Brooklyn Larder, Citarella, DPI, Eataly, Formaggio Kitchen, HelloFresh, Chelsea Market Baskets, The Fresh Market and UNFI. The panel also included a food historian, and chefs Sara Moulton of Sara’s Weeknight Meals on PBS and Nick Anderer, Executive Chef and Partner, Maialino and Marta restaurants. Journalists on the panel were from Food & Wine, Rodale, The Village Voice, New York Daily News and Fox 5 News.
The Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker® program, the nation’s only advanced training program of its kind for veteran cheesemakers, has graduated two new and four returning Master Cheesemakers. Wisconsin now has 55 active Masters working in 33 companies across the state.
The newest Master Cheesemakers, who were formally certified at a ceremony during the Wisconsin Cheese Industry Conference in Madison this week, are Adam Buholzer, of Klondike Cheese Company in Monroe, and Chris Roelli, of Roelli Cheese Haus in Shullsburg.
Buholzer is a fourth-generation cheesemaker and one of four Wisconsin Master Cheesemakers in the Buholzer family, including his father, Steve, and uncles, Ron and Dave Buholzer. Adam is now certified as a Master for feta and havarti.
Roelli is certified as a Master in cheddar, the variety on which his family’s original plant was founded. Since re-opening the business in 2006, he has emerged as an award-winning producer of artisanal Wisconsin originals, including Dunbarton Blue, Little Mountain and Red Rock. Like Buholzer, Roelli is a fourth-generation Wisconsin cheesemaker.
Joining the new Masters in the 2015 graduating class are veteran Masters who completed the program again to earn certification for additional cheese varieties. They are:
“It’s exciting to see the ranks of Wisconsin Master Cheesemakers continue to grow and for this unique program to have such a sustained, positive impact on cheesemaking in Wisconsin,” says James Robson, CEO of the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (WMMB). “Each year’s class takes the advanced training, expertise and insights they gain back to their plants and to the teams that they work with and mentor every day. The bar on product quality and innovation within those companies, large and small, just keeps rising.”
Established in 1994 through a joint partnership of the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research, University of Wisconsin-Extension and Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (WMMB), the Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker program is the most formalized, advanced training program in the nation. Patterned after European programs, it is administered by the Center for Dairy Research and funded by Wisconsin dairy producers, through WMMB. Applicants must be active, licensed Wisconsin cheesemakers with at least 10 years of experience in a Quality Assured Plant. Cheesemakers can earn certification in up to two cheese varieties each time they enroll in the three-year program and must have been making those varieties as a licensed cheesemaker for a minimum of five years prior to entering the program. Once certified, they’re entitled to use the distinctive Master’s Mark® on their product labels and in other marketing materials.