In the Field: Meet some Master Cheesemakers
Graduates of the Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker® program run by the CALS-based Center for Dairy Research
Sid Cook (first certified in 2002)
Having won 569 national and international awards within the past 14 years, Sid Cook’s Carr Valley Cheese probably ranks first in the world for number of awards. Cook’s passion for cheese began at a very young age. He remembers opening the kitchen door in his childhood home to find vats of cheese—no surprise given that his family owned Irish Valley cheese.By age 16 he had become a licensed cheesemaker, and just seven years later he and his brother purchased Irish Valley. In 1986 Cook became sole owner of Irish Valley and bought Carr Valley in LaValle, Wisconsin. A two-time graduate of the Master Cheesemaker program, Cook is certified in four cheeses. The education he gained in the program went “beyond the practical,” Cook says; it gave him the chance to work alongside and learn from cheesemakers from around the world. And that training no doubt contributed to the huge success of Carr Valley, which today produces more than 95 cheeses, purchases milk from nearly 100 farm families, and encompasses four factories and eight stores. Cook’s been producing cheese for some 50 years, but when he’s asked if he will retire, he simply says, “I’m not done yet.”
Pat Doell (certified in 2014)
At Agropur, a Canada-based dairy cooperative, Pat Doell is responsible for cheese production, packaging and shipping at the company’s plant in Luxemburg, Wisconsin. Doell grew up in a cheesemaking family and in high school spent weekends and summers working in the family plant. Today Doell is among the newest of the Master Cheesemaker graduates, receiving certification just last year in provolone and mozzarella. Doell’s certification is held in high regard by Agropur, which takes pride in displaying the Master’s Mark ®—an exclusive benefit for Wisconsin Master Cheesemakers—on its products. The three-year Wisconsin Master Cheesemakers program required Doell to attend classes, submit samples for review, have plant inspections and complete a rigorous final exam, training that was “challenging but invaluable,” says Doell.
Alan Greunke (certified in 2013)
Third-generation owner Alan Greunke always arrives at Maple Grove Cheese in Milladore, Wisconsin well before dawn to begin preparations for the cheese to be made that day. The Greunke family has a long history with CALS—Greunke’s grandfather graduated from the Dairy School in 1912, Greunke notes while admiring his grandfather’s class picture. Having attained his cheesemaking license at age 13, Greunke had compiled more than 40 years of experience by the time he completed his Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker program in 2013. Greunke is certified in cheddar and Monterey Jack, two of the most popular cheeses at Maple Grove—and having the Master’s Mark on their products has led to a significant increase in business, he says. His favorite part of the program was the cheese technology short course, which offered him and a broad spectrum of his peers a chance to share their knowledge and experiences.
Kerry Henning (certified in 1999)
The day often begins at 3:20 a.m. for Kerry Henning, whose responsibilities at Henning’s Wisconsin Cheese, based in Kiel, Wisconsin, include preparing ingredients for cheese making, packaging cheese, and giving facility tours to visitors from around the world. Henning entered his undergraduate studies intending to pursue a degree in accounting until he met his wife and reevaluated his plans for the future. Eventually following in his family’s footsteps, Henning became a Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker certified in cheddar, Colby, and Monterey Jack—the cheeses his parents made at the family plant. His favorite part of his work, he says, is the satisfaction and accomplishment he feels when people in the food industry express their appreciation for his product and share how they’ve used it. Looking back on his Master Cheesemaker training, Henning fondly remembers the camaraderie among students and the opportunity to discuss their trade. “Some of your best education comes from the hotel lobby bar once class is over,” Henning says.
Pam Hodgson BS’84 (certified in 2013)
At the Sartori cheese company, based in Plymouth, Wisconsin, Pam Hodgson is responsible for developing new cheeses to meet desirable specifications, researching cheesemaking methods, and evaluating and addressing issues of quality. After graduating from CALS with a degree in dairy science, Hodgson began her career as a dairy nutritionist for a large cooperative. After starting a family, Hodgson wanted a job that required less travel, which led her to the science and art of cheesemaking. Her passion is deeply rooted in her family’s connection to the craft, she says. Her grandfather, a CALS Dairy School graduate, was an award-winning cheesemaker—and now her daughter is pursuing a career in cheesemaking as well. “Our cheesemaking genes must be pretty strong,” says Hodgson, who has Master Cheesemaker certifications in fontina and openhard cheeses.
Gerard Knaus (certified in 2012)
Weyauwega Star Dairy has been owned and operated by Gerard Knaus’ family for more than 30 years. Knaus is the first cheesemaker there to become a Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker, with certifications in feta and parmesan. Knaus was introduced to the craft at 14, when his father first brought him to the plant and he had the opportunity to work hands-on alongside a cheesemaker. “I knew then that this was what I wanted to do when I grew up,” Knaus says. Knaus is again enrolled in the Master Cheesemaker program, this time aiming for certification in brick and Colby. Afterward, he plans to become certified in mozzarella and cheddar as well. “When you start this program, you quickly realize that despite the fact that you’ve been making cheese all your life, there’s a lot you don’t know,” Knaus says.
Tom Jenny (first certified in 1997)
Like many cheesemakers of his father’s generation, Tom Jenny and his family grew up just upstairs from their cheese factory in rural Wisconsin. However, it wasn’t until Jenny returned home from the U.S. Navy in 1973 that he decided to pursue a career in the trade. At the time his father and uncle owned Platteville Dairy and were able to offer Jenny the opportunity to develop his craft. After 26 years there, Jenny went on to manage the Carr Valley Wisconsin Pride plant under Sid Cook. Jenny’s day-to-day responsibilities include production, packaging and shipping the plant’s products. Jenny has Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker certifications in Swiss, fontina and gouda—obvious choices for Jenny, who had been producing these cheeses for more than a decade. Jenny is enrolled in the program again with the goal of obtaining two more certifications. In addition to his role as manager at Carr Valley, Jenny is training several cheesemakers—and he looks forward to seeing how their careers develop.
Terry Lensmire (first certified in 1997)
Terry Lensmire is a third-generation cheesemaker whose passion for the craft was instilled at an early age. He started making cheese as a child and continued throughout high school. In 1974 he earned his cheesemaker license and in 1982 became a licensed cheese grader. His knowledge and experience have expanded in a career that has included work for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Land O’Lakes—and, currently, serving as product development manager at Agropur, a dairy cooperative based in Canada. Lensmire has been active in his craft outside the plant as well, serving as a cheese judge at the Wisconsin State Fair, at the Wisconsin Cheesemakers Association U.S. and World Cheese Contest, and at the World Dairy Expo Championship Dairy Product Contest. Lensmire was in the first wave of Wisconsin Master Cheesemakers, receiving his certification in 1997 (the program started in 1994)—and he’s been a presenter at the Cheese Grading Short Course since it started at around the same time. He has since been certified in cheddar, Monterey Jack, mozzarella and provolone.
Bruce Workman (first certified in 1999)
As a five-time graduate of the program, Bruce Workman holds the most Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker certifications of anyone in the state. Workman is certified in a total of 11 cheeses: butterkase, baby Swiss, specialty Swiss, Emmentaler, raclette, gruyere, havarti, gouda, brick, Muenster and cheddar. Workman began working in the industry before and after school at the age of 16, and at 18 he became a Wisconsin licensed cheesemaker. By 1999, when he received his first Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker certification, Workman had been working in a plant that produced mostly European cheeses. It was this experience that shaped his desire to pursue certification in European cheeses. At Edelweiss Creamery, located in Monticello, Wisconsin, Workman and his staff of 11 produce 23 cheeses, including many in which he is certified. Workman founded Edelweiss Creamery in the same location that has been home to cheesemaking since 1936.After 43 years of making cheese, Workman says he would like to slow down on his responsibilities in the production room and focus on the training of the next generation at Edelweiss.This article was posted in Dairy, Food, Food Science, Food Systems, In the Field, Summer 2015, Summer 2015, Working Life and tagged Alan Gruenke, Alumni, Bruce Workman, CDR, Center for Dairy Research, Cheese, Claudia Roen, Gerard Knaus, Grow Summer 2015, In the Field, Kerry Henning, Master Cheesemakers, Pam Hodgson, Pat Doell, Sid Cook, Terry Lensmire, Tom Jenny, Working Life.