Artisan Cheesemaking


Chefs reveal the techniques and flavors that yield the best results.

Making artisan cheese can sound daunting, but for many chefs and restaurateurs, the artistry, brand-building, and unparalleled taste of cheese made fresh and in-house outweigh the time, effort, and investment required. Restaurants typically opt for one of three paths when making specialty cheeses: Partner with experienced cheesemakers to make cheese from scratch, purchase fresh curds, or focus on cheeses like Ricotta that are easier to make.

Pick a Partner

For three years, Brian Scheehser, executive chef of Trellis Restaurant at The Heathman Hotel in Kirkland, Washington, has partnered with Cherry Valley Dairy in nearby Duvall to make signature cheeses that incorporate herbs, fruits, and vegetables grown on his 18-acre farm in the fertile Sammamish Valley. Using the chef’s own harvested ingredients, the partnership has yielded a series of award-winning, seasonal, chef-inspired Jack cheeses in carrot-nasturtium, blueberry-basil, curry, pepper-caraway, and even hop flavors.

“We’ve used hops to make caramels and ice cream … We got the idea for the cheese [from the ice cream],” says Chef Scheehser, who pairs the cheese with different craft beers or serves them with homemade quince paste and rosemary crostini.

“It was a longtime goal for me to do cheese,” he says, acknowledging the difficulty of the endeavor. “You really need to have a sterile environment, and it can be costly to build a separate processing kitchen.”

Successful cheesemakers have the proper space, aging rooms, equipment, and expertise.

“It’s almost like working in a bakery,” he adds. “There’s yeast in the air when making cheeses. You want the right cultures and to work in an environment that is sterile and separated, so you don’t introduce other bacteria and flavors.”

Chef Scheehser makes a 90-pound batch every six months, spending the first day overseeing pasteurization and rennet-adding. After the cheese sets, he and the cheesemakers cut, stir, drain, salt, and flavor the curds, pouring them in the hoop and pressing them into molds. The cheese then goes to the aging room—and from there he’s found it to be a lot of trial and error.

“The younger cheeses work better with our farm ingredients, but we had to work on our consistency, checking the flavor regularly,” says Scheehser, who ages the carrot-nasturtium for three months and the hop Jack for six. The blueberry-basil gets vacuum-sealed for three months to prevent air pockets that can cause mold to form. Blueberries are dried before the process begins to prevent wateriness.


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