In our opinion, there’s no award more important than a cheese award—and nobody better to party with than a cheesemaker. While researching our Best Cheeses of the Year special issue last year, we caught up with some of the country’s top makers to find out how they celebrate a major trophy.
At Sequatchie Cove Creamery in Sequatchie, Tenn., cheesemakers have their go-to party plans on lock. “Tacos and beer, baby!” says Padgett Arnold, the company’s co-owner. Head to their neck of the woods following a cheese competition, and you might find the Sequatchie team celebrating a win at Rosa’s Place, a taqueria nearby.
Unsurprisingly, food is central to cheese celebrations. “Our love language is making people happy through food,” says Jessica Little, co-owner of Thomasville, Ga.-based Sweet Grass Dairy. “We have great cookouts on the farm… just recently we grilled steaks to celebrate a Sofi Award,” she says.
After clinching an award, Nettle Meadow Farm and Artisan Cheese co-owners Sheila Flanagan and Lorraine Lambiase usually throw a party on the lawn with pizza for their employees. “Our celebrations used to be a little more exciting but we are a little older and less wild than we used to be,” Flanagan admits—but we love how the duo includes their goats, sheep and other animals in the festivities by feeding them corn chips and jelly beans.
Since cheesemaking is no easy task, some producers reward themselves with a little R&R. At Haystack Mountain Cheese in Longmont, Colo., a trophy merits a rare moment of zen. Specifically, “margaritas and a spa day,” says head cheesemaker, Jackie Chang.
Haystack also sends a thank-you basket full of cheeses to some of the people who have helped them along the way: inmates at Colorado Correctional Industries, who raise goats and provide the company with “high altitude, high-quality goat milk,” Chang says.
While Baetje Farms co-owner Veronica Baetje admits to throwing a celebration BBQ or stopping at The Dew Drop Inn—a favorite restaurant in the farm’s tiny town of Bloomsdale (population 525)—the maker clarifies that these gatherings are fairly low-key. “Being farmers, we don’t normally pop Champagne and eat caviar,” she says.
Nor is having a giant bash the aim at Vermont Creamery in Websterville, Vt., where wins are celebrated with commemorative tee-shirts for staff. “We tend to focus on what we need to do better and not celebrate our accomplishments too much,” says co-founder Allison Hooper. “That said, awards are a great reminder to the entire staff that their work does not go unnoticed.”
Arnaud Solandt, president of Montchevre in Belmont, Wisc., concurs. “An award definitely goes to our entire team,” he says.