The humble block cheddar: a blank canvas filled with immeasurable potential. You can grate it, shred it, melt it, cube it, hug it, kiss it, marry it, and even eat pieces straight off the block. To the American people, cheddar cheese has quickly become a refrigerator staple that represents a large part of American culinary culture. However, when faced with a hunk of cheddar cheese, most people have a hard time looking beyond the stove-top. Enter Sarah Kaufmann.
Known as “The Cheese Lady”, Kaufmann has been creating intricately designed cheese sculptures since 1996. Born and raised in Wisconsin, Kaufmann has been surrounded by cheese all of her life. After receiving a degree in Commercial Art in Madison, Wisc., she worked for the Wisconsin dairy industry for 16 years. Her interest in cheese carvings began to blossom when she started working as Creative Director for the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board where her first sculptures were used in trade and consumer promotions. Since then, Kaufmann’s pieces have gained national praise, including 37 National, Regional, and Local “Addy” Awards and the Guinness World Record for the World’s Largest Cheese Sculpture (925 lbs., set in 2011).
Along with being only one of three professional cheese sculptors in the US, she’s also part of a growing movement of artists attempting to bring a higher level of respect to food art by bringing it out of state fairs and into mainstream culture. She has carved from cheese of all sizes, including a gigantic 12,500-pound block of cheddar. As for her record-breaking sculpture, the final piece weighed in at 419.57 kg (925 lb), and was made at the 160th anniversary of the Wisconsin State Fair. The carving lasted a total of 36 hours, with the end result being a piece with a pig, cow, boy, sprite, and a chicken riding on a rollercoaster. Some of Kaufmann’s other notable sculptures include a 5’6″, 1,940-pound carved cheese Santa Claus, a six-foot-long aircraft carrier for the USS Ronald Reagan, and a six-foot-long cheddar Gator for the University of Florida.