When Laura Chenel began making goat cheese in 1979, the cheese was nearly unheard of in the United States. Chenel, who raised goats on her family farm in Sonoma, California, became interested in making cheese because of her love for the animals. She apprenticed with cheesemakers in France to learn the craft, and subsequently offered her fresh goat cheese for sale at the Sonoma farmers market.
In 1980, the cheese was discovered by chef Alice Waters of the famed Berkeley restaurant Chez Panisse. Waters, a Francophile who had been looking for a French-style goat cheese to add to her menu, was so impressed that she immediately put in an order for 50 pounds of Chenel’s goat cheese rounds. The chef introduced a new trend; she coated the rounds in breadcrumbs, baked them, and served them atop a salad of locally grown mesclun greens.
More than 40 years later, versions of this iconic salad still appear on menus across the country, and the name Laura Chenel is synonymous with American artisan goat cheese. The mild, fresh, signature taste of her cheeses is exceptionally versatile, making them the first choice for restaurant chefs and home cooks alike. And the packaging includes a simple message to educate the consumer on how to use each of the cheeses, so that anyone can feel like a chef.
The creator of America’s original chef’s goat cheese, Laura Chenel remains equally committed to her herd of goats and to her founding values: care, quality, and community. They are shared by everyone who contributes to the production of her cheeses, from the family farm partners in four surrounding states who supply the goat milk, to the cheesemakers who work in the LEED Gold-certified creamery. As chefs and cooks everywhere have discovered, these values are expressed in the superlative cheese, which is still handmade in Sonoma, where Chenel began her journey and perfected her craft.