Meet The Cheesemaker: An Interview with Beau Schoch

Beau Schoch, the Schoch Dairy Cheesemaker, was interviewed by Nancy Weimer of New Leaf Market in August, 2013.

Growing up on the family’s dairy farm, why did you and your family decide to go into cheese making?

Cheesemaking started as a hobby for me after attending a 4-day cheesemaking shortcourse at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.  I was hooked!  Within a couple of weeks I traveled to San Francisco with a chef buddy to buy large stockpots so I could start making small batches on the stovetop using a double boiler (large stainless pot inside a larger stainless pot with water) to heat the milk slowly and evenly.  That was in ’06.  I started with 4 gallon batches that would result in two 2-lb wheels.  Then I got bigger pots and started doing 8 gallon batches.  This was all done at my parents’ house.  The leap from hobby to small business followed about a year later.  Cheesemaking seemed a natural fit and it was definitely a better use of the milk we were already producing and selling to our cooperative creamery.

How many family members are in involved and what roles do they play?

Myself, my two brothers, and my parents are all involved.

  • Dad (John) is the milker and runs the production side of the dairy.  He has been doing this his whole life and knows every cow.  He is a true cattleman in every sense.  He really is the heart of the venture and always inspires us with his work ethic.  On his “day off” he helps Ty at the Friday MPC market in Monterey.
  • Mom (Mary) has the business savvy.  She is an accomplished business owner in her own right, but finds the time to keep us on track and helps us to “work smarter…” although she won’t finish the sentence with “…not harder”!  All new ideas are discussed with our mom…she is good at brainstorming and thinking outside the box.
  • Ty is the oldest brother and does all the affinage (cheese aging), cutting/wrapping, delivery, and farmer’s markets (currently MPC-Monterey on Fridays, and Aptos on Saturdays).
  • Seth, along with our dad, is in charge of herd management.  The duties include feeding, milking, cleaning, etc.  He also helps me “hoop” the curds during cheesemaking, a laborious stage of cheesemaking that requires an extra hand…and strong back!
  • I (Beau) do the cheesemaking and help guide the process of transitioning our dairy back to a more sustainable pasture-based model, sort of how our Swiss grandparents were dairying in the 40’s and 50’s.  There are always new ideas/projects to implement and include:  improving irrigation and pasture management, composting, nutrient management, native plantings and habitat restoration, etc.

Really our duties all overlap and you could say that one way or another we are all involved in each of the processes mentioned above.

Tell us a funny story about making cheese.

When I first started making cheese on the stovetop at my parents’ house I found it really difficult to wash the large stainless pots in the kitchen sink afterwards.  As the batches got bigger, so did the pots.  I thought, “there has to be a better way”.  I soon found myself naked in the shower along with the stainless pots and green scrubby pads, furiously scrubbing away at 11:00pm after cheesemaking.  This continued for some months until I thought, “there has to be a better way!”  I still dutifully scrub my new cheese vat with scrubby pads after each cheesemaking, but rest assured I am now fully clothed…

What is your favorite way to eat cheese?

I like to eat cheese for dinner with small bites of other foods (nuts, veggies, cured meats, avocados, etc.), along with a glass of wine or beer.  The whole meal has to be things I can pick up with my fingers and eat. It reminds me of my grandparents who ate small simple dinners like this.  My grandfather lived into his 90’s…..and he loved strong stinky cheeses from his homeland (Switzerland)!

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