Beehive Cheese | Handcrafted

8/16/2012 | Amy Tibbals
Marcus MacDonald

We think this story speaks to the success in simply being local. Pat, a real estate developer, and Tim, a software developer, decided one day to make cheese. They explored a goat dairy for sale in NY, but ultimately teamed up with Utah State University [one of America's top 5 dairy colleges] for a spell, and voila! Beehive Cheese was founded. Fast forward six years...Pat and Tim find Jess, a 7-year Utahn [from Connecticut] with a degree as a cheese chemist. As in all fairy-tale stories, these 'crafty' peeps have decided to make Utah home. We decided to ask Jess a few questions, like, "why Utah? And why cheese?" Read on, and get 'cultured'.

We like seeing people so excited about cheese. You landed your dream job working with cheese in Utah. Talk about that. I left a cheese making job in Maine to work at Alta. Living in Maine, I had a ski itch that I needed to scratch, and Maine wasn't providing much relief. A friend of mine was moving to Utah, so I thought, "why not?".  After four years of living the good but very-tight-budget life, I was missing the cheese that I had come to love back in Maine. So I went to graduate school at Utah State to get a degree in food science/cheese chemistry. I had always wanted to get a master's degree, and I knew that it would somehow point me in the right direction. It did. Pat Ford called me a week before I graduated, and asked if I wanted to be a part of the team. Now, I get to ski the 'greatest snow on earth', and be involved in the cheese community.

What inspired you to dive into the cheese business? Coincidence. I wanted to be a veterinarian all my life. But when I actually starting working for one after college, I realized my free time [a.k.a. skiing time], would be non-existent. It was a bit of a devastating realization...I had to start over. I had, and still have, a strong interest in agriculture, so I applied to surrounding dairy farms. One called 'Smiling Hill Farm' responded; they didn't have any positions in the dairy barn, but there was a cheese making position open.  That was it. Jennifer Betancourt, the cheese maker I worked for, is the reason why I love it. She taught me the importance of a hand-crafted product, both nutritionally and politically.

It seems like Beehive Cheese is a perfect fit for you. What do you love about the company? The freedom. Pat Ford and Tim Welsh are two of the nicest people I've ever met, as well as two of the smartest businessmen. I have a lot to learn from them, and I appreciate that they realize my potential and allow me to run with it. They want me to be involved in the artisan cheese community, not only within Utah, but nationally, as well. They give me the flexibility to brainstorm new ideas for business growth and bring them to the table. Pat and Tim also value the importance of handcrafted products, and want to spread the good word of cheese. Half of the battle is education, and they never tire of talking about their product.

If you owned Salt Lake, you would… probably get rid of all the fast food chains. I know, I know, Utahns love their fast food. But after finishing a masters in food science, just knowing all the processes that go into manufacturing the food makes me gag. There's a reason why obesity and type 2 diabetes are becoming such big problems.  Just saying.

Do you follow any blogs? Tell us your 3 favorites: www.gordonzola.net -- this is Gordon Edgar, the head cheese buyer of Rainbow Co-op in San Francisco. He's my go-to guy for all things 'cheese'. I share similar thoughts, opinions, and likes, both with cheese and cheese politics. The newest blog I follow is SLC Foodie [at www.theslcfoodie.com], 'cause you gotta know where to eat. Third is a friend of mine who has an amazing design aesthetic. Her blog pairs really well with a cup of coffee in bed on a Sunday morning. You can find her at www.ofwilddreams.blogspot.com

You're around cheese daily. What's your personal favorite? Also, how do you not weigh 1,000 lbs? I love our Apple Walnut Smoked. Sometimes, smoked cheeses can be a little overpowering, almost as if you're eating smoked salmon. The Apple Walnut Smoked is light and sweet; every time I eat it, I want to pair it with bacon. You would think I'd be 1,000 lbs, given how much I'm around cheese and dream of bacon. I guess its a balance of activity and moderation. That's why I love Salt Lake. The mountains are right there, just begging you to come hang out.

What are some hidden perks to your job? Test pairings. For certain events, such as beer-and-cheese or scotch-and-cheese pairings, we have to make sure that certain cheeses go well with certain beverages.  So, we sit down, and we eat and drink. That's a part of my job. It's awesome.

What advice do you have for young folks still choosing their careers? I think the most important thing is to find out what you're passionate about. This is a trial-and-error process, which can be frustrating, but also rewarding. Taking the time and space to realize your passion and potential will allow you to be successful in whatever way you define it.

You were kind enough to give Marcus and I a little taste of what's to come [thanks]. Feel like sharing a hint of what Beehive Cheese is bringing next? The newest member of the Beehive Cheese Family is Ipanema. It's an Irish style, Jersey Cow's milk cheese that's rubbed with ground cocoa nibs and Sierra Nevada cultured butter. It'll be available at Whole Foods this coming holiday season. Cheese and champagne anyone?

Beehive Cheese

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