Three years ago, a man named Cesar called me saying he wanted to be a cheesemaker. I must say this happens a lot. People get it in their heads that being a cheesemaker is a romantic way of life full of fortune and fame, and then they call me, only to have me burst their bubble by telling them it’s a lot of work for often little pay.
So that’s what I told Cesar and his wife when I met them three years ago. Having recently immigrated from Mexico, Cesar had a passion to make cheese like he’d eaten in his own country. I remember telling him he would have to go to school, get his cheesemaker’s license, and then intern with someone for 240 hours if he wanted to make cheese.
It seemed like a long shot.
And then last week, Cesar called me again. “Do you remember me?” he said to me on the phone and right away, I knew it was Cesar. It turns out he did go back to school, he is working with a licensed cheesemaker, and he’s now selling his own cheese under his own label: Cesar Cheese.
“Remember you told me to go back to school? Remember you said it would be a lot of work? Well, here I am,” Cesar told me. “I am making cheese.”
And he’s making REALLY good cheese. Every Tuesday from 6 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Cesar travels from his home in Random Lake, Wis. to Roelli Cheese near Shullsburg and makes cheese. It’s for sale at the Roelli Cheese store, as well as the Piggly Wiggly in Cedarburg, and a few other little cheese shops in the area.
My favorite is his Hand Stretched String Oaxaca Style Cheese — it’s string cheese the way string cheese was meant to be. Yum. Cesar is also making Queso Fresco and Quesadilla Con Chile Rojo (with red peppers). The Queso Fresco is good on salads, tacos and tostadas.
I asked Cesar if being a cheesemaker was everything he hoped it would be, and he said emphatically answered yes, except for one thing — when he gives and sells cheese to his friends and co-workers at his day job in Random Lake, nobody believes he actually crafts it.
“I take the cheese home and nobody believes that I make it,” Cesar says. “I need you to write about me and put a picture of me stretching my cheese on your blog – that way people will know for sure it’s really me.”
No problem, Cesar. Here you go. I wish you well in your future of cheesemaking!!