The Cal Poly Creamery beat some of the nation’s top cheesemakers in an esteemed competition that attempts to find the perfect cheese.
Cal Poly was one of the only colleges to enter the 2019 U.S. Championship Cheese Contest, which happened this March in Green Bay, Wisconsin, according to Creamery Operations Manager Tom Johnson.
Facing off against professional competitors, Cal Poly sent in samples of their Smoked Gouda and Grand Gouda (named after Cal Poly’s own Grand Avenue) to be blindly judged based on ideal factors, such as “appearance, flavor, texture, salt level, and yumminess,” Johnson said.
Johnson also said the creamery’s Grand Gouda narrowly took home the bronze medal for its category, missing the gold by 0.10 points. Cal Poly’s Smoked Gouda won fifth place with a near perfect score as well.
Cal Poly alumna Jennifer Pelayo, the Dairy Processing Operations manager, said the creamery works with other students in the Dairy Unit to go from milking on campus in the morning to processing the milk into early stages of cheese by that same evening. From there, about 20 students help the cheese age over the course of six weeks to a year, depending on the type of gouda.
The gouda that was submitted to the competition took about one year to age, according to Pelayo.
Food science sophomore and creamery production member Tina Truong personally worked on the winning Grand Gouda.
“Aging the gouda requires a lot of attention to detail, making sure the coats of wax are on perfectly,” Truong said.
These wins are only part of a larger “reinvisioning” of Cal Poly Creamery’s products and methods of production, as Johnson put it. The creamery is focusing not only on obtaining new machinery and styles of dairy processing, but is also working on developing new flavors and types of its products.
In addition to the Grand Gouda and the Smoked Gouda, Cal Poly Creamery also introduced a new cheese called Bella Montana – a sweet cheddar, as opposed to traditionally more bitter cheddar – in Fall 2018.
“We are in the process of not only reinvisioning what we do with cheeses, but we have students in the process of developing 30 new ice cream flavors,” Johnson said.
While there are not many places to buy this award-winning cheese around San Luis Obispo, it is available for sale at Cal Poly’s Campus Market.