Q. What in your background prepared you for your current role?
Growing up on a dairy farm, cheese and cheese making was always an important part of my life. From my early childhood, I was exposed to the hard work and passion required to successfully produce cheese in a small family business. After finishing school, I enrolled on an apprenticeship as cheese maker, followed by food technology studies with a specialisation in milk and food processing. Once I had a sufficient science background, I was ready to gain more practical experience. I worked at different production sites and with various cheese specialities, before joining my parents’ business in 2007 at the foot of the Säntis mountain near Appenzell, Switzerland.
Q. How do you see the Swiss cheese market currently? What issues are there in the country for cheese?
The Swiss cheese market is very diverse, with many new speciality cheeses emerging in recent years. It means the environment is very dynamic and competitive, with some of the older and traditional types of cheese disappearing. Costs of production and raw materials, including milk, have risen more in Switzerland compared to other European countries, which can translate into some challenges for export. Until now, however, the excellent quality and reputation of Swiss cheese has been able to compensate for this. Currently, the strong Swiss Franc is not making this situation better.
Q. How do you think the award at the International Cheese Show will affect your business and why?
The Bradbury’s Trophy, also known as Supreme Champion Continental International Cheese, at the International Cheese Awards 2016 in Nantwich is a great accomplishment and reward for our (Swiss affineur Walo von Mühlenen and myself) constant efforts for good quality and innovation. I hope it will have a positive effect on the level of popularity that Stärnächäs Extra Mature has in the UK, with the possibility to reach a broader audience of those who love this type of cheese. To describe it, Stärnächäs has a flavour that sits somewhere between a Gruyère and an Appenzeller. The texture is slightly supple and smooth, with only the occasional crystal and a few small holes found within the paste. The sweetness is not as intense as that of an aged Gruyère, as the cheese is aged for only eight months.
Additionally, the gold award is a strong motivation to constantly produce cheese at the highest quality level and taste in order to satisfy our clients. For those who would like to purchase it, The Fine Cheese Co. is the supplier of Stärnächäs cheese in the UK.
Q. What do you consider your greatest achievement/greatest challenge?
There are many achievements and challenges, but I would consider the fact that we could establish our quality cheeses in the premium segment in several European countries, as one of the biggest successes. Our own brands Stärnächäs Extra Mature and Gallus (hard cheese) have also seen significant success in newer markets, such as the US and Russia. In order to maintain the high quality, we use fresh raw milk from selected local farmers. Besides high quality raw materials, we use optimised production processes and constantly monitor critical quality parameters. Only the cheese that corresponds with our selected taste and quality attributes is released for sale and export.
Q. What does a typical day look like for you?
Early in the morning we typically receive the fresh milk from surrounding farmers and immediately start production, which is usually finished around noon. The afternoons are mostly dedicated to cheese care and affinage, according to the maturation stage. We also take care of packaging the cheese to be sold. Later in the afternoon, and in the early evening, I take care of office and administrative work.
Q. Outside of work, what are your hobbies/interests?
I enjoy time with my one-year-old son, my partner and her dog. We love activities, such as hiking and skiing in the mountains. If time allows, I also like to cook or organise a BBQ with friends and family.