That’s right… cheese
Whether it is cheddar, provolone, parmesan, mozzarella or just about any other type of cheese you can name, there is a good chance that some of it is produced in the place we call home (there is a reason why we are affectionately known as “cheese heads”) and I recently had the awesome experience of getting to see some of the finest cheese production in Wisconsin on a recent tour as part of my Fond du Lac Works apprenticeship.
If you can believe it, the history of cheese in Wisconsin dates back to 1841 where multiple European styles of cheese making found its way to the “dairy state”. By 1922, over 2,800 cheese factories existed in Wisconsin. One of those factories, Baker Cheese, is right here in our own backyard. And, while you may think Baker Cheese is synonymous with the stringed version of the stuff, it may surprise you that their original claim to cheese fame was earned from making cheddar.
Baker Cheese began in 1916 when Frank Baker learned the art of cheese making as an apprentice at the young age of 16. He later purchased his own factory in St. Cloud, WI, where the company still successfully operates today. “It was just a small cheese plant next door to my grandparent’s house,” states Brain Baker, President and CEO of Baker Cheese. While cheddar served as the Baker’s entre in to the cheese world, the 1950’s saw the popularization of pizza in the American diet. As the demand for pizza grew, so did the demand for that yummy white, melted cheese that makes it so great… mozzarella. Being the savvy businessman that he was, Frank (along with his brother Francis) made the decision to become pizza’s best friend by saying goodbye to cheddar and hello to a full mozzarella producing cheese plant. That decision would be one that completely changed the future of the company in a BIG way.
While it started over complimenting the craze for pizza pies, Francis Baker started to envision the idea of a smaller, individual-sized unit in addition to the large bricks of cheese they were producing for restaurants. “My grandfather, Frank, would play around with the mozzarella. He would experiment with stretching, rolling, and cutting off strips of it to see if anything would come together,” Brian Baker told me. And something did come of it… something that would become one of my favorite snacks and probably yours too: Baker’s Original String Cheese. How cool is that?
Who invented the string cheese?
Now, you might find yourself wondering whether Baker Cheese invented string cheese, because it certainly could be the case based on the fortitude of Frank and Francis. So, I asked Brian and he answered with: “Certainly we were the first manufactures of string cheese in the Midwest, but we cannot say for sure if we were the first in the nation. We can safely say that we are the largest family-owned producer in the country.” And beyond those accolades, it is pretty clear that the Bakers are the valedictorians of string cheese having just recently been awarded the best string cheese in the nation at the United States National Cheese Contest.
For nearly 100 years Baker cheese has focused on making amazing cheese through four generations of Bakers. They have continued to provide the freshest string cheese with a process that takes only 48 hours from fresh milk to all-natural string cheese
You did read that correctly.
They go from cow to one of my favorite snacks in only 48 hours. How is that not amazing???
The Baker’s commitment to deliver freshness, quality, and great service to all of their customers and consumers has assured their place amongst cheese royalty. And while their industry grows, so does their need for people who can help them make that amazing cheesy goodness!
Baker Cheese employs a vast array of workers ranging from cheese makers and HR professionals to sales associates and production associates. They are always looking for good people who are interested in learning the trade and becoming part of their top-notch cheesy team. You can always learn more about what it takes to work in the cheese trade and what pathway you need to take to get there on FDLWorks.com. I plan to see what credentials I need to become one of their official tasters… that HAS to be a real job, right?
- Jennifer Rivera
Youth Apprentice at FDL Association of Commerce