Mike Matucheski

First food-related job? The local cannery in Antigo, Wis. It taught me a lot about the good and bad in food processing. I operated the big vacuum cookers, and at the same time, I was also working at the local burger joint—mom-and-pop kind of place.

Where did you learn to make cheese? My grandmother Lucille was the first experience — she made cottage cheese out of spoiled milk. Waste not, want not. Later, we had goats and too much milk and I tried to use a recipe from a cheese book. Not very good. Not much later, I started working at the Antigo cheese plant, and the second-shift cheesemaker gave me some rennet and starter to play with. Much better. I learned on the job, read all that I could on the side and later, took the basic coursework at Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research.

Favorite way to eat cheese? Grilled cheese using great, unusual cheeses and crusty homemade bread.

What should the public know about cheese? It’s better for you than you think. Ounce for ounce, it is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet and if it’s tasty, even better.

Who is your cheese idol?Gary Grossen for his determination, dedication and patience in teaching the next generation at Babcock Hall, University of Wisconsin. Mike Gingrich and Andy Hatch at Uplands Cheese Co., Dodgeville, Wis., for the passion, endless hard work and vision they have brought to cheesemaking. Sid “The King” Cook for challenging me and always giving me a hard time. [Award-winning cheese author] Laura Werlin, while she doesn’t make cheese, has an unbridled love affair for all things cheese and those who make it.

First memory of cheese? My “strongest” memory is my Grandma Sis pawning off some Limburger on me. She had friends who ran a small brick and Limburger cheese factory, and she knew I would try anything. I still love brick cheese and limburger.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a cheesemaker? I’d be brewing beer and/or touring the world by bicycle.

Best book about cheese you’ve read? “Blessed are the Cheesemakers” by Sarah-Kate Lynch. Believe it or not, it’s a passionate love story about making cheese and all those who are called to do it. A little twisted, but lots of wonderful lessons. Classic quote: “Liars make lousy cheesemakers!”

Would you bait a mousetrap with your cheese? Nope! Peanut butter has worked better for me.


Know any good cheese-related jokes? The school cafeteria was serving Swiss cheese. A little girl received her meal and was disgusted by it. She told the lunch lady that she didn’t like the holes in her cheese. To that, the lunch lady responded, “Okay, just eat around the holes and leave them on your plate.”