In Wisconsin, cheesemaking can feel like destiny. For Master Cheesemaker Jon Metzig, it's a match made in heaven.
Hooked on the cheese life
Jon Metzig makes cheese and fights fires. But which one is harder?
“For me, definitely the cheesemaking,” says Jon.
While his small town fire department is admittedly a bit sleepy, Jon says the biggest difference between manning a vat and manning a firehose is the complexity.
“In cheesemaking, you're trying to control the microbiology,” says Jon, a Master Cheesemaker at Union Star Cheese in Fremont, WI. “The sugar, fat and proteins in the milk are processed by enzymes that create different flavor profiles. How you control it is how you can get the different cheeses.”
Jon loves the science behind cheesemaking – it’s what got him hooked on the cheese life in the first place.
Just feels right
“I was much more interested in dairy farming,” says Jon, whose father and grandfather were cheesemakers, too. “I remember being little and going on the milk route with my dad, and going out to look at the cows on the farms.”
But in college Jon discovered there’s a lot more going on inside the cheese factory than he thought, so he decided to join the family business.
“I've thought about other careers, but I know this is what I should be doing,” he says. “There's no question about it. It just feels right.”
Today, Jon puts his two Master Cheesemaker certifications in cheddar and Colby to work as he heads up production at his family’s factory, making mouth-watering classics like farmhouse cheddar and creamy havarti.
Jon is one of the youngest Master Cheesemakers in the country, but his roots in cheesemaking give him an edge.
“I take for granted some of the stuff I know just because I grew up in the industry,” he says. “I was six years old when I had to start making cheese curds.”
A Wisconsin love story
The only thing more Wisconsin than Jon’s childhood is the way he met his wife: her family supplied the milk that his family used to make cheese.
“What's funny is her grandpa used to work at our cheese factory hauling milk,” says Jon. “And he met his wife, Kelsey's grandma, on the milk route, too.”
Marrying into a dairy farming family, Jon has to give credit to the real star behind his cheese. “Your cheese can't be any better than your milk,” he says. “In Wisconsin, we should talk about how great the dairy farmers are. They do an excellent job.”
Jon says out-of-staters chuckle when they find out he’s a cheesemaker from Wisconsin.
“It's just kind of stereotype, right?” he says. “Like meeting a potato farmer from Idaho.”
But he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Wisconsin is known for the quality of our cheese,” Jon says. “It feels good to be a part of that tradition.”