For the Buholzers, cheese is a family affair, but so are fast cars and a love of their traditional Wisconsin cheesemaking craft.
Work together, play together
It’s late morning at Klondike Cheese Co. in Monroe, Wisconsin, and Master Cheesemaker Steve Buholzer is on a mission.
Sporting a worn-in worker’s jacket in place of his cheesemaker whites, he cruises through the factory that’s been in his family for five generations, past vats of milk on their way to becoming the feta, havarti, muenster and brick cheese Klondike is known for.
As he bursts through the back door and heads up the hill, a large garage comes into view.
Mission accomplished: we have arrived at the Buholzer brothers’ secret hideout.
“We not only work together, but we play together too.” Steve says, beaming as he points around the mechanic shop at his brothers’ souped up cars.
Klondike is the epitome of business in the front, party in the back – Steve and his brothers can go from cheesemaking to engine tinkering in 60 seconds flat.
The walls in their onsite mechanic shop are lined with old family photos, a banner from Dave’s 60th birthday, and a sign reading “Home of the Klondike Racing Team.” Painted across the bumper of Steve’s matte black Camaro are the words, “Got Feta?”
Steve and his brothers Ron and Dave grew up in the cheesemaking business and all went on to become Master Cheesemakers. Today, they spend any time they’re not making cheese fixing up their cars so they can head to the local racetrack for high-performance driving.
“We love going fast,” says Steve – and he means it.
The Buholzers are at the racetrack around once a month, where they floor it to a face-melting 150 MPH.
All in the details
And as much as they love high-speed driving, they’re equally fond of the slow art of mechanics.
“It's all attention to detail to make sure that the chassis is right, your front end alignment is right, your spring brakes are right,” Steve says, adding, “it's kind of like making cheese.”
For Steve, cheesemaking is all in the details.
He zeroes in on tiny changes in milk composition from fall to winter. He geeks out about the quality of culture blends.
As a Master Cheesemaker in feta and muenster, he taps into the art and science that make good cheese great.
“The Master’s Program is elite. So it makes you proud to be one,” says Steve. “But to me, that’s almost the least important.”
Building the legacy
For Steve, becoming a Master Cheesemaker was more about making connections and building on his family’s long history of excellent cheesemaking – a tradition he’s proud to see his son carrying on as a Master himself.
“I was real proud,” Steve says of his son, who’s now joined the long line of Buholzers on the Klondike staff. “He could have got a job anywhere, and we felt fortunate that he wanted to come back and join us.”
Seems like a no brainer to us when your family’s cheese factory comes with fast cars – not to mention a Dad who’s an expert on both.
“Making cheese is like driving down the road,” says Steve. “It's constant problem-solving.”
That works out for Steve. Problem solving, whether inside the curd or under the hood, is his favorite part.