Master cheese maker Sid Cook of Carr Valley Cheese has come up with a whole new way to make people fall in love with his award-winning cheese: He's offering a series of cooking classes in the new test kitchen at his Sauk City retail store. Classes began in January at the Carr Valley Cooking School and have featured noted chefs from in and around Wisconsin, including Nathan Berg of Native Bay in Chippewa Falls, Tory Miller from L'Etoile Restaurant and Mindy Segal of Hot Chocolate in Chicago.
'The classes have been very popular so far,' says Patty Konig of Carr Valley. 'Almost all have filled quickly, full of people from all over southern Wisconsin.'
The classes are taught primarily demonstration-style and include at least one recipe that uses Carr Valley cheeses. If that's not enough to whet your appetite, samples of a few of the 60-odd cheeses Cook's company produces accompanies every class.
Cook began the school as a way to show consumers how to incorporate Carr Valley cheeses into their home cooking. And who better to teach the consumers than the many chefs who already use his cheeses in their restaurants?
Konig says the course taught by L'Etoile's Miller in January was very popular, selling out quickly, though the Hot Chocolate class had people lining up as well. 'We try to match the classes to the time of year, chocolate for Valentine's Day, for example, and grilling for June,' she says.
Classes typically seat around 30 students and cost $45 each. One wall of the classroom looks into the store's affinage cooler, where the company's cheddar is aged and regularly rotated, giving participants a firsthand glimpse of the process by which the cheese reaches its peak flavor and texture. The affinage room is also where Cook experiments with various rubs on the aging cheese.
Cook is a fourth-generation cheese maker and one of the few certified master cheese makers in the country. He was certified by the Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker program, which is administered by the UW Center for Dairy Research and is the country's only cheese maker certification program. The whole process takes more than 15 years, but it has paid off for Cook, as Carr Valley has won more than 100 awards in national and international competitions.
Cook operates three factories and retail stores ' the original location in La Valle and ones in Mauston and Fennimore ' as well as the retail store and cooking school in Sauk City. Shoppers in the Sauk City store are encouraged to take a peek at the kitchen-classroom.
The class schedule is currently set through June. Next up is Justin Carlisle of Harvest on March 13. Konig says that plans are still in the works for fall, but the overwhelmingly positive response so far almost guarantees another stellar lineup of classes and notable chefs.u
Carr Valley Cooking School
807 Phillips Blvd., Sauk City
All classes begin at 6:30 pm and last 2-1/2 hours.
March 13: Justin Carlisle of Harvest, 'Spring Feast'
April 3: Jesse Salzwedel of the Back Porch Bistro, 'Eat Your Vegetables'
April 23: Tom Gresser of Roxbury Tavern, 'Roxbury Secrets'
May 7: Wave Kasprzak of the Dining Room, 'The Perfect Dinner'
May 14: Ryan Alabaugh of Sergio's, 'Mediterranean Dinner'
June 11: Mike Uptagraw of the Del Bar, 'Smoking on the Grill'
June 17: Christopher Pax of Old Fashioned, 'Grilling Wisconsin-Beer Style'