July 14, 2014 -
Q+A with Mackenzie Creamery Owner, Jean Mackenzie
Mackenzie Creamery has been churning out award winning goat cheese for seven years. It all began with a cheesemaking course taken by Jean while on vacation. It was then that she found her calling and got down to business (literally!) on launching her own. In less than six months, Mackenzie Creamery was born in the lower level of her barn in Hiram, Ohio. Since then, Jean has not only grown a successful business and national reputation; she’s also taken her love for the industry to new heights by founding the Ohio Cheese Guild.
The farm itself has provided a beautiful backdrop for many Plated Landscape dinners over the years, with equally beautiful dishes inspired by the creamery’s distinctive flavor profiles. Below we interview Jean on what makes her cheeses so special, some fun recipes to try and her mission as a local producer.
Q. Mackenzie Creamery is one of the most popular farms of the Plated Landscape season. What makes this dinner so special and what might a first timer expect?
A. I think that the farm setting is one of the main qualities that makes the Plated Landscape dinner so special. Our 30-acre farm is set on a gently sloping hill facing south and has a real sense of southern France with rolling pastures and mature woods. We have created trails throughout the woods and take our Plated Landscape guests on a hay wagon ride though the woods before dinner. It’s great fun for all.
Q. You have such unique flavors. What’s your all time favorite?
A. I tell people that my favorite flavor is the one I’m talking about! But, I would have to say that our most popular flavor is the Cognac Fig, which has won five national awards! We use Courvoisier cognac and Dalmatia figs – nothing but the best ingredients! – to make our sauce that is poured over the top of the cheese. It’s delicious!
Q. What are your favorite ways to incorporate your goat cheeses into your own dishes at home?
A. I love adding our plain or honey chevre to my roasted beet salad that is then tossed with a balsamic glaze and olive oil. I also enjoy making sauces and salad dressings with the cheese. I take ¼ log of our Wasabi Sesame Chèvre, thin it with 2% milk and use it as a salad dressing.
Q. You founded the Ohio Cheese Guild. Tell us about the genesis of that idea and what your vision is for the future.
A. When I was licensed in 2007 there were only a handful of creameries in Ohio and virtually no resources for cheesemakers. Today there are over twenty creameries in Ohio making cheese from cow, goat and sheep milk! At the American Cheese Society’s (ACS) annual conventions, I’ve met leaders from cheese guilds from across the country. These guilds serve as a critical link for cheesemakers to one another and provide a way to promote local cheeses and an avenue to disperse important and ever-changing information from the FDA. Each year, small-scale creameries are held to higher and higher standards and it’s critical that each cheesemaker is aware of changes in the laws.
The Ohio Cheese Guild membership is made up of people from across Ohio – makers, buyers, chefs, cheese enthusiasts – who love Ohio cheeses. We’re working on an Ohio Cheese Trail and an annual cheese event.
Q. How did you come to meet the Bebenroths?
A. I first met Ben when I brought him a sample of Mackenzie Creamery chevre for him to try and hopefully incorporate into his menu at Spice of Life Catering. I then met Jackie and the children at the Shaker farmers’ market and fell in love with the entire family! Jackie and I then served together on the Cuyahoga Valley Countryside Conservancy Board of Directors. When the Ohio Cheese Guild was founded, Jackie was at the top of our list for the board and she’s now heading up the Marketing and Communications Committee.
Q. What is your mission as a local producer and how does it align with Spice Companies sourcing philosophy?
A. Our mission and business philosophy is very closely aligned with Spice Companies. Buying local ingredients, supporting and promoting local businesses and incorporating sustainable practices are key.