World Champion Utah Cheese

By Annette Velarde

Achieving greatness is rarely planned. Most often it just happens as a result of our character, circumstances, and willingness to follow our hearts. When Debbie and Alan Gold purchased a ranch property near Park City, their intention was to create a woodland retreat for their family.

First they added a barn and a few animals. Then they restored the pond and put some cows in the pasture. And then they met Fernando Chavez-Sandoval, master chef and food enthusiast extraordinaire. That auspicious night, Fernando and the Golds spent a leisurely evening together and the subject of the epicurean virtues of cheese came up. Fast-forward through four years, long hours, dogged determination, and countless batches of cheese. This year all of Utah is celebrating with the Gold Creek Farms team that they are now listed among the royalty of the world’s most accomplished cheese artisans.

Every two years, thousands of the world’s most accomplished cheesemakers submit their best work for judging in the World Champion Cheese Contest held in Madison, Wisconsin. In March 2012, 40 experts from around the globe judged 2,503 entries from 24 nations. Over the past four years, Chavez-Sandoval had poured every ounce of his artistic and culinary talent into several categories of cheese. He nervously chose what he felt were his best two: Smoked White Cheddar and Smoked Parmesan. He thought the use of cherry wood during the smoking process made these two distinctive among the entrants in the “Smoked Hard Cheese” category. He knew he had to take the risk of failure in order to keep improving. “If nothing else, we will have the world’s experts giving us their input,” he thought. “That alone will be enough of a prize for me.”

From the opening bell on day one, the judges examined, sniffed, tasted, and ruled out cheese after cheese. The Golds’ and Fernando’s excitement skyrocketed as their entries climbed the ranks. The critics had extoled their Smoked White Cheddar as the perfect combination of heady, sharp, and buttery rich. This opulent cheese wants no cracker—you will find yourself unable to stop nibbling. Their Smoked Parmesan was described as pungent, earthy, and as delectable to the nose as the mouth. It is especially excellent when paired with a red wine strong with tannin. At the end of the competition, the judges agreed that these two were unquestionably the first and second place winners of the “Smoked Hard Cheese” category. But the accolades did not end there.

Among the thousands of entrants, a mere sixteen are chosen as the top finalists. These revered few are not separated by category; they are the unilateral cheese royalty of the world. It is almost unheard of for a newcomer to the industry to be among this group. But there it was in black and white on the scoreboard. “Gold Creek Farms, Kamas, Utah, SMOKED WHITE CHEDDAR!” Guided merely by their love of great food and company, they had achieved recognition and acceptance in the most elite ranks of their industry.

To order these two winners as well as all the other extraordinary cheeses produced by Gold Creek Farms, visit 435-783-5815.

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