For some people, cheese or cheddar are just slang for money.
For Santa Clarita resident Corry De Robertis, his classes have become an opportunity to take that a little more literally.
De Robertis, who’s billed as “That Cheesemaker Guy,” is a local hobbyist cheesemaker who, for the past year, has taught monthly cheesemaking classes out of his home with the assistance of his wife, Carol, which are offered on Facebook.
De Robertis first began making cheese nine years ago, when he was gifted a home mozzarella-making kit from his brother for his birthday. He enjoys making cheese so much it’s become a passion, with De Robertis traveling to places like Vermont and Massachusetts to learn from established cheesemakers.
“I loved it from the beginning, and I was fascinated by how you can take milk and see it transform through adding salt and other ingredients into a solid and then cheese,” he said. “It’s become a full-on passion for me and people really associate me with cheese.”
Over the years, De Robertis has made countless types of cheese, and he likes to experiment with different recipes or tweak the textures. His favorite types are washed rind cheese, as well as goat and sheep cheeses. Carol prefers a jalapeño-infused mozzarella.
As his cheese following grew, people began to ask De Robertis if they could purchase his product. Though he’s not legally permitted to sell his homemade cheeses, he often offered to teach people how to make the cheese on their own, and last November, he and his wife decided to open up their home to their first class of novice cheesemakers.
“I think what really pushed me to start these classes is that I’m an older guy, and I’m looking at retirement in the next five years, so what am I going to do then?” he said. “I could make cheese every day, but then I’m stuck with all this cheese that I can’t sell or possibly eat all of. I love teaching and I want to stay active, so what better way to keep this passion alive than to teach others how to make cheese.I have no interest in selling cheese, and besides the laws and regulations, sometimes a passion is better just a passion.”
Each month, the De Robertises teach up to 10 guests how to make either mozzarella or goat cheese, which Corry says are fairly easy cheese to teach and make. Students will often bring wine and crackers to pair with the cheese. After each class, the students leave with premade samples, recipes and cheese they can age at home.
“This class also allows us to educate people and let them try something they may have never tried before, like eating the rind of the cheese,” said Carol. “People arrive as strangers, but by the end of sharing wine and making cheese together, people become friends and wanting to stay in contact even after the class.”
Cheese-lover Kai Ellis found out about the class on Facebook, and couldn’t resist taking advantage of an opportunity to learn how to make cheese in three hours.
“One of my fantasies is to win the lottery, and be able to go the store and buy all the cheese,” Ellis said with a laugh. “I’ve taken cooking classes before and making cheese is a lot more unique than a class on baking bread. If not for this class, I never thought it would have been possible for me to learn how to make my own cheese. Everything was so well-organized, and there wasn’t a lot of waiting around, and you could really tell Corry and Carol’s passion.”
Sharon Lindquist decided to take the class after hearing about it from previous students.
“Cheese is such a great food because there are so many different types, and there’s one for everyone out there to love,” Lindquist said. “It was a great class because Corry broke down every step of the process and we got to taste finished cheeses and the product along the way. Even if you’re not a cook the class is a great opportunity to socialize while learning about cheese, eating some and taking it home.”
Down the line, De Robertis said that he may hold classes more often and also attempt to teach more difficult cheese recipes if enough people are interested and have enough skill. He also said that there is a small community of Santa Clarita cheese lovers forming on Facebook and hopes that if the group grows large enough there can be a cheese-focused culinary festival in Santa Clarita.
“Cheese is such an ancient food … it’s a part of history,” De Robertis said. “It pairs so well with wine or beer or other foods. I love all the different textures and colors you get from cheese. Cheese can be part of a main meal or a snack. Cheese goes with everything.”
De Robertis can be reached at [email protected] or through his Facebook page “That Cheesemaker Guy.”