Q&A With Brad Sinko, Head Cheesemaker, Face Rock Creamery – Marcella The Cheesemonger International Guilde des Fromagers
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Q&A With Brad Sinko, Head Cheesemaker, Face Rock Creamery


Brad Sinko, Cheesemaker

Brad Sinko, Cheesemaker

I first met Brad while he was Head Cheesemaker at Beecher’s Handmade Cheese in Seattle (home of No Woman, which was my dear Spaulding Gray’s favorite cheese). Our paths crossed often as we both followed our cheese journeys including the 2010 ACS Conference and the 2013 Oregon Cheese Festival.

This week marks the second anniversary of his new home, Face Rock Creamery in Brandon, Oregon. To celebrate their second anniversary, Face Rock will host a weekend barbecue on May 9 and 10 with Arch Rock Brewing and live music to reinforce the Creamery’s role as a community rallying point. The award-winning creamery will also note the occasion by releasing their new extra-aged cheddar (aged 2 Years), previously unavailable, available in Bandon and their online marketplace.

Life is cyclical… Brad is now making cheese in the old Brandon Cheese Company facility which was owned by his father.

Brad graciously agreed to be a part of my 2015 Virtual Q&A with Cheese Professionals:

Briefly tell me about yourself. How did you come to cheese? Did you attend school or grow-up in the dairy business?

My name is Brad Sinko and I have been a cheese maker for 21 years but have been involved in the dairy business in some way since I was 18 years old.  I graduated from Oregon State University in 1993 (Go Beaves!).

My father and a partner owned Bandon Cheese and when I walked through the door for my first day of work, I knew I was going to be involved in the cheese business for the rest of my life.

Brad with Face Rock Founder, Greg Drobot

Brad with Face Rock Founder, Greg Drobot

Describe a “typical” day making cheese and caring for your cheese until it leaves you.

I am the Head Cheese Maker at Face Rock Creamery in Bandon, Oregon and a typical day of making cheese starts at 6 AM if we are making one vat of cheese and 4 AM if we are making two.  I first run routine state required and quality tests on the fresh load of milk that just arrived from our single farm located about 15 miles away.  I fire up the pasteurizer and begin to fill the vat.  I proceed to what we like to call “magic time” which is when we add our recipe of lactic acid bacteria (starter culture).  We add rennet after the bacteria have had time to get used to their new environment and about 30 minutes later, we run wire harps through the coagulated milk and we now have curds and whey.  After a 30 minute cooking period, we pump the curds and whey to a drain table and drain off all the whey.  We then begin the cheddaring process that continues for about two hours.  We mill the cheese slabs at the desired pH, salt it then mould it.  It presses overnight then we put it into the aging rooms for one to two years.  Our natural rinded cheeses must be hand flipped daily and brushed regularly throughout the aging process.  When the aging process is complete our cheeses are distributed to many retail outlets mainly in the Northwest and western United States.

How do you “create” a new cheese? I’d like to understand both the creative and practical process.

To create new cheeses can be as easy as adding flavors to our existing cheddar cheese or we can manipulate the conditions the cheese is aged in.  I also have a little 40 gallon cheese vat on the floor that I use to make small batches of different style cheeses that I have interest in like Baby Swiss and Parmesan.

Do you have a favorite cheese or type? What would be your perfect pairing with this cheese?

Brad Sinko, Cheesemaker

Brad Sinko, Cheesemaker

My favorite cheese is our clothbound cheddar, but I love parmesan cheese and blue cheese.

(Editor’s note… I have not had the chance to try their new clothbound…)

Raw vs. Pasteurized? Your thoughts, both philosophically and in practice. Does it matter? What difference does it make in the final product?

I have produced both raw milk cheeses and pasteurized milk cheeses.  We produce mainly pasteurized milk cheese but will start making small runs of raw milk cheese soon.  Many more earthy flavors come out in raw milk cheese especially those that are aged at least 12 months.  I have the philosophy though that if the milk traveled to your cheese factory, pasteurize it unless it is very clean milk with low somatic cell counts.  Our milk is very clean and is the reason we are about to embark on a raw milk cheese line.  Pasteurizers are expensive complicated pieces of machinery, especially High Temperature Short Time (HTST) models.  This undoubtedly prevents many operations from utilizing them.

Should the US create a system similar the European scheme of protecting, controlling and/or regulating specific cheeses?

Except for food safety issues, I am for less controls and regulations that possibly could prevent our cheese from getting to a customer.

Tell me about one of your “cheese journeys”. Was it traveling for pleasure or maybe “on the hunt” for an obscure cheese you just had to taste?

One of my most interesting cheese journeys was when I was consulting for an operation in Guatemala.  It was very eye-opening to see people making cheese and other dairy products in their villages outdoors without the faintest knowledge of food safety and undoubtedly the unreported illnesses or even deaths that are the result.

Gone fishin"

Gone fishin”

Please share with me one fun, non-cheesy fact about you.

I think this is still cheesy but when I was young, I hated Blue Cheese.  I think back now and think who was that guy?  I love Blue Cheese.

If you could do one thing, anything, all day long, what would it be?

If I could do one thing all day long it would be fishing.  I love to fish for everything from steelhead to tuna and do so regularly.

Check out Brad’s Bio here.

Follow Face Rock Creamery on Facebook.

My thanks to everyone participating in my 2015 Virtual Q&A with Cheese Professionals. I hope all of you, my loyal readers, are enjoying this as much as I am…

Interviews with All Cheese Professionals: Cheesemakers and Cheese Professionals

Interviews will continue throughout 2015… sometimes, they will be “stand-alone” and sometimes they will be presented as round-table discussions with several Cheese Professionals answering the same question. Those participating includeCheesemakers, ACS CCPs™, Cheesemongers and Cheese Professionals and Experts who contribute to this Wonderful World we call “Cheese”.

List of all Interviews from 2013: Cheesemakers, Cheesemongers.

List of 2015 Cheese Professionals.

List of all Cheese Professionals Bios.

Please “Like” MarcellaTheCheesemonger Page on FaceBook.

Taking the 2015 Exam? Please see my page on Tips for Studying for the Exam.

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