Take Five with Tammy
Our expert cheese grader shares her experiences gained from four decades in the cheese industry, along with some of her top picks.
Wisconsin’s top-quality cheeses are truly a farm-to-table experience. The journey begins with our proud dairy farmers, who carry on their family’s tradition of producing the best milk they can. Every day, that milk is delivered to our experienced Master Cheesemakers, who use their years of training to create some of the greatest cheeses in the world. But before those cheeses are offered for sale by the Wisconsin Cheeseman, they are tested and selected by Tammy Miller.
Tammy is The Wisconsin Cheeseman’s Cheese Sourcing Manager. A native of Green County, the very epicenter of cheesemaking in Wisconsin, Tammy was born for this job. We sat down with her for a little chat—and a bit of cheese, of course—to find out what makes her tick.
What got you into this business, and how long have you been at it?
I started working with cheese products in 1983 as a Quality Assurance Inspector. In 1985 I took a position at a large cheese processing company that made process, shredded, and cut-and-wrapped cheese. I started as a Quality Assurance Inspector and worked in the micro lab testing cheese products. In 1986, I transferred to the procurement department and started grading cheese.
Over the years I worked closely with five experienced cheese graders, who were all previously cheesemakers and were able to teach me about different varieties of cheese, flavor profiles, body and texture, defects, and how the cheesemaking process affects the final product. I also attended cheese grading classes and the Wisconsin Cheesemakers Short Course. I obtained my Wisconsin Cheese Graders license in 1993. While working in procurement I began purchasing cheese and eventually was promoted to production manager. In 2001 I graded cheese for a couple of years at another cheese manufacturer before coming to The Wisconsin Cheeseman.
I know you’ve served as a judge in cheese competitions. How many have you done?
I’ve done nine contests: the World Dairy Expo in 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2021; the Wisconsin State Fair in 2013 and 2014, and the big one—the U.S. Championship Cheese Contest—in 2013, 2019, and 2023.
Licensed Wisconsin Cheese Grader
The Wisconsin Cheeseman’s Cheese Sourcing Manager has served as a cheese judge for several major cheese contests including the World Dairy Expo, Wisconsin State Fair, and U.S. Championship Cheese Contest.
Photo Credits: Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association
That’s quite an honor to be selected for that competition! Obviously, you’ve tasted far more cheeses than anyone else here. Can you tip us off to some of your favorites here at The Wisconsin Cheeseman?
I do have a favorite from each of our featured Cheesemakers. From Chalet Cheese Cooperative here in Monroe, I love Jamie Fahrney’s award-winning Baby Swiss. Just down the road at Decatur Dairy in Brodhead, Steve Stettler makes so many great cheeses that I couldn’t pick just one, so I’ll go with the four cheeses in the Stettler Quartet. Sid Cook at Carr Valley Cheese makes an excellent Bread Cheese which is just great if you griddle it. And Renard’s up in Door County uses their famous local cherries to flavor a really good Cheddar.
Speaking of Cheddar, my personal favorite is the 11-year-old Cheddar. As you know, Cheddar ages really well, so we bought a lot of this one years ago and have been carefully aging it. I grade it every year to see how it matures, and its age goes up in the catalog every year until we run out of it. Don’t miss this one!