Meet The Master

It’s hard to imagine a better cheesemaker for Fiscalini Cheese Company than Mariano Gonzales.

By Jamie Cole

Mariano Gonzales

Mariano Gonzales

Like Fiscalini’s ancestors, Mariano Gonzales’ family in Paraguay made cheese from necessity. He began learning the craft as a teenager. He then left Paraguay and came to the U.S. to hone his skills, hoping to return to the family in South America.

But when he went home, Paraguay was a different country. A violent coup in 1998 left the country unstable, and proved catastrophic for Mariano’s family business there. “My milk tanks were emptied on the road every day, because the authorities thought I was smuggling guns into the city,” he says. Mariano sold the family business and moved back to the U.S., where the California Milk Advisory Board helped him find the job with John Fiscalini in 2001.

“When I met Mariano, it was magic,” John says. “It’s a match made in heaven.” Mariano helped perfect the recipe for San Joaquin Gold and helped develop three other basic cheeses: Lionza, cheddar in several flavors and fresh mozzerella—the only product made from pasteurized milk since it’s not aged.

Mariano brought cheesemaking knowledge—along with access to libraries of cheese cultures and years of research and preparation—to the already rich Fiscalini dairy tradition, and the combination proved combustible.

Perhaps the most impressive accomplishment is one of the the most recent: Fiscalini’s 18-month Cheddar won the World Cheese Association’s award for best extra mature cheddar in the world, the first time in the 20-year history of the WCA the award has gone to someone outside of Great Britain.

“Cheese is a noble food, but it’s an honest food,” Mariano says, “because it’s made in such a natural way. I don’t make it, I guide the bacteria—that’s what makes the cheese.”

That philosophy was a great fit for Fiscalini.

“When people ask, ‘How do you make great cheese?’ I say I can’t do it without Mariano and he can’t do it without me,” John says. And there’s your perfect match.

<< Read the full article, “Comfortable Cows, Delectable Cheese”