Like Wisconsin, cheese is an integral part of French culture, so the White House knew which state to call upon when hosting the French president for dinner.
It’s no secret: In Wisconsin, we put cheese on everything. In France, fromage is treated with even more esteem. Traditionally served after the main course, but before dessert, a cheese plate is a quintessential part of the French dining experience– typically served with at least three types, arranged from mildest to strongest.
For President Biden’s first state dinner in late 2022, White House chefs sourced a trio of artisan cheeses from the finest dairies in the country to impress French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte. One was from Oregon. Another came from California. The third was from Sheboygan, Wisconsin.
We talked to Sophie Gentine, Deer Creek Brand Manager and daughter of the dairy’s founders, to find out what it’s like to learn the White House wants to serve your cheese.
When and how did you hear your cheese had made the White House State Dinner menu?
The announcement came as a total surprise. We’re guessing that White House Executive Chef Kris Comerford and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden must have tried it during their planning process and decided it would be a perfect fit!
We found out the morning after the dinner from friends, family, and colleagues who had seen various news articles mentioning that a cheddar from Deer Creek was part of the menu. We had to make some calls to find out which cheese it was, since no articles listed the specific name at the time. By the end of the day, we discovered that it was “The Fawn”, one of our bandage-wrapped and waxed Cheddars.
How did you come up with that creative name, and what sets your cheddar apart from other creameries?
“The Fawn” was the first cheese that we introduced as part of our animal series, where we named cheeses after animals native to the state. “The Fawn” is completely handcrafted from wholesome rBST-free milk. A unique culture set gives the cheese a sweet nuttiness with a full, complex flavor not common in traditional bandage-wrapped Cheddars. It seems delicate at first, but the flavor becomes more rich as you bite into it.
What’s next? Was this even on your bucket list?
I can’t say that being served at the White House was on our bucket list because it wasn’t even on our radar! It’s exciting to see a cheese that our fans have been loving for years has made it so far. I also think it’s awesome that a cheese served to the guests of the State Dinner is the same cheese that you can find at your local specialty grocer or cheese shop. It’s something that everyone can access and enjoy!
How does this experience rank among the many other honors your dairy has received?
Even though having The Fawn featured at the White House wasn’t a competition, it feels like a win. It’s another form of high-level recognition.
Any championships on your calendar for 2023?
We’re still deciding which competitions we’d like to enter, but we almost always participate in the World Cheese Awards, the U.S. Championship Cheese Contest, the American Cheese Society Competition, and, one of our favorites, the Wisconsin State Fair Dairy Products Competition! The State Fair competition is extremely prestigious and competitive, which makes sense considering how well our state knows cheese.
“The Fawn” is available at dozens of specialty stores and cheese shops across Wisconsin.
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