Friday, April 4, 2014

Patrick Drennen in Arlington, Virginia


Patrick in Atlanta, inspecting cheese for it's proteolysis breakdown.

When one door closes, another opens...

Patrick Drennen wrote a note to us recently and I asked him if I could share it with you.  (We always appreciate it when you share your experiences with us.)  I was impressed by Patrick's candor and I expect you will be, too.  We all benefit when someone has the courage to talk about their "failures" as well as triumphs.  It helps us to be more open about the times when we didn't live up to our own expectations...

Here's Patrick's letter to us:

Dear Ricki, Jim and All the Rest!

I wanted to thank you for all your help and advice with cheese related incidents. We started making cheese about two years ago and what we have found is that it is a very cumulative process.

A little background about me. I have been a chef for about ten years now. It is a very hard and competitive field and as such, after a year of service to one of Atlanta's top restaurants, I was let go. I was soo depressed and despondent. About three or four days after I received the news (and we were already on a tight budget) my partner woke me up in the middle of the night and said "honey we need to make cheese!"

Casevm Blanc (Casevm is Latin for cheese).  Patrick's partner, Firat is from Istanbul, the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire so they named most of their cheese in Latin.

He had had a dream that we were making cheese. The next day he told me stories of how his grandmother would make cheese back home in Turkey. I think he wanted me to have a creative outlet to vent my frustrations thru and re-establish my passion by taking my mind off of the loss of my job. When I was pulled in to the conference room and was told that same old story of "we don't think this is working out..." type of thing, I felt like a failure, not only professionally but as a partner as well. 

So, in a way it did pull me out of my depression. I originally started brewing my own cider and while we both retained our vision through batch after batch of our home brew (we had one or two successful batches but the rest was just swill), I found that the cider was best for washing rinds of cheese so needless to say the home brew was out. So I became an excellent cheese maker and he became an excellent cheese taster!

Patrick and Firat exploring what appear to be cliffs in Ireland (really its on the way to Napa Valley!)

Of course at the time, I groaned and turned over to try to get back to sleep. But he brought it up again the next day and at first I was sort of indecisive. We then decided to take a trip to our local brew store and get a few things. We made our first cheese that day....and it was terrible! But I didn't give up. Eventually, I stumbled on your website and started pulling recipes and trying out new things.

Patrick's cave is a wine cooler that can hold 50 bottles or 25 10" tomme or a whole bunch of little cheeses.  He regulates the humidity with a humidor hygrometer and  a small little humidifier from CVS Pharmacy for about 20 bucks.  It keeps it cool with an RH of 90%.

Still to this day, two years later and a relocation to DC, I still peruse your site and reference your recipes. I believe that with recipes, the basic knowledge is there and you can follow it to the letter or, in some cases, you may need to improvise.

S.P.Q.R., a wine washed cow's milk cheese.

So, after I developed what I like to call my cheese intuition, I started to look more at the technique of the recipes and then go from there to develop my own. I guess all in all, cheese making pulled me out of a very dark place after I lost my job and gave me some sort of feeling of self worth.

Casevm Bleu with a natural rind.

Eventually, I found a great position with a restaurant group in Atlanta. That is where I made my first cheese sale! And what was great is that they were return customers! When my partner got a job in DC, it was very sad to leave. But we took a risk and went.

Another Casevm Bleu at a wine and cheese tasting party they hosted.  Needless to say, it was a smashing success.

Now, we are making cheese in a skyline apartment with the noises of the number 34 bus and the street below (sometimes I would rather have the noise of animals and the country side).  I wanted to thank you for all the work you have done and acknowledge what you are doing.  What you have done for me has impacted my life in a positive way and now I am on the road to try and establish my own business and help other artisans get their product to market.

5 lb wheel of Cabra Tenebra (goat ash) which is actually a blend of cow's and goat's milk.  Patrick said he finds that the cow's milk adds a bit of stability to the curd and the goat milk adds tangy-ness.

I wanted to tell you thank you so much, what you are doing is truly a blessing to some people.

Cheese "molds" Patrick bought from IKEA. They are perfect 4" molds for $1.99 a piece.

1 comment:

Imran said...

What a great achievement. Truly behind every success is a series of failures , but only those win who don't give up.best of luck Patrick.