Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese visit, part 1
***I updated this post at 5/15/2012, 10:10am PDT, to correct the Giacominis' official job titles.***
To reach the Fork on this beautiful spring day in April, the new educational and event building at Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company, my cheese photographer Gavin and I had to first leave San Francisco, drive past miles of fields punctuated by knobby, massive boulders, and climb a single-lane road flanked by roaming cattle. Actually, the drive was only an hour long. I still can’t get over how suddenly the scenery shifts once I leave San Francisco and its somewhat precious bedroom communities.
The sun was shining through the Fork’s many windows and skylights as we were greeted by Karen and Lynn, two of the four Giacomini sisters who run the business. Jill, our guide, was on a conference call. What started off as a minor delay turned into a great opportunity to see (most of) the family together. Bob Giacomini walked in, Jill finished her meeting, and then we all got hear about Bob’s visit to a local San Francisco restaurant and evening out at the theatre (the show was a dud, unfortunately). Family businesses often go through family drama, but this one seems to be doing things well. Each person is allowed to shine in his or her own capacity. Karen assists at the Fork. Jill is Chief Marketing Officer and also oversees the Fork business unit. Diana is the Chief Financial Officer. Lynn is Chief Operating Officer, and also oversees national sales. Bob, who was one of the founding members of the Bank of Petaluma, and his wife Dean oversee everything. The one person I didn't get to meet was Jennifer Luttrell, the Fork's executive chef and culinary program director.
To begin our visit, Karen led us to the Fork’s teaching area. There, this soaring space with slate floors was set up for the next day’s event, a cooking demonstration with Sandra Bernstein, owner of the Girl + the Fig, and author of the Girl + the Fig cookbook. One word about the Fork's space--it is gorgeous! These women have got themselves an incredibly quaint, yet refined, setting. If I could host an event, I would totally check out this venue as an option. The space is equipped with a moveable cooking demonstration island, blackboard, and plenty of ledges to lay down plates and glasses around the room. The high, sloping ceiling allows in plenty of light. The ambiance is that of a subtle and sophisticated farmhouse.
On the other side of the event space lays the teaching kitchen, with blackboard, and space for up to 16 people. Here, the sisters like to hold hands-on educational events, industry tastings, and public cheese tastings and courses, sometimes with wine/beer pairings. Currently, they have renowned homemade cheese class instructor and author Mary Karlins booked to teach her day-long courses once or twice a month through November. Check the Fork's website for more info if you're interested in that. This pristine kitchen would be the site of our cheese tasting later on.
Jill took over the tour from there, and led us to the other side of the new building, to the storage and packaging areas. I quickly saw how efficient and thorough the Giacominis are, for instance how they centralized all of their storage in this one space. Jill described how they slowly (over years) came to realize that their old sprawling storage situation was imperfect and needed to be centralized to allow the workers to be more productive. At that moment, several workers were deftly packaging full wheels of Toma for shipment, and cutting smaller pieces for farmers markets. They moved quickly and easily. We couldn’t go into to any of the packaging areas, but enormous plate glass windows offered us a great view. From my vantage point, it seemed like the Giacominis have really thought through how to make every detail of their creamery and farm efficient and pleasant--for their employees and for us visitors.
Next post: How is the cheese at Point Reyes Farmstead Creamery made?
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