By TREVOR DUNBAR
Respect the cheese, for it is good.
Shawn Duffy, head cheesemaker for Lovera’s Cheese Company, says he has often used these words as a mantra and catchphrase for his team and its wide array of handmade cheeses.
It turns out the words ring true in more ways than Duffy ever imagined. The company’s braided Caciocavera has gained international notoriety after being selected by Culture Magazine as one of its 101 Best Cheeses of the Year.
“It wasn’t anything we entered, so we were especially surprised,” Duffy said. “We didn’t know we had been entered in a contest with Culture Magazine.
“It turns out our cheese caused a bit of a buzz among judges at the American Cheese Society competition in Madison, Wis. That buzz was apparently noticed by Culture Magazine.”
Culture Magazine is the premier source of information on cheese in the United States, Duffy said. Judges for the publication select their top 101 cheeses by attending the top competitions around the world and finding the best of the best.
The braided Caciocavera was selected after being judged best Mozzarella in the nation at the American Cheese Society’s 30th annual conference and competition. Lovera’s product stood out as the best among 1,794 entries from across North America.
News of the tasty cheese made in Krebs, Okla., will also make its way all around the world due to the coverage by Culture.
“It is especially great because the magazine covers cheese internationally,” Duffy said. “Even though it’s published in the states, it is read and respected all over the world.”
Duffy said the team at Lovera’s felt the recognition not only validated the care they put into their product, but shows how far a small business really can go based on skill, heart and hard work.
“Our little company that’s kind of in the middle of nowhere made the list,” Duffy said. “I think it speaks to the passion and effort we put into what we do at the cheese factory. After the amount of work we put into the cheese, it’s really great to get this kind of recognition.”
It also pays homage to the work ethic of the Lovera family, he said. Lovera’s Famous Italian Market first opened in 1946. The company has not only remained open for nearly 70 years, but has grown to include another store and several lines of products.
“That work ethic allows us to take on giant superstores through hard work and dedication,” Duffy said. “It really means a lot to me what we’ve done with the cheese company in just a couple of years. We doubled production over 2012. I’ve also been able to hire three new employees.
“It’s good to see we can still grow economically even when times are more difficult than usual.”