Q&A: Katy Pankey
Katy Pankey (Food Science, ’09) recently joined the Cal Poly Creamery as head cheesemaker. While a student at Cal Poly, she worked in the creamery and then went on to found Farmgirl Creamery in Santa Margarita, California, where she built a regional reputation making French cheeses of the Savoie region.
Q: You have come full circle, from working in the Cal Poly Creamery as a student to founding your own cheese making business, and back to Cal Poly. What did you learn along the way?
A: While teaching an artisan cheese short course as I worked in dairy research after graduation, I fell in love with it and started my journey building a farmstead operation. I spent many years building my own creamery and dairy. At the start, I’d milk my one cow and make cheese in the barn every weekend, perfecting my recipes, and reading countless books on cheese making. I later launched the Farmgirl Creamery brand and grew to a small herd of five Jersey cows and more cheese. I learned that a dairy and a creamery are two separate jobs, and it was impossible — and very costly — for me to do it all. So, I started purchasing milk from Cal Poly. I also learned the complexity of cheese and that you never stop learning. Just when you think you have it all figured out, something goes wrong, and you begin again.
Q: How does your role as an artisanal dairy producer differ from your role as a cheesemaker at Cal Poly?
A: An artisanal dairy producer is different than my current role in many ways, but mainly my current position allows me to teach the students from my experiences and knowledge. That is the most rewarding part.
Q: What do you love the most about cheese?
A: I love the complexity and versatility of cheese. The art of cheese making continues to challenge me and teach me new lessons.
Q: Can we expect any new cheeses from the Cal Poly Creamery?
A: Yes, we are launching a triple cream brie for the holidays, named Triple Peak. It was my No. 1 seller at Farmgirl Creamery. It will be available online, at local stores, and at our Friday drive-thru.
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