When Mike Matucheski ’81 climbed into a friend’s Rambler for occasional road trips during college to nearby Green County to buy beer and cheese, he didn’t foresee a future as an award-winning master cheesemaker.
“We used to buy Huber beer and buy Swiss cheese for $1.25 a pound,” Matucheski said.
But that’s how the UW–Madison history major with an interest in journalism and archaeology, and Antigo native, discovered his real passion and pushed the envelope on the way to building a career as an artisanal cheesemaker at Sartori Company in his hometown.
At the 2017 U.S. Cheese Championships, Matucheski’s 24 years of cheesemaking paid off when his Sartori Reserve Black Pepper BellaVitano was named the nation’s top cheese.
“For me, it was never about just getting a job,” says Matucheski. “My upbringing, my experience at UW–Madison taught me that you can’t let luck rule your world. Luck doesn’t get you where you need to be. Creativity does. Passion does. Opportunity does.”
“I learned along the way to push boundaries.”
“I value my history background,” adds Matucheski, who — in addition to his 1981 bachelor’s degree — later in life gained his master cheesemaker certification at UW–Madison. “I find it’s really important to know where you’ve been — otherwise, you get lost.”
Cheese was a theme throughout Matucheski’s life. As a kid, he helped his grandmother to make farmer’s cheese and recalls the pungent aroma from Antigo’s Kraft cheese plant wafting through his high school.
After trying farming, brewing, and herb growing, Matucheski became a cheesemaker’s helper back at the Kraft plant, which later became Antigo Cheese and finally Sartori Company.
“I learned along the way to push boundaries. Using skill and passion, I grabbed opportunities,” Matucheski says.