Belief in goodness in all things drives C’estbon Cheese

Happy goats make for delicious chevre at C’estbon Cheese in St. Mary’s, Ontario.

“My story is simple, all I want to do is make cheese,” relates George Taylor on what now motivates him in life.  Strongly coupled with his “Believe in Goodness” mindset, as his company’s tagline readily affirms, that’s the promise Taylor wants to associate with C’estbon Cheese

It’s much more than a plainspoken sales slogan, it communicates the inherent integrity he strives to represent with the limited, artisan batches of premium, fresh goat’s milk chèvre cheese he turns out from his one-man operation located in St. Mary’s, Ontario.

Ironically, his thriving business has become a unique and prominent micro-dairy considered to be the gold standard for chèvre in Ontario by the restaurants and consumers who use it, after he said goodbye to a twenty-five year employ at The Sports Network (TSN) in Toronto for a more leisurely paced lifestyle.

“In 1999, I was looking to simplify my life by leaving the pressure cooker world of sports television to pursue farming full-time.  When it became apparent that I wasn’t going to die as required shortly into retirement, I decided I needed a more productive source of farm income than the stipend paid out to a gentleman farmer.”

The realization allowed for the prospect of other possibilities.  “Around this time I met Ruth Klahsen, now of Monforte Dairy, who was also exiting her chosen career.  She had a vision and wanted to experiment with cheesemaking beyond the restaurant kitchen; I had the farm, the technical and financial resources to build on, and a dairy goat herd to provide milk.  We agreed to collaborate in operating an on-farm cheese dairy where I would milk the goats and assemble and finance the project while she would make the cheese.”

The go-to chevre for restaurants and consumers.

But when that approach didn’t work out, Taylor, within the next year, developed his own philosophy and operating guidelines for what could be accomplished in the cheese industry, and C’estbon Cheese was born.  “I craft the milk with quality in mind always.  I do it right the first time, and then repeat.  I don’t pretend to make the perfect cheese, but if I don’t like it, it won’t leave my studio,” says Taylor of his discerning process.  “I could make more cheeses and in greater volumes, but to be truly artisan, I feel every cheese must have my fingerprint on it, figuratively and literally.  This I believe separates C’estbon from many of our peers.”

By personally making the cheese once a week by hand at the on-farm facility in a traditional method passed down by his father, Taylor’s plant was the first such approved in Ontario by both the Federal and Provincial governments to process its milk on-site, a worthy achievement that has helped subsequent farmers within the industry obtain the same consent.

Although the soft, unripened cheese was first created from a herd of 200 purebred Toggenburg and LaMancha goats, the production quickly evolved to needing more quality milk than his original herd could provide.  As a result, his current partnership with Ontario’s leading goat-milk supplier, Hewitt’s Dairy, before long commenced to ensure there would always be sufficient milk to meet his exacting standards.

Adding to its distinctive merit, he insists the price of his cheese be kept reasonable to guarantee this variety is accessible for everyone; his leading desire is to see chèvre as a staple on every table, not as a luxury product.

“Artisan, food scientist and magician, I wear all three hats,” shares Taylor about the future of his retirement-plan-turned-dairy-dream, “so C’estbon Cheese will exist as long as I continue to be inspired and remain in awe of the alchemy of milk transitioning into curd, then aging it at the hands of a craftsman into something greater than the sum of its parts.”

C’estbon Cheese is a Featured Cheesemaker at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival this weekend. Come. taste the cheese, meet George Taylor! Tickets are available online and the main entrance Saturday and Sunday.

C’estbon Cheese can be purchased in select Metro, Whole Foods, and Sobey’s stores and cheese shops.

—Christine Darragh