When Corinne Zinn moved to the United States from Belgium 17 years ago, she quickly realized something was missing: artisan cheese.
In Europe, there are cheese shops on every street and in every corner, she said.
But in the U.S., “Nobody was making cheese. There were wineries around (but no cheese). In Europe, we pair wine and cheese together. I (began) missing my cheese,” she said.
Zinn decided she had to change that.
“I like to cook, so I thought, ‘Maybe I can make some for myself just for fun,’” she said. “I found a farmer to buy milk from and I did some research online to learn how to make cheese.”
She also joined an online forum of French cheese makers.
As she started experimenting with small batches of cheese for herself, a French farmer from the forum invited her to tour his farm and see how he made his cheese.
“I came back and made my own cheese,” she said. “I made a bit for myself and then brought some to the wineries (near my home). … They were two French wineries, actually, in Colorado, and they were very excited to get their cheese back as French people.”
With that simple beginning, Zinn’s artisan cheese business was born.
It started small, with Zinn selling cheese to local wineries and at farmers markets. As her list of regular customers grew, so did the amount of goat milk she purchased from a local farmer until finally the farmer suggested that she get her own goats.
“The farmer told me, ‘We can’t sell you any more milk (to meet your needs),’” she said.
Zinn had never owned a goat before, but she decided to try it.
“We had a little piece of land, so we bought one goat,” she said. “I had no idea how to milk a goat so I had to learn all that. It was a fun process. We started with one goat — her name was Blanche. … Blanche was very depressed and needed a friend, another goat. So we got another goat. … Her name was Ingall.”
She continued, “After a while, they (Blanche and Ingall) dried up and needed to be bred again and have babies so they would give milk again. They both had two kids, so from two goats we jumped to six. (A similar thing happened) year after year until we ended up with a herd of 50 goats.”
Business was booming. Each goat in Zinn’s herd gave 1-2 gallons of milk per day, which she turned into about 1½ pounds of cheese.
“One-and-a-half pounds of cheese per goat, per day,” she said. “That’s when I started to sell in (more) farmers markets and wineries.”
Then her life changed.
“Unfortunately, I had a divorce and had to sell my farm and my goats,” Zinn said. “A farmer in Midway (Utah) bought my goats. … I told him I’d help him start a cheese business and create recipes for him.”
The farmer was interested, and Zinn moved to Utah to make good on her promise.
“I did that for one year,” she said. “Deer Valley Resort (in Park City) was one of our big customers for our goat cheese. They invited me to come make cheese for them.”
Zinn accepted the job. She spent the next four years working as Deer Valley’s in-house cheesemaker.
“It was a lot of fun,” she said. “My ski locker was right across from my cheese room, so I was able to ski in the morning and make cheese in the afternoon.”
About that same time, Zinn was visiting her daughter’s home in Tooele when she met her daughter’s neighbor, David Zinn. He later became her husband.
In 2017, Zinn’s cheese business was put on hold yet again when Deer Valley Resort was sold.
“They decided not to pursue the cheese program,” she said. “The cheese was already being sold in several stores and when Deer Valley decided not to pursue (the program), the customers were disappointed. I thought, ‘I have to do something about that.’”
That’s when Zinn and her husband decided to strike out on their own and start their own, brand-new cheese business.
It took them years of work to lay the foundation for their future company, Park City Creamery.
“We had to test the market and figure out if it would really be a good thing, then find a place where we could build my creamery,” Zinn said.
They found a place for her future creamery in 2018. It was an empty warehouse and needed some remodeling before they could start using it to make cheese.
“There was nothing in there so we had to do all the work for the sewer (and things like that),” Zinn said.
After the building was fit to use for food preparation, she had to find the equipment she needed. Some of the equipment was shipped from Wisconsin. She was able to buy other pieces of equipment from a former cheese maker in Erda.
“We started to build (in November 2018) and I was hoping to be able to start my business in January, but with all the inspections and requirements from the county and building processes, we didn’t move in until June,” Zinn said. “It was stressful. You have to pay a lease in the meantime while you can’t make cheese; … you can’t make money. But we made it happen.”
Although Park City Creamery has only been open for business for six months, it’s already gaining traction.
“There’s a lot of restaurants in Salt Lake City that serve our cheese and also in Park City,” Zinn said. “I’m making a very different cheese than other cheese makers make around here and people are very interested in adding that to their cheese boards.”
Most local cheese makers make hard cheeses like cheddar and Parmesan. In contrast, Zinn specializes in soft cheese.
The one I make is more like a creamy brie style,” she said. “It’s more European-style cheese. It’s very unique because of the quality of milk we get here. It’s really what the cows are eating that makes the cheese so good. It’s coming from the land; it’s really a Utah product. Like we say in France, it’s really from the land.”
She added, “I make about five different types of cheese, each named after a Park City ski slope. … I make it the old-fashioned way. … We have a wonderful product made from high-quality milk, and you can really taste it in the cheese.”
One of Zinn’s high-quality cheeses recently took the top honor at the Utah Cheese Awards on Oct. 19. It’s a soft goat cheese with vegetable ash.
Zinn calls it Silver Queen Goat Cheese. In addition to taking the Best in Show award, it won the gold in the soft cheese category.
“It’s a very old recipe in France,” she said. “They used ash before refrigeration to preserve cheese. The Silver Queen comes as a halo (a cheese where the light center is encircled by a darker-colored creamline). The middle is called the white nugget.”
Zinn swept the soft cheese category when two of her brie cheeses won the silver and bronze awards.
She’s looking forward to continuing to expand her business in the future.
“I just started six months ago and I wasn’t sure how it was going to go, but it looks like it’s growing really, really fast,” Zinn said. “It’s scary how fast it’s growing. … We’re just in Utah right now, but we’ll probably sell all over the U.S. in the future.”