Fernando Chavez-Sandoval wakes up every morning with a single goal—making cheese. Gold Creek Farms, the 30-acre dairy farm in Woodland, Utah, where he spends his days, is much more than the place he goes to work; it’s his creative space.
As the farm’s cheese expert, Chavez-Sandoval makes everything from feta and Parmesan to smoked cheddar and blue cheese. However, his background didn’t start with cheese in particular; he was actually a gourmet chef before dedicating his life to cheese making. “I started in the kitchen as a dishwasher and, within six months, I started working on the line. I learned how to grill, sauté, how to expedite and, within a year and a half, I became the chef at the Gateway Grill,” Chavez-Sandoval says.
After working in the kitchen for 11 years and moonlighting in catering, Chavez-Sandoval was given the opportunity of a lifetime—to masterfully create cheese at Gold Creek Farms. “I never wanted to say, ‘what if,’ so I took the chance and here I am today, after 10 years of cheese making. I’m happy,” Chavez-Sandoval says.
In 2007, Gold Creek Farms owners Alan and Debbie Gold took on the hefty project of restoring this former dairy farm. The property itself was an open-air hay structure and a broken-down milk barn, but today, the renovated milk barn, stable and enclosed hay barn is now self-sustaining as the farm even grows its own alfalfa for the Brown Swiss cows, a breed that the farm is very particular about. Chavez-Sandoval explains, “Brown Swiss cows are known not for quantity, but for quality. They naturally produce a sweet milk with high protein and high butterfat. For cheese making, it’s the best milk—we focus on quality when making our cheese.”
Montage Deer Valley has been using Gold Creek Farms since opening the resort in 2010 and was the first luxury resort to start using the brand’s cheeses. Today, Gold Creek Farms continues to provide its delicious cheeses to Montage Deer Valley for a variety of menu items, including the popular side dish at Apex, New Mexico Green Chili Mac & Cheese, where the farm’s Smoked Cheddar is utilized. Additional cheeses like Gold Creek Farms’ famous Woodland White Cheddar, Smoked Cheddar, Truffle Cheddar, feta, Parmesan and fresh churned butter are also used at Burgers & Bourbon, Daly’s and Vista Lounge.
Recipe for New Mexico Green Chili Mac & Cheese
8 ounces cavatappi or elbow macaroni pasta
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
Ground black pepper to taste
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup Gold Creek Farms Woodland White Cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup Gold Creek Farms Smoked Cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 cup fresh roasted New Mexican Hatch green chile, chopped and seeded (may add another spicier green chile for more heat)
In a large pot, bring lightly salted water to a boil. Cook cavatappi pasta in the boiling water, stirring occasionally until cooked through but firm, then drain. In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat, then stir in flour, salt and pepper until smooth. Slowly pour the milk and cream into butter-flour mixture while continuously stirring until smooth and bubbling. Add cheddar cheese and green chile to the milk mixture and stir until the cheese is melted. Fold the cavatappi pasta into cheese sauce until coated.
Add toasted panko breadcrumbs on top for an added crunchy texture.
By Jessie Dax-Setkus