Juan Mendoza, from unemployed to model cheesemaker: the "cheese leader" tells his story.

Alessandra Meldolesi
copertina juan mendoza

The challenge of a boy who grew up in milk tanks: without having his own capital, he worked in the industry for twenty years before founding his Toro Azul dairy, which is sweeping awards in Argentina with a sustainable project and uncompromising quality.

The story

It's a life up and down the milky way for Juan Mendoza, the celebrated Argentine cheesemaker. His mother had already worked for forty years in the cheese industry, among whose aromas he grew up, as narrated by 7 Canibales. Then, technical chemical studies and a thousand resumes were sent across the nation, without receiving any response, except one, precisely from his hometown, San Jeronimo Norte, in the province of Santa Fe, from a dairy in the year 1996. Apparently, it was destiny.

Juan Mendoza formaggio premiato 2

From need, however, passion sprouted. After curdling for various dairy companies throughout the country for twenty years, one day a former employer suggested renting his unused facility. Things didn't go in the right direction, but he had already decided: he wanted his own business, even though he lacked the means.

Juan Mendoza Toro Azul

The second opportunity came when another entrepreneur asked him to develop a blue cheese for his company. The signed contract was a launching pad: instead of asking for payment, Mendoza obtained the right to retain a portion of the milk to package his own cheeses according to a sustainable project. The idea was to produce something unique that could stand out in the market and command a good price.

Juan Mendoza formaggio premiato 3

Success is immediate: at the first competition he enters to showcase his cheese, Mendoza takes home the first prize for the category, the overall prize, and the recognition for the best cheesemaker. Now everything is possible for him: he understands that quality pays off. "The real skill for a cheesemaker lies in understanding the milk, its past, and its future," he says.

Juan Mendoza formaggio premiato

Today, Mendoza runs the Toro Azul dairy in Toro Pujio, in the province of Cordoba. He produces four types of blue cheese, more or less sweet or spicy, always perfectly balanced. However, challenges abound: in Argentina, he laments, the cheese culture is still immature, especially for those operating in the provinces, away from gourmet dining centers. It's true that things are changing thanks to social media and competitions, but very slowly.

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