Avery Jones (first year) from Templeton, CA, has a lot on her plate. In addition to being a full-time student, she said she dedicates a few hours per week to running her cheese business based in Paso Robles, CA. Jones said she named her company Shooting Star Creamery partly because she wanted to aim high despite having no clue where it would lead her. After being in business for less than a year, her first cheese named Aries, made from sheep’s milk, was crowned third place for best in show for the 2019 American Cheese Society competition. Recently, her newer cow and sheep milk cheese, Sagittarius, won best in its class at the 2022 World Championship Cheese Contest.
Jones said her company started as a way for her to get into cheese-making, a job her father Reggie Jones, owner of Central Coast Creamery, has had for over 30 years. Working alongside her father has been meaningful and helpful, Jones said. Together, they realized there was a gap in the country’s cheese market among sheep’s milk Alpine cheeses since sheep do not produce as much milk as cows, according to Jones.
“We already had a good Alpine culture and mix that we used for a different cheese of my dad’s which wasn’t really selling very well,” Jones said. “So we decided to switch up the milk to sheep and we noticed that it had a whole new flavor.”
Jones said she enjoys how cheese-making is connected to her academic interests.
“Making cheese allows me to use the knowledge I’ve gained throughout my educational career in fields like biology and chemistry and apply it to something fun and interesting,” Jones said.
While she focuses most of her time on schoolwork, Jones said she remains engaged with her business.
“I still check in with my dad about how some test runs of my latest cheese design are coming along, and responding to customer inquiries that are submitted through the company’s website,” Jones said.
Back at the production facility, Jones said she assigned different zodiac signs to each of her four kinds of cheese based on their unique characteristics.
“Sagittarius is a half sheep, and half cow’s milk cheese just like how a Centaur is a mix between two different animals,” Jones said. “Leo is a bloomy sheep’s milk cheese so it looks as if it has sort of a mane on the outside like a lion.”
Jones said sheep’s milk cheese is very sweet and creamy in comparison to cow’s milk cheese.
“It tastes grassy,” Jones said. “I’m told it has hints of pineapple.”
After formulating the cheese by analyzing how bacteria cultures would react to milk, Jones said the next step is to make the cheese by pasteurizing milk to separate them into curds, before putting the cheese into molds and using pneumatic presses to put symbols into them. Next, the molds are put into a highly salty solution in brine tanks to harden and eventually ripen on racks, she said.
“We constantly have cheeses on the racks,” Jones said.
While Jones said the COVID-19 pandemic made it hard for her to find reliable shippers to fulfill the demand for her cheeses, she has felt embraced by the cheese industry as a young business owner.
“I think they’re really excited that there’s a new generation interested in the cheese-making business,” Jones said.
During her first year orientation, Jones said she visited MilkFarm, a cheese shop on Colorado Boulevard that carries her products and interacted with the shop employees, including Katherine Torrey ‘17.
“She already had this connection to the community through her cheese,” Torrey said. “That [is] great because of how stressful and overwhelming starting college is.”
At MilkFarm, Torrey said she enjoys sharing Shooting Star Creamery’s special story with customers.
“It’s a really great way to get customers excited about cheese because it’s coming from a young cheesemaker,” Torrey said.
“She became interested in our family’s military history,” Reggie Jones said. “That is how the idea to give back came up.”
After Reggie and Avery Jones solidified the idea for Shooting Star Creamy, Reggie Jones said kickstarting the operation was a seamless process.
“My company had already gone through years of setting up distribution networks,” Reggie Jones said. “So when she brought her cheese along, it was really easy to incorporate it.”
Although they have the same facility and workers, Reggie Jones said his daughter has run her business in a different way.
“She approached it in a much more logical, even smarter way,” Reggie Jones said. “She looked at the classes of the cheese, and the number of entries into them at major contests, then figured out where the holes of the market were.”
Avery Jones said she has learned valuable lessons as a business owner.
“Of course, there’s the most fun part of tasting the final product and sharing it with other people!” Jones said.