Colorado is known for its lamb and Fruition restaurant is known for preparing local food well. When Chef Alex Seidel found he was often making beautiful lamb dishes but only had goat or cow’s milk cheese options for accompaniments, he went in search of great sheep’s milk cheeses in the U.S. He found a few, but he also discovered that, unlike Spain for example, the U.S. had very little sheep’s milk dairy to choose from. So, he did the obvious thing: with zero experience in making cheese, he built a little team and started a farmstead sheep’s milk operation at his restaurant farm in Larkspur, Colorado.
In November of 2009, the team ventured out to New York’s Hudson Valley to attend the Dairy Sheep Association of North America’s annual symposium. They returned with a strong desire to create Colorado’s first farmstead artisan sheep’s milk dairy. In September 2010, less than a year later, cheese making began. The path on this cheese making adventure has been filled with moments of laughter, hours of cleaning, construction, hours of cleaning, stinky-funny-gorgeous animals, hours of cleaning, tasting and tweaking, hours of cleaning and thus far has resulted in five beautifully crafted cheeses – several that have won national awards! Though we no longer have a herd of sheep on-site, we still get our milk from the same sheep family. Each of our cheeses highlight a different characteristic of the wonderfully rich milk from which they are made.
In May of 2009, Alex purchased the 10-acre vegetable farm just south of Denver in Larkspur. His vision was to create a learning center and a sustainable relationship between farm and restaurant. In November 2009, former Fruition Restaurant Sous Chef and the Creamery’s cheese maker, Jimmy Warren, joined the farm team and helped to solidify the foundation and direction of this little local agricultural institution. Today, farmer Ilse Anderson raises a huge variety of herbs and vegetables for Fruition Restaurant and for Mercantile dining & provision. Aside from the lovely food that is produced here, it has always been important to the Fruition team to share with our community what we’ve learned about the fundamentals of farming and creating animal products.
Alex Seidel, Chef
Growing up in Wisconsin, Alex never imagined that one day he would be raising sheep and producing Coloradoʼs first artisanal Sheepʼs Milk Cheeses. Itʼs his passion for food that has allowed him to travel the country to experience his first love, cooking. A couple years after opening his first restaurant Fruition, Alex purchased a ten-acre farm. This fueled his desire to learn more about food, how it is produced, and from where it is sourced. Being a “farmer” has proven to be his toughest challenge in a career that is loaded with obstacles.
It was at Auburn University that Jimmy discovered his passion for food and cooking. His path in food led him to his degree at Johnson and Wales University in Providence, RI. Working with the areaʼs best chefs, Jimmy used that knowledge to land himself a cooking position at Fruition Restaurant in Denver. His work ethic and bright mind propelled him through the ranks of the kitchen to sous chef within a short period of time. Those same qualities are what made him so valuable at the farm. His capacity for learning helped transition the direction of our cheese making procedures and aid in the development of the dairyʼs first soft ripened cheese.
Ilse grew up with a nature loving family. She and her siblings were always outdoors, entertaining themselves for hours on end with all that nature and imagination had to offer. The only thing that kept them indoors was when they got into trouble and were grounded. Bad weather a downer for these kids? No way. Snow and rain meant even more fun. Her family’s garden was full of zucchini, tomatoes, and strawberries. It was also full of water-wise plants and all manner of insects – the beneficial kind and the other kind. Ilse’s childhood taught her to not fear creepy crawly things and to dig deep in appreciation of life’s cycles. This appreciation drove her to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Horticulture from CSU and work on one of Colorado’s coolest farms.