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UW–Madison grad makes Top 20 in U.S. Cheese Championship

Mike Matucheski took two Sartori cheeses to the finals.

MADISON, Wisconsin (March 9, 2018) — UW–Madison alumnus Mike Matucheski and his team from Plymouth-based Sartori Company were finalists in the World Championship Cheese Contest. Two Sartori cheeses — Pastorale Blend and Reserve Espresso — made the top 20. A sheep’s milk hard cheese from France was named best in show, which was held in Madison. This year, 3,402 entries came from 27 nations and 32 states.

At last year’s championships, Matucheski’s Sartori Reserve Black Pepper BellaVitano was named the nation’s top cheese.

Back in the 1980s, when then college-student Matucheski climbed into a friend’s Rambler for occasional road trips to buy beer and cheese in nearby Green County, he didn’t foresee a future as an award-winning master cheesemaker.

“We used to buy Huber beer and buy Swiss cheese for $1.25 a pound,” said Matucheski, an Antigo native.

But that’s how the UW–Madison history major with an interest in journalism and archaeology — discovered his real passion while building a career as an artisanal cheesemaker at Sartori Company.

“For me, it was never about just getting a job,” says Matucheski. “My upbringing, my experience at UW–Madison taught me that you can’t let luck rule your world. Luck doesn’t get you where you need to be. Creativity does. Passion does. Opportunity does.”

“I value my history background,” adds Matucheski, who — in addition to his 1981 bachelor’s degree — later earned his master cheesemaker certification at UW–Madison. “I find it’s really important to know where you’ve been. Otherwise, you get lost.”

Cheese has been a theme throughout Matucheski’s life. As a child, he helped his grandmother to make farmer’s cheese and recalls the pungent aroma from Antigo’s Kraft cheese plant wafting through his high school.

After trying farming, brewing, and herb growing, Matucheski became a cheesemaker’s helper at the Kraft plant, which later became Antigo Cheese and finally Sartori Company.

“I learned along the way to push boundaries. Using skill and passion, I grabbed opportunities,” Matucheski says.

The story of Mike Matucheski — and profiles of many other UW–Madison alumni who have changed the world — are featured in Thank You, 72: a salute to outstanding Badgers from every one of Wisconsin’s 72 counties. See all of their stories at

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Contact: Tod Pritchard,, 608-609-5217, @WisAlumni

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