Culinary Queens of Colorado Springs – Jennifer Gomez of Sawatch Artisan Foods

Welcome to the May edition of Culinary Queens! This month I am featuring Jennifer Gomez, co-founder, and co-owner of Sawatch Artisan Foods. When I discovered that Sawatch butter was the game-changer for Cotton Blossom Caramel products, I had to learn more. I decided to check out the Sawatch Artisan Foods website and I was instantly interested in sampling her products. I am a cheese fanatic and I saw several varieties that piqued my interest. I also recently discovered European butter and it is far tastier than the butter commercially available to us here in America. I placed an order to try the following Sawatch products: Cheese curds, Chipotle Cheddar, Baby Gouda, White Cheddar, and their European Style Butter.

Jennifer and Tim Gomez
Photo Credit – Colorado Springs Gazette

Luckily for me, I am in the Sawatch Artisan Foods delivery area and my order arrived the next day! To my pleasure and surprise, the order arrived on my porch in a Sawatch branded thermal container to keep them cold. Little details like this ensure that the product will remain fresh and indicates a pride in their products. As I unbagged my goodies, my husband and kids eagerly waited for samples. We tried the cheese curds first and I was inspired to create a poutine dish. The cheese curds were perfectly salty and had just the right amount of “squeak” to them. Cheese curd texture is everything in a good poutine. These curds are also pretty darn good on their own!

Pot Roast Poutine with Sawatch Artisan Cheese Curds
My Sawatch Order and Insulated Tote

Next, we tried the baby gouda. Let me just say, I have never much been a gouda fan…until now. I have always considered Gouda to be rather boring because I prefer stronger/sharper cheeses.  The Baby Gouda was sharp, funky, & firm which is my cheese perfection trifecta. This was my family’s favorite cheese and I found myself hiding it so they wouldn’t eat it all. This cheese also pairs perfectly with a nice Cabernet Sauvignon and a good rom-com…just saying.

My favorite! Baby Gouda

After the Gouda, we tried the Chipotle Cheddar. This cheese made my mouth water. It is perfectly balanced with a creamy texture and a nice kick of peppery acid from the Chipotle peppers. It is great as a snacking cheese on a charcuterie platter, but it also shines in a quesadilla, in birria tacos, or in cheese enchiladas. It melts nicely and has an amazing southwest flavor!

Chipotle Cheddar

The final cheese we tried was the White Cheddar. If I could do this tasting over again, we would have started with this cheese. It has a delicate flavor profile. Our palates were pretty blown out after the previous strong flavored cheeses and our first impression was that it lacked flavor. However, the following day we decided to try it again. The white cheddar is a young cheese and has a lovely mild nutty flavor. It pairs perfectly with apples and pears that help to bring out the subtle yet complex notes of the cheese. This cheese is meant for snacking (not adding to recipes) so that its nuances can be fully appreciated.

White Cheddar

The European Style Butter came in a 2lb log and the price is amazing!  In the past, I have hoarded European butter because it is very expensive, and I don’t want to waste my fancy butter as an ingredient.  However, this butter was practically begging me to use it in EVERYTHING! My first taste test was on a piece of baguette bread so that I could really get a good sense of the texture and flavor. This butter is creamy, light, and melts in your mouth. The best adjective I can use to describe the flavor is, “pure.”   This is what butter should taste like!

European Style Butter
Sawatch Butter
Photo Credit – Sawatch Artisan Foods Website

After sampling amazing cheeses and butter, I wanted to learn more about Jennifer and Sawatch Artisan Foods. I reached out to Jennifer for an interview and was pleased that she was willing to be featured in my blog. As you will read, Jen’s history and story are quite fascinating. I have an even deeper appreciation of her products, business, and business practices.   

Jennifer, please tell us about your background:

From Hawaii, I moved to the mainland in seek of greater learning and career opportunities. I went to nursing school and spent my first career as an ER nurse. From there, I wanted to expand my skillset and accepted a position at a healthcare IT company learning the build of ER software systems, then advancing quickly into a sales alignment executive role. With the required travel the sales career required, my husband and I decided it was finally time to leave my healthcare career and join our dairy manufacturing company to focus on marketing, strategy, and growth. From 2015 to current, we have gone from around 50 employees to nearly 150, and we’re just getting started.

What inspired you to Create Sawatch Artisan Foods?

I think a little background on how we got into dairy in the first place would help set the stage. My husband Tim grew up in New Mexico and his entire career has been in dairy and agriculture. If you have seen Fairlife milk in the grocery store, well, he’s the original inventor of that product and is on the patent. He helped to pioneer the ultrafiltration process of milk. After leaving the co-op, he ventured out onto his own and founded our first company, Kansas Dairy Ingredients in 2012. KDI is focused on mid-manufacturing, creating custom milk blends for larger customers for various cheese products, ice cream bases and coffee creamers.

Fast forward to how Sawatch got started. In 2017 a large, big box retailer approached us and sought a vertically integrated solution for their cheese supply. They wanted our help to design, build and implement a cheese facility for them. After almost a year into the discussions, we opted out completely as our values were quite different. Our business was built first by strong relationships with dairy farmers, transparency and fairness as well as ensuring everyone has a win. At this point, Tim and I knew we would take a completely different approach to cheese and butter production than our industry does. Rather than focus on volume and price point efficiencies, we wanted to slow the process down and focus on quality and handcrafted techniques. After a trip to Switzerland and collaborating with several master alpine cheesemakers and farmers, we were inspired by their traditions and processes, and took some lessons learned to the next phase of our business.

We founded Sawatch Artisan Foods in 2018, and it took us almost a year to construct the facility, hire a cheesemaker, and source the best equipment out of Europe. We began making early batches of cheese and butter at the end of 2019 and launched the business in March 2020, with an initial focus on food service. Since food service was not an option at that moment, I decided we would need to flex and sell direct to consumer. I hit every farmer’s market and virtual market possible, and our organic growth began to flourish from there. Here we are 2 years later and have continued to grow substantially in both employees and product volume. We are in the middle of a commissioning project at our facility now to greatly increase our volumes and product offerings.

What makes your products unique?

We like to do things a little differently at Sawatch – because everything tastes better when we do. We believe in simple, wholesome ingredients and that is all we ever use. We work in small batches and commit to a slow, artisan handcrafted process. Does it take more time? Absolutely. But you will know it’s worth it in every bite.

What is the most rewarding part of your business?

When we see some of our favorite local restaurants and businesses creating meals and sharing our products with the community! It is gratifying to know we are helping our fellow local businesses with fresh, artisan products at price points that are competitive to the mass-produced stuff.

Could you share some of your proudest moments with Sawatch Artisan Foods?

When we see a feature article on us, or someone tag us on social, and sharing the excitement for what they have created with our products. It makes me smile every single time!

Besides your website, where can we purchase Sawatch Products?

Once Farmers Market season gets into full swing, here is where we will be at:

Saturdays – Backyard Market in Black Forest. Old Colorado City Farmers Market

Sundays – Parker and Castle Rock Farmers Markets

Wednesdays- Colorado Farm and Art Market, Colorado Springs Pioneer Museum

You can also pickup our products at The Sourdough Boulangerie, Bread and Butter Neighborhood Market, and Ranch Foods Direct here in the Springs.

What are your future goals/plans for Sawatch Artisan Foods?

We are adding additional production capacity and will add on new types of cheeses, including Parmesan and specialty cheeses. We will also add additional butter packaging capacities this summer with new equipment arriving from Switzerland that will allow us to take our products to retail and a larger food service segment. We also have plans to construct our small batch manufacturing facility here in Colorado Springs off Hagerman Street. Here we will offer hands-on cheesemaking classes, retail products and small rooftop patio for pairing events!

New Sawatch Facility
Photo Credit – Colorado Springs Gazette

Who is your biggest culinary hero and why?

Tim, my husband. Strongest entrepreneur I have ever met and passionate about everything he does.

What advice would you give to a woman thinking of starting a culinary business?

Taking the jump to start a brand and business from the ground up is not for everyone. Do not be afraid of taking risks. Make sure you are passionate about the product/business. Build relationships along the way and always take care of the people who helped you get started.

Cheese Making in Progress
Photo Credit – Sawatch Artisan Foods

As you can see, Jennifer and her husband, Tim, are doing amazing things here in Colorado Springs. I appreciate that they are committed to quality over quantity. It motivates me to shop locally, spread the word, and eat only high caliber dairy products from now on. Life is too short to eat subpar cheese & butter, am I right?!  I am stoked about their future plans to open a facility where we can learn how to make cheese, do cheese pairings, and buy retail products. This all sounds like an epic date/girl’s night to me! I look forward to watching Sawatch Artisan Foods grow and thrive here in our beautiful state.

I created Pot Roast Poutine to enjoy my Sawatch Artisan Cheese Curds and provided to this easy to follow recipe for you to make at home. Enjoy!!

Check Sawatch Artisan Food’s Socials to find out more information:

Website: https://sawatchartisanfoods.com/

Instagram : https://instagram.com/sawatchartisanfoods?igshid=YmMyMTA2M2Y=

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sawatchartisanfoods/

Pot Roast Poutine

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