Good luck to Mr. Ramini. the way he talks about his mission-driven brethren is not unlike many in my own career field. There’s a fine line between mission=financial success and mission=bankruptcy. And there’s always the envy of the small business who is better than the bigger one… but has no skill for business and marketing.
Either way, seems this is a classic example of the American spirit during American Cheese Month.
Ramini admits to having the classic Silicon Valley personality — Type A, obsessive, self-promoting — and this has not always gone over well with the laid-back, lower-profile, communally spirited artisanal cheesemakers in the Bay Area. Ramini is media-savvy and has somehow managed to generate national attention before producing any first-rate cheese. (“That’s catchy,” he said about my Great White Whale theory of buffalo mozzarella. “I wish I had thought of that myself. I’d have been using it for over a year now.”) He seems to see many of his artisanal-cheese-world competitors as financially naïve, given the fact that, despite all their high principles and fellow-feeling, they can’t afford to quit their day jobs because they manage to give away so many of their profits to middlemen. Ramini’s goals are more ambitious: to fill his 79-gallon vat with buffalo milk every single day, turn it into perfect mozzarella and sell it directly to restaurants and consumers, with no middlemen, for $35 a pound — a plan that he calculates would yield around $1.5 million a year and set him up for the rest of his life.
“I haven’t met a cheesemaker yet who says, ‘That’s a brilliant idea,’ ” Ramini told me. “Tuning out part of the community was not in my business plan. It’s an unforeseen challenge.”