Derbyshire apprentice follows in Stilton-making family's footsteps as he is named Young Cheesemaker of the Year
A young Derbyshire apprentice, who is the fourth generation in his family to make Stilton in the same village, has been named Young Cheesemaker of the Year at an online ceremony.
Ryan Gee, 23, who works for Hartington Creamery at Pikehall Farm, Matlock was presented with the prestigious honour at the recent Virtual Cheese Awards 2021.
The artisan handmade cheese shop, who are the only Derbyshire Stilton makers in the UK, also picked up a gold award for their unusual invention of chocolate and chilli cheese along with a silver for their regional classic made alongside their Stilton, Shropshire Blue.
In its second year, the Virtual Cheese Awards were born out of the restrictions of the Covid-19 pandemic and the competition has attracted cheesemakers from across the nation to submit their finest dairy offerings to be judged by a panel.
Apprentice Ryan has been making cheese at the Hartington Creamery Pikehall Farm site for the last six years – keeping up with his family’s tradition of cheesemaking as he is the fourth generation Hartington stilton maker.
The 23-year-old, who was named Young Cheesemaker of the Year 2021, is following in the footsteps of his uncle, grandparents and great grandfather who were all village dwellers and workers at the Matlock-based business.
Managing director of Hartington Creamery Robert Gosling said: "Ryan has been an invaluable part of team Hartington as we changed the business in the face of the Covid restrictions.
"It has been all about innovation and adapting to find new sales channels.
"Ryan has helped create variations to our core Designated Origin UK Protected, Stilton and Dovedale Blue Cheese range which has helped us secure the future of our creamery.
“Ryan is the future of Stilton Cheesemaking in Hartington and Derbyshire that has existed since 1900."
The apprentice, who is said to be ‘over the moon’ with his accolade, added: "I was delighted to win the award, also astonished to have won, but I couldn't have done it without the support of all at Hartington Creamery."
The business which is over 120 years old and makes their cheese by hand using skills handed down through the generations, is one of the UK’s six remaining licensed makers of the protected and trademarked Stilton cheese.
Ryan is described as the future of the creamery with his own family legacy of making the organisation’s Stilton cheese and is dubbed as having ‘blue veins running through his blood’.
Hartington Creamery can trace its origins back to the Duke of Devonshire, who laid the foundation for the first creamery in 1870.
The first-ever Derbyshire Stilton was made in 1900 at the Dove Dairy and the same traditional recipe continues to be used by cheesemakers today.
The creamery passed through the ownership of Nuttalls, then Dairy Crest, and at one point employed 300 people in Hartington.
But in 2009, after Dairy Crest was sold to a rival Stilton maker, the factory was closed.
The Stilton making tradition was finally reinstated on October 17, 2012 when the new Hartington Creamery made its first cheese at Pikehall Farm.