December 18, 2020
You could say that Joseph Chaeban has Gruyère genes. As a second generation cheese maker, he learned the secret to creating exceptional artisanal cheese from his father, Daham, who honed his skills in Germany and Switzerland after fleeing Lebanon with his family in the 1970s.
Some of Joseph’s earliest memories are from Northern Africa where his family ran Fromagerie Chaeban, a premium, European-style cheese plant and cheese shop. Every morning he’d creep into the aging room to grab an entire wheel of Camembert for breakfast.
It wasn’t just eating the cheese that he loved, it was the whole process of creating the cheese; all the planning and the problem solving that went into crafting this living organism. And the best part, he got to do it beside his dad.
The Chaeban family moved to Canada when Joseph was six, but unfortunately like for many immigrant professionals, the language barrier made it difficult for Joseph’s father break into his trained field. The pair still made cheese together, but only in the basement of their home.
As Joseph got older, he tried his hand at marketing jobs and running a trucking company with his dad, but nothing lit the same spark. Finally, his father put his foot down and told Joseph to follow his passion – go to school, get your dairy science degree, and make cheese.
On borrowed funds Joseph set out for Vermont University, where everyone was wowed by his already vast knowledge and insider secrets for making amazing European-style cheese. This meant multiple dairy consulting jobs right after graduation, which took him all over the country. Sometimes his dad would tag along, lending bits of advice that impressed even the most hardened cheese makers.
Joseph, looking to find some stability for his young family, took a permanent management position with a Winnipeg cheese plant in 2015. While he did help with product development, Joseph desired to be the head cheese of his own operation, and decided to look into running his own business.
Around the same time his wife Zainab’s family were on their way to the city as refugees of the Syrian war, and Joseph not only needed funds, but jobs for them when they arrived. Together, with their business partner Darryl, the couple dared to try another dairy endeavour – Chaeban Ice Cream – which has been serving up premium, made-from-scratch ice cream from their store front and retailers across Manitoba since 2017.
While Joseph adored this summertime treat, Winnipeg’s winter often took the heat out of ice cream sales. With the right equipment already in place, and a mind for making things happen, Joseph decided it was time to take the (cheese) wheel out for another spin.
Chaeban Artisan takes Joseph’s skill for cheese making and pairs it with the fresh, premium ingredients customers have come to know from his ice cream products. Whether it’s making smooth, spreadable Labneh (think of it as Lebanese cream cheese) or crafting the wash and rind of a hard cheese, Joseph puts in a passion his father would sure to be proud of.