Shooting for the Stars
How Shooting Star Creamery started out as a teenager's passion project.
By Avery Jones / Introduction by Chef Jenn Sills
I, Jenn Sills, am a domestic cheese fanatic; American Cheese Ambassador is a title I will gladly answer to — spread the word! Naturally, I receive a box of cheese in the mail every month and this is where I got my first taste of Shooting Star Creamery; a wedge of Sagittarius that blew my mind and my tastebuds! Little crystals give it an amazing texture and yet it still finishes with a creamy and nutty sweetness. The story of Shooting Star is equally as sweet; starting as the passion project of a teenager with a background in the California cheese game — I hope to be that cool when I get younger.
Born in Modesto, California, the heart of California cheese country, it’s hard for me to remember life before cheese. In my youth, my dad shared his dream of opening his own dairy, and my six-year-old self tagged along, hoping to catch a ride on his delivery cart. A few years later, we moved to Templeton for Dad to fulfill his dairy dreams. At a young age, I was helping to cut and package cheese we produced in the facility.
I grew close with my dad and creamery staff as I transitioned to my new life in Templeton. Many people on staff, a team of mostly women, became mentors and friends, inspiring me to continue making cheese.
As the dairy grew and the company matured, my role there changed. I was in high school when Dad and I hatched a plan for me to make cheese on my own terms. We decided I would start my own cheese company, apart from my father’s, where I could learn how to make cheese and experiment with new styles. This allowed me to take risks with recipes, to explore my creativity, and to have my dad as my mentor.
Over the dinner table, my family and I brainstormed ideas for this new company. What would it be called? What would make it unique? Eventually, I settled on the name Shooting Star Creamery, to reflect my passion for stargazing and the idea of “shooting for the stars.”
Soon after, my dad and I researched to see where there might be room for new types of cheese in the American cheese market. We noted that there weren’t many sheep milk cheeses made domestically, and that most were coming from Europe. In response, I created Aries, a basque style cheese reminiscent of the famous Ossau Iraty, with a firm paste and nutty flavors.
On a whim, I entered Aries into the 2019 American Cheese Society, to receive feedback from other professionals on my cheese. To my surprise and delight, Aries placed third overall in the competition!
I was abroad when I heard the news about Aries, and upon returning to the states found myself, a 15-year-old high schooler, overwhelmed by interview requests.
Due to the sudden attention Aries had given the company, I took the opportunity to give back to my community. My family has a long military history and after reading the book my great grandfather wrote about his time in World War II, I decided I would use the sudden influx of funds to give back to an organization called AmpSurf. AmpSurf is a program that helps veterans and people living with disabilities rehab through surfing and other outdoor activities.
I’m in college now, and since launching Shooting Star I have expanded my line to include three additional cheeses: Leo, Sagittarius, and Scorpio. Founding Shooting Star has been a unique and special journey. I’ve learned things not taught in school, honed a creative craft, connected more deeply with my community, and strengthened my family bonds. My motto is to shoot for the stars — it worked for me!