Amarjit Singh is a 62-year-old cheesemaker who runs his factory in Ingersoll, southwestern Ontario along with his wife and son, his brand name is Local Dairy.
He taught himself cheesemaking and has been doing it with a passion for the past 26 years. Last month, his company Local Dairy’s Oaxaca cheese—a semi-firm string cheese that traditionally hails from southern Mexico—took home the award for best mozzarella at the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix, the Oscars of Canadian cheese. People find it hard to believe that a Sikh makes the best South American cheese.
Singh came to Canada when he was 16 years old, and lived by himself until the rest of his family immigrated. When he was old enough, Singh opened a tire store in Scarborough. Though the business was an early success, he was always aware of the fact that Indian cheese—specifically, paneer—was virtually impossible to come by in Canada. After a tire business went sour, Singh and his wife, Gurinder, ventured into the cheese business.
In 1989, Singh entered into a partnership at a Mennonite creamery in Kitchener. When his Mennonite partner went broke, Singh bought out the remaining portion of the business and started making cheese with his wife and Alvarado. In 1999, he relocated the business to Ingersoll, a town of 12,000 people. In the past two decades, Singh has travelled to cheese factories in Mexico, Italy, England, France, India, Turkey, and Cyprus to learn different styles and techniques. Throughout the week, freshly made cheese is distributed to stores and restaurants across Ontario, either with one of Local Dairy’s five delivery trucks, or by Singh himself.