Laura Chenel founded her company in Sebastopol, CA in 1979 and in the early 1980’s pioneered the success of goat cheese for the American palate.
She grew up in Sebastopol (Sonoma County) where her parents owned a restaurant and she raised dairy goats. There was very limited market for fresh goat milk at the time and she began experimenting with cheese making.
Her original experiments were less than successful and she quickly realized she needed to learn the craft in France. In 1979 she decided to travel to France to live with and study the methods of five producers before returning to the United States. Upon her return to Sonoma County, she combined the cheese making techniques she had learned with her own ideas.
The big moment came in 1981, when Alice Waters (who had founded Chez Panisse in Berkeley ten years earlier) tasted the cheese and placed a standing order for 50 pounds a week. At Chez Panisse, the rounds were coated in bread crumbs, baked, and served on top of a simply dressed mesclun salad. This initiated the iconic “California Goat Cheese Salad”. When you eat a goat cheese salad today, you can trace its roots back to Laura Chenel and Alice Waters.
Laura Chenel took this relationship and blossomed in to the world of food service. It wasn’t until the mid- 90s that she began to introduce retail formats such as Chabis.
In 2006, Laura Chenel sold her company to the Rians Group.
For more than 50 years the Triballat family (Rians Group) of France has specialized in artisan cheese making by supporting the production of authentic goat’s and cow’s milk cheeses, many with the “appellation d’origine protegée (AOP).” The group specializes in finding small family operations and buying them with the promise to keep the product and philosophy intact.
In 2010 Laura Chenel completed her retirement from the goat cheese business when she sold and relocated her herd of 500 goats to one of our existing farmers.