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Canada’s 150th – The Cheese Factory

Celebrating Canada’s 150th Birthday with heartwarming stories from our family of suppliers who chose to make Canada home.
By Shelley Boettcher

Canada’s 150th – The Cheese Factory

Celebrating Canada’s 150th Birthday with heartwarming stories from our family of suppliers who chose to make Canada home.

By Shelley Boettcher

Canada’s 150th – The Cheese Factory

Doing it is his whey.

‘Perfectly Canadian cheese’ means French recipes, Yugoslavian techniques, Alberta business savvy and locally-sourced milk.

It’s still dark at 3 a.m. but Brano Stanisic is already hard at work, separating curds and whey. The master cheesemaker’s fresh cheese curds are the signature topping added to French-fries swimming with gravy and voila the Quebecois-inspired, comfort-food dish poutine.

If the morning queues for curds at Edmonton’s Cheese Factory are anything to go by, they’re just as popular in Alberta as they are out East. But they must be made fresh that day. Brano is happy to sacrifice sleep to get it just right. And be the only place in Edmonton to make them.

Brano has spent many sleepless nights and made many sacrifices. He lost his home and all possessions escaping the Bosnian War and the breakup of the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. He fled to Canada with his wife Zeljka and young sons Bojan and Danijel,
hoping to build a new life. Forever grateful to still have one.

James Byron Bissett (left) former Canadian Ambassador to the former Yugoslavia helped Brano’s family come to Canada.

First Canadian friends. Mena & John Aries helped the Stanisic family settle in Canada.

Recovering from the trauma of war, for Brano the chance to be part of Canada’s cultural mosaic is a privilege; “It’s an example to the world that people from all corners of the globe can live together in perfect harmony. All Canadians are given equal opportunities, rights and freedoms. These things can sometimes be taken for granted but they are the core foundations of Canada and through them, I am respected for who I am.”

Who he is today, is an artisanal maestro Alberta is lucky to have. Brano learnt growing up, watching his grandmother make cheese in her countryside kitchen. He became so obsessed that at University, instead of studying for his major in Education, he’d often sneak off to the library to find out everything there was to know about anything mildly cheesy.

Partners Mario Michel (left) & Brano Stanisic.

Brano has become expert in making Gouda, Havarti and Mozzarella, Cheddar, Monterey Jack, Feta and The Cheese Factory’s much beloved and unusual ‘beer cheeses’; products he introduced to The Cheese Factory after owner Quebecois Mario Michel took Brano on in 2000. At last, a chance to make it after nearly a decade struggling to settle the family into their new Canadian life, learn the language and get the business break he needed.

“I was given an opportunity to expand on my passion, grow it through business and turn it into a calling. I continue to learn and evolve into a master cheese-maker.”

Fast-forward seventeen years from his big break and Brano is now part-owner of The Cheese Factory, a popular brand in all Italian Centre Shop stores. His wife Zeljka runs the company alongside him. Again, brimming with gratitude, he puts it down to living “In a country with a strong and stable economy, where hard work is rewarded with the ability to earn meaningful income and achieve financial stability.”

Brano & Zeljka when they first started to run The Cheese Factory together.

Brano spends a lot of time scouring for new recipes, experimenting and modifying the old ways with a modern twist and personal flair. He’s equally passionate nurturing relationships, admitting, “I like to sneak into the store and speak with our customers. There is no greater reward than hearing our customers speak passionately about our cheese.”

Good relationships also means buying local, 100 per cent fresh pasteurized milk from Edmonton-area farmers: Preservative-free and using non-animal rennet, the thirty-five different cheese varieties are all kosher, gluten-free and halal recognized.

As the nation marks its 150th birthday in 2017, Stanisic smiles and couldn’t be happier, “We are grateful and proud to be Canadians. I am given an opportunity to enjoy a higher quality of life. My children are given the opportunity for higher education. And, we can live in a politically stable country.”

The Stanisic boys are now grown, with children of their own. Danijel lives in Calgary and is an Electrician Journeyman. Bojan lives in Coquitlam and is a Planning and Engineering Manager at Telus.

Brano and Zeljka are proud grandparents to Luka, Milos and Marko. All born first generation Canadians.

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