Award-winning cheese manufacturer Nat Caputo has spent his life devoted to the Italian food importing business his parents founded more than 40 years ago. Here he shares the story behind the business and what is currently on his island.
Caputo Cheese has grown to 140 employees with six facilities in Melrose Park, manufacturing 80,000 pounds of fresh mozzarella per week and 100,000 to 150,000 pounds of Parmesan, Romano, and Asiago per day. We are award winners for many of our fresh mozzarella products including our burrata, which won both the World and U.S. Championship Cheese Contests back-to-back for three years running now. Our customer base is made up of food manufacturers, restaurant chains, and food distributors that range from large to small—from national chains like Panera Bread to smaller specialty operations like Lake Forest’s Amidei Mercantino. My parents started the business as an Italian food-importing business in 1978, eventually focusing solely on cheese. I started in the business early in my life, on the cash register at 10-years-old, cutting and wrapping cheese at 12, and in the deli at 16. I was making deliveries on a truck at 18, then working through my college years at Loyola University, doing the full job rotation as our company grew. Production line, line supervisor, operations, logistics, purchasing, sales … then into the lead role two years out of college in 1996. Many people know my sister Trina as well, as she worked in the Lake Forest store while I ran the cheese manufacturing in Melrose.
Things on my island right now:
- Paycheck Protection Plan application and documents
- Packaging samples for our new Elevated Cow product line, a fresh mozzarella infused with CBD
- My Motorola radio, which connects to my team of 30 supervisors
- Pea protein and fava bean protein as we are now manufacturing vegan and vegetarian cheeses
- A stack of industry newspapers, such as The Cheese Reporter, The Cheese Market News, Restaurant News and Culture Magazine