CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio — Dr. Kandice Marchant can teach us all a thing or two about pursuing one's passions in life. After 36 years in a successful career at the Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Marchant switched gears, diving into her love of cheese and the craft of making it, and turning her unique skill set into a business.
Growing up, Dr. Marchant was no stranger to the field of medicine. Her father was a cardiologist, and from a young age, she knew she wanted to go into the field.
She would go on to get her MD and Ph.D. at Case Western Reserve University, where she studied polymer science. She spent her residency at the Cleveland Clinic in pathology and stayed on at the Clinic after her residency was completed.
“I stayed at the Cleveland Clinic for 36 years, eventually ran the blood coagulation lab and then eventually became the Institute Chair of Pathology and Lab Medicine,” she said.
Dr. Marchant was the first woman to hold that position in the Clinic’s history.
In addition to her love of pathology and medicine, Dr. Marchant was also nurturing another interest - cheesemaking.
“I've always loved cheese, and I grew up in Wisconsin and, you know, the cheese I had as a child was Velveeta and shrink-wrapped cheddar, but I married an Englishman, and we spent a lot of time in England,” she said.
Dr. Marchant met her husband, Roger Marchant, while he was a graduate student in biomedical engineering at Case Western. He would go on to help expand her horizons in the world of cheese and serve as a partner in medical studies.
“I got to really like the after-dinner cheese boards, the European style boards, where they bring out 50 different cheeses and you can take a chunk of whatever you liked,” she said.
Inspired, she began to look into how to go about creating her own cheeses, encouraged by Roger to visit cheese shops and attend cheese-making classes. Despite what she calls “dismal” first attempts, she continued on, learning that the science of cheesemaking wasn’t entirely unfamiliar.
“The chemistry of making cheese, where you add an enzyme called rennet and it turns it from liquid milk into curds, in a way is almost identical to the chemistry of blood,” she said. “There's a lot of surprising chemical similarities between curds and clots, and it's really amazing. When I first read that, I had that ‘aha’ moment.”
As she continued to learn, Dr. Marchant began sharing her cheeses with others, including colleagues and family, and the feedback was positive.
“I started to hone the styles of cheeses that I was making and you know, my daughter started saying, ‘Hey mom, these cheeses are really good,’’ she said.
She was further encouraged after she contacted Ohio City Provisions, a butcher and grocer in Ohio City which carries products from Ohio. Dr. Marchant said they expressed interest in carrying her cheeses, and let her know that to move forward, she would need to move to a licensed facility.
From there, she began renting space in a Stark County dairy called Paint Valley Farms, making the drive down when she could, even taking PTO to be present for the lengthy process of making cheese.
After years of what she described as a “high intensity” job at the Clinic, Dr. Marchant stepped down as institute chair and eventually moved to part-time, which allowed her to begin thinking about cheesemaking as a career.
“I went part-time, and I worked three days a week, and then that would allow me to make cheese at least twice or three times a month,” she said.
During the thick of the pandemic, in February of 2021, Dr. Marchant opened up her shop, Marchant Manor Cheese, on Lee Road in Cleveland Heights. She would go on to retire from the Clinic in May of 2022 and focus on her new endeavor.
“Our shop is not just a cheese shop,” she said. “It's, I think, unique in Cleveland, we sell our cheeses, we sell other cheeses and cheese-related products, but we will also tell people how to make cheese.”
3News’ Isabel Lawrence stopped by the dairy and spent an afternoon with Dr. Marchant, where she got an inside look at the lengthy and meticulous process of making cheese.
The journey from starting out as milk to ending up as a finished product in Dr. Marchant’s Cleveland Heights display case can take months, as Dr. Marchant carefully measures, stirs, slices, and molds, crafting delicate curds and tends to them for hours through the night.
While Dr. Marchant makes a variety of cheeses, many with bloomy rinds and created with golden guernsey milk, they all have one thing in common. Dr. Marchant named all of the cheeses after Roger.
“He got to taste some of my initial experiments that were terrible, but I think he would've enjoyed the cheese as they are today," she said. “So all of the cheeses are really in honor of him.”
Influenced by their trips to England, the names of the cheese are inspired by pubs they visited together, the town where they hoped to one day retire together, and references to Roger’s childhood landmarks.
For example, Dr. Marchant’s flagship cheese, the Elmstead Ash, was named for the street Roger grew up on in Birmingham, England, Elmstead Avenue.
Looking to the future, Dr. Marchant hopes to move more of her cheesemaking into her shop, to give people a clearer understanding of the process behind cheesemaking, and an appreciation for where their food comes from.
Her love of the craft, and her journey from medicine, to maker, monger, and mentor, inspired a delicious second act.
“I think for me it was a new challenge,” she said of becoming a small business owner. “That was a huge learning experience, but I love challenges, so that was fun for me.”
For more information on Dr. Marchant’s products and classes, visit her website.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The video above from 3News' Isabel Lawrence previously aired on 3News on July 19, 2022.