While Tarif Hamad has always loved cheese, his career began in the oilpatch. Originally from Syria, he was working in Dubai when his company transferred him to Calgary. Craving the foods they enjoyed in the Middle East, he and his family searched for Mediterranean-style cheeses, but were disappointed with what they found. “They were not good quality, not fresh,” says Hamad. “Being a chemical engineer with an analytical mind, I thought, why don’t I try making this here?” He began experimenting, enlisting help from university professors and cheese experts, and training staff in the art of cheesemaking.
Chinook Cheese began selling commercially in 2019, and Hamad immediately noticed the impact on his friends and community. “This was filling a real need for people,” he says. “They couldn’t find good cheese, and I realized that this was something I could do for my community.” He continues to develop new cheese and dairy products, while balancing cheesemaking with his work in the oilpatch. “Like they say,” he laughs, “growth and comfort do not coexist!”
Location: 20, 2015 32nd Ave. N.E.
Products: Haloumi, feta, labneh, Akawi, string cheese, among others
Where to find: Storefront at 32nd Ave. N.E., Calgary Co-op stores, some Sobey’s locations, ethnic grocery stores