Who We Are

Cheese is our passion.

 

​In 2012 our founder, Jessica Keahey, fell head over heels in love with cheesemaking and envisioned bringing the artisanal cheese movement to her home state.  Today, Sweet Freedom Cheese is the first independent, cut-to-order cheese shop and education center in Northwest Arkansas.  Sweet Freedom partners with local businesses, colleges, schools, and other institutions to teach workshops, lectures, and classes about cheese and cheesemaking around Arkansas. 

 

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Jessica Keahey, Founder

After receiving her degrees in civil engineering, Jessica spent over a decade as a designer and project manager for environmental public works projects.  Her background in science, love of good food, and curious dabbling in fermentation naturally led her to the fascinating and tasty world of cheese. 

 

Jessica founded Sweet Freedom in 2013 and has studied extensively with cheesemakers and mongers in the US and around the globe before opening the cheese shop in 2018, the same year she was chosen as the scholarship recipient for the American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professional exam and earned the CCP distinction. Jessica holds a WSET Level 3 certification with the Wine & Spirit Education Trust and has also recently been profiled in Women Make Arkansas: Conversations with 50 and Culture Magazine.

Laura Cochran

Head Cheesemonger

Laura grew up in Fayetteville and attended the University of Arkansas, earning a degree in French (which she  probably never imagined would come in handy pronouncing the names of all our French cheeses).  After 10 years in collegiate administration, Laura pursued a long-held dream to attend culinary school, graduating from Brightwater in 2020 with a degree in Food Studies and emphasis in Artisanal Foods.

Her favorite part of the culinary world is learning about foods sourced and produced using old-world style techniques, particularly honey cultivation, bread making, and (of course) cheesemaking.  When she's not mongering or in her kitchen at home, Laura loves spending time outdoors camping and hiking with her husband and their very spoiled dog, Milo.

PattyJo Hinkel

Director of Culinary Experience

Building on her experiences working in the food industry, PJ moved from her home state of Wyoming to Arkansas in the fall of 2017 to attend Brightwater culinary school where she graduated with degrees in Culinary, Artisanal  Foods, and Pastry Arts in 2020.  She holds certifications as a Cicerone Certified Beer Server, WSET Wine & Spirits Level 1, ServSafe Food Handler, and Specialty Coffee Association barista.

 

PJ joined the team at Sweet Freedom Cheese after completing her culinary internship with us in 2019. She credits her fun co-workers as her favorite part of the job, well.... right after getting to play with cheese all day. Along with being a brilliant and resourceful chef, we think she's a true cheese artist!

Luke Pace

Cheese & Charcuterie Specialist

Michigan born, Arkansas raised, Luke is currently enrolled in Brightwater culinary school with plans for graduating next year.  Luke completed his culinary internship at Sweet Freedom Cheese in 2019, and we couldn't be happier that it led to him joining our dynamic cheese team.

Luke is a adventurous eater and enjoys the many creative outlets than cooking brings, which he says includes working with cheese and charcuterie. You'll see him at the counter answering questions or creating delicious cheese & charcuterie plates that are a feast for the eyes. Outside cheesin', Luke enjoys reading fiction and camping with friends and family.

Brianna Bishop

Production & Inventory Specialist

Brianna is also a graduate of Brightwater culinary institute, earning her degree in Baking and Pastry Arts in 2020, and holds certifications as a Cicerone Certified Beer Server, WSET Wine & Spirits Level 1, as well as ServSafe certifications for both Food Handling and Alcohol.

 

Completing her culinary internship with Sweet Freedom Cheese in 2019 sparked her love for fromage and launched a career in cheese. Brianna enjoys learning about new cheeses, constructing gorgeous cheese & charcuterie platters, and considers working at Sweet Freedom Cheese "one of the best experience in her life". We promise we didn't make her say that.

 

When she's not busy at the cheese shop, Brianna enjoys crafting, crocheting, painting, sewing, and wrangling her cats.

Shelby Thomas
Cheesemonger

Shelby joined Sweet Freedom Cheese in 2018 as our first employee - we knew instantly it was a perfect match made in cheese heaven. She has been instrumental in building our thriving cheese shop even before the doors were officially open, and we'd be lost without her wit, energy, and organizational skills.

 

A Texas native, Shelby has been an Arkansan thru and thru since 2002, residing now in Rogers with her husband, dog, and slightly disgruntled cat. She enjoys exploring NWA with her family, as well as writing short stories, knitting, reading, and immersing herself in true crime podcasts when she's not otherwise slinging cheese at Arkansas' first cut-to-order cheese shop.