Melbourne may pride itself on providing some of the best blues, bries and goudas. But cheese experts say it still has a way to go to match the best, Christine Byllaardt writes.
As Australia’s culinary capital, we certainly know our food. But when it comes to dairy; the experts believe Melbourne’s trendy cheese scene is still playing catch up to global cities.
Melbourne is home to cheese bars, maturation cellars and fromage food vans, and, thanks to the new breed of passionate cheesemongers, Melburnians can get their hands on some of the best blues, brie’s and goudas in our region.
So why is Melbourne behind on the international spectrum?
Richard Cornish, senior food writer for The Age’s Epicure, says he believes that the Melbourne cheese scene is playing catch up and not yet where it should be.
“Imagine Melbourne without great shoe shops, without art galleries, without great wine stores. Melbourne without great cheese stores; we’re not a global city. We’re not in the game if we don’t have these things.”
a connoisseur of cheese; a cheese fancier
In the last three years, Melbourne’s cheese industry has transformed into a turophile’s paradise, with many in-the-shadows trends joining the movement.
Connoisseurs can enjoy their cheese now at more places than ever; everywhere from market deli’s counters to Michelin star restaurants with their own cheese carts (yes – it gets wheeled to your table.)
From inner city Melburnians making Camembert in their tiny apartments, to Milk the Cow’s innovative cheese and beverage pairing concepts, head cheesemonger Laura Lown says, “It’s great to see the local scene embracing the concept…”
a person who sells cheese, butter, and other dairy products
Since Milk the Cow Fromagerie and its five-metre long cheese cabinet joined Melbourne’s cheese scene in 2012, owner Daniel Verheyen has noticed its fast growing popularity and competition popping up.
Food writer Richard Cornish, who has noticed a huge retail presence of cheese in the last stw years, says, “When you see specialty cheese shops and you see huge amounts of real estate dedicated to cheese… you know people are really dedicating themselves to that art.
“When you see places like Milk the Cow open up, that’s when you know cheese is hitting its straps.”
While many Melburnians love to indulge in the luxury of these specialty cheese stores, others are inspired by the self-sustainability of making their own. Graham Redhead, who has been teaching cheese making to Australian’s for 20 years, says that the cheese making at home scene is building momentum, as people want to make their own products.
“They love to know where their food comes from, its all about traceability and satisfaction that they know how their products are made,” he says.
Redhead teaches intensive two-day courses to anyone with a passion for food and cheese, and stresses that people don’t need a fancy kit to make their own at home, all you need is a few items out of your pantry and some good quality milk.
And a spare few hours to thicken your milk and cut your curds.
The government imposes strict pasteurisation laws against raw milk products. Although recent changes of the Food Standards Code allow Australian producers to make some styles of semi hard cheese, soft cheeses remain unpermitted.
the process of heating milk in order to destroy any harmful micro-organisms
Cornish says, “Personally I’d like to see better cheese in restaurants, better cheese offers in markets and delis; we’re treading ground, there’s been no quantum leaps forward.”
According to Tourism Victoria, Melbourne has more than 3,500 restaurants and serves up cuisines from more than 70 countries, which means for a smaller player such as Australian cheese, it can be hard to compete in the industry. However, it hasn’t been hard for this favourite food to sweep our palettes and be welcomed with open arms (and mouths).
Internationally, Australia’s tiny cheese market still has a long way to go, but a small group of Australian cheese makers are working on injecting new life into our artisan cheeses by harvesting the natural microbes from milk used by farmhouse cheese makers.
Milk the Cow’s Lara Lown says, “It’s a relatively new industry here, but it’s growing quickly and there’s so much innovation in Australia which is the big difference to Europe, where the cheeses are ancient and traditional.”
With local cheese festivals becoming a regular occurrence and small cheese producers popping up, the future of Australian cheese is looking promising. In spring alone, Melbourne hosted four cheese festivals, – one, which attracted 33,000 passionate foodies – showcasing our finest artisan, cheeses as well as many international favorites.
“Australian cheese makers are playing with their great produce and their methods to create unique new cheeses and I can’t wait to see where it goes next,” she says.
As well as pairing and selling hundreds of cheeses from around the world, Milk the Cow offer classes and events for people see how they pair their cheeses with different beverages, to bring out the best in the produce.
Whether you prefer a sherry and some manchego from the market, or a cabernet with some of the most ancient blue vein from France, Melbourne can now provide – and it is not hard to find.
It may not be the most nutritious part of your diet, but the many different trends around Melbourne in the last few years have proven that for many Melburnians, cheese is not just a food – it’s a lifestyle.
As Daniel Verheyen says, “We’re in the midst of a cheese revolution.”
A sneak peak at Williamstown Cheese and Wine Festival 2015…
Cheese, like many great foods, has become a major trend in Melbourne’s foodie scene. Without the many events and festivals that promote our regions local produce, it can be hard for small businesses to build an image with the public.
I went to the Williamstown Wine and Cheese Festival, where 2,000 culinary lovers gathered to taste some of the best cheese and produce in our region.
I spoke to Matthieu Megard from L’Artisian Cheese about how events like this influence his business!