THE CHEESE PROJECT
Start-Up CheesemakerMaureen House, Owner/Cheesemaker
The Cheese Project was established in the second half of 2014 with the aim of providing a range of hand made fresh cheese varieties for Canberra consumers and restaurants. It is based in an urban setting in Canberra and is the only commercial cheese-making business in the area. It has a small cheese-making (hopefully removable) premises in a warehouse in an industrial area. Milk is sourced from Canberra Milk.
How did you get started in the industry?
I have had a long standing interest in cheese-making having grown up in an Italian family on a farm in WA. After 20 years in the public service in Canberra I decided to make a change from 2013. The timing was great in that I was able to be part of the first cohort of graduates from the Artisan Cheese Making Academy of Australia (TAFE-SA) and had some resources to invest in a small cheese making facility. After a few months product development, I started selling at the Canberra (Southside) Farmers market and building up a client base of restaurants. I am still very much in the early stages adapting to market demands and working to develop my customer base and product range.
Tell us a bit about your cheeses
I make varieties of unripened cheese, in the main to provide a new experience for Canberrans who can access cheeses from almost anywhere but not those that have been made a day or so before they have the opportunity to consume them. I make lactic set fresh curds, a very fresh primo sale, fresh cheddar curds and cow's milk haloumi. I also find that there is a demand from farmers market customers for value added products such as marinated curd and products that reflect the changes of the season. This adds complexity to the production process but is a necessary part of engaging and keeping customers. My customers are pleased that there is someone here providing them with a product that is made locally.
What is your favourite part about being a cheese maker?
Being able to be creative. Getting good feedback from a pleased customer.
What are the biggest challenges you face in your role?
Finding the time and energy to do everything - grow the business while working on perfecting the product and growing my knowledge base.
What opportunities do you see for the future of the Australian artisan cheese industry?
I think there is unlimited opportunity. Customers, especially restaurants appreciate artisan products that reflect an area and that give them options to differentiate themselves.
What does being part of ASCA mean to you?
It means I am not alone.