Will Rodgers

Cheesemaker
STANTHORPE CHEESE & DAIRY GIRLS CAFE

Location: Stanthorpe, Granite Belt Wine Country, Queensland

What year did you begin cheesemaking?

“My first day of cheesemaking was at Stanthorpe Cheese on Australia Day 2016. It’s now known in our family as ‘Cheeseversary’.”

What made you decide to become a cheesemaker?

“I’ve always wanted to work with my hands in a traditional craft. After years working in the education sector a tree change presented itself at Stanthorpe Cheese. I took it!”

What did your introduction to cheesemaking look like?

I learned the craft in a fairly traditional hands-on informal apprenticeship under the previous owner and her head cheesemaker. Working side by side for several weeks taught me all the skills I use today when making cheese.

Did you have a career before?

“I was an Early Years Educator for many years previous to becoming a Cheesemaker. I specialised in Outdoor Education, Forest Schooling, Steiner Education and taught in Australia, Scotland and England.
I loved being a teacher, but I love being a Cheesemaker even more!”

What does your day-to-day actually look like?

“Each day I produce a different batch of cheese, so there’s a lot of variety. No two days are the same.
The general pattern for the day is – Finish up previous day’s cheese (clean up), heat up the milk, set the culture (clean up), cut the curd, stir, heat the curd (clean up), drain, salt and hoop the cheese (clean up). Finally there’s always some cleaning to do! Luckily I do enjoy a spot of cleaning”

Tell us about the product or products you are best known for?

“We make a wide variety of cheeses from fresh cheese (Feta), white moulds (Tait, Snowfall and Snowflake), smoked cheese (Outlaw), hard cheeses (Thulimbah, Rex, Pepper and Stanthorpe Matured), washed rinds (Summit Sunset and Rosco’s Rough Red), to blue cheese (Brass Monkey Blue and Blue Lagoon).

Our iconic cheese is probably Brass Monkey Blue – a sweet, salty and tangy firm textured blue that surprises people with its accessibility. I’ve even convinced people who hate blue cheese to try it and buy it! It is unique and delicious.”

Do you have a favourite product, or one you are most excited about and why?

“Apart from Brass Monkey Blue described above, I really enjoy making (and eating) a white mould cheese called Tait. It is a white mould cheese with a smooth pate that develops small eyes in the pate as it ages. It is hand salted externally and develops a lovely white bloomy rind as it ages in the white room. Totally unique and delicious.”

Do you have a favourite tool in your trade, that you just couldn’t live/work without?

“My cheese knife. Lots of bigger cheese factories use mechanical cutters or huge cheese harps to cut the curd. We use a simple long bladed knife to cut the curd. It treats the curd very gently without smashing it up and losing those precious milk solids. It allows us to make an artisan product with love and care. It really shows in the finished product.”

What do you wish everyone knew about your products?

All our cheeses are unique. Each one has a recipe that has been developed and refined over the years and represents a unique product not found anywhere else in Australia. They are each a little slice of the gorgeous Granite Belt.

When you’re not cheesemaking, what do you like to do out and about on the Granite Belt?

“I’m a keen bushwalker and Girraween is my go-to place for exploring. I have been walking here since my University days in the early 80s and love climbing and walking amongst the huge expanses of granite. We are so lucky to live in an area of such stunning natural beauty.”

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