With three Fonterra cheeses taking top honours at the 2012 Cuisine New Zealand Champions of Cheese Awards last month, Fonterra Brands NZ spoke to Hautapu site’s expert cheese grader, Peter Sinclair, about what it takes to create the perfect cheese.
Every year, the Cuisine NZ Champions of Cheese Awards, designed to honour excellence in the manufacture of New Zealand cheese, is independently judged by a team of expert local judges.
As one of the judges for the last nine years, Peter Sinclair, Technologist Lead at our Hautapu Technical Centre in New Zealand’s Waikato region, is not your average cheese grader. His taste buds were once insured for $10 million by Mainland Cheese Australia as a quality benchmark for their cheeses.
Peter explained the four key criteria on which all cheeses were judged at this year’s Awards.
“The first bite is with the eye so it’s all about appearance. Then we judge the cheese’s aroma, third the texture and lastly the flavour.”
The connoisseur, whose favourite cheeses are Kapiti’s Kikorangi Blue and Mainland’s Vintage Cheddar, said the best part about working for Fonterra is being able to taste the finest cheese in New Zealand every day.
Fonterra’s close-knit family of workers is a crucial ingredient in creating high-quality cheeses.
We produce some very competitive and consistent cheeses, which are seen as a benchmark for quality on the world stage.”
Peter is also one of the judges at the International Cheese Awards in Nantwich in England, which receives 3000 entries every year.
His career started at the Waitoa Cheese factory in 1985. Working in the Grade room on a weekly basis, he picked up the skills necessary for cheese grading and developed a distinctive palate for the product.
Nathan McRae, acting Process Manager at Edendale Cheese, said Edendale Cheddar’s prize is something the site is very proud of.
It shows that the team’s hard work and dedication, from cow-to-customer, is paying off.
Karen O’Brien, Speciality Cheese Manager at our Bridge St site in Eltham, Taranaki, said the key elements in making a champion cheese are the pride and patience of Fonterra’s team.
“Our cheese makers put a lot into what they do and they really care about it. Producing consistent, good quality cheese every day is a fine skill,” said Karen. “It is very pleasing that the New Zealand consumers also recognise this in our cheeses – with Kapiti Kikorangi awarded the consumer voted Favourite Cheese award”.
Many of our 2011 medal-winning cheeses performed strongly again this year, with gold medals being awarded to Kapiti Pakiri Aged Cheddar, Kapiti Aorangi Brie, Kapiti Ramara washed rind, Kapiti Kahurangi Creamy Blue, and Mainland Vintage Cheddar.
Overall, the Awards received 430 entries from 36 companies throughout New Zealand.