Artisan cheese-makers from the Highlands have taken out the nation’s premier produce award’s scholarship.
Cressida and Michael McNamara from Pecora Dairy in Robertson were awarded the Alla Wolf-Tasker Foundation Scholarship at the delicious Produce Awards on Monday night, August 7.
The scholarship aims to support the recipient in furthering “their knowledge and understanding in their chosen field of endeavour”.
Now it in it’s 12th year, the awards celebrate the country’s most outstanding ingredients, producers, farmers’ markets, innovators, and emerging chefs and regions.
This is the first year the awards have included a scholarship, which is designed to fund educational travel, engagement with other practitioners in the field, and relevant courses and workshops.
Launching Pecora Dairy in 2011, this is the fourth year in a row that the McNamara’s have been recognised as finalists in the delicious awards.
Michael McNamara said winning the scholarship was “a big show of faith” from the judges.
The couple plan to use the scholarship to fund a trip to France to learn the art of making raw milk cheese from master affineurs in Lyon.
“They know how to make a great cheese into an awesome cheese,” Mr McNamara said.
“We’re trying to make a benchmark raw milk cheese and [Lyon] truly is the only place in the world where this knowledge exists.”
“They have been making raw milk cheeses for centuries.”
Legislation around food safety in Australia has recently changed to allow producers to make raw milk cheeses. But they must still undergo a set of rigorous health checks for the cheese to be sold legally.
“To date no one in the country has made a raw milk cheese that hasn’t been cooked. It’s technically difficult and testing regimes are quite onerous,” Mr McNamara said.
The McNamara’s run a flock of East Friesan ewes (one of the world's highest milk-producing breed of sheep) on their 93 hectare property in Robertson. Their latest range is available at Biota and Bistro Officina in Bowral and several high-end restaurants in Sydney.