Meet the cheese artisans of Adelaide
womeninfocus

The cream of the South Australian food industry, Victoria McClurg, Founder, Barossa Valley Cheese Company, Sheree Sullivan, Owner and General Manager of Udder Delights and Kris Lloyd, General Manager and Head Cheesemaker of Woodside Cheese Wrights, have each turned their passion for food into a thriving business. This November we’re bringing these three leaders together at our Adelaide ConnectYou event to share their experiences, uncanny commonalities, diverse journeys and the rich South Australian food culture.

Victoria McClurg (right) of Barossa Valley Cheese Company

Growing up on meat and three veg, it wasn’t until Victoria McClurg was at university, studying winemaking that she started to really explore food and wine in all its glory. As with most Australian kids at the time, she was brought up on classic Australian cheddar which she devoured every day. Little did she know that this fascination with cheese would lead her to starting a cheese cellar in the Barossa Valley.

Once Victoria had finished her winemaking degree, she travelled extensively overseas. She noticed that particularly in Europe, there is a strong emphasis on regionality, this ignited her passion for the integrity of regional food and more specifically cheese. Barossa Valley Cheese Company (BVCC) was born in 2003 and has since become an integral part of the tapestry of the Barossa.

Victoria insists that BVCC won’t stray from its artisan ethos and become an industrialised factory, a view shared by Sheree Sullivan of Udder Delights. “We love food, and we really love cheese. So we created a place that’s all about handmade cheese and our region’s produce. And we bundled lots of foodie experiences together so that it is really easy for our visitors to enjoy,” shares Sheree. 

Udder Delights was established in the Adelaide Hills town of Lobethal, by Trevor Dunford and his late wife Estelle as a goat cheese factory in 1999. Under the expert guidance of their daughter Sheree and her husband Saul Sullivan, the company has grown from very humble beginnings to become a renowned and respected brand across Australia. The Udder Delights Group now boasts an extensive portfolio that includes the flagship Udder Delights goat and cow milk artisan cheeses; the organic biodynamic Divine Dairy range; and the fabulous French style brand of Crémeux Provincial Cheese. 

Kris Lloyd of Woodside Cheese Wrights

The handcrafted artisan cheeses are sold through an award-winning cellar door and to external distributors including airlines. The cellar door offers a range of dairy-focused food experiences. Sheree and Saul estimate that an Udder Delights cheese product is bought somewhere in Australia every 30 seconds.

Similarly, Kris Lloyd carved a niche as a specialist cheesemaker of goat and cow cheese for her artisan cheese store, Woodside Cheese Wrights, and in the process turned a failed business into one of the most celebrated and respected in Australia.

Initially, Kris wasn’t involved in the cheesemaking side of the business  but she was intrigued by the process and decide to give it a go herself. “One day I just thought I’d have a go at making cheese. I have fantastic staff who taught me what to do and I followed the first cheese I made until it was ready to eat. It struck me as unbelievable that I could produce something so absolutely delicious from raw materials.”

Once she caught the cheesemaking bug, Kris was determined to make high quality cheeses with a real point of difference in the market. “I wanted to challenge the flavour of cheese,” she explains.

“But like all things that sound romantic, cheesemaking involves a lot of hard work. There were lots of things I didn’t know – it’s a complex process and anything and everything can go wrong. One of the challenges with cheesemaking is producing a consistent product. If you take milk straight from the farm you get seasonal variations, which is what leads to the inconsistencies. But we took the time to learn how to make that work for us,” says Kris, who explains that most cheesemakers in Australia are self-taught and there’s a minimum five to six year learning period to become a cheesemaker. “Within that period you have lots of failures, but I always have a positive attitude and I’ve learnt from my mistakes.”

Against this backdrop Kris’s vision for the future echoes Victoria’s and Sheree’s, “I want Australian cheesemakers to be noted for their product in the same way our winemakers are,” she says.  

And South Australia is the perfect canvas for their unique art. “We are fortunate here to have a rich heritage of food culture from a wide variety of people that have settled in our state. Added to that, our environment is of premium quality in which to grow the highest of standard of produce,” Victoria explains.

For Victoria, Kris and Sheree, it’s all about persistence, passion, patience and commitment not just to your own business, but to the development of the industry as a whole.

 

Join us for an evening of storytelling and connections. In conversation Victoria McClurg, Sheree Sullivan and Kris Lloyd.

Event Details

Location: National Wine Centre of Australia, Exhibition Hall, Cnr of Botanic and Hackney Road, Adelaide 
Date: 19 November 2015
Time: 6:00pm for a 6:30pm start – 8:00pm 
Price: $40 (ticket also includes beverages and canapés)
RSVP: Click here to register

1 Comment

Great article - and my favourite food! Shame I can't be in Adelaide for your event.