We caught up with Woombye Cheese Company joint owner Karen Paynter to learn about all things cheesy.

Owners of Woombye Cheese – Karen Paynter and sister Sandra Cadby

Where does your passion for cheese stem from?

Karen – I have always since I was a teenager loved shopping for and eating cheese, both white mould and hard cheese.  I don’t really have a sweet tooth, so savoury has always been my choice, you can’t go past a great cheese as a snack or to share a cheese plate with others, there was always cheese in the fridge at our place.

How did you get into the cheese business?

Karen – My late husband Graeme and I had been living in Singapore for many years, both in corporate jobs.  We wanted to come back to Australia and “semi retire” and saw a Cheese Slices episode by Will Studd on TV on a lady making cheese in her stone shed by hand on her property in Ireland.  Graeme said to me “I could do that”.  The next thing I knew within a month, there was a business plan, the property at West Woombye Qld where we still make our cheese was purchased, the dairy was designed by Graeme from internet searches for equipment and sourcing local Qld tradies, Graeme booked himself into a 5 day cheese making course with Carol Wilman at the Dairy Association in Werribee Vic, and somehow, I don’t know how to this day actually, we both moved to West Woombye Qld and Woombye Cheese Company was a reality.

What is your favourite way to eat cheese?

Karen – Really simply is my preference – room temperature oozy cheese with either biscuits or sourdough bread and strawberries, not forgetting a glass of wine.

Do you have a favourite cheese variety?

Karen – Camembert is my favourite.  It was the first cheese we ever made, and to this day its still the same, always makes me smile when I eat our great Camembert.

If you could only eat one variety of cheese for the rest of your life, what would it be? Why?

Karen – Again Camembert for sure.  Its great on its own and fabulous baked with garlic and rosemary paired with fabulous crusty sourdough.

How important is the temperature of the cheese?

Karen – In cheesemaking, very important as is the PH during the making process.  For eating, must be room temperature.  I usually make sure the cheese is out of the fridge and left wrapped in its cheese paper for an hour to make sure you get the right ooze on the cheeseboard.

What’s your favourite part of the cheese-making process? Why?

Karen – I personally like turning the cheese, I love to see all the batch of cheese on their hurdles and feel the cheese when turning it while its growing its white mould.  Early on I loved watching my late husband Graeme cut the curd in the Vat, he always had a smile on his face doing that.  Now I like watching our cheesemaker Stefan Wilson take care in stirring the milk and cutting the curd by hand, knowing that cheese is in good hands.

Are there any up and coming trends to look out for in cheese this year?

Karen – I am seeing more and more, other products being paired with cheese.  Recently our friends at Hum Honey on the Sunshine Coast have been pairing their cold fusion range of honey – such as their Truffle Honey and Lemon Myrtle Honey with our Triple Cream Brie and Camembert, it’s really good.

What do you like most about the Good Food & Wine Show?

Karen – I love the public reaction to tasting our cheese at our stand in Cheese Alley – some people have never had our cheese before and just say it’s the best cheese they have ever had and its fantastic and then buy one of our four packs of cheese in our logo Cooler Bag.  More recently, particularly in Brisbane, we have more and more people say they buy our cheese regularly at retail outlets, they love it and actually make a point to come and see us to taste and buy.  Its very satisfying and makes the whole team feel like we are doing a great job.

If you couldn’t eat cheese, what food would be your passion?

Karen –  Hard question that one, I love all vegetables, not being a big meat eater, so probably organic vegetables.

Other than wine, what do you love drinking with your cheese?

Karen – A great pale larger beer is very refreshing and goes with most of our cheeses.  There are some fantastic micro breweries out there now, particularly in Brisbane.

What is your weirdest cheese combination?

Karen – I once tried a pizza from one of the restaurants in Mooloolaba Qld that bought our cheese, that had 4 cheeses together on it – our Truffle Triple Cream Brie, our Blackall Gold Washed Rind, a Gorganzola Blue and a French Gouda, together with parmesan and cheddar and pizza sauce.  It really was a bit much but the chef insisted it was awesome and popular, jury was out on that one.

Where is the best place for people to start with cheese?

Karen – Start with milder tasting cheeses such as Camembert and Gouda on a cheese platter and then work up to stronger tasting cheeses such as Washed Rind and Truffle cheeses.  We find most people who don’t really know cheese like the milder tasting cheeses best.

Is there any cheese that you don’t like?

Karen – I am not a big fan of Blue Cheese, but don’t mind a milder softer Blue such as a Gorgonzola.  I would not eat Blue cheese on its own from a cheese platter, but I don’t mind it in a recipe such as in a salad or in a pasta sauce.

You can sample and buy from Woombye Cheese within Tucker’s Natural Cheese Alley at the Good Food & Wine Show.