A 27-year-old second generation cheesemaker has been named
Cheesemaker of the Year.
Last night, Miel Meyer, head cheesemaker and General Manager of
Hamilton-based Meyer Gouda Cheese, won the NZ Cheese
School Champion Cheesemaker of the Year award at the 2011
Cuisine NZ Champions of Cheese Awards
Miel Meyer credits his success to his parents Ben and Fieke
Meyer - Dutch immigrants who brought their cheesemaking traditions
to New Zealand in the 1980s. Meyer Gouda Cheese is now run by
Miel who is proudly continuing to produce the Dutch cheeses his
Miel is the youngest cheesemaker in the history of the
Cuisine NZ Champions of Cheese Awards to pick up this
"I'm completely blown away," Miel says. "I didn't expect this at
all. My goal over the past year was to focus on the quality
of the cheese we've been making so this is unbelievable. It's still
Master Judge Russell Smith selected Miel from all other
Cheesemakers in New Zealand because he achieved an incredible score
of 99 on two of his 2011 entries. This is confirmation of his
masterful cheesemaking and consistent high quality.
Miel attributes the outstanding quality of his cheese to the
milk his brother-in-law's cows supply to their cheese factory.
"The consistency of the milk ensures consistent quality of our
cheese," adds Miel. "By having the same milk from the same
cows we know what to expect year on year. If we don't know
the source, the milk changes as each farmer has different breeds of
cow and different milking habits. We're lucky enough to
source milk that is generally the same allowing me to know how I
should make my cheese each day."
Miel, who has a BSc from the University of Waikato majoring in
Microbiology and Biochemistry and a Masters in Forensic Science
from the University of Auckland, took over as General Manager of
Meyer Gouda Cheese in 2007.
For eight years Meyer Cheese founders Ben and Fieke made cheese
on a farm in Holland (near the Dutch/Belgian border). This
proximity to Belgium gave them access to the centuries of
cheesemaking expertise by nearby self-sufficient Belgian
monks. They moved to New Zealand from Holland when Miel
was just nine months old. After 25 years making cheese in New
Zealand, Ben and Fieke felt it was time to retire, handing over the
reins to their son in 2007.
"My father Ben is a keystone in terms of the business," says
Miel. "I can always call on him for help at any time of any
day. Both of them are there whenever I need them; they live nearby
and can be at the factory in minutes. They're both extremely
supportive and it's wonderful to have their expertise on hand when
I need it."
Miel first made cheese as a toddler 'in a bathtub' and was
involved in the family business as soon as he was strong enough to
turn the cheese. Miel now involves his two sons (4 years and
18 months) in the cheesemaking maturing process.
"The boys sometimes join me in the maturing room to help me turn
the cheese. They love it, they love hanging around with Dad and
they love cheese. My son has already told me he wants to work
in the cheese factory when he grows up - but he doesn't understand
how it all works just yet."
Meyer Gouda Cheese focuses solely on producing world-class
Gouda, performing consistently at the Cuisine NZ
Champions of Cheese Awards. This year Meyer Gouda Cheese once again
won the AsureQuality Champion Flavoured Cheese Award
for their Meyer Gouda Fenugreek alongside four gold medals, one
silver and one bronze.
"Next year I'll be focusing more on the business side of Meyer
Gouda Cheese," he says. "I made cheese this year to ensure the
quality of the cheese was the best it can be. The knowledge
I've picked up will help me for subsequent years - especially when
it comes to training my staff. By sharing what I know from my
time in the makery, I can help my staff achieve the same
"The Cuisine NZ Champions of Cheese Awards are
invaluable for small operators - we could never generate the
coverage we do without the help of the Awards. It's great
having the support of the New Zealand Specialist Cheesemakers
Association who help raise the profile of small cheesemakers who
generally have limited budgets"
While Meyer Gouda Cheese specialise in hard cheeses, they've
been approached to branch into soft cheese.
"We make a sheep cheese and also a Maasdam but they're both hard
cheeses. Going forward, I'm going to focus on obtaining
greater share of the specialty cheese market as we have the
capacity to ramp up production if we need to. But we're happy
doing what we do at the moment. Lifestyle is important to
Gouda, the cheese Meyer specialise in, takes its name from a
medieval city in Holland where this unique style was first
developed. Gouda is a hard, brine-salted and rinded cheese
and often has flavours such as cumin, chive, garlic, clove and
pepper added to it, a tradition that finds its roots in the Dutch
trade with Indonesia as early as 1787.
Meyer Gouda Cheese makes around 60 tonnes of Gouda annually and
employees three full time staff year round and one part time
employer in season.
Now in its eighth year, the 2011 Cuisine Champions
of Cheese Awards welcomed the greatest number of entries to date
with 450 specimen cheeses judged in twenty different categories
including hobbyist, best cheesemaker and best original.
Winners were announced at an industry gala dinner on Tuesday 1
March, 2011 at The Langham, Auckland.