If you wander along James St., Burleigh in the quietness of a weekend afternoon, you’ll see a tiny popup selling cheese in the Seadog nook opposite Golosi Food Emporium. It’s the place where cheesemaker Kat Harvey sells her wares.
Classically trained in Sydney, after 23 years as a chef (Bloodwood, Newtown and Bistro Ortolan), Kat worked overseas before spending two months in France learning how to make cheese.
“You’ve got to be in love,” she tells us. “I ate cheese for two solid months and came back lighter. So, don’t believe it’s fattening. There’s no truth in the rumours!” she laughs, presenting herself as a great example of the ‘French paradox’.
“I wanted to ‘hone in’ on my one true love,” she tells us describing how, upon her return to Australia, she ‘begged’ Kerry and Paul Wilson from Nimbin Valley Dairy to take her on as an apprentice cheesemaker.
“The first year I achieved nothing, but after the second year here I am!” she tells us, so proud of her achievements that she’s opened a popup stall in James Street, Burleigh Heads on weekend afternoons selling several of the cheeses she’s personally handmade at Nimbin Valley Dairy: Byron Bay Nashua, Nimbin washed goat, St Billie and Byron Bay Tintenbar.
Using cultures made in France, Kat stresses the importance of respect for old world traditions in artisan cheese making.
“I understand that it’s important not to devalue a brand,” she tells us when asked about the present controversy about cheese naming rights, “however we are making brie-style cheese from French cultures using milk from elsewhere. That’s honourable in itself.”
We talk about the history and rise of Australian artisan cheesemaking due to the Dairy Australia scholarship scheme, which has resulted in a huge boost to the industry.
Membership of the Australian Specialist Cheesemakers’ Association, she says, also gives support to cheesemakers to build skill standards in the industry, with French expert Ivan Larcher running workshops in Australia twice a year for members.
Beaming with passion as she shows us her cheese, Kat enthusiastically tells us how much she loves her job.
“Cheese people are the best people,” Kat says. “They give off a little glimmer of glory.” We totally agree!
Popup in James St., Burleigh Heads, 2 – 7pm Fri, Sat, Sun
NOTE: This article was published in The Sun on 24 April, 2019.