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Australia’s first ‘university of cheese’ is open for curdling

French cheesemaker Julie Larcher at the cheese school in Castlemaine.
French cheesemaker Julie Larcher at the cheese school in Castlemaine.  Photo: Simon Schluter

The world’s first privately funded cheese school launched this week in Castlemaine in central Victoria. Targeting both professionals and cheese-loving members of the general public, the school will tutor its first students from early next year.  

Leading the teaching program is French cheesemaker Ivan Larcher, a man known in international dairy circles as “The Cheese Whisperer”.

Larcher was lured to Australia by retired lawyer Alison Lansley and local cheesemakers Carla Meurs and Ann-Marie Monda of Holy Goat at Sutton Grange. The three shared a vision to create Australia’s first ‘university of cheese’.

Alison Lansley secretary of the Australian Specialist Cheesemakers Association (at rear) with French cheesemakers Ivan ...
Alison Lansley secretary of the Australian Specialist Cheesemakers Association (at rear) with French cheesemakers Ivan and Julie Larcher.  Photo: Simon Schluter

“It is an integrated model in which cheesemakers and the public can learn cheesemaking skills in the context of commercial production,” says Meurs. 

“We used to have many cheese factories across Australia. Those skills have been lost. We want to bring the skill, knowledge and artistry of cheesemaking to Australia and lift the entire industry to another level.” 

Meurs and Monda will be taking students from the school to their nearby farm, and teaching them about soil, pasture and animal health. “You can’t make great cheese without good pasture and healthy animals,” says Meurs.    

Alison Lansley, secretary of the Australian Specialist Cheesemakers, gets hands on.
Alison Lansley, secretary of the Australian Specialist Cheesemakers, gets hands on.  Photo: Simon Schluter

To fund the school, Larcher will also head sister business Long Paddock Cheese, an artisan factory producing French-style cheeses made from locally sourced cow’s milk. 

Long Paddock has already produced some exceptional cheeses, inspired by the great French fromages Larcher grew up with such as brie and epoisses. They will be available early November through cheesemongers and a small shop adjacent to the cheese school at The Mill, Castlemaine’s former industrial site turned regional food hub.

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“We will soon sell milk, yoghurt and cream too,” says Lansley, who bankrolled the school’s development. While she won’t disclose figures, Lansley says her superannuation has been invested into the not-for-profit venture. 

The school’s cheesemaking room is fitted with many types of high-end equipment from a small curd cheddaring mill, to a 120-litre copper Swiss milk vat. Windows allow passers-by to see cheese being made by hand. 

“We want to integrate what we do with the community,” says Lansley. “Good cheese needs to be part of everyday life.”

Larcher has committed to the project, selling his farm in France and moving to Harcourt near Castlemaine. “This is more than a school,” he says. “This is the beginning of a movement.” 

The Cheese School’s 2021 course guideline will be released next month. 

Other schools to hone a culinary craft

The Meat Room

Learn the age-old art of sausage making in a bluestone barn with Kilmore East master butcher James Mele. The jovial meat man teaches participants how to prepare meat, mix spices and stuff skins with delicious results. Finish the course with sausages, pizza, and wine. themeatroom.com.au 

The Fermentary

Ferment for Good author Sharon Flynn shares her knowledge on making sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, milk kefir, mustard and pickled vegetables. In-person workshops resume in Daylesford in 2021. thefermentary.com.au

Foxeys Hangout

Red Hill winemaker Michael Lee takes small groups through the final process of making sparkling wine. Learn about disgorgement, dosage and corkage with a bottle to take home at the end. foxeys-hangout.com.au

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