Cheese maker proud to be 'old school'

Udder Success Dairy Co director Shirley Loats has converted an Oamaru house into cheese manufacturing premises. Photo by Sally Rae.
Udder Success Dairy Co director Shirley Loats has converted an Oamaru house into cheese manufacturing premises. Photo by Sally Rae.
Shirley Loats is unashamedly ''old school'' when it comes to making cheese.

Ms Loats (64), who has established the Udder Success Dairy Co in Oamaru, has an involvement in the dairy industry that spans more than 45 years.

She started in the industry in Australia in 1967 and was the country's first female dairy technology graduate.

At the time, she admitted she did not realise the enormity of the achievement, but it dawned on her many years later, she said.

After leaving school, Ms Loats got a job at the Gilbert Chandler Institute of Dairy Technology at Werribee, in Victoria, as a research assistant working in butter spreadability.

She was the first female to graduate from the institute's associate diploma of dairy technology course.

The dairy industry became a passion and, while she later left it for some time and became heavily involved in the arts, she has now gone back to cheese making.

Ms Loats came to New Zealand in September 2012 and, while she joked that she ''tried to buy virtually every property in the South Island'', nothing panned out.

People repeatedly told her she should go to Oamaru, given she was both a cheese maker and an artist, so she decided to ''check it out''.

During a weekend visit, she became hooked on the town and later got a job as a consultant cheese maker at Whitestone Cheese.

When her contract expired, she decided to open her own cheese manufacturing business.

A house in Humber St has been converted, equipment - much of which she designed herself - has been sourced, and she made her first batch of cheese last Friday.

It was going to be a small, boutique operation, producing high-quality cheese and, possibly, butter, she said.

''I'm old school; that's how I was trained to work. I want to go back to that, the real way of making cheese.

''It's my belief a lot of people can make cheese, but there are very few people that are cheese makers.

"Cheese making is an art - that's what I want to bring to it,'' she said.

Ms Loats believed she had the experience and skills to make the venture a success.

She had experience working in both big and small factories, which included managing a cheese factory. She had also worked in other industries.

The support from the Oamaru community had been ''just absolutely mind-blowing'' and she was also receiving inquiries from potential customers and stockists.

During a trip to The Food Show in Christchurch, celebrity chefs and MasterChef New Zealand judges Simon Gault and Ray McVinnie both told her to send them samples, which she intended doing.

Visitors to the premises would be able to look at the cheese-making process through windows, something which Ms Loats believed was important.

''The contemporary food movement, to me, is as much about having an experience as about eating good food,'' she said.

She believed that experience enhanced consumers' understanding and appreciation of the product they were eating.

There would also eventually be retail sales at the premises.

sally.rae@odt.co.nz

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