SAY CHEESE: Graeme and Karen Paynter have seen their Woombye Cheese products take off around the country.
SAY CHEESE: Graeme and Karen Paynter have seen their Woombye Cheese products take off around the country. Warren Lynam

‘Bit of fun’ a labour of love for cheesemaker

GRAEME Paynter didn't wake up one day and decide to be a cheesemaker.

Instead, he went to bed chewing over the idea.

"I was watching a program on TV about making cheese in Ireland," said Graeme, who was living in Singapore with wife and corporate lawyer Karen at the time in 2013.

"I'd had a couple of reds (wine).

"I said to Karen, 'I reckon I can do that' and she said, 'Yeah, whatever'.

"And the thought just never went away."

Their Woombye Cheese adventure began that night.

The former Kiwi was running software companies, and at an age when he could have been considering retirement.

But he admits he's not the type to die wondering "what if?".

"I could have stayed in the IT industry, made good money, travelled the world. Easy money," Graeme, formerly of Sydney, said.

"Every time I tell the story, I think to myself, 'You idiot'.

"But we're really, really pleased with (Woombye Cheese).

"We're really chuffed with the product we're making."

As a complete cheesemaking novice, Graeme became obsessed with researching the craft on the internet and then found the property he needed in a region he was fond of visiting on annual golf trips.

The Paynters moved into the Blackall Range Road property in West Woombye four months later in January, 2013, and set up their cheese factory inside a 130sq m former tractor shed.Graeme was joined in his venture by two New Zealand friends who shared his vision and passion for the venture.

"We didn't want to bring anybody into the business who knew what they were doing because that would ruin the adventure," Graeme quipped.

The first batch of handmade cheese was produced on June 24, 2013.

The range of cows' milk cheeses now includes camembert, triple cream brie, Blackall blue, Blackall gold washed rind, truffle triple cream brie, vintage cheddar and marinated persian feta in oil - one with garlic and herbs and the other with sun-dried tomato.

Woombye Cheese has become so successful so quickly that the Paynters were forced to double the size of the factory.

Work was completed four weeks ago, yet Graeme admits "we are struggling to keep up with our day-to-day orders because the word's got out".

The factory produces one batch of handmade cheese a day between 7am and 3pm.

Most cheeses mature and are wrapped after 10 days, but the blues take three months.

About 5000 litres of milk are processed each week and about 3000kg of cheese sold a month.

The factory now employs five staff, with Graeme charged with on-the-road duties, sales, marketing and customer relations.

Even Karen, who still works as a corporate lawyer, enjoys getting stuck into the hands-on manufacturing process.

"She probably gets her hands 'dirty' these days more than I do," Graeme said.

"Everything we do, we do by hand.

"There's no mechanisation in the factory at all."

Woombye Cheese has earned such a reputation in the industry that it now finds itself in similarly distinguished company at the Noosa Food and Wine Festival (May), Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane Good Food and Wine Shows and Sunshine Coast Real Food Festival in Maleny (September).

"This was my retirement," Graeme, 59, sighs.

"This was going to be a little on the side semi-retirement bit of fun and I've never worked so hard in all my life."

I tell him about the 2008 movie Bottle Shock - the true story of Jim Barrett who packs in his corporate job as a partner in a lucrative law firm to start up his Chateau Montelena vineyard in California's Napa Valley. Barrett overcomes family tensions and derision to perfect his chardonnay which wins the now infamous blind Paris wine tasting of 1976 to find its place today in the Smithsonian Institute.

The parallels between Jim Barrett and Graeme are obvious.

Graeme mulls this over for a few seconds and says: "I reckon Tom Cruise could play me in the movie."

Blessed are the cheesemakers.


Truckie to pay $2500 to amputee motorcyclist after crash

Premium Content Truckie to pay $2500 to amputee motorcyclist after crash

Despite causing a serious crash which resulted in a man losing his leg below the...

Activate your free Courier Mail subscription for big rewards

Premium Content Activate your free Courier Mail subscription for big rewards

Did you know you can get even more – for free?

Bucking bulls make return to popular Mulgowie rodeo ring

Premium Content Bucking bulls make return to popular Mulgowie rodeo ring

Italmost months to the day since bulls bucked from the chutes at Mulgowie, but if...