Catherine McNamara at work

Cheesemaker shares success

by Ann van Engelen

The Grinning Gecko Cheese Company has accomplished 11 medals at the recent New Zealand Cheese Competition, adding to its impressive track record of international and national awards won every year since the business began seven years.

“Our cheese is available on the menu at Blah Blah Blah Cafe in Dargaville, at Te Whai Winery and Mangawhai Village Market, when the lockdown is over, and also Warkworth New World,” says owner Catherine McNamara.

“The secret to our success is mahi whanau and aroha, a winning recipe. The industry has traditionally been led by European countries, with heavily guarded hand-made processes and recipes passed down through generations. We are continuing to prove that we are formidable competition.”

The latest national awards come after Grinning Gecko’s now eight-medal-winning camembert won a gold award at last year’s International Cheese Awards. Grinning Gecko has entered the International Cheese and Dairy Awards three times and achieved awards each time. It is the biggest cheese competition in the world, drawing more than 5,000 entries from 30 countries.

“Our product starts with using a beautifully natural and local ingredient. We use the best certified organic milk from a committed local farmer. We collect it ourselves direct from morning milking, bring it to our factory and start making cheese — no storage, just straight from farm to factory.

“Our team of six are like whanau, we all share a collective vision for creating the best cheese we possibly can, so there is a lot of respect and aroha that goes into what we do.”

The Whangarei-based business’s winning attitude was also recognised when it was one of the winners at the 12-week Northland Inc business boot-camp, The Pick, in 2019.

“Artisan cheese lovers will be glad to know that during lockdown our website has a list of retailers, a lot of which are supermarkets. We are part of a wonderful local-food producing community across the country. “It is not easy, but we see it is even more important now to dig deep and make sure that we protect our own food security by supporting local producers.”