Kai Woltman is a fastidious man with a scientific brain (and a chemistry PhD). It's these characteristics that make his recent career change to cheese maker seem like a perfect choice.
The Second Mouse Cheese Company was born in Orange just two years ago of Kai and his lovely wife Annie Woltman. "Actually our first batch was made on our wedding anniversary! So yes, it was a memorable day in the factory,” he laughs.
And while Kai had been making cheese for eight years but just as a hobby, they had always wanted to move to the country (from Sydney) and start their own business.
So Kai studied at night, spent his spare time working in cheese factories in Sydney and travelled from France to New Zealand to learn more from artisan operators, “we were pretty well-prepared in starting the business,” Kai says, “but now we are up and running I do feel like the learning process has only just begun.”
Using milk sourced from a nearby farm, Kai makes a range of cheeses from camembert to fetta, haloumi and my favourite, quark (a soft curd cheese). “Making cheese really is a fascinating process,” Kai says, “from season to season every cheese is different and I love that.”
I do to...It’s like one big science project but with a delicious outcome.
I recently visited Kai at his small factory (and I mean small - just a few perfectly clean rooms housed in the same crop of buildings as one of his best stockists and my favourite stores/cafes/places to go, The Agrestic Grocer. And after kitting myself out with the obligatory coverings, (hair/body/feet) and disinfecting my hands and camera, was granted entrance (something his wife Annie says is a rare privilege!).
That day, Kai and assistant cheese maker Lisa were busy packing and making a new batch of cheese, they worked quietly and carefully and it was fascinating to watch.
It was Orange Wine Week and not only were the Woltman’s busy making cheese but also preparing for that Friday evening’s night market where they’d be serving their camembert (warm with crusty bread for dipping - amazing) and grilled haloumi on a simple salad. Luckily we arrived at the market early and snapped up a few plates before word spread around the huge crowd. Pretty soon the queue for Second Mouse Cheese’s stand was creeping out among the tables and the team were flat out all night.
You can find Second Mouse Cheese at selected stores, Orange Farmers Market on the second Saturday of the month and markets across Sydney (see here for more details).
Second Mouse Cheese offers a fantastic range of artisan cheeses; we love sprinkling the feta on simple salads like this one, grilling the haloumi and serving it with our own venison chorizo sausages and after the other night, will definitely be trying the above warm camembert option (perfectly matched at the market with an Angullong sparkling Rose)! For more recipe ideas, take a look at Kai and Annie's website.