Woombye Cheese - An interview with Beth O'Leary
Nestled in the heart of the Sunshine Coast hinterland, just north of the Big Pineapple, sits Woombye Cheese Company. Originally founded by Graeme & Karen Paynter after years spent grinding it out in the corporate world, the company has now landed in the lap of lifelong cheese lover, Beth O'Leary. Beth has set her sights on ensuring that Woombye continues to produce award winning cheeses from the pristine locally sourced milk.
We know small business is hard. Is there an inception story to your brand? What got you started or gave you the push to start your own enterprise?
I have long been obsessed with cheese but found it difficult to get any experience in Queensland where I live. In 2019 we took a year off and travelled around Australia in our caravan doing the Big Lap with our kids. It became the Big ‘Cheese’ Lap for me as I visited over 30 cheesemakers across the country. When we returned home and Woombye Cheese needed a new owner, I knew I had to jump at it. I’m so happy that I never gave up on the dream and I love being a part of this industry in Australia. I’m pumped for all the opportunities ahead for artisan makers.
Who or what do you draw inspiration from?
I first drew inspiration from the Slow Food movement (www.slowfood.com) which is basically the antithesis to fast food. The idea that you can enjoy simple, local, seasonal food savoured slowly - even mindfully - appealed to my romantic side and there isn’t a food that is as unhurried or able to be enjoyed with friends, quite the way cheese can. The very idea that cheese takes time and care makes it feel like the most wonderful food in the world.
Other than yourself of course, who is your favourite artisan producer here in Australia? How come?
Bruny Island Cheese is one of my faves. I was lucky enough to do some work experience with them during my Big Lap. Founder Nick Haddow has pushed a lot of boundaries and helped create a legitimate cheese scene here.
We know Australia is the best place on earth, but what makes it so special to you? What’s your favourite thing about Australia?
Agreed - it is the best place on earth. I love that you can sit on the edge of the Simpson Desert and listen to a concert with 10,000 people (when there’s normally not a soul in sight) or find a quiet patch of grass under the Sydney Harbour Bridge (in one of the busiest cities in the world) It’s everything all at once and I’m so grateful to be able to travel freely about it whenever we can.
Which of your products are your favourite to gift to others or share with friends around the table?
Cheese is always a crowd pleaser but I especially love to share our Blackall Gold Washed Rind which just won Australia’s Best Cheese! It’s a stinky one and I love that it’s become a cornerstone cheese, tempting people to try different, more robust cheeses.