Cheese champs win gold

Central Leader - - News - By Janie Smith

What started out as an ex­per­i­ment in her Mt Al­bert kitchen has turned into an award-winning busi­ness for Ma­rina Kan­de­laki.

She re­cently picked up a gold medal in the un­ripened cheese cat­e­gory and a bronze in the new cheese sec­tion of the 2009 Cui­sine NZ Cham­pi­ons of Cheese Awards.

“I was speech­less, I was so happy,” she says.

Ma­rina and her daugh­ter Nina make the cheese at home and have con­verted a spare bed­room into a small fac­tory.

Ma­rina started mak­ing cheese as a hobby three years ago and gave it to fam­ily and friends in the Ge­or­gian com­mu­nity.

“They re­ally liked it so she de­cided to give it a go on a com­mer­cial scale,” says Nina.

Nina was part way through a de­gree in English and clas­sics but de­cided to take time out to make cheese with her mother when they started man­u­fac­tur­ing last Au­gust.

Nina chose the name Colchis for their com­pany, which is the an­cient name for Ge­or­gia.

In Greek mythol­ogy, it’s the coun­try where Ja­son and the Arg­onauts went to find the golden fleece.

They hope hav­ing a golden ram as their com­pany logo will help bring pros­per­ity.

The Kan­de­lakis are the only ones in the coun­try they know of mak­ing the Ge­or­gian-in­spired sul­guni cheese, which won gold.

The bronze award was for a cheese in­vented by Ma­rina which they named in­guli.

Ma­rina says the awards were recog­ni­tion of the hard work she has put in de­vel­op­ing the cheeses.

“It’s amaz­ing. I feel re­ally good about the bronze be­cause I only started mak­ing the cheese re­cently and I didn’t plan to mar­ket it.”

The fam­ily moved to New Zealand from Ge­or­gia 13 years ago and Ma­rina stud­ied a de­gree in mi­cro­bi­ol­ogy and food sci­ence at Auck­land Uni­ver­sity.

She didn’t have a fam­ily back­ground in cheese­mak­ing but likes cook­ing and ex­per­i­ment­ing with food.

Sul­guni is sim­i­lar to moz­zarella and Ma­rina is par­tic­u­larly proud of the fine lay­ered tex­ture she has achieved with her cheese, which is a sign of qual­ity.

The in­guli is a salty cheese, sim­i­lar to feta, but it also melts.

“Be­cause of the ke­fir grains I use as a starter, it has a yeasty flavour.”

They pro­duce about 40 to 50kg of cheese each week, sell it at three farm­ers’ mar­kets and sup­ply to sev­eral deli shops.

Ma­rina is think­ing of mak­ing other Ge­or­gian prod­ucts, in­clud­ing a cheese-filled bread called khack­a­puri.

For more in­for­ma­tion, go to www.colchis­cheese.com.

Photo: JA­SON OX­EN­HAM

Ed­i­ble gold: Nina and Ma­rina Kan­de­laki won gold and bronze medals for their Ge­or­gian-in­spired cheese.

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