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