I had my first experience of a dairy processing plant when I was 9 years old, delivering newspapers early in the morning to the Unigate dairy in Eastbourne, England.

At 6 in the morning, the dairy factory would be bustling with the clammer of the Dawson bottle washing machine and the stork fillers sending out lines of milk bottles to the crate packers. The bright lights, the noise and the steam filling the air was an exciting atmosphere and fascinating to watch. This is where I wanted to work.

9 years later, I found myself, a newly minted electrician, on my first day of work at the clover Dairies in Durban, South Africa. I had seen an old man wearing a cloth cap and sporting a rolled-up cigarette in the corner of his mouth sitting on an old wooden box at the milk reception. He was grumpy and communicated with grunts and a flick of the head as the men off-loaded milk churns from a truck. The man knocked the can lid off and using an old dipper scooped out some milk and slurped it into his mouth, the cigarette still firmly in place. He then, after a moment’s contemplation, gave a slight nod or a shake and the can would be either sent on its way to the processing plant or rejected. This fascinated me and I asked my friend from the laboratory what the old man was he doing, “he’s the milk tester,” he said.

While the factory had a full laboratory, they still relied on this old man’s taste buds, despite the perpetual cigarette in the corner of his mouth. These comically absurd moments have been rife throughout my career in dairy processing and kept me going through many an arduous time. A sense of humour is an absolute must for a cheese maker.

Over the years, I’ve met many wonderful people and learnt a great deal of the art that is cheese making and fermenting milk. I have had some wonderful teachers have worked insane hours, had an awful accident, and made many blunders. That’s the cost and the mystery of the fermentation process. The magic of the bacterial microcosm has kept me fascinated for over 40 years.

My experience as a dairy process engineer, and master cheese maker, has led me into consultancy and the construction of over 30 cheese factories on 3 continents, as well as helping dozens of cheese makers flourish.

My passion is to recreate lost cheese, namely those one would see in a Renaissance painting. The collecting and mixing of various wild cultures, bacteria, moulds and yeasts are the tools of my art. Guiding these elements through the process of making cheese still fascinates me after all these years. Doing this with raw milk is the pinnacle of this great and almost lost art. I try to bring real flavour and depth to people, to bring out the essence of the myriad of complex biological processes taking place within the universe that is the wheel of cheese. My job is to nurture the life within by providing the best possible environment.

I love educating people and explaining the process of how the various forms of life in the cheese interact. How sometimes other moulds and yeasts appear that are not bad, but are part of the delicate balance of nurturing the Chambre d’affinage (maturing room). Visitors (especially cheese makers) are often fascinated when they see how we mature all our cheese in one room. White mould, blue mould and a multiverse of yeasts and others, all bred up by ourselves to become a vital part of the delicate microbiome of the room.

At Kervella cheese, you will not find feta cheese, cheddar cheese, Gouda cheese, or halloumi. All our cheeses are unique, their names extolling their virtues.