Feels on wheels: Ellie and Sam Studd
When your dad is Will Studd, Australia’s patron saint of cheeses, it’s fairly likely that you’re going to grow up with a fine-tuned appreciation of excellent cheese. For Ellie and Sam Studd, having an international cheese specialist for a father certainly instilled in them a lifelong passion for quality cheese, with both now happily following in their father’s professional footsteps… but it also made for a rather unusual childhood.
“We obviously travelled a lot,” says Sam. “We spent most of our summer holidays in Europe, hanging out at cheeseries. To us, it all seemed really normal.”
Both Ellie and Sam have fond memories of an old chest freezer that was kept in the laundry, upon which their father would sit them to taste his latest discoveries.
“I remember his excitement and passion for discovering and learning more about cheese,” Sam says. “Dad would come home with new wheels of cheese he’d discovered, and he’d sit us on the chest freezer and we’d all try it, and he’d ask us what we thought of them.”
Like Sam, as a child Ellie thought that tasting and being constantly surrounded by amazing cheeses from around the world was a relatively normal thing for a kid.
“When you opened the fridge, you had to get ready, because big blocks of cheese would all spill out,” she says. “But I think it was really infectious. When Dad would sit us up on the freezer and feed us these different tastes, he was very much encouraging us to explore our palates, which I think, looking back, kind of set us up. Our knowledge came later, but the actual tastes and the variety of cheese out there; it was in-built in us at an early age.”
On the home front
Up until recently, working with their father on the Will Studd Selected range saw Ellie and Sam travel all over the world, building relationships with cheesemakers across Europe and the US. However, since COVID, the pair have had the time and the opportunity to really get to know the amazing cheeses and cheesemakers that Australia has to offer.
“It’s been a beautiful experience, and a great reconnect,” says Sam. “Ordinarily, we’re so involved in European cheese, but we got to spend time with Australian producers. It’s been an amazing opportunity. It’s opened up a lot for us, and we’ve built some good friendships.”
For Ellie, having the time to get to know some of Australia’s most dedicated and committed cheesemakers has brought about an enormous sense of pride.
“We’ve seen European producers, and suddenly we’re going to Holy Goat; we’re going to Pecora Dairy and Bruny Island, and actually getting to chat with the cheesemakers,” she says. “We are doing some really great stuff within Australia. Yes, our cheesemakers have their challenges because of the laws we have, but they’re all so committed to making the best version of Australian cheese that they can, and it makes me feel really proud.”
Touching a raw nerve
Until recently, in Australia, it was illegal to sell raw milk or raw milk products. Amendments to the Food Standards Code now allow for the production of raw milk cheeses, but the regulations surrounding this still make things very difficult for cheesemakers.
“We’ve made some headway, allowing some producers to make raw milk cheese in Australia, but it’s still so strict, and I think it limits us,” Ellie says. “I believe that in some ways, making the regulations so strict is shooting Australian artisan cheesemakers in the foot. I think it’s a little bit sad that it’s such a process if they want to make the best cheese that they can”
Will has been fighting to change the raw milk cheese status quo for decades, and Ellie and Sam have now also taken up the cause, but as Sam explains, trying to change the laws surrounding food is “a logistical and bureaucratic nightmare”.
“It’s also really hard to navigate,” he says. “But we’re still advocating and challenging the government, because Australian cheesemakers are at a disadvantage – they can’t produce raw milk and really make a cheese that reflects a taste of place.”
Cheese is a journey
Even with strict regulations in place, there are still some truly incredible Australian cheesemakers who are producing the kind of world-class cheese that can make your knees go weak with delight. Ellie and Sam both wax lyrical about the deliciousness of Holy Goat’s award-winning La Luna, and also highly rate Pecora Dairy’s Bloomy, Bruny Island Cheese’s Raw Milk C2 and Berry’s Creek Riverine Buffalo Blue. They also urge Australian consumers to get out there and start tasting these masterpieces for themselves.
“Go and support your local cheese shop and build a relationship with the people that work there,” Sam says. “Start your cheese journey. Start with things you like and build upon that; build your palate. Cheese is a journey. And it’s a journey worth sharing with someone.”
Your cheese odyssey shouldn’t exclude cheese from other nations. Far from it. Both Ellie and Sam believe that any good cheese – wherever it hails from – should be celebrated.
“Try some Australian cheeses; try them next to some European cheeses,” Ellie says. “Go on that journey – it’s a really exciting and evolving one.”
Top cheesy road trip destinations
Ready for your cheese journey? Toyota Australia and the Studd siblings have teamed up to create the top five cheese destinations for you to discover on your next road trip.
Easily spotted from afar, this red-bricked tower was historically the town’s woollen mill. Today, it’s a hub of antiques, small brewers, cheese, ice cream, coffee and chocolate, making it a must-visit to pick up some local cheese by Long Paddock.
Held on the first Sunday of every month, this is a great place to buy some of the best seasonal local produce. Make sure to visit the stall of local cheesemakers from Holy Goat. Our favourite is the La Luna and the mixed milk Nectar. Farmstead cheese at its best.
BRUNY ISLAND, TASMANIA
Founded by cheese legend Nick Haddow, this place offers a sensational yet relaxed culinary experience. We suggest getting in here early to watch the cheese being made, then stay for lunch. Make sure to chat with the cheesemakers! Grab a loaf of organic wood-fired sourdough on the way out and a hunk of our favourite raw milk Alpine-style cheese C2 to snack on later at a riverside or beach picnic.
SOUTHERN HIGHLANDS, NSW
This is a “we must stop” for anyone who wants to try some beautiful cheese from the area, as well as local artisan goods. Choose from a selection of Pecora Dairy cheeses that are made by locals Michael and Cressida Cains. Keep an eye out for a cheese called “Bloomy”. Made from a single herd of happy East Friesian sheep, this cheese has a pillowy texture, striking ash appearance and is a butter bomb in your mouth. Pecora also sell their cheese at the Kiama Farmers Market on Wednesdays.
BYRON BAY HINTERLAND/NORTHERN RIVERS, NSW
Held every Thursday and Friday respectively, these markets are a great way to see the kaleidoscope of locally grown and made produce. Keep your eyes peeled for Nimbin Valley Dairy, who produce sensational cow and goat milk cheeses. Driven by regenerative farming practices and traditional cheesemaking, Karry and Paul produce some beautiful cheeses. Our favourite is Nashua Washed Rind, a small delicate cheese that, when ripe, packs a well-balanced punch. Debra from Cheese Loves You also makes a delicious kefir from her Jersey cows. Say hi to “Banana Man” for us, and scoff the best Lady Finger you’ll ever eat.
ADELAIDE HILLS, SA
Just 15 minutes from Adelaide, this is for those feeling like a fancy dining experience or luxury escape. An historical country house set amongst the vineyards with spectacular views across Piccadily Valley, be sure to ask if they have some Section 28 Cheese. It also offers tennis courts, croquet and swimming available to guests. We did say it was fancy!
Woodside Cheese is a must. Kris Lloyd has won countless awards for her creative cheeses. Our fave is Anthill – a chevre covered in native green ants and lemon myrtle.