For years cheesemaker Barry Charlton has been nicknamed the “master of blue”, and now he’s got an official title to back it up.
In a fiercely competitive showdown with more than 5500 entries from around the world, Charlton’s Berrys Creek Gourmet was named Supreme Specialist/Artisan Cheesemaker at the International Cheese and Dairy Awards. At the competition held earlier this month in Staffordshire, UK, Berrys Creek won gold medals for each of the four blue cheeses they submitted – beating out major cheese-producing nations like France and Italy to score the title. The competition has been running for 126 years and this is the first time an Australian company has scored so highly.
“We didn’t believe it at first, to be honest,” Charlton tells Broadsheet. “We were up in Sydney doing the Mould Cheese Festival,” adds Cheryl Hulls, Charlton’s partner in life and in cheesemaking. “We checked the results on the morning of the festival and, at first, I didn’t even see it until Barry said, ‘Hey take a look at this!’”
When they brought the news back to the team, Hulls says the reaction was one of “very loud excitement.” “I won’t tell you the words they used,” Charlton adds.
So how does a small Victorian reach these lofty heights? The short answer: by mistake. Charlton stumbled into cheesemaking in 1975 when he heard about a job at the local butter factory. After six long months spent bagging skim-milk powder, and another three painful months in the butter room, Charlton found his way to the cheddar plant where his natural talent matured over nine years. He then spent the next 40 years making cheese for companies such as Jindi and Lemnos before going out on his own – with Hulls by his side.
Berrys Creek Gourmet Cheese began in 2007 in the rural South Gippsland community that gives the brand its name, a 45-minute drive from their 600-square-metre factory in Fish Creek. Now they employ 10 workers – most of them women (“You…