Australian Cheese – The State of the Nation

A Slow Food Brisbane Event – August 22, 2017

This article was written by Ian McBride for Slow Food Brisbane Inc.

For those lucky attendees who wanted to find out about the above topic, last Tuesday’s Slow Food Brisbane evening had everything.  Along with tasting some wonderful cheese, bread and wine in a very convivial atmosphere we were entreatingly educated by two passionate professionals.  Wendy Downes, an affineur or maturer of cheeses and Ray the artisan baker.

After a warm welcome with a glass of wine we were all seated in laboratory of taste order with a plate of cheese and bread and also a dish of interesting substances in front of us.

Wendy Downes began by telling us how she came to follow her passion for cheese and impressed us all with the enormous amount of knowledge she has gleaned about cheeses international and local. I think we were all salivating and ready to start on the degustation of cheeses and bread.  However before we could begin Wendy gave us an exercise to better understand how we taste.

This is where the interesting substances came in.  Wendy had put together salt, lemon, sugar and dark chocolate to highlight the four classic tastes salty, sour, sweet and bitter.  There was also some soy sauce to show the fifth taste of umami.


Now armed with a better understanding, we began our voyage of taste.  The cheeses and the breads were beautifully presented and at the perfect temperature.  They were savoured in an order to best showcase them. I will list the cheeses and breads below. It was particularly interesting to taste the differences in the first cheese, where we had the same cheese made on the same day but one slice was rolled in special food grade ash and the other slice was not.

Ray charmed everyone with his passion for quality bread made as it has been for thousands of years.  He combined research and knowledge with years of experience to talk about bialy and bagels which come from the European Yiddish tradition.  He also showed us his sourdough Poolish or starter and offered samples for those who wanted some.

After the educational part of the night we all then got to try three different pumpkin soups made by three committee members, Dawn Brady, Louise Thomas and Noelene McBride.  They combined perfectly with Ray’s sourdough bread.  All three were exquisite and no winner was declared.


  1. Frolicking Goat from Bûche and Bûche and Noir form Burbank south of Brisbane. This was a goats milk cheese, matured for 2 months and was presented rolled in vine ash and without.
  2. Bunya Cheese. This was an exquisite double cream brie with a complexly flavoured crust and the creamiest centre.
  3. Pure Artisan Cheese, Pure Blue from Tambourine.  This was an English style blue cheese with great depth of flavour.


  1. How lucky were we to try this very rare traditional bread that comes from the Jewish community in Bialystock in Poland?  It is similar to a bagel but is not boiled and has onion put in a depression in the dough before baking which gives a wonderful onion flavour throughout the dough.
  2. Although we have probably all sampled bagels, those from Ray were made following traditional methods and were very special.
  3. Made from organic strong flour using slow fermentation and a well-controlled sourdough starter, this is a chewy but digestible loaf in the German, Polish style.

For those unlucky enough to miss the evening and for those who were there and are craving more of these great tastes, they are all available from Wendy and Ray’s retail outlets in Wolverhampton Street, Stafford.


Check out the video.