The ideas driving award-winning cheesemaking at Udder Delights

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By Jen Barwick

Sheree and Saul Sullivan, co-owners and directors of Udder Delights, have an agreement, all new ideas – the off the wall, risk eschewing lightbulb moments they are both prone to – are given a “time-out on their mental shelf” before any action can take place.­­­

If one was to imagine the acclaimed duo’s mental shelf of ideas, it would probably look very similar to their cellar door shelves brimming with regional ingredients and inspiration.

The shelf clearly works, as it’s the couple’s “innovative food tourism initiatives” at their Hahndorf cheese cellar door in the Adelaide Hills that earned them a bronze this year in the ‘Excellence in Food Tourism’ category at the Australian National Tourism Awards and, previous to that, the gold in the South Australian Tourism Awards, for the same category.

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Those initiatives include a tasting bench and café to profile their own cheese made in their Lobethal Udder Delights factory, an Adelaide Hills cheese & wine trail, cheese-making classes, a cheese-inspired high tea, cheese fondue, cheese wedding cakes and cheese-tasting masterclasses. The cellar door also acts as a provedore of regional and artisan products.

Udder Delights group director and general manager, Sheree, says the couple get their ideas from three sources: “necessity, market demand and inspiration”.

Necessity can come in the form of location challenges, regional influences on milk supply or just production size – all of them, Sheree says, usually demanding some “out of the box” creative solutions.

“In terms of market demand, we don’t make changes just for the sake of change but we also make sure that all our cellar door staff are trained to expect change and are part of that process.

“As a result our store manager and I are always seeking out new ideas, and the staff are encouraged to share their feedback from their interactions with customers.”

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Inspiration comes in many forms, but often when the couple swap their business hat for one of food and wine consumer.

“We started the cellar door because whenever we travelled we would seek out amazing food experiences, with actual producers, only to be disappointed when the only thing we could do was buy a product… we wanted more than that,” she said.

“We don’t get to travel far these days but we still take off for a long weekend when we can to the Barossa and other food and wine regions… and happily become the tourist.

“Seeing things from the other side of the counter helps us see what we are doing well and what we could be doing better.”

Currently on the Sullivan mental shelf – new menu ideas, factory and cellar door expansions and new cheeses slowly maturing with a little age and patience.

Udder Delights cheese will feature at CheeseFest this weekend in Rymill Park in Adelaide.

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