Jane Thompson’s vegan cheese is going all the way to the top, after being specially requested by the head chef at Government House.
The Moa Cakery, Bakery owner received a phone call from Simon Peacock, a former head chef at Fleur’s Place in Moeraki, after he read about her blue cashew cheese winning the best surface-ripened category at this year’s national Vegan Cheese Awards.
Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy was a plant-based vegan, and Mr Peacock requested some samples for tasting.
“He said it was a shame he didn’t know about me earlier,” Ms Thompson said.
“Because they do heaps of private dinners and all that stuff.”
Mr Peacock was on the hunt for some vegan cheese for a 120-person farewell dinner for Dame Patsy, who was finishing her five-year stint as Governor-General on September 28.
“Then he rang me back a week or so later, once I’d sent them to him, saying they’d done a tasting, which included the Governor-General, and she loved them, and so they picked the top three and for that dinner, they’re getting 3kg of each one.”
The cheeses they had chosen were the award-winning blue, fenugreek umami and sharp miso cheddar.
Ms Thompson had gone straight into production of the blue on Sunday night, as making it took about five weeks.
All three cheeses were cashew nut-based, and a 20kg box of the nuts was on its way from Ceres Organics in Auckland.
The opportunity was exciting for the small-scale producer, who worked on her own, and her “heart was pounding” when she spoke to Mr Peacock, she said.
Mr Peacock said his attention was drawn to Ms Thompson’s cheese through an Oamaru Mail article about her award.
“We were keen to try that product, because we hadn’t seen it in Wellington,” he said.
“I got the full selection from her, and I called Dame Patsy in, and all the chefs sort of sat around, and opened a box of crackers and kind of went through the lot.
“I haven’t quite figured out how I’m going to use them yet. But certainly, I think, the drawcard, and the one that she liked the best was the blue cheese that did win the prize.”
The date of the dinner, September 25, had special significance for Ms Thompson as well, as it would have been her late grandfather, Leo Oldham’s, birthday.
“He went to Government House years ago and got a Queen’s Service Medal for all his work he’d done for Riding For the Disabled [in Waikouaiti], so I thought that was quite a nice finish to it,” she said.