Episode 1: Dutch Courage
On the first episode, screening 4 April 2015 at 7pm on TV ONE:
When Miel Meyer makes cheese, he is tapping into a tradition that goes back hundreds of years. His father Ben learnt the secrets of making great gouda from monks in a monastery on the Dutch-Belgian border fifty years ago.
Meyer Gouda is a small boutique cheese company based on the outskirts of Hamilton. The family business specialises in gouda and it’s all hand-made. The specialization has paid off and the factory wall is awash with awards.
Their Vintage Gouda has won best cheese in New Zealand at the NZ Cheese Awards. Miel has been named cheese-maker of the year three times. There is a whole drawer of certificates that won’t fit on the wall. Miel could get swollen-headed but he is quick to share the praise with his parents.
Ben was an electronics engineer working for Phillips on the early laser research and wife Fieke was a teacher but they were looking for a rural lifestyle when they visited the monastery and were inspired.
For a number of years they made cheese at night while still working at their day jobs. Then, soon after leaving their jobs to make cheese full-time, they decided to leave Holland and immigrate to NZ.
They first set up near Cambridge, then, realizing that they needed to control the milk production, they bought a dairy farm in Temple View, Hamilton.
“In hindsight, buying the dairy farm is the best thing we’ve ever done” says Ben. “It makes us completely independent. We have immediate control of the quality of the milk and we can therefore make the best quality cheese.”
In those early days, selling the cheese was tricky. “We advertised, and we initially sold from the kitchen, which was not so ideal” explains Ben. “Sometimes people were calling at 9 o’clock at night – “can we buy some cheese?” We thought no, we can’t keep doing this. We have to have an outlet where we can sell our own cheese.” Fieke set up and ran the Gouda Cheese Shop in Hamilton. Later they found a Dutch couple to take it over and now there are two shops in Hamilton and one in Tauranga.
Miel took over managing the cheese-making side of the family business seven years ago at the tender age of 25. His sister and brother-in-law Bert manage the dairy farm. And Miel’s children help him out in the factory.
Twenty-five is young to take on the responsibility of running a business – especially when the whole extended family relies on it. But Meyer Gouda has gone from strength to strength and Miel loves it. “I think the personal satisfaction of working with a family business, especially with some of the success at the Awards that we have had really make it worthwhile.”
For more about the Meyer family cheese business, visit: www.meyer-cheese.co.nz
For more about the Gouda Cheese Shops, visit: www.goudacheese.co.nz
Post Production Manager