Learn about the Smelly Cheese Shop
Valerie Henbest and Peter Heaney win Howard Twelftree Award
The latest recipients of the annual award for outstanding contribution to gastronomy in South Australia goes to Valerie Henbest and Peter Heaney.
Valerie Henbest and Peter Heaney have been quietly revolutionising the cheese drawers of Australia as well as the way people think about their food for years. There isn’t a single person in Adelaide who has the willpower to walk past Smelly Cheese Shop, Dough or Say Cheese without at least sticking their head in for “just a quick look”. Often, it translates to a basket of things you never knew you needed until Henbest convinces you otherwise.
What started as a small shop front for Heaney soon took on a life of its own after meeting Henbest . There was no master plan to build a web of businesses that now employ more than 100 people and import tons of cheese a fortnight. Say Cheese was Heaney’s original shopfront that soon expanded to also encompass The Smelly Cheese Shop, Dough, Market St Cafe, Cheese Co, and a wholesale business that operates both locally and interstate.
When they aren’t busy shipping cheese around the country, Henbest is off scouring the globe looking for new and exciting things to bring home. Home, however, isn’t just a cupboard stacked with cheese. Instead, it’s tucked away in the country’s best maturing room where it’s kept under the care of affineur, Sam. Their businesses and their cheeses have become staples in the lives of people around the country because of this perfect knack for attention to detail.
Henbest and Heaney don’t so much buy and sell produce as they do curate a beautiful collection of things they want to share with you. It isn’t just some of Adelaide’s best bread or the country’s best cheese that makes them so valuable to Adelaide’s food community, but also their passion for sharing their knowledge. Henbest ’s masterclasses have become legendary; they’re all encompassing and never condescending.
It’s not just in their classes though that they’re imparting knowledge. Henbest and Heaney believe in investing in people as much as their product. They work constantly to find new and exciting products for keen chefs, arrange staff swaps with Herve Mons, whip new connections into life-long friendships with small scale farmers, and treat their ever growing network of staff as investments rather than numbers.
Their most valuable contribution however would have to be their tireless promotion of producers and provenance. The respect Henbest and Heaney have for the farmers they work with is a rarity. Henbest’s eyes light up most when she’s talking to you about the grass on mountain where a Comte comes from or how many times a producer has to trek up a cliff face to get the best goat’s milk.
The glamour of consumption often outweighs the reality of production, but Henbest and Heaney have found a way to make it pivotal to enjoying their goods. Caring about the production of food is going to be one of the biggest factors towards making the way we eat more ethical. There is no doubt that Henbest and Heaney, intentional or not, will have made no small impact in helping people to make the best choices they can.
Written by Duncan Welgemoed for The Adelaide Review.
Great award, thanks to Duncan, Marina and the whole Hot 100 team.
Catch up soon.
Peter and Valerie.
A backpacking holiday through France during the early 90's was the inspiration for the creation of The Smelly Cheese Shop at Adelaide Central Market. Local chefs and cheese lovers soon discovered that this little gem was showcasing products that South Australians had not seen before. The word spread and demand grew for this carefully selected range of specialty cheese. Ongoing visits to cheese makers from all over Australia and the world, allows us to select the best on offer. Twenty years on, we are still discovering exciting new cheeses to deliver to you.
The Smelly Cheese Shop Online was created as a result of interstate visitors to our store at Adelaide Central Market, asking how they could get our cheese after they returned home. So in 2007 we began delivering cheese to your door.
We also started The Smelly Cheese Club. Here at Smelly Cheese HQ, we search out the best of the best, creating stunning cheese selections that we offer to Club members regularly throughout the year. This is a way of introducing you to new products, limited production items or seasonally available products.
We now buy directly from cheese makers Australia wide, as well as France, Italy, Spain, UK, Ireland, The Netherlands, Switzerland and the USA. We travel widely to visit cheese makers on the farm and in the factory, and work with them to bring the cream of their products to you - and in the condition they intended.
We have attracted a passionate team of cheese enthusiasts, ex-chefs, and even ex-cheesemakers, who bring their expertise to delivering quality cheese to you. Our team continue to develop their skills, training at The Artisan Cheese Making Academy of Australia in Adelaide and Academie Opus Caseus in France. Many of us spend our holidays working alongside our suppliers to increase our knowledge.
Like wine, there is cheese best eaten young and others that improve with age. The semi hard and hard cheeses, which have a longer life, fit into this second category.
In 2008, we built a beautiful, big maturing room, designed to replicate the naturally humid environment and consistent temperature of a cave. Our specialised cooling system allows air to circulate naturally without the need for electric fans normally associated with refrigeration systems. The cheese maturation process determines the characteristics of the final product. Wooden shelves allow for an even maturation of the wheels of cheese. This maturing room is an essential part of our commitment to deliver the best quality cheese to you.
We meet regularly with cheese makers in Australia and overseas to keep ourselves and our customers well informed. We are always discovering new and interesting cheeses to add to this range. We are maturing semi-hard and hard cheeses ranging in size from the 3kg wheels to 100kg wheels.
The time they spend being cared for in our maturing room may vary from weeks to months, depending on size and style, before they are fully developed. Each wheel of cheese will be assessed and turned weekly and possibly brushed, washed or rubbed, depending on the variety.
The maturing room gives us the ability to enhance the flavour of our cheese to increase the complexity thus achieving a balance on the palate and harmony in the mouth, ensuring that you get cheese in optimum condition and exhibiting perfect balance of flavour.
Many of our cheesemakers have been to visit our maturing room and shown their appreciation of the care we take of their cheese so that it arrives to you as they intended. They are keen for us to have their best cheeses.
We also have several other smaller microclimates designed for specific cheese styles. This includes a designated space for surface ripened Goat Cheese and another for the specific needs of some of our Blue Vein Cheese.
If you are ever in Adelaide, please enrol in one of our Cheese Master Classes which include a visit to our beautiful maturing room.