Tasting and chasing cheese, and touring the factory it was made in is on a platter for those signed up to one of 19 events in the Flavours of Plenty Festival, taking place from April 7-10.
Spanning from Waihī Beach to Ōhope, the festival is a Tourism Bay of Plenty initiative inspired by feedback from the local food industry, offering a mouth-watering menu of events.
Just like the UK’s traditional Gloucester cheese rolling competitions, Mount Eliza Cheese factory will host visitors on April 10 offering a similar event instead focused on having fun than breaking bones.
Husband-and-wife team, cheesemakers Chris and Jill Whalley of Katikati, produced their first cheese in 2007 and from 2014 have been making raw milk cheese, winning many prestigious producer and cheese awards along the way.
“We celebrated our first year [in 2014] of making raw milk cheese with a mini cheese rolling event among friends and it was lots of fun. We always thought we’d do it again – then the festival came up.”
Jill says big wheels of cheese will be rolled downhill at their Katikati farm, with visitors able to chase, stroll or even walk after it. “We’ll have a kids’ race, an adults’ race, and a teams’ relay race.”
What cheese will ‘roll’ will be a surprise, and the event includes a tour of the Mount Eliza Cheese factory. “We also hope to have trainee chefs from Toi Ohomai creating some magic food with our cheese,” says Jill, who with Chris produce a Red Leicester, a Farmhouse cheddar – both raw milk – and a pasteurised Blue Monkey cheese.
Flavours of Plenty Festival organiser Rae Baker says the overarching aim of the festival is to celebrate our regional food story. “There are other objectives that come under this – including showcasing the amazing restaurants, event providers and producers we have, encouraging our communities to engage with our food story and to attract domestic visitation to the Bay through our food story.
“We have some incredible people doing amazing things here, and we feel it’s about time we celebrated what we produce in the Coastal Bay of Plenty.”
The Whalley’s event is one of 19 – including from a ‘Mediterranean Escape’, a plant-based Kings Feast Luncheon, and a hāngī with celebrity chefs Kārena and Kasey Bird to name just a few.
Jill says the festival will be fabulous for the region. “All the events look incredibly luscious and tantalising. The festival takes in foods and produce from around the BOP and the way the organisers have brought it all together has been fantastic.”
Jill says the festival will put many local food places on the map, and has already brought many places to people’s attention. “It’s been pretty hard for everybody in the hospitality trade over the last few years – and nobody is whining about it. So many are on the ground just keeping on going and keeping the ball rolling, reinventing themselves as walk-in takeaways and then re-opening up as restaurants when they can…constantly having to adapt.
“My biggest hope is that all that colour and life we have in the Bay food sector will hang in there and emerge well at the end of it.”
To view the Flavours of Plenty festival programme, see: https://flavoursofplentyfestival.com