Evansdale Cheese

About Evansdale Cheese

Evansdale Cheese started in 1978, with the Dennison family cow. Now Evansdale cheese is still a family owned and operated business, which has grown from 150 litres of milk a day to 1,500 litres of milk each day.
A lot has changed since Evansdale first started, but Evansdale Cheese continue to be a small, family run business, and the Dennison family members continue to make cheese by hand, recognising that with a little care and consideration, something beautiful, delicate and delicious can be shared and enjoyed by many.
Evansdale Cheese now produce 20-30 different varieties of cheese that are naturally preservative and calf rennet free. With a wide range of robust and delicate flavours; from curds to blue, to hard cheeses, and soft brie cheeses.
100% New Zealand owned and operated, you can visit Evansdale Cheese and the Dennison family cheese factory at Hawksbury village, just outside of Dunedin.

 

Pablo Dennison - Owner/ Manager

Pablo Dennison - Owner/ Manager Pablo Dennison fell into the cheese business. What started as an after-school job for him, developed into something he did every time he came back from overseas, at some point he stopped venturing overseas so much, and it grew into a full-time job. When the business moved from Evansdale to Hawksbury village it became a serious investment for Pablo and the business just got bigger and bigger.
 
Pablo loves all the opportunities that come up with his position and the best part about it is he’s been able to work with his family day in, day out. Of course, this means he’s also been fired 79 times and resigned 75 times, so he thinks he’s a better person for it. He gets to meet so many great and interesting people from all around the world through the cheese shop (as it gets thousands of visitors a year) and also at the Otago Farmers Market (that on a good Saturday morning has over 8000 people going through it). All this means it’s been very rewarding to be part of the company’s history and on-going growth.
 
He's refreshingly realistic and hardworking, saying, ‘business can be grief, it's a lot of hard work behind the scenes, but it's all worth it when it goes well.’ Some of his favourite sayings are, ‘it’s better to have one’s customers come to one’s shop, then to have to look abroad for them,’ By Manfred von Richthofen. Also, ‘Measure twice, and cut once,’ and, ‘If only we had the power to see us, as others see us.’
 
He thinks it's great that Evansdale Cheese staff do get to hear first-hand many positive comments on the cheeses, and that is incredibly rewarding.
 
Outside of work, Pablo enjoys travelling and football (soccer). Being Argentine; Lionel Messi (the soccer player) is the ‘best of all time’, as well as his Tottenham Hotspur team that he supports in England. Pablo has been lucky enough to see both Argentina, Messi, and Tottenham play live (not just on TV). Pablo is also a collector of military history and Anzac Day is a very special and important day for his family.
 
Pablo's Evansdale Cheese recommendation: You can't beat an Evansdale New York cheesecake (chocolate of course) using fantastic Evansdale fresh curd. The curd is also super delicious on pizza mmmmmmmmmmm! What a combo; pizza and then cheesecake for lunch!


 

Colleen Dennison - The Grand Founder

Colleen Dennison - The Grand Founder Evansdale Cheese started as an idea in 1977, over a Christmas BBQ. Back then the Dennison family had 10 acres, and they were throwing ideas around about how to make some money and someone came up with the idea that everyone in the group should each have a cow, and the Dennison family should start a small cheese operation.
As the Evansdale business began to grow, sadly all those friends stopped having a family cow, and Cadbury's started to supply milk. Back then, Evansdale Cheese took about 100 litres, right through to the early 80’s.
While working at Evansdale Cheese, managing the business, Colleen also worked as a fulltime Geography teacher. After spending five years teaching overseas, Colleen was passionate about teaching and found it very rewarding. Most days involved getting up at 5am to collect milk with the family dog, before pasteurising it, and preparing it for the cheesemaker who would be there from 8am, and then it was off to work for a full day of teaching.
During this time, six children arrived, and the Dennison household thrived. Evansdale Cheese spent some time working with and advising Whitestone Cheese, helping establish their Oamaru operations, and with Jock Allison, making sheep’s milk cheese, which was very rare in New Zealand in those days.
Colleen finished teaching in 2005, and by 2006, the family had all grown up. The Dennison family brood were still involved in Evansdale Cheese, with Pablo and Matthew helping run the business.
Recognition has been the most rewarding thing for Colleen. Producing a fine, artisan product, that people enjoy eating and tell their friends about has been something special. Colleen finds word of mouth in business, especially one that has been running for over 40 years, very rewarding. Seeing children of some of her earliest customers come and buy cheese has been great.
Growing a small business has been a big part of Evansdale Cheese for Colleen. The ability for an idea to grow into a small business that can provide for its staff and employees to buy a home or build their own ideas into a something has been very rewarding.
Colleen says, “As a small business, you have to be committed, committed to being innovators, you have to go ahead and want to do things, and you sometimes have to turn up to work at midnight or 2am to see things through. It’s just what we do. In some ways, you become obsessed, and those lucky people find the balance where they don’t become too driven, and find that work life balance.” Working really hard to run a business has been a big part of Evansdale Cheese for Colleen.
A family owned and operated business, Evansdale cheese is a good story, because the company has managed to survive for 40+ years. Colleen says, “We must be doing something right, for it to have survived for so long.” She’s still actively involved in the cheese factory, and continues to make cheese some days.

Colleen’s Evansdale Cheese recommendation: Colleen’s favourite Evansdale Cheese is Farmhouse Brie, and she would serve that with either a biscuit and Wanaka confit, or a water biscuit, with quince paste and any wine you like!


 

Lesley Dennison – CEO

Lesley Dennison – CEO Lesley has just started to really get involved with Evansdale Cheese over the last year, as she’s recently retired after being a nurse for 57 years. As Pablo and Matthew’s mother, she’s enjoying being able to work with her children, which a lot of parents don’t get the opportunity to.
Lesley has enjoyed watching the company grow. She admires that it has grown from a concept into a fully fledge business, and what Col has achieved in running the business in the past. A highlight for her has been watching her 92-year-old father come and help build the factory at Hawkesbury, as it goes to show that people can learn to do new things at any age, and can keep going. She finds that very inspiring. She thinks a credit to Evansdale Cheese being so successful and surviving for so many years is that the family is very tight and supportive.
Outside of work, Lesley is a member of the Rotary club, she visits elderly, and helps out at Foodbank. She is also involved in a large-scale project, collecting medical supplies to go to Samoa and the Pacific Island Research and Student Support Unit there. They’re sending hospital beds, linen, supplies, instruments and equipment all donated as she visited last year in October and realised how deficient they were in medical equipment.

Lesley’s Evansdale Cheese recommendation: Tania with garlic cracker and a nice relish or hummus – yum!

 

Matthew Dennison - The Fixer

Matthew Dennison - The Fixer

At twelve, Matt started to make Wensleydale cheese in the old Evansdale factory. This cheese was excellent, and his dad could not understand how Matt did it! This lasted for only a few months, when at twelve years old, Matthew found better things to do.

Matt worked on and off in the factory over the next few years, and was always willing to help. In 1998, when Annabel came to the Evansdale Cheese factory, we started to make sheep milk cheese. The milk was sourced from Jock Allison's flock of East Frisians at Milton. Every day for two seasons, Matt collected the milk from the farm and brought it back to be processed by Annabel. At the time the factory was running two day shifts.

From 2000 onward, Matt became involved in the building of the factory on the old Cherry Farm site. One memorable day Matt and Colin mixed and poured the floor for the new factory to build the staff kitchen. The concrete make for that day was 10.5 cubic metres of hand mixed concrete.

Matthew is the ‘go to’ person at Evansdale Cheese and does everything from cheese making to making sure our fleet of vehicles are doing what they’re supposed to do – work. Matt enjoys working with his family and in his spare time enjoys trail bike riding. Outside of work, Matt enjoys spending time in Warrington with his family.

Matthew’s Evansdale Cheese Recommendation: For Matt, the Farmhouse Brie is his favourite cheese and nothing beats a gigantic burger or sandwich with an equally gigantic slab of Farmhouse Brie in it! Mmmm….


 

Les Ballentine - Master Cheese Maker

Les Ballentine has worked at Evansdale Cheese for over eleven years. He has been their cheesemaker for the past nine years, and trained under Colleen and Pablo. He likes the small friendly team at Evansdale, as you can talk about anything.
He finds it incredibly rewarding that at the end of the day he’s done his best to make a beautiful cheese that people appreciate. Often at weekends he works in the shop and finds it rewarding to see people eating and appreciating the cheese that he’s made. He thoroughly enjoys making cheese, especially when you’ve made a good job of it. He likes Pablo’s sentiment; that you don’t have to travel if you work in the shop at Evansdale Cheese, as you meet people from all over the world, and all walks of life. It can be like a holiday every day.
A highlight for Les is the story of ‘Tania’; the smoked brie cheese. At the time Les’ wife was working at Evansdale Cheese, and came home with a packet of Brie cheese. This was just after Christmas, and Les’ wife had purchased a fish smoker for him for Christmas, he was smoking some fish with manuka at the time, and decided to put some of the cheese in the smoker. They tried some with lunch and thought it was delicious. Les’ wife took it back to Evansdale Cheese for the Dennison family to try, and they loved it! ‘Tania’ the smoked brie was created.
Evansdale Cheese have been really supportive of Les, who recently had time off with knee surgery. He’s looking forward to being able to get back into the garden, which he loves, now that his knee is better. He also enjoys fishing, shopping, reading and spending time with his wife outside of work.

Les Ballentine’s Evansdale Cheese recommendation: A nice strong bay yellow, on nice fresh bread, with (here’s the twist) strawberry jam, and a cold light lager.


 

Sarah Law - Sales Extraordinaire

Sarah has been working for Evansdale Cheese for four years. She started as a Christmas casual, and never left. She really enjoys working at Evansdale Cheese, as she gets to meet so many fantastic people coming through the shop and through selling cheese. She loves that she gets to chat to people from all over the world, and so many unique people, through Evansdale Cheese. The team are like a small, tight knit family, and she’s also learnt a lot about sales and customer care through Evansdale Cheese. Outside of work she enjoys drawing, reading, painting and spending time with her dog.

Sarah’s Evansdale Cheese Recommendation: Sarah’s favourite is the Mt Cargill Tudor, with Lily’s red pepper jelly, and a glass of Central Otago pinot (either Roaring Meg, or Last Shepherd).


 

The Great Arthur - a special mention

Grandad Arthur Kilworth will always be remembered for his input into the building of the Evansdale Cheese Factory at Hawksbury Village. Arthur, at ninety years of age was always one of the first to climb step ladders or wield hammers and saws in the building of the new curing rooms at the Hawksbury site. He gave a lot of time and energy to this factory and this family venture.
He is fondly remembered by all of us. A great man, and an inspiration to everyone who had the honour of meeting him in everyday life. The same transpired to those of us who were able to work with him. We all had the upmost of respect for him.

 
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