Not only does the taste of cheese transcend time for Will, but it’s also all about history too.
“Cheese is primordial. It is one of the world’s oldest naturally fermented foods—to put that in context it predates writing by 3000 years” he tells Thrillist Australia.
“How and where cheese is made has constantly evolved and the raw milk benchmarks connect us to centuries of cheesemaking tradition.”
So, not only are we eating pure heaven, we’re also experiencing history. To have a favourite cheese is nearly impossible when you factor in its historical significance.
“I couldn’t pick just one,” Will says, “it’s like trying to pick a favourite child.”
Originally from the UK, Will moved to Australia, in 1982 and wished to bring his favourite cheeses with him to share with a whole new market. But when he got here, he realised it was a bit more complicated than you’d think.
“Artisan Cheese started as a interest, grew into a passion, and then became a cause,” he says.
“It was only after migrating to Australia that I realised I could make a contribution to the future of local artisan and farmhouse cheesemaking.”
While he was able to bring many French favourites to Australia, such as creamy cheeses like Brillat Savarin and hard cheeses like Comte, his beloved Roquefort Blue was another story entirely.
Over two decades ago, Australian authorities announces that regulations allowing the sale of raw milk cheese would be changed, from a 90 day holding period to a national food code ban, which banned the sale and local production of all raw milk cheese.
Raw milk cheese is literally just cheese that comes from raw milk, which means that the milk used is unpasteurised. Many kinds of cheese are made with raw milk, such as types Camembert, Brie, Washed Rinds and Blue… so this was a pretty restrictive ban.
The reason for the ban was that raw milk can carry dangerous bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria, Campylobacter, and others that cause foodborne illness, which can be hard to regulate.
So, when Will created the ‘Will Studd Selected’ range in 2000, with the aim of hand-selecting the highest quality cheeses and sharing them so that others can experience and savour the world’s finest benchmark cheeses, there was one main contender missing: Roquefort.
Aptly named the ‘Roquefort Rebel’, Will fought to get this cheese into Australia.
“Defending the right to a choice of artisan cheese is important,” he says.
“Banning these cheeses have profound implications on the environment, the land, the family dairy farms, animal welfare and the flavours and textures that make cheese so fascinating.
“A shared belief in the need for artisan cheeses from like-minded cheese professionals around the world has encouraged me to follow this passionate fight in Australia, despite the intimidation and threats.”
And fight he did.
He saw that the repercussions for the “future of “real” cheese in Australia” were huge and so he mounted his own challenge, using Roquefort as the test case.
“Roquefort is the most popular raw milk blue cheese in France and it had been freely available before the changes.” Will writes, in an article in Culture Cheese Mag.
“If tested, it would meet the microbiological standards outlined in Australia’s Food Standards code, satisfying the “equivalent level of bacteria reduction” exemption.”
“In February 2002, a special consignment of 80 kilograms of pre-tested Roquefort arrived in Melbourne. It was immediately stopped at the border by import police who ordered its destruction by deep burial (or re-export) because it did not meet Australian Food Standards. A request to have the offending cheese tested by a recognised government laboratory at my expense was also rejected. It was time to start legal proceedings and appeal.”
In 2004, Will lodged two applications to review the food standards for raw milk cheese. It took over a decade for Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) to announce their strict new domestic standards for raw milk.
In simple terms, Roquefort was able to be sold here, but under strict standards that Will still reckons is one big con.
“They deliberately limit what local cheesemakers can make, and effectively ban soft, blue and high moisture cheeses.
“They also tightened restrictions on the import of raw milk cheese and there is a legal question mark over whether it is now a criminal offence to sell Roquefort in Australia.”
So basically, Will has single-handedly managed to persuade Australian authorities to lift the total ban on un-pasteurised cheeses, so that Roquefort can be sold here. But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.
While he has been successful in that particular pursuit, he remains adamant that “we’re deprived of genuine cheese choices by short-sighted bureaucrats dancing on the strings of paranoid state authorities” as there are still strict regulations in place that stop many actually safe raw milk cheeses from being imported, produced or sold here.
This has had a huge impact on local dairy farms.
“It’s a huge shame,” he says. “Over the past 40 years, 75% of Australian family dairy farms have disappeared, which is all the more reason to support passionate cheesemakers making a difference.”
We totally get the hint, but we didn’t need it. If you’re unfamiliar with the Will Studd Selection, it’s not too late. You can check it out here or look for his name on your next trip to a delicatessen.
Honestly, I’m ashamed to not have known all the backstage battles that were being had to allow some of the most delicious cheeses to grace our cheese boards here in Australia. I’ve been sitting here, devouring my Roquefort and Brillat Savarin without any idea of the fight behind making these cheese available for me.
Will has seen the cheese evolution that has happened in Australia within the last few decades. Whether or not it has something to do with his influence (we think it does) he doesn’t say, but he does think our palette is definitely broadening.
“There has been a consumer-led cheese revolution,” he says.
“Australians have become aware that cheese does not have to be boring and predictable and only come in plastic-wrapped slices with little or no flavour.”
Thank God Will decided to come to Australia in the ’80s, or we’d still be living on slices of “tasty” cheese in our sangas and know no different.
There really is a cheese God and his name is Will Studd.
The cold weather in most parts of Australia coinciding with EOFY celebrations is the closest thing that we’ll get to snowy Christmas vibes. And if you’re in dire need of some festive cheer after the first six months of 2023, grab your ugly sweater and head to your nearest Red Rooster for Xmas in July deals.
From June 29 – July 31, 2023, Red Rooster is serving up free food items, a chance to win $10,000 or one of 10 merch packs valued at $400 and other fun prizes. All you have to do is sign up as a Red Royalty member and spend $5 on at a location near you or online.
Each week there’ll be new delicious deals and prizes to win. The week one deals have already dropped and they’re looking pretty tasty. You can get access to them via your Red Royalty account. The more you purchase, the more chances you have to win.
Spoiler alert: you can get 10 chicken nuggets for free, right now. Brb running to Red Rooster.