Top quality cheese a Stirling effort at South Otago factory

By Sally Rae

Fonterra Stirling site jack-of-all-trades Jonni de Malmanche takes a sample from a 20kg block of cheese. Photo / Stephen Jaquiery
Fonterra Stirling site jack-of-all-trades Jonni de Malmanche takes a sample from a 20kg block of cheese. Photo / Stephen Jaquiery

You could call Jonni de Malmanche a jack-of-all-trades, or more accurately, a Jane of them.

The South Otago woman is one of the long-serving staff members at Fonterra's Stirling cheese factory, having worked there for the past 23 years.

"I still enjoy coming to work every day. I love the people, I love basically what Stirling stands for which is we make great cheese," she said.

The factory, which opened in 1983, was built by the Otago Cheese Company, formed after the merger of three small South Otago dairy companies. In 2010, Fonterra spent $7.75 million upgrading the factory.

Ms de Malmanche (49) might not actually make the cheese but she was involved in most other aspects at the factory which churns out a whopping 208 tonnes a day.

"I do know a lot about cheese," she said.

Fortunately, she loved cheese, quipping that she would rather eat cheese and crackers than a cream bun, and her two sons and three grandchildren were also all cheese lovers.

Born and raised in Christchurch, she shifted to Balclutha with her parents when she was 14.

Previously a stay-at-home mother at Kaitangata, she was looking for something to do when she started in the laboratory at Stirling "washing the dishes".

When laboratory work was centralised to the Clandeboye plant in South Canterbury, she moved into the factory to the processing lab and a team leader role.

From there, she "pretty much just carried on in getting involved in everything Stirling".

"I don't make cheese, I test cheese, make sure it's fit for customer use."

But there was no slicing off a wedge of Stirling's Colby or Egmont fan — her favourite varieties — for sampling. The testing was all chemistry-based.

She believed the best cheese was produced at Stirling and a lot of that came down to the processes at the factory which led to the good flavour.

Ms de Malmanche did not have an official title at the moment, but it was probably more aligned with a production co-ordinator, she said.

The workforce of 100 staff was close-knit and a lot of great people worked there, she said. It included generations of families and she was now working with some of the children of colleagues.

It was the challenges involved that had kept her interested, particularly with growing expectations from customers and meeting those challenges.

- Otago Daily Times

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