Peace of Cheese with Max + Tom

Image source: Photographer Megan Gill

In a world full of conflict, Matt Golinski finds peace in the cheesiest of places.

‘Divisive’ is a word that gets thrown around a lot these days.

By politicans, in the media, sometimes on Facebook Community Notice Boards (although it would generally be spelt wrong there).

People disagree on lots of things, but if there’s one thing the whole world agrees on, it’s that cheese is awesome.

Put a block of brie, some crackers and some fruit paste on the table and suddenly everyone gets along.

Even the vegans and the lactose intolerant are pretty well represented in the fromage department now, so everyone can gather round the grazing table and gorge themselves in unity.

Sam Penny is a man who truly loves everything to do with cheese.

For seven and a half years he owned and operated the iconic ‘Cheese Therapy’, an online, mail-order providore, giving cheese lovers all over Australia access to more than 20 small boutique cheesemakers at the click of a button.

In December 2022, Sam was asked to give a TEDx talk with a theme of ‘Engineering Impact’, so he decided to call his session ‘How to Support Local Food Producers and Grow Local Economies’, a subject he was well qualified to speak about having spent years watching the businesses he was supporting grow, and the impact that had had on the little towns they were often based in.

That talk became the catalyst for a change of business direction for Sam and his family – he decided he actually wanted to be one of those local food producers himself.

With a solid understanding of the cheese industry, he started piecing together the elements he needed to create a premium product that fitted the local and sustainable ethos he strongly believed in.

Firstly, a good local milk producer in the form of milk from eleven small family-owned farms; second, an experienced and creative cheesemaker in Paul Wilson based on the Gold Coast, who was able to bring his vision to life; and third, his two sons, Max, 15 and Tom, 11, who would lend their names to the brand and create the story that makes the product unique.

Milk and cream are trucked in tankers from Maleny down to Paul, who crafts the base products into cultured butter and currently six different cheeses – with more in the pipeline.

Rather than calling their cheeses Brie or Camembert, Max + Tom has gone with more fun colloquial names like Buderim Blue, a mild gorgonzola style; Moffat Sand, a Northern-Italian style hard cheese; and Noosa White, a triple cream brie style.

The Spicy Redhead, a chilli-speckled haloumi, which the ginger brothers wanted to call ‘Spicy Ranga’ but were overruled, is the perfect grilling cheese for any summer salad.

Sam’s philosophy when it comes to the distribution of Max + Tom cheese is that he just wants the market to be South East Queensland, to keep it produced and bought locally.

He currently has around 60 stockists between Noosa in the north and the Gold Coast in the south.

Never fear, however, if you do come from interstate and get a taste for the good stuff while you’re here;  Max + Tom can be ordered online and delivered straight to your door Australia-wide.

If you order anywhere in SEQ it’s fairly likely it’ll be Sam himself who’ll be knocking on your door with a delivery.

But if you really want to meet the man behind the product and the two young men who are responsible for its name, you can head to the Noosa Farmers’ Market on a Sunday morning and have a chat and a taste test.

If you want to spot the boys, get there after 9am – once the stall is set up, they crawl back into the van until a more suitable time of the day for teenagers to be awake!

With the Christmas season comes family gatherings, and you need to be prepared for the moment things start to heat up with that uncle over whether climate change is a hoax.

Why not diffuse the situation with a tried and tested method – CHEESE.

WANT MORE?

Listen to Sam’s Tedx Talk and find out more about Max + Tom.

www.maxandtom.com.au

About the Author /

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Matt Golinski is a highly regarded chef with a passion for simple, produce-driven cuisine based on seasonal, fresh local ingredients. He is an active member of the Slow Food movement, a champion of artisan producers and a generous mentor to keen young chefs. He is the Food and Culinary Tourism Ambassador for the Gympie region; Ambassador and Advisory Executive Chef for Peppers Noosa; and a festival favourite.

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