Jake Rosevear might be the big cheese in his industry right now but he's still not keen for an interview.
The 34-year-old Northlander has just proved that winning the 2012 cheesemaker of the year award was no fluke by doing it again this year.
No one else has managed to bag the top title in the New Zealand Champions of Cheese Awards two years running, but you get the feeling Jake would prefer to let the cheese do the talking.
The family firm, Mahoe Farmhouse Cheese, also won the artisan cheese award for its very old edam, which judges said was the best cheese made a company producing under 25 tonnes a year.
It also collected the champion Dutch-style cheese award for its mature gouda and, as if that wasn't enough, six gold medals, one silver and two bronze. Perhaps most remarkable, however, was the perfect 100 scored by two of Mahoe's mature cheeses, a supposedly impossible feat.
Eventually, after a bit of cajoling, Jake agrees to an interview and tells the Advocate his back-to-back wins were completely unexpected. He had an inkling last year because the organisers contacted him suggesting he attend the awards dinner; this time around he had no clue.
''It was a total shock. It was quite terrifying really, I don't like standing up in front of people.''
While it was good to be recognised, he says the family firm's victory in the best cheese category was more important to him.
After leaving Kerikeri High School Jake worked at an orchard, taught surfing in France and started a degree at Auckland University. He'd come home in summer to help his parents Bob and Anna in the family cheese firm, and one year he stayed.
The then 19-year-old learnt the craft in an informal apprenticeship under Dutch cheesemaker Tony van Stokkum, who had been with the company almost from its inception in 1986.
''It was a good opportunity. I was in the right place at the right time, and I've never looked back.''
With Tony now semi-retired Jake has stepped into the role of chief cheesemaker. He puts his success down to the company's almost 30 years' experience of developing good cheeses, Tony's teaching, his parents, and talking cheese at every opportunity with his brother and fellow cheesemaker Jesse, 35. The secrets to making award-winning cheeses include paying attention to every stage in the process and using top-quality milk from the company's own herd of 60 cows milked by older brother Tim.
Mahoe founder Bob Rosevear says he is ''totally proud'' of his son's achievements. The qualities that make Jake an excellent cheesemaker include his attention to detail, ''extremely fastidious'' hygiene and unstoppable work ethic.
The same could be said about Jesse, so he wouldn't be surprised to see another Rosevear's name engraved on the champion cheesemaker trophy one day.
''They used to come home to help in the holidays but we never thought they'd end up working here. Anna and I were so lucky they stepped in to be with our little company. When those two lads get together, things happen,'' Bob says.
As for the future, Jake says he is constantly trying to improve and learn, but a bid for a third champion of cheese title hasn't even entered his thoughts. Instead he's thinking about what kind of cheese he can make next.
''I'd love to make every kind of cheese there is, but we make so many already. We don't want quality to suffer by spreading ourselves too thin.''
Cheese connoisseurs can take heart in the fact that the Rosevears are also working on a new generation of cheese makers. Jake's daughter with partner Hanna Cleghorn, Koko, is partial to the ricotta - the 4-year-old regularly issues her father instructions to bring some home - while son Gus, 6, is a fan of the very old gouda and uncle Jesse's washed rind cheese.
All of which promises many more years of award-winning cheese made here in Northland.
- - - -
Mahoe Farmhouse Cheese was founded in 1986 by Bob and Anna Rosevear on the family farm at Oromahoe, south of Kerikeri.
The company is a regular winner at the New Zealand Champions of Cheese Awards, dominating the artisan class for producers of less than 25 tonnes a year. Mahoe currently makes just over 20 tonnes of mainly Dutch-style cheese.
Cheesemaker Jake Rosevear says the top seller is cumin cheese - also called Leidse cheese, after the Dutch city of Leiden where it originated - followed closely by young gouda and the very old gouda. The blue cheese is popular at farmers markets in Whangarei, Kerikeri and Paihia.
Jake says people are becoming increasingly adventurous with their food, a boon for the company's mature and speciality cheeses.
The company has four full-time and four part-time staff and is very much a family business, with all four of Bob and Anna's sons having worked there. Currently Tim, 40, milks the cows; Jesse, 35, and Jake, 34, share cheesemaking duties and their partners also work for the firm. The original cheesemaker, Tony van Stokkum, still works part-time.
The Rosevears have some Dutch heritage - Anna was born in The Hague and has lived in New Zealand since she was three - but they're more accurately described as makers of Dutch cheese than Dutch cheesemakers.
Their products are available from the factory on SH10 at Oromahoe, farmers markets, some supermarkets, organic food stores and speciality cheese shops. See www.mahoecheese.co.nz for more information.