ABOUT OUR CHEESE
We are a small internationally acclaimed artisan cheese producer that makes some of New Zealand’s finest soft cheese. We source top quality, export-standard certified organic milk from a local farm milking Ayrshire cows. Our cheese is made on the same day it is milked, and because we only use the milk from one herd we have total control over quality from beginning to end.
You are most welcome to visit our factory in Whangārei, Northland to watch us making cheese. We usually have a selection of cheeses to taste and you can also buy our cheese on the premises.
Watch this Channel North Video about Grinning Gecko Cheese.
James and Catherine McNamara- Owners and Director
We were both raised in Whangārei, Northland and live on a small lifestyle block at Whangārei Heads. Our love of nature combined with our passion for cheese led us to ditch our day jobs and embark on a new venture.
The name grinning gecko and the company brand was inspired by the green geckos that live in the manuka and kanuka on our property.
Seeing these beautiful creatures up close is truly amazing. It serves as a reminder of the diversity that exists beyond the rush of our daily lives; and what could be destroyed by a few careless generations. – Catherine McNamara
Zev- Head Cheesemaker
Zev initially starting out washing dishes at the factory in 2017. His naturally inquisitive nature led him down the path to becoming a cheesemaker. Trained by Catherine he completed his certification over a couple years. He went on to teach Clara, who is now also qualified. He's probably the most recognisable one of the team, having featured on Seven Sharp three years in a row following his national and international successes, which include Aspiring Cheesemaker in 2016 at the NZ Champions of Cheese Awards and Novice Cheesemaker for his Kau Piro at the International Cheese Awards in 2018 . Now our Head Cheesemaker, he sees the cheesemaking process right from pasteurisation right through to maturation also known as affinage. The maturation process can range from 3 weeks to 3+ years depending on the cheese! Along with having three young children, he is also teaching himself Te Reo Maori, and is sharing his knowledge with the team so that we can use Te Reo in our everyday work environment.
Clara – Team Leader
Clara has been at Grinning Gecko since 2018, and is the “everything girl”. With a French heritage, a life-long love of cheese, a BSc in Food Science and being a trained Cheesemaker, she received the Aspiring Cheesemaker Award in 2021 at the NZ Champions of Cheese Awards. She does a range of jobs, from organizing the team and the work to be done throughout the week, packing orders, talking to chefs, clients and customers, filling in as cheesemaker when needed, and writing social media posts. As the extrovert of the team, you might have seen her at events and store tastings.
Award-winning Whangārei cheese maker now sharing his knowledge to new Trainee Cheesemaker
Murray- Milk Pick up and Market Man
Murray is an early morning kind of person, as preparations for both the market and milk pick up start around 5 am! Most of you will know his friendly face, and loudspeaker voice with the specials of the week at The Whangārei Growers Market on Saturday mornings, or his many years of previous work on the radio in Northland.
Every morning we make cheese, Murray is the first to arrive at the factory at 5am, picks up our van and trailer, drives out a local farm in Tangiteroria (between Whangārei and Dargaville), collects the milk into the trailer straight from the cows being milked, drives it all the way back to the factory, pumps it straight into our pasteurising vat, where Zev takes over the cheesemaking. The day is not quite over for Murray, finishing with a thorough cleaning procedure that cleans out the trailers, hoses and pumps used, and has them sparkly clean ready for the next early morning milk trip!
This way, our hardworking early man is involved from the very start of the cheese process to the very end process, selling it to you at the market!