About us

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.

We pick up the milk early in the morning, as the cows are being milked and it is in our pasteuriser within an hour of leaving the cow.

Our fresh organic milk is batch pasteurised, which is a very gentle method of pasteurisation.  We believe the way we treat our milk throughout the process is reflected in the quality of our cheese. We use non-animal rennet and all our cheese is handmade and aged on site.

You are most welcome to visit our factory in Whangarei, 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.

About us

James and Catherine McNamara

We were both raised in Whangarei, Northland and live on a small lifestyle block at Whangarei Heads. Our love of nature combined with our passion for cheese led us to ditch our day jobs and embark on a new venture.

Because of the prevalence of dairy farming in New Zealand, and the impact it has on the environment it was important to us to make our cheese only from certified organic milk.

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 five and a half years ago. 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 and Amber.

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. Now our Head Cheesemaker he is in charge of not only of cheesemaking, but also the maturation of the cheese, 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.

Meet the Northland cheesemaker who won a major award for his Kau Piro

Watch a feature on Seven Sharp about our inspirational cheesemaker

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 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 Whangarei 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 Whangarei Growers Market on Saturday mornings.

Every morning we make cheese, Murray is the first to arrive at the factory at 5am, picks up our van and trailer, drives out the Crawford Farm in Omana (between Whangarei 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!

 

Katie- Dispatch Coordinator

Katie started in 2016, initially just to help out during a busy Christmas period. Five years later, she’s still here and we can’t imagine our team without her! She’s now in charge of order picking, packing, invoicing and replying to your emails, as well as helping to pack and label the cheese. You might have chatted to her on the phone if you’ve called, or met her in person if you’ve visited our store on Port Rd. She has a good knowledge of cheese, a keen eye for detail, which means she is very good at quality control and she has a near faultless record for order accuracy!

 

Amber- Cheesemaker Assistant

A vibrant addition to our team, Amber joined the GG whanau about a year ago. You will most often find her in the make room, cleaning, prepping for the make and helping Zev with the cheesemaking. As most cheesemakers know, 90% of cheesemaking is cleaning! Before, and after, we always make sure all our surfaces and equipment are cleaned and sanitised.
Amber has just started her Certificate in Cheesemaking, to learn the theory behind the art and science of cheesemaking. If you come to our shop, she will often come out to say hi and help you find a cheese of your dreams. She’s pretty knowledgeable with her craft beers too, so could help you with some nice beer and cheese matching.