Far south cheese lovers have it made. With an award-winning cheesemaker on their doorstep in Capri, Chanee Wallace, otherwise known as Clere Lapree, makes sure their cheese cravings are satisfied (“Chanee wins ‘big’ cheese award at championships, May 12 2016).
Chanee’s journey with cheese started by chance in 2003 when she was asked by her employer, Carol Berry, a cheesemaker at Imhoff and owner of the Picnic Basket in Fish Hoek at the time, to make some cheese.
“I had no idea what I was doing and she (Carol Berry) just gave me instructions over the phone,” Chanee said, laughing.
Her first attempt, a peppercorn Gouda, was a great success and impressed her employer and so Chanee made cheese at Imhoff for the next four years.
Chanee has certainly come a long way since looking for work, door to door in Fish Hoek, in her black pants, red shirt and high heels
At the time she had just matriculated from Ocean View Senior Secondary school in 2002 and needed a job to supplement the income of her grandparents, who raised her.
She started out scrubbing floors, cleaning toilets and washing sign boards at the Picnic Basket and went on to make breakfast and preserves before trying her hand at cheesemaking.
“I loved making cheese. It made me happy,” she said.
In 2008 Agri-Expo and the provincial government sponsored Chanee to study French cheesemaking in Burgundy, France.
Her tutor, Clere Lapree, was an inspiration and she decided to call her business, Clere Lapree handcrafted cheese.
Chanee buys her cow’s milk from Docke’s in Noordhoek and supports Living Hope where she buys her goat’s milk from.
She named her award-winning cheese, Caramella, a cream cheese ball with crushed garlic in virgin olive oil after one of Docke’s Jersey cows.
She won first prize for her Caramella cheese in 2016 and 2017 at the South African Dairy Championships in the category: semi fresh soft cheese. And in 2018 her cream cheese, Zerkahn, rolled on piquant herbs and crushed garlic, was awarded second prize in the championships.
She prides herself in her work and uses no modern equipment. “I have a connection with my cheese and it is my purpose in life,” she
For Chanee, cheese is like a baby. It is a living, breathing thing and must be nurtured. “I talk to my cheese,” she said, laughing again.
For far south residents who have not experienced Chanee’s delightful cheeses, she sells from Rodgers on Kommetjie Road on Wednesdays and Saturdays, at the Noordhoek Farm Village night market on Wednesdays from 4pm until 8pm and at the Longbeach Mall market every alternative Friday.