Counting chefs such as Gordon Ramsay and Analiese Gregory among his fans, Bruce Kemp is a world-famous cheesemaker who likes to get busy during Tasmania’s winter (or Off Season). Based on a small but abundant farm in the town of Flowerpot, he runs Flowerpot Cheese – a business that’s all about experimenting with fermentation, and teaching others to do the same.

Kemp came to cheesemaking via a fairly unusual route. Born in country Victoria, he moved to Tasmania in 1980 and planned to spend a gap year diving, walking and exploring the wilds, but loved the state so much he enrolled in university and stayed. He first started tinkering around with cheesemaking while he was working in child protection for the Tasmanian Government, when the craft became his “balance” after a difficult day.

Already a passionate cook and interested in fermentation, he noticed a gap in Tasmania’s food market: although there were lots of producers harking back to traditional methods, hardly anyone was fermenting dairy.

“I took advantage of that and began teaching myself,” he says. “I invested in education. I took a few intensive courses at Cheeselinks in Melbourne and developed a friendship with them. Then I started experimenting and writing new recipes.”

Soon, Kemp became known for his innovative style of cheesemaking, which combines traditional methods with native Tasmanian ingredients.

“People setting up new restaurants started wanting someone to come in and play around with cheeses for them, so I would go in and experiment and teach,” he says. When Analiese Gregory was at the helm of Hobart restaurant Franklin, Kemp would host Monday night cheesemaking classes in her kitchen. “The idea was that any chef could come along, as long as they brought a bottle of wine and a loaf of bread. It was a lot of fun,” he says. Kemp and Gregory are now good friends – he taught her to dive and to forage for her own food in Tasmania.

Some of Kemp’s favourite experiments have been his hard romano cheeses infused with wild Tasmanian pepperberries, and his pyramid cheeses dusted with saltbush ash. In autumn, he harvests and dries the slippery jack and saffron cap mushrooms that grow in abundance near his farm and infuses them with milk, which he then uses to make brie and camembert.

Sadly, if Kemp were to sell his cheeses, he would be breaking the law. Commercial cheesemaking is heavily regulated and needs to be done in a controlled environment. That’s not Kemp’s style. He prefers to teach people how to ferment in their home kitchens (any upcoming classes will be advertised on his Instagram account) and tinker around on his farm.

“Commercial products are all about conformity,” he says. “I’m all about being game enough to take risks and brave enough to experiment.”

Winter in Tasmania is Kemp’s favourite time of year. The cooler temperatures during the colder months are perfect for cheesemaking. It’s also a time of year to reflect and relax on the farm.

“There’s normally a sense of satisfaction in winter,” he says. “We’ve been through the productive summer season, and in autumn we’re busy picking mushrooms and collecting fig leaves to wrap the cheese in. Winter is like an accumulation of all the effort.” It’s also a time to focus on another of his passions: salami-making.

“A lot of people use autumn to fatten up their pigs with apples and acorns, so in winter there are a lot of gatherings of people on crisp days where we’re working outside on the verandah making salamis and other cured meats,” he says. “We’ve also got a large open fireplace that we drink quite a bit of wine in front of. Chefs come down from Hobart and spend a Monday here in front of the open fire pretending to make cheese.”

Kemp’s approach to life mirrors his approach to cheesemaking. He thinks we should all be brave enough to have faith in ourselves and experiment. He retired at 55, earlier than most of his colleagues in the public service, so he could spend more time walking, fermenting, diving and cooking – and he’s never been happier.

“I was brought into the workforce at a time where you made a lifetime commitment to that profession,” he says. “But life doesn’t have to be a linear pathway. We need to be brave enough to take risks and reinvent ourselves throughout our lives.”

This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Tourism Tasmania. Explore more wild, weird and wonderful experiences during Tasmania’s Off Season.