Marly Badia was studying food science at university in New Zealand when she developed her cheese habit ten years ago. “I was a poor student with a halloumi addiction,” she says.
So, determined to learn how to make it at home, Badia scoured the internet for information about cheesemaking and began experimenting in her kitchen. “I was blown away at how easy making cheese was,” she recalls.
When Badia told her friends she was making halloumi, burrata and feta in her tiny kitchen, she realised cheesemaking was a craft people knew little about. In 2013, Badia moved to Sydney and two years later started Omnom, a business offering cheesemaking classes and DIY cheesemaking kits.
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Badia says the science behind fresh cheese is simple. “At a basic level – where you’re working with store-bought milk – it’s about warming milk up and then adding something acidic to it to make it curdle,” she says. “Once you’ve turned your milk into curds and whey, it’s about how you treat those curds.” Mozzarella and bocconcini are stretched, while halloumi is pressed and boiled. “Other cheeses, you drain and press – you don’t do any cooking with them,” she says.
The milk really matters, she says. “The golden rule in cheesemaking is the less processed your milk is, the better cheese you’ll make,” Badia explains. Ideally, your milk would come from the house cow she says, “but I’m teaching people how to make cheese in their apartment”. So Badia works instead with unhomogenised milk, which has only been pasteurised (a legal requirement in Australia). “It hasn’t gone through that second processing step, which breaks the milk down quite a lot [which is] not great for cheese making.”
Badia describes herself as a “city cheesemaker” – one who is an expert at making cheese with limited space and resources. “I’m trying to show people how to make cheese in their Sydney apartment using a pot, a spoon, a colander – stuff that they already have,” she says. “If you have a commercial cheesemaking background, it’s hard to translate that into an apartment kitchen [without] fancy equipment and big vats,” she says.
In early 2020 Omnom moved from the Tramsheds in Glebe to its current home in Rosebery. Badia loves exploring the suburb’s cute little pockets hidden among industrial warehouses, such as the Gelato Messina HG and food precinct The Cannery, home to the likes of Black Star Pastry and Three Blue Ducks. Among Badia’s favourite Rosebery restaurants is Da Mario, an Italian eatery “[They do] the most sensational pizza.”
Like other Sydney businesses, Omnom closed its face-to-face operation during the Covid-19 lockdown. Fortunately, sales of DIY cheesemaking kits spiked as people sought to keep busy at home during social isolation. “That was a lifesaver for us,” says Badia.
Omnom has resumed in-person cheesemaking classes with reduced numbers to meet social distancing requirements. “People are getting a much more personal, intimate experience,” she says. A newly launched virtual cheesemaking class – something Badia says she never thought possible – has been particularly popular among Victorians under stage-four restrictions.
Badia says she’s determined to discredit the belief cheesemaking is difficult and time-consuming. “That’s why I’m here,” she says. “I’m trying to show people how easy it is. I’m not teaching people how to make a cheddar, which needs to be aged for three years. You can make burrata in one hour, and that’s from milk in a bottle to eating it.”