Return is welcomed

November 01, 2017

Kathy and John Hatzie, former cheese maker from Kyabram.

Former Girgarre cheesemaker John Hatzie has welcomed the news that cheesemaking will return to the tiny town.

Mr Hatzie was recruited from Greece by senior cheesemaker Ejnar Kristensen, and worked at the former Girgarre Cheese Factory between 1966 and 1979, when Nestle transferred the operations to Tongala.

The Girgarre factory became well known for its gouda, edam, pecorino, feta and blue vein cheese, taking out prizes regularly at the Royal Melbourne Show.

Mr Hatzie, who was trained in Greece and Italy, migrated to Australia as a single man in the hope of earning better wages than he could achieve in Greece.

When he started work in Girgarre there were only about 15 people in the cheesemaking team. This number multiplied over the years as domestic and export demand increased, until the factory was running three shifts up to about 11pm.

At one point about 98 per cent of its gouda production was exported to Japan.

Mr Hatzie married a Greek girl, Kathy, in 1970 and the two lived in one of the Girgarre factory houses facing Curr Rd for several years. The houses have since been relocated.

Mr Hatzie worked at the Tongala Nestle factory until 1998, when he retired.

He wished the developers of the new factory every success and had one bit of advice: ‘‘To make cheese is easy, to sell it is the trick!’’

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