Kristen Allan has proven herself in recent times as a serious emerging star in the worlds of cheesemaking an women's advocacy alike. Having been involved in multiple female-focused events, most recently speaking at All About Women at Sydney's Opera House, it made total sense for us to invite her to share some pearls of wisdom with us below. Currently we're serving her amazing buttermilk ricotta with native honey from Rell's Bees and rosemary from Young Henry's herb garden (thanks, guys!).
Visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au to contribute to our cause and support victims of domestic, sexual and family violence.
I’m Kristen Allan, a Cheese maker based in Sydney. I’ve just opened a cheesery in Alexandria and am currently making small batch fresh cheeses.
Why have you agreed to participate in this project?
The Stinking Bishops are big supporters of cheese and I’m a cheesemaker to put it simply. Also, of course with it being women’s history month and international women’s day on March 8th it was a no brainer for me.
Also when I discovered that a portion of the proceeds made from all of the Female Producers featured in March are being donated to 1800RESPECT I was very keen to be involved. 1800RESPECT was a charity I hadn’t heard of before and have already made small donation to them myself.
Why are you passionate about being involved in these collectives?
Since I started my career teaching workshops about cheesemaking, I’ve kind of slipped into this role of being an educator and a voice for cheesemaking and food in general in this country. I may only be one person but if my voice can affect change in one person out there then it was worthwhile and I have been lucky enough to have been a part of the All About Women Festival that was held at the Opera House this year so hopefully I have made a small difference in the world around me.
How did you become involved in this field?
I had just moved to Sydney and was working a corporate job. I was living with a dear friend of mine at the time who could see that this lifestyle was making me really unhappy and one day when I was probably grumbling about it she looked at me and said “Why don’t you do something with cheese? Look you love cheese, and every time you talk about it your eyes light up”. She was a very wise friend, I trusted her a great deal, and ended up leaving the corporate world soon after. That started a twelve year journey of studying cheese, attending cheesemaking courses and experimenting at home. I really hit my stride after coming back from Spain where I met an amazing lady who made the most fantastic unpasteurised Goat’s Milk Cheeses who inspired me to take my cheesemaking to the next level. When I got back to Sydney Cornersmith had just opened and I started making cheese for the cafe and running cheesemaking workshops at night. It wasn’t long after that I started looking for a larger space, which lead me to opening the Cheesery here in Alexandria.
If any, can you run us through some trials or tribulations you’ve faced based on your gender?
In terms of my journey specifically as a cheesemaker I haven’t encountered a huge amount of sexism, however sometimes it’s hard to tell if someone is being sexist or just being unthinking and nasty. However, when I started making my journey towards cheesemaking twelve years ago I was working in hospitality for a good portion of that time to support myself as I was learning. I can definitely say that the food industry as a whole is rife with sexism. I don’t want to be too negative and I don’t think it has ever held me back but it is there, undeniably there. I also want to acknowledge my privilege and I know that there are women out there who are far more marginalised because of disabilities, gender identity, race, etc. who face the same problems I do and more.
How do you think we can challenge these attitudes in future?
I would say through conversations, educating men and women from a really young age and most importantly listening! Creating workplaces, schools and environments that support women. It’s also important to embrace femininity in men and support and encourage it where we can. Hyper-masculinity hurts both men and women. We need to be angry about these attitudes, but we also need to come from a place of inclusivity and compassion if we want people to move with us. The attitudes are moving forward, it just needs to continue at the rate it is now. There has been a big shift in the last few years.
Are there any women in your industry that inspire you?
A cheesemaker I met in Spain, Maria, had a big effect on me. She made fantastic cheese and after meeting her I was motivated to focus my efforts back here in Sydney. Outside of the food industry, my friend Jane really helped push me towards my dream of becoming a cheesemaker. Also very importantly, my Mother inspired me from a young age. She grew up in the north of England and ended up the DUX of her school, however when she graduated she wasn’t encouraged to pursue her dreams or strengths. She never went to university because she was expected to be a housewife. When I was young I didn’t much care or worry about voting or being involved in politics and when my Mother found out she would cite Emmeline Pankhurst and the importance of fighting and caring for such things as the women who had come before me had fought hard to allow me the rights I had today. Finally, to be honest, I am surrounded by many women in the food industry who are pursuing their dreams and doing what they want to do and that gives me a great deal of encouragement.
What are you most proud of?
This year I have been asked to contribute to three separate initiatives to support women in conjunction with International Women’s Day/Women’s History Month and I feel so blessed to be included in the conversation. These different platforms allow for conversation and that in my opinion is the way forward.
What are your projections for the future?
It has only been in the last hundred or so years that feminism has really been taking off and with the advent of the internet it has spread faster and further still. We’re in a time of change. I’m so excited about the future for young women. When I was at school we never had these kinds of conversations, but when I spend time with my nieces and other young children, boys included, who have been exposed to these ideas at an earlier age it gives me a great deal of hope.
The future is female!