Marks & Spencer feature: Olive Puentespina, the cheesemaker’s life and style
In 2008, Olive officially started producing cheese under the Malagos Farmhouse brand
(On Olive: M&S white linen ruffle sleeve top and black linen pants)
Her cheesemaking story started in Year 2000 with three goats, Marvin, Jolina and Rica, the onset of Olive’s husband-veterinarian collection of ruminants. The number grew with each farm visit, and grew more as the goats bred. How does one earn from this hobby?
Olive bottled fresh goat’s milk to sell. It didn't click. Goat’s milk soap was out of the question since it used very little milk. How else can milk be preserved, asked the UPLB-graduate who worked at the university’s Dairy Training and Research Institute? Cheese. So started Olive Puentespina’s cheesemaking career.
She took lessons from a colleague, then from two Swiss cheese masters from Pontresina, Master’s classes in San Francisco, and so on. “My cheese journey—getting educated in dairying and cheese making— has brought me to the US, Mongolia, Canada, Switzerland, Italy. And with each travel, I learn more,” she shared.
In 2008, Olive officially started producing cheese under the Malagos Farmhouse brand. Sans advertising and social media promotions, Malagos Cheese has become one of the most popular Davao products in the country today.
"I think I started European style artisan cheese making in the Philippines. I am proud that the cheeses I make are on the top tables of the best hotels, restaurants and resorts and airline in the Philippines. That is more than what I can ask for.”
|On Olive. M&S Linen blouse|
Where is Malagos Farmhouse cheese now?
Malagos Farmhouse cheese is on the top of its game in artisan handmade category. The brand is recognized by purveyors of fine foods and graces the table of state dinners of the country. Malagos as a house of cheese produces over 25 kinds which shows the versatility of the brand. It is also GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) certified by the Food & Drug Administration.
From 30 liters of milk production, now we now make cheese from 2-3 tons of milk a week, all handmade and distributed to over 80 establishments in the country, albeit in small quantities.
What’s in a day in the cheesemaking life of Olive?
My day as a mom, a wife and cheesemaker starts early. After the household duties, I enter the cheese room and focus on the day’s work. I check what cheeses are to be shipped and produced, then enter to the aging room and “manage my cheeses”, go through about 200 wheels of cheeses. When the cheese making starts, no one can disturb me until I am done.
Around 5PM, I can accept private tasting sessions on cheese appreciation, be home by 7PM for motherly and wifely duties. I’d be lucky to get five hours of sleep, and then the routine starts all over again.
Of all the cheeses you have made, do you have a particular favorite?
I cannot play favorites. They all came from my brain and put my soul in every creation like its my children. But if I categorize them it would be: Most popular, the Mango Sublime; Most challenging to make, Karinina al Vino; Most flexible, Chevre; Most sought after, La Maria; and Most liked by Pinoys, the Kesong Puti.
Have you groomed someone to take the reins in your absence?
I have “manualized” the operations so there is a responsible person at every stage of the production. The Quality Assurance Supervisor together with the Production Supervisor makes sure the cheese room runs smoothly so I just enjoy the best part, which is making cheeses.
My daughter Ingrid who is taking up Food Tech in Diliman will take over operations when she graduates. She is a working student now and takes cheese making during school break.
What’s it like for you away from the cheese room?
Now that my kids are practically adults needing less of my supervision, I get to perfect my craft. I get to travel to educate myself more and get to market my product, too.
The demand of growing a business is great and to stay on top of my game I need to be ahead of the next guy so I have to be a cheesemaker and an entrepreneur.
So yes, I probably have no life outside of the cheese room, but I am having so much fun.
Yes, I noticed that even at your socials Malagos Farmhouse cheese is in the affair. Is there an instance when you get social life sans cheese?
I look at it as an affirmation of the quality of the product. I also get to enjoy some personal time with friends sans the cheeses, but I also get asked about them, like asking, “how are the kids?”
My cheese and I are one. I probably have no life outside of the cheese room, but I am having so much fun.
(On Olive: M&S stripe tie front linen blouse, white linen pants & canvas trainer)
What’s downtime for you? When can you say I am relaxing and living my life well?
Cooking! I love to cook. When I am in the kitchen, it’s like I am in an orchestra. I am happiest conducting flavors, enjoying ingredients. I am a home buddy but if I have time to travel, I would go back to Switzerland. I love the changing color of autumn with the rock mountains in the background. And the fruits in Aargau!
I’ve seen you transform from wearing an apron to donning a smart set for an affair. What is Olive Puentespina’s style?
I need to fix myself, too. I am most comfortable in jeans or drawstring linen pants, loose cotton or linen blouse, and in clogs, sneakers or traveling boots. I lead a very active lifestyle so my fashion has to work with and around it, and comfortable materials like linen can beat the summer heat.
I choose my pieces well because I will wear them until its “retirement” then I go get myself another set.
No dresses in the closet? Where and how often do you shop?
Only M&S for underwear and the basics. I like the convenience of shopping at Marks & Spencer because they carry a complete line of clothing offering a wide array of tops and bottoms I can choose from. I am such a lazy shopper so I prefer a one-stop shop.
They also have the palette. Marks & Spencer have colors that best suit me. They have a lot of earth tones and I like warm colors.
The linens are light and airy. It's perfect for summer. It can work during the day and can get me through the casual evening affairs as well.
What will make you wear a dress?
When Bo & I get married again.
Fashion: M&S 2018 Linen Collection available at the Marks & Spencer stores in Abreeza Mall & SM Lanang Premier
Photography: Brian Dexter Medija
Make-up & Styling: Otoy Mercado
Location: Malagos Farmhouse Cheese Room