The SA Cheese Festival kicked off yesterday at Bien Donné, near Franschhoek.  Saturday was sold out, and I’d guess today is probably the same.  But, I’m not going today – being a little crowd-phobic, I tend to leave the weekends well alone and go instead on whichever seems likely to be the quietest day.  Of course, it being a long weekend for most, I don’t suppose it’s going to be that quiet tomorrow, so I’m going to make sure I head out early.

In addition to my general search for what’s natural and organic, and what delectable treats the artisans and small producers have in store, I’ll also be checking out these other highlights of the festival:

Checkers Cheese Emporium

This huge tent houses the country’s largest selection of cheese under one air-cooled 2 400 m2 roof.  And it’s not just cheese here, either – I’ve seen olives, biltong, artisan bread, berry liqueurs, chocolates and plenty more.  The tent also contains the Checkers Theatre, with cooking demos and talks by  Nataniël, Giggling Gourmet Jenny Morris and YOU magazine’s food editor Carmen Niehaus.

Cooking Pot action

For some reason, I’ve never ventured into the Cooking Pot… perhaps because there’s so much to do that the thought of sitting still for half an hour or more seems positively ridiculous when there’s cheese to be had!

But, if you’re interested in what you can do with the cheese, not just the cheese itself, The Cooking Pot might be just your cup of tea.

The Olive Experience

I waxed lyrical about this last week:  a section dedicated entirely to olives, which of course go ever so well with cheese.  The new SA Olive Experience in The Mall will allow olive enthusiasts to enjoy this ancient fruit in ‘surprisingly innovative ways’.  There’ll be about ten olive producers from as far as Beaufort West, Montagu and Porterville showcasing their wares.

The Market

Always my favourite part, even when it’s bucketing down with rain – the outdoor (but sheltered) Market.  Here’s where the artisan cheese makers can be found, showing off their new creations, and enthusing about how they made them.

Gourmet Lane

Gourmet Lane is lined with beautifully presented food stalls, many of them from top wine estates.  You can get everything from oysters to hotdogs, and wine to go with it.  The entertainment is usually a live band – some better than others – and the atmosphere (when it’s not too busy) is conducive to taking a rest from cheese-hunting, laying down your bulging coolerbox, and doing a bit of wine-sipping and people-watching.

Festival goes green

According to organisers, the Cheese Festival is also committed to the ‘greening’ of the event. To this end, I’m told, the contracted stand builders are strongly associated with the green movement in their industry and annually recycle their products.  Additionally, recycling of all waste from the festival will be managed by a group from a previously disadvantaged community in Franschhoek, who will then benefit from the profits derived from the effort.


A limited number of tickets are available from Computicket or Checkers stores (no tickets at the gate) at R90 for Monday and Tuesday. Senior citizens pay R70 and children 12 years and younger enter for free.  The festival runs from 10:00 to 18:00 on Monday and 10:00 to 17:00 on Tuesday.  For more information contact Agri-Expo on tel 021 975 4440 or or visit

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