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Covid sees Waikato chef walk away from 25-year career for apprenticeship


David Colman, 57, has traded in cheffing to become a qualified cheesemaker.

LUKE KIRKEBY/Stuff

David Colman, 57, has traded in cheffing to become a qualified cheesemaker.

David Colman’s​ cheese might appear to some to have slipped off its cracker.

At 57 he’s starting an apprenticeship and may just be New Zealand’s oldest.

But for the Waikato father of three, who has chosen to walk away from a successful 25 year cheffing career to become a cheesemaker with Putaruru’s award-winning Over the Moon Dairy Company, there’s sense behind being unconventional.

“Due to Covid, things [within the hospitality industry] are not good, the tourist trade has completely gone. A career change wasn’t forced upon me but things were on a downward spiral and I knew I needed to start looking for something else,” he said.

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“At my age I [wasn’t sure] what else I was going to do though. Although I’d done other things I hadn’t for a long time, I had been cheffing for 25 years solid.”

Colman, a Scottish expat who relocated to New Zealand 12 years ago with his Kiwi wife, wasn’t about to let age get in his way.

“I phoned my wife one day from work, we’d had a really quiet day, and she said there was an ad in the South Waikato News for a cheesemaker that I might be interested in. She was kind of joking but I said it actually sounded good,” he said.

“That night I was quite excited about it so I emailed [Over the Moon owner Sue Arthur] and the next day she said to come in.”

An interview and a day’s trial later he was hooked.


At age 57 David Colman believes he could be New Zealand's oldest apprentice.

LUKE KIRKEBY/Stuff

At age 57 David Colman believes he could be New Zealand’s oldest apprentice.

“I am a baker and confectioner as well through my Dad’s business, which had been a family business for a few generations, so I think this is a real full circle thing,” he said.

“I’ve gone from doing artisan breads and baking to restaurant work and now I’m doing artisan cheese. It really excites me. There is something different every day, I am learning all the time and [the team] are very open if you’ve got any questions.

“I’m loving it and the good thing for me is I have a food background so the food hygiene and handling has just carried through.

“I also have a background in putting flavour combinations together which will help to develop new cheese.”

Arthur said she was looking forward to what the future may bring and said there were many benefits from employing older staff.

“They bring all their life and work experience with them which is just lovely and from a business point of view they are more likely to stay long-term which is good because it is costly to train people,” she said.


Over the Moon Dairy Company owner Sue Arthur believes in taking on older staff members (file photo).

LUKE KIRKEBY/Stuff

Over the Moon Dairy Company owner Sue Arthur believes in taking on older staff members (file photo).

“It’s a great transition for David.

“He’s not the first chef we have had in the factory, so we have seen how valuable that experience has been. We were really excited when he said he was interested.”

She said Colman will become qualified through the Primary Industry Training Organisation (ITO) and New Zealand Cheese School which is connected to the Putaruru factory.

Colman encouraged other older workers not to let age discourage them from pursuing a new career later in life.

“I have a young family, two daughters aged 11 and eight and my son who is five so the whole thing had to be right but by the time you are my age I think you should be able to judge if things are right. If it feels right go for it,” he said.

“This feels right and I’m in it for the long haul.”

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