Delving into the dairy
Delving into the dairy
by Angela Reedman-Polinski
Viewers all over the world last month saw the gloss and glamour of the Channel Ten MasterChef television show visiting The Old Dairy in Maleny. The media coverage has reached far and wide on that event, but in HT style we decided to delve a little deeper, talking to the Jelekainen family about how and why they began the project to transform the property to its current splendour.
The Old Dairy Maleny is a 90-acre property on the Landsborough-Maleny road featuring pockets of rainforest, hidden waterfalls and rolling green hills. It is also the centre of the Jelekainen’s very own love story.
Ari and Jo Jelekainen and their children, Luka, Markus and Matilda have put their hearts and souls into their home, to raise it to a showcase property welcoming weddings, events and now…television crews!
Jo and Ari had their first date at Mount Beerwah and keeping with the romantic tradition, Ari proposed to Jo in the exact same spot.
“When we found The Old Dairy in 2003, the views of Mount Beerwah, the natural environment and the valley drew us in to create a property exactly where we could always overlook our favourite place,” reminisced Jo.
“It was still operating as a functioning dairy with paddocks full of cows, weather-worn barns and tired old fences. It was a long way from what it is today.”
Beginning their journey, they camped on the property and made changes each day, slowly building the property up over 16 years through all seasons.
“We weeded, mowed, planted and harvested while raising our own family and the juggle that all entails. We watched the sun rise over the ridge while the kids played in the rainforest and we all collected stones from the paddocks to use in the re-builds.
“As we raised our family, we enjoyed our own special occasions with family and friends who visited our property and we built with the motto in mind of what would we like to do, see and feel here.”
Jo’s father-in-law carefully renovated the ramshackle bar and the bell tower building for her sister’s wedding in 2013. He recycled stone from their own paddocks and recycled the timber beams on the property into the newly styled features.
“Our children got to name the new bar to put their own stamp on it. We had just two children back then so Luka and Markus chose their favourite animals and that is how The Fox and Turkey bar was born,” laughed Jo.
“It was after that wedding event hosted on our property that we properly understood the pure joy and inspiration this special place could provide for other people’s love stories.”
Jo and Ari then began renovating the existing buildings and custom-building new structures to create a magical and unique property, specifically for weddings and events.
The final results included capacity for up to 90 guests, individual ceremony areas with fountains, a fully functioning caterers kitchen, on-site cottage accommodation and an area dedicated for guest parking.
“Every aspect of this old farm has been developed with love and superior craftsmanship, and often a bit of fun too,” smiled Jo.
“The property is booked exclusively for our guests for entire weekends, which gives them the opportunity to spend time together without distractions.
“We created it like that because that is what we love about being here, time together to do what we want to do, enjoying this property and absorbing the beautiful views.”
This made it an excellent choice for Masterchef to use in an episode of filming for the cooking series.
“The Masterchef team approached us via Queensland Tourism to check our capacity, road access and calendar availability. The filming took place on February 23 and was published to air in June, so there was a while to keep it quiet,” shared Jo.
The Maleny site was chosen as one of many Queensland venues for the MasterChef ‘Queensland Week’ episodes.
“We already refer all of our guests to local suppliers when they are arranging events for musicians, security services, shopping and restaurants so it was good to contribute even more to the success of the region and the local and regional communities.
“Our children sat mesmerised by the filming and production crew of over 100 people and enjoyed chatting with the shows judges, Matt Preston, George Calombaris and Gary Mehigan.”
Contestants started by creating a sweet or savoury dish with local ginger. The winner of that round then competed against a professional chef using one of five beautiful Queensland ingredients as the hero of their dish.
The contestants were tucked away in a private cottage and the judges had exclusive use of the two-storey on-site Rockinghorse Cottage as their private green room.
“When building that cottage, we added a little room at the bottom of the stairs, the secret man cave,” revealed Jo.
Hidden away behind a locked door in the cottage is an intimate private cellar and bar where guests have been known to calm their wedding nerves and share private conversations.
Jo and Ari have seen many events held at the venue and still stand in awe of the stunning sunsets that grace their property.
“We get the birds flying overhead and the beautiful views of the valley, we feel so lucky to be here.”
The love story continues for the Jelekainen’s as they watch their children grow and play amongst the rolling hills, while still overlooking their special Mount Beerwah in the distance.
“We love that people feel comfortable here and we look forward to many years together seeing this special place provide for other people’s love stories.”
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