Pierre Issa: maker of Sydney’s best butter

***Rachel Khoo would like to thank all the inspiring people who helped make the Khoollect studio a hive of creativity. Although the Khoollect studio’s doors have now closed, you can keep up with Rachel’s newest adventures on RachelKhoo.com and on Rachel’s Instagram and Facebook pages – and, continue to enjoy the Khoollect website’s stories and recipes, which will remain available.***

Pierre Issa is the man behind Sydney’s most delicious and most raved about range of hand-made artisan butters and boutique dairy products. After completing a marketing degree at university, Pierre soon realised he wanted to work as close as possible to the primary industries. His fascination with cream led him on a very swift journey to creating an outstanding range of European-style cultured butters (including a black truffle butter), made laboriously and lovingly by hand. Pierre shares his story of how a little churning in 2010 has led to a full scale operation:

A day in the life

What’s the philosophy behind your company?

To make products the old-school way before preservatives, colourings and additives were put into food.

Have you always worked in the food industry or is this a bit of a tangent?

No, I have no background in food, I’m not a chef. I’m interested in producing one product and producing that one product very, very well.

Are you surprised at how successful your products have been?

Yes, I always knew there was a gap in the market for good Australian cultured butter. Butter, being a commodity, was going to be a long shot if the hospitality industry didn’t embrace it. Pepe Saya butter is made by fermenting farm-gate cream, ageing that cream for four weeks, churning the cream, and then hand working the butter. This is not a machine-made product.

Tell us about your black truffle butter…

Pepe Saya truffle butter is a seasonal item, coinciding with the local black Perigord truffles available from July to August in Marulan, the Southern Highlands, Canberra, Tasmania and Western Australia. We microplane 10% fresh black Perigord truffle into our unsalted cultured butter. We receive enquiries about it all year round, so I would say it definitely has its die-hard fans.

Pepe Saya Cultured Butters

What’s your favourite thing to make using truffle butter?

My absolute favourite dish to make with the truffle butter would have to be fresh local scallops: place a knob of Pepe Saya truffle butter on top of each scallop, then wrap in filo pastry to make a little money bag. Brush with a little ghee (clarified butter), then bake in a hot oven. When you bite into the filo it’s an explosion of truffle butter, and scallop, and truffle butter. You get the idea…

Any new projects in the works?

We’re in the process of setting up a Melbourne distribution network to service all the great Melbourne food establishments.

Pepe Saya Truffle Butter


Best Kept Secrets

I khoollect a few…

Right now I’m loving the old-school faux bone-handled butter knives that we source from local antique shops. We engrave the blade with the Pepe Saya logo and sell these at our market stalls. I also couldn’t live without my Lebanese coffee pot (a.k.a Raquee) which brews my tea without bringing it to a boil.

What’s your favourite item in your khoollection?

I have a tryptic water colour painting of the fishing village of Byblos, Lebanon where I spent much of my childhood. I remember riding my BMX along the wave breaker and wharf. It hangs on my wall over the dining table and I love it greeting me each day when I arrive home.

Your favourite thing to eat?

Savoury: Crusty bread, butter, ox heart tomato, fresh basil and salt.
Sweet: Baked buttermilk ricotta cheesecake.

Urban Favourites

Where do you call home and what do you love most about it?

Alexandria, Sydney. I love the location, the fact that I’m 10 minutes from the city centre, and have access to beautiful city parks and pools, as well as beaches. It’s always buzzing with people out and about.

Pepe Saya

Your favourite place for coffee?

Single Origin and Rueben Hills in Surry Hills. These are great places to relax, chill or catchup for a quick meeting on the go.

Best spot for breakfast?

Cornersmith in Marrickville. I love their philosophy on food and provenance, and the care and love that goes into sourcing quality ingredients for their menu.

Where do you like to head for dinner?

Rockpool. I love the art deco surroundings, the food is outstanding, and the menu really captures Australian modern cuisine.

Best place to pick up artisan products?

Carriageworks and Northside Produce Market.

How do you spend a lazy Sunday?

Sleeping in if I can. A quick stroll to my local coffee shop to get a caffeine fix, a swim in our local pool, and a motor bike ride and plenty of food in between everything else.

If you could live anywhere else, where would it be?

It would have to be a farm on the South Coast of New South Wales, Australia.

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Try making Pepe Saya’s cultured butter recipe at home.

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