Current Issue #488

For The Love of Cheese

For The Love of Cheese

My first introduction to The Guilde Internationale des Fromagers was in September 2011 in Bra, Italy at the famous Ristorante Battaglino in the beautiful Piazza Roma.

The Guilde is an organisation started for dairy professionals dedicated to preserving standards in cheesemaking throughout the world. The Confrerie, however, is for cheese aficionados and experts such as chefs, restaurateurs, food scientists and food journalists whose objective was to share their knowledge and the knowledge of the cheesemakers.

My first introduction to The Guilde Internationale des Fromagers was in September 2011 in Bra, Italy at the famous Ristorante Battaglino in the beautiful Piazza Roma. The event took place in the cobblestoned courtyard of the Ristorante, which I have come to know well over the years. Around 50 or so people were milling around chatting and enjoying some local wines. I myself settled in to discuss the finer points of cheese with a diverse group of cheese lovers.

It appeared as though there was a secret discussion involving some 20 or so people including Will Studd, whom I subsequently learnt was the first International Ambassador of the Guilde. Quietly they disappeared through a small doorway at the rear of the courtyard. We were served a most delicious selection of local specialties. Included in this was the region’s famous sausage – Salsiccia di Bra, cured pork belly, which is so delicate in texture and flavour it simply melts in your mouth.

We were all brought to attention as the secretive group reappeared, donning ‘Friar Tuck’-like cloaks and sporting large medallions around their necks. Around their arms hung more of the large medallions that were awaiting deserving recipients. The leader of the group addressed us and began to discuss the cheesemakers’ Guilde. The Guilde was founded to restore artisan French cheeses, which almost vanished after the Second World War.

The official members called upon the new inductees one at a time. A toast was given discussing the attributes of the individual and their contribution to the cheese industry. More traditional dishes were laden before us. A large ravioli stuffed with veal – the pasta was perfect and the veal jus was glossy and rich. I keenly listened to the toasts and felt somewhat envious of the ceremony before me. It would be wonderful to have something like this in Australia, I thought. The pomp and ceremony made it special, interesting and charming and was vastly different to any awards night I had ever attended. Finally a selection of cheese was brought to the table. All local offerings including the traditional fresh sheep milk pecorino, which was made of raw milk and quite exquisite in flavour and texture, showing off the quality of the milk.

Before leaving in the early hours of the morning I mentioned to Will Studd that we really should have something like this in Australia. I understand now my final words to Will were one of the catalysts for him to bring an Australian chapter of the cheesemakers’ Guilde to life.

In late January 2012 the contributions of the Australian cheese ambassadors were recognised. Simon Johnson became the first Australian companion of honour in the Guilde at the inaugural presentation in Sydney. Neil Perry and Jill Dupleix were among those welcomed as Compagnons of the Guilde. Lynne Tietzel, founder of Australia on a Plate, Jeremy Spradbery (formerly chef at Bistrot d’Orsay in Melbourne) and myself were among those welcomed as Garde et Jure (guard and jury) of the Guilde. We were each presented the colourful and large medallion bearing the Guilde’s coat of arms.

The following evening in Melbourne the inductions continued. Another 12 or so Australian cheese advocates enjoyed the unique presentation. I was thrilled to be a robed member this time and dressed proudly in my costume and medallion. I was also included in the secret conversation beforehand! This was to be noted as the 440th Induction Chapter of the Guilde.

Cathy Strange, Ambassador of the North American chapter, later wrote to me: “Coming to Australia to honour the contributions of the professionals who have supported cheese through the years has been a highlight of my career. Will Studd has been an advocate and supporter of traditional and artisan producers for decades.& The establishment of the Guilde in Australia brings the commitment of camaraderie and support for cheese professionals from around the world to this island treasure. We all look forward to a continued productive partnership through cheese!”

Cheese has come such a long way in Australia particularly over the past five or so years. Attitudes towards cheese have changed considerably and recognition from the Guilde is an inspiration for Australian Cheese supporters. The partnership with the guilde is highly welcomed, especially given cheesemaking is such a young industry in Australia. We still have lots to learn and understand about the art of cheesemaking. To make connections with such experts is extremely valuable for our budding industry.


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