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Interview with the world-renowned Cheesemonger François Robin

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François grew up in his family’s goat farm near Tours in France. After dabbling in several early professional forays in fields as diverse as biology, contemporary art, music and food, he finally returned to his first love – cheese. François attended the French Cheesemonger School in Paris, and graduated from it in 2008.

What is a Cheesemonger?

A Cheesemonger is the person who is selecting, aging, also maturing the cheeses and selling the cheeses. It’s a little bit like a sommelier with wine. A sommelier is actually not making the wine but they know pretty much everything about wines. So that is what I do but with cheeses.

Why did you become a Cheesemonger? Why did you choose cheese over any other products?

If I want to make a joke, I would say it was the easiest job to do but in fact my dad was a farmer and he used to make some cheese so it was pretty much natural to go back to that area, to that field.

What brought you as a Cheesemonger to travel and represent the French cheeses all around the world?

The French dairy board was looking for a Cheesemonger MOF – Meilleurs Ouvriers de France (Best French Craftsman) who had no attached with any brand and who speaks English and it appears I was the only one to fit all these criterias.

What are your favourite cheeses?

I always say that it depends on the seasons and on my mood. For sure a goat cheese, I like them with a lot of taste, I want them to be “goaty” meaning not too light, because I want it to remind me of my childhood when eating them, as my dad was a goat farmer. The second one is certainly, when is good: comté at its peak, 24-months comté made in summer or late autumn is perfect and… Oh let’s say époisse, it’s one of the cheeses that are really interesting because you think they are strong and it’s the definition of umami in cheese.

What is the most surprising pairing with cheeses people do not think of?

Despite the original pairing of tea and cheese, I would certainly say coffee. Coffee doesn’t come to your mind. Coffee is more difficult to pair with cheese, but you can have really interesting pairing of coffee and cheeses. Also, cheese and spirits can be interesting. Like cheese and gin, it’s really great, I love that! And there are today incredible gins producers all over the world and some of them are a perfect match with some cheeses.

What is your favourite Asian-French cheeses fusion recipe? I know you have done spring rolls. Do you recommend others

I haven’t mention that but I was raised between 8 and 12 in a Laotian village in South America so coriander, ginger and mint are in my DNA. I also really love the “bakkwa” with époisse! I am also making a rice maki with some cheese in the middle. and I love that.

What should a novice cheese buyer look for when selecting a cheese?

You can try to find the PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) sign. A PDO label is yellow and red, it ensures you that the quality of the cheese is perfect, that it has been made according to traditions and in certain areas using traditional methods and it’s really important to look for that when choosing a cheese. If not, just follow your instincts and don’t make it too fancy, just try it and sometimes you will have the best cheese of your life and sometimes not and it’s okay, educate yourself. because maybe your guests will have the best cheese of their life with the one that you didn’t appreciate. We don’t have all the same taste and it’s fine so it’s more or less a process of try and retry.

A big thank you to Chef François! – So Chic Team

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