Mistakes a Younger Monger Makes
My name’s Ned, and I’m an affineur, the cheese equivalent of a sommelier. Its a great job that I love because I get to share my fascination for cheese with all the wonderful people who come to my cheese tastings. When I’m hosting a cheese tasting, there are two questions I always get asked. One is ‘what’s your favourite cheese?’, a subject that requires a series of posts to answer. The other is ‘how did you get into this?’ ‘This’ being talking about cheese for a living, a job that involves several of my favourite things: talking, eating cheese and drinking wine.
There is a very short and simple answer to this question: Trethowans Gorwydd Caerphilly.
In December of 2000, I went to help out my friend Todd Trethowan on his stall at Borough Market. Todd was selling the cheese that his family made on their farm in Wales. I was feeling a bit nervous because although by then I’d done an awful lot of jobs including but not limited to hospital portering, librarianing and writing music for theatre, I knew nothing about cheese and hadn’t done a day of retail work in my life.
At first, my nerves seemed to be justified. Having set up the stall Todd and I did a bit of retail role play with Todd taking the part of the customer. I fluffed every single part of the transaction, referring to a cow’s milk cheese from Wales as a whale’s milk cheese from Cowes, giving a twenty-pound note in change for a fiver – all the classic mistakes a younger monger makes.
Then I tried a piece of cheese and everything changed. Gorwydd Caerphilly is not the pale dusty tasteless Caerphilly you buy in supermarkets. It has a velvety rind that tastes of mushrooms a rich creamy layer called the ‘breakdown’ and a moist yet crumbly centre with a citrusy flavour. It wins awards all the time. As I ate the cheese, I became angry, realising that until now all the cheese I had ever eaten had been rubbish.
There were no more retail nerves. I just wanted everyone who walked past the stall to have the same earth shattering experience I’d just had. I found out that retail is fun, it’s just talking to people about something you love - like cheese.
I also became immediately and completely obsessed. How was it possible to make something so good? Were there more cheeses like this? Where could I find them? After a few weeks of ceaseless questioning from me, Todd broke and said, “I’ll get you a job a Neal’s Yard dairy, if you please, please stop bothering me.’
And that was it. My journey through the world of cheese had begun, a world of retail counters, cellars, farms and dairies across the British Isles, rock and roll cheese tours of the Alps, and more recently the breweries, and wine cellars, boardrooms and bars where I do my cheese tastings.
All because Trethowans Gorwydd Caerphilly is truly great cheese.
Want to know more about Trethowans Gorwydd Caerphilly? Click here.
Contact Ned to discuss your event: ned@CheeseTastingCo.uk
Ned Palmer is an affineur who specialises to planning and creating unique cheese tasting events for corporate entertainment and private parties.