Frenchman wins top cheese prize

Fabien Degoulet with his prize

A young man from Mans has beaten international competition to be voted best cheesemonger

A FRENCHMAN has been voted ‘world’s best cheesemonger’ at this year’s Mondial du Fromage in Tours.

The event is only in its second year (the last one was in 2013) but claims to be unique in bringing together the crème de la crème of the cheese world. Last year its top prize went to a Japanese cheesemonger, but this year it went to Fabien Degoulet, 31 – from Le Mans who has been working for the last seven years in Tokyo.

He was up against two other Frenchmen, three Belgians, three Japanese, an Italian, an American and a Dutchman. Second place also went to a Frenchman, Guillaume Cardinet, who works in Isère, while third went to Belgian Nathalie Vanhaver.

Mr Degoulet told France 3: “I am surprised, moved and proud to be elected. I’m a third generation cheesemonger and this reward represents years of work, even if these last four months have been especially intense.”

The contest included testing knowledge of matching cheeses and wines, making cheese platters and cutting and presentation with a key part being producing a one square metre cheese platter, showing off ‘the art of cheese’.

There were also tests in cooking with cheese, for which the candidates were given a budget to buy food in the town’s covered markets.

A spokesman for the event said: “Today this competition is unique – it’s judged in public by international judges with both theoretical and practical tests and the person who wins is the best cheesemonger in the world.”

Apart from the competition, the event also brought together for three days people from the cheese sector from some 23 countries, including China and Israel for the first time – giving visitors a chance to discover cheeses like Peking grey and Reshafim Kibbutz goat’s cheese.

Among more exotic ones on offer was also dri’s cheese from Tibet – the dri being the female of the yak (according to experts at the show it is therefore a mistake to speak of ‘yak’s cheese’).

Twelve Japanese cheesemongers were among those attending – according to Le Figaro the fact that a Japanese person won the prize in 2013 has boosted the country’s fascination for cheese.

British cheeses have also been seeing a comeback, according to Le Figaro. It quoted cheese author Kilien Stengel who said they had previously been fashionable in top Paris hotels in the 19th century.

The paper said French people could be seen “salivating in front of a Stinking Bishop or Prince Charles’ favourite Stichelton, and listening to advice from ex-Blur bass player Alex James, who has had a career change to become the guru of British cheese”.

Photo: Cep Socotic

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