At Cheese, you can count on the regular presence of some of the most important characters on the international dairy scene.
Among these, it would be wrong not to mention Hervé Mons, fromager and affineur, who opened his first shop in 1983 in Roanne in the heart of the Loire region, and now has his aging rooms in Saint-Haon-le-Chatel.
Hervé Mons will be at Cheese to present his creations on Affineur Avenue. You can also find him as an expert guide at two Taste Workshops: Various Takes on Camembert (already sold out) and Hard Magic on the 18th of September at 1 pm.
We caught up with Hervé in the cells that guard his cheeses.
Why did you choose to become an affineur?
I chose to do it because my parents did it. I learned the craft from a young age and always being close to farmers. Being close to farmers was something I learned from my father. Even to this day, I like to think of myself as the contact person, the link between producer and consumer. Representing this bond is a great job and for that reason, I decided to do this for a living.
What opportunities are there today for someone who chooses to become an affineur?
The future may reveal interesting things for young people who are interested. I think actually this is a profession that is being recovered after thirty years. Until recently, production systems, especially in France, had pushed people to look for low-cost food, without looking for high quality.
Today however, consumers are looking for professionals, people who know how to talk about their products, who love them, who care for customers and can transmit all this incredible food culture they have. I think that in this profession there is a really good future for young people.
Things are still evolving, there is still a lot to happen. This is a real and proper transformation of the food system, a general reflection of the change happening on a planetary scale. We begin to realize that our diet is directly linked to our health, to the ecosystems around us and to the entire planet. So, if there is a future in this profession, it will be in this direction.
What are the differences between a raw milk cheese and a pasteurized milk cheese?
For us the raw milk battle is very important, just as making people understand that it is necessary to have good raw milk, rich in bacterial flora that develop peculiar characteristics and transfer our territory into the product.
Pasteurized milk, on the other hand, is a process that we sometimes need when we are not sure if the milk is safe or we need to produce large quantities or when the main goal is standardization. Unprocessed and pasteurized milk for me are not in opposition. These are two different voices, two production systems that should stay on the same line.
What is the link between cheese and biodiversity?
Our cheeses resist, and we resist with them. After years of sterilization, the war against bacteria and lobbying struggles, we may be led to think that a better world is a controlled world where administrative systems take over common sense. After years of sterilization we think that everything should be under control.
The administrative system has taken over the common good. Our milk is depleted of bacterial flora and our mission today consists of recovering these good bacteria as much as possible. If our aim is to preserve flavors, textures, aromas, typical products and – most importantly – the pleasure of food, we need cheeses that are alive.
Let’s not forget: without good microbes and bacteria, our species could not have survived in this continuously moving world. Raw milk is indispensable for our cheeses, just as re-learning to produce them without artifice and with common sense.
Why will Mons be at Cheese 2017?
Because it’s been twenty years since Maison Mons was at Cheese for the first time. Cheese for me is unique and the only international cheese event. I say unique because Cheese gives me the possibility to travel the entire world in one event and lets me create connections that are not only commercial. I believe that Bra is the only place where you can witness such magic.
Our Italian friends are capable of organizing these incredible events. Even though it might look chaotic, it is truly unique because the village of Bra is transformed into a “ville fromager” where it is possible to talk about the systems related to the dairy world, while cutting a slice of cheese and chatting with a client who also happens to be there to discover the many colors and flavors at the marketplace.
For that, I simply say bravo to Slow Food, bravo to Cheese and bravo to the city of Bra for organizing this event. We will continue coming to Cheese and following the philosophy of Slow Food.
by Silvia Ceriani