02 December 2019, 14:55 PM
  • The provost of Guilde Internationale des Fromagers on "learning from the past, together"
Cheese Talk with Roland Barthelemy

In 1966 the Guilde Internationale des Fromagers was founded in honour of Lucio Guzon, a shepherd from the 12th Century who revolutionised the cheese world with the creation of a new technique: thermal caseification. Lucio shared his plentiful cheese with the poor, and because of his exemplary life and his death as a martyr, today he is the patron of the cheesemakers. Inspired by their medieval roots (this includes the medieval attire donned by new recruits!), The Guilde – also known as the Brotherhood of Cheesemakers – honours actors within the cheese industry including cheesemakers, affineurs and chefs. Every year, existing members of the Guild with more than five years of seniority can propose to the association’s headquarters new candidates with long experience related to the world of cheese. It is the first way to honour the work of these professionals, induct them into the Guilde and to showcase the quality of their work.

At the same time as the Guilde was formed in 1966, I was learning from my father – a cheesemaker and affineur in Paris – the art of affinage, the ability to choose the most promising cheeses and mature them to perfection. In 1998 I was appointed Provost, the highest authority of the Guilde International de Fromagers association, and continue this role today. I am extremely passionate about all aspects of the cheese world and travel across five continents engaging members of the Guilde on all things fromage. The Guilde reminds us of the values of yesterday, and we have a lot to learn from them. It also reminds us that all that we sow today, we will reap tomorrow. It reminds us that the quality of the grass depends on the quality of the environment, and that all of this impacts on the quality of the end product.

The distinctive and special thing about the Guilde is that there are members from across different universes – that’s what makes it so rich. Multidisciplinarity brings an extraordinary openness. Nutritionists, sommeliers, chefs and journalists are all represented along with the farmer, the cheese producer and the independent retailer. This creates a network of endless possibilities for knowledge exchange through international product competitions, ceremonies and networking around the world. In each country, members organize and gather around different cheese projects which enrich the cheese world. Today there are more than 6,000 members from across five continents.

The missions of the Guilde are to optimise and promote the quality and diversity of dairy products, generate new encounters and opportunities in the cheese community, encourage exchange of knowledge and to showcase cheese specialities. The UK has exceptional cheese values, a great diversity and strong identity of products, and above all passionate professionals. Here, our relatively young association has many opportunities to influence the rest of the cheese world and to ensure that cheese culture in the UK continues to thrive. The independent cheesemonger, whether in a farm shop, deli or food hall, is at the heart of this, since they are engaging the everyday consumer with all of the amazing breadth of cheeses from across the world. The Guilde de Fromagers is able to enrich this thriving community of cheesemongers across the UK, providing a network and resources to communicate and live the values of the Guilde every day.

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