Monday, May 6, 2013

Affineurs to the Rich!


I recently received an interesting comment on the article about cheese, published back in October of 2012 entitled "Expensive Cheese for the Rich".

S.T. asked, "Do you buy cheese from an affineur or do you just stock whatever comes to hand?"

The thing is S.T., this not being Switzerland, I don't personally know any affineurs who offer direct retail sales to the public. So I guess I fall into the "whatever comes to hand" category.

Most affineurs release their finished products to upscale retail delicatessens, which is where I look for a good, well-aged cheese. Although out of boredom I do sometimes go online to Fortnum & Mason in London and order some of their carefully-matured varieties.

It's no secret that most cheeses are released to market much too soon, after only six or seven months of aging. Which can account for a seriously bland or rubbery taste.

But a Master Affineur might patiently age his cheese for two to ten years or more - depending on the type of cheese and the desired result. And of course, the more fuss and attention the cheese gets, the higher the price.

While once just a peasant's task to keep his family's food supply from spoiling,  the process of aging cheeses has now become a high-paid career. And  I think in my next life I'd like to be an affineur, for sure.

Think about it.

You don't actually make the cheese yourself! You just buy it in full wheels from a local artisan cheese maker. Then you take it home and put it down in your cellar, where the temperature and humidity are constant and steady.

Then you go upstairs and watch TV.

Every couple of weeks, however, you have to put your Tivo on pause, run down to the cellar and turn the wheels over, or maybe give them a salt bath to knock off the mold.

Then you go back upstairs and hit "Resume".

After a few years of this intense and vigorous labor, you load up your well-ripened cheese, haul it off to an upscale retailer and go back home with a small fortune in your pocket.

Of course, then you have to buy some new wheels and start all over, right?

Unless you're the real go-getter type. In which case you'd buy freshly made wheels every year (or even every month) and have them coming to maturity at regular intervals.

All of which increases your labor and trips down to the cellar of course. Which destroys the whole essence of serenity and tranquility in the workplace. But who am I too judge?  You can have as many cheese wheels, stinking up the entire house, as you wish. It's none of my business.

But the next time we pay a small fortune for a tiny wedge of cheese at the local deli, we should appreciate all the labor involved - not only from the producer down on the farm but also from the affineur who has given his heart and soul to your dining pleasure.

Thanks for stopping by tonight.


  1. OMG! I CAN'T STOP LAUGHING! What have you got against affineurs, Andrew???? I work in a cheese deli and we couldn't do without them. Millie

    1. Ha! I don't have anything against them, Millie. I'm just amused that a person's entire career is watching something get old.

      But seriously, I do recognize that a professional affineur is busy as all get out, with cheese maturing almost daily in their continuous rotations.

  2. Andrew, I've noticed that Fortnum and Mason's only delivers their fresh products such as cheese to the UK, with living in the Hamptons how do your employers(or you) get around this?


    1. Hi Justin.

      Whereas stores can take a couple of days to process and ship an order, many rich people utilize the services of a Personal Shopper who can pick something up and get it to Fed Ex in a matter of hours.

      All major cities have these kind of services. Just google "Personal Shopper Paris" for example, and you'll see what I mean. Our fellow in London has been with this house for years.

      We also utilize International Couriers for important documents that need immediate transport and return.

  3. Thanks Andrew, this post is sage advice, I'll get some comte and make a fortune while catching up on TV.

    On a different note, it is possible to obsess too much about food


    1. Well, ST, there's other things to do besides watch tv while your cheese is aging. You can catch up with friends on Facebook, surf the web, and do a little laundry now and then. Nothing too rigorous, mind you, just suggesting some alternate activities.

      As for Chef Loiseau, yes it's certainly possible to obsess too much. But like Wall Street Executives who jump out of windows, he's hardly the first to commit suicide when things go south.