It's no secret that I LOVE cheese so photographing a cheesemaker has been pretty high up on my photography bucket list. Luckily I had the chance to phtograph Marie-Laure at Couët Farm & Fromagerie. When she gave me directions, including a red barn building, I had a picture in my head of rustic farm space.
When I arrived, it was different than I expected; far more scientific than expected. The cheese making room was a white shiny laboratory and not at all what I expected the inside of a barn to look like! Cheesemaker Marie-Laure said that yes, it's less romantic than people think. And she's right. I didn't imagine a lab as a place for producing "artisan," "local," or "farm-to-table" cheese.
The cheese making process was cool to watch. Marie-Laure started by calibrating her equipment. They then scooped the Rennet (whey, cheese curds, and enzyme) out of a huge stainless steel container with what looked like dust pans! It was then put either into cheese cloth or small round tubs for whey to drain out.
For health reasons the environment is sterile. Taking that into consideration, I am quite glad this cheese is not made in the rustic environment I'd envisioned. I had no idea that I would have to wear special shoes, a lab coat, and a hair net! I even left my camera bag in the changing area and made good use of one lens at a time to be sure to maintain a clean environment.
The part that WAS the way I imagined it was the cheese cave. That was exactly as I thought it would be...cool, dark, humid, and smelling earthy with hints of cream and cheese. It reminded me of the spaces where wine barrels are aged. If they had locked me in there it would have been fine with me because this is some GOOD cheese! Perhaps I will return with a chair and just hang out. That's cool, right?
After photographing the cheese making process I had to try some! I took home two kinds: the Evelina (a sheeps milk cheese) and Adelisca (soft cows milk cheese). For me, the truly magical cheese was the garlic falvor Adelisca. I took home two coveted containers (one garlic and one herb) and shared only one bite with my husband before I inhaled the rest. Don't tell my studio manager that I hid one in the studio fridge! Now that they're gone I'm going to need to get to a farmers market or back to the fromagerie in Dudley, MA ASAP to get my fix.
I could go on and on about the delicious cheese, but I want to also tell you about the maker of this magic - cheesemaker Marie. I asked Marie how she got into the cheese making business and her story is one that is all too familiar to me as a fellow millennial. She finished grad school, had debt, and no job. When put into this situation some people settle for a crappy job, but not Marie! In the spring of 2010 she moved to Europe to apprentice for a few years with cheesemakers, dairy farmers, and a world renowned affineur. In France, Spain and Italy she learned the art and business of making cheese, tending the soil and the animals that eat its grasses.
Cheese making has become a family business for the Couëts. Marie-Laure's mother works with her in the cheese room while her father watches his grandchild. Marie's courage to follow her passion is inspiring and when you watch her work you can tell she's doing something she truly loves. Perhaps the secret ingredient in the cheese is...passion?
Here are a few quick clips from the cheese-making: