Mad About Paris, Much more than a guide
Philippe Alléosse is a tall and skinny man of 50 and he’s got one complete obsession: it’s cheese. He is man obsessed with cheese. And believe me, his enthusiasm is contagious. He’s the only cheese master in the French capital to own his cheese-aging cellar in Paris’ underground. Enjoy the visit to this Aladdin’s cave for cheese lovers.
Photo: © MAP
Monsieur Alleosse is wearing a fleece jumper and with his sparkling blue eyes you could more easily imagine him being a ski instructor in the French Alps than a businessman in Paris. But he is, in fact, the latter. Philippe Alléosse makes cheese. He’s what the French call an affineur. Or, to be more precise, Maître Artisan Fromageur Affineur. Translate it as ‘master cheese ager’.
In other words: Monsieur Alléosse doesn’t produce cheese, he just ripens them, he knows how to handle them, when to add a dash of Chablis or Marc de Champagne to the rind and, most of all, he knows when his cheese is ready; ready to be released to the public, sold in his fromagerie in Paris or delivered to the numerous restaurants that he supplies around the world; ready to be tasted, enjoyed and loved.
His affinerie is a hidden place, inaccessible to the public. Imagine an inconspicuous courtyard in the 17th arrondissement in Paris. Imagine a steep staircase and more than 300 square metres of subterranean storage rooms with different temperatures and varying humidity. Altogether there are four different kinds of cellars. Each one has special conditions; each one is packed with different kinds of cheese. There is hard cheese, pâte pressée, uncooked and unpressed goat cheese made of raw milk, blue cheese, you name it. Imagine: 250 different kind of cheese, altogether 700 tons a year. Some ripen for just a couple of weeks, others stay here for long months, some even years.
When Philippe Alléosse explained the procedure and secretes of ripening to me, he was tapping a maturing Beaufort with his “sonde,” one end of which is a small hammer used to test density, whereas the other end bores into the interior to produce a “carotte” for tasting.
Philippe Alléosse grew up among cheese. His parents opened their first fromagerie in 1977 close to the Gare du Nord. Later they moved to the 17th arrondissement on rue Poncelet. Alléosse later took it over from his parents.
But Alléosse is concerned. “The big worry is”, he says, “whether we will be able to preserve what we have inherited”. He’s talking about what the magazine “Der Spiegel” once called the French Cheese War.
It’s all about industrial processes squeezing small farmers. It’s a war that pits tradition against profits. But let me reassure you: Philippe Alléosse doesn’t look like a loser. Taste his Brin d’Amour or his Bleu de Gex or whichever cheese is your favourite, and you’ll understand, that this is not the end of it.Fromagerie Philippe Alléosse