The Fine Cheese Co | Affineur of the Year 2023 | Competitor

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Who are we?

The Fine Cheese Co. has been devoted to sourcing and caring for artisan cheese and other fine foods for 30 years. Founded by Ann-Marie Dyas, a winner of the Guild of Fine Food Lifetime Achievement Award, The Fine Cheese Co. works with independent, traditional producers who prioritise quality over profit.

Nick Bayne has been working in specialty food and artisan cheese for fourteen years, on a cheesemongering journey that has taken him from San Francisco to New York, and ultimately to the United Kingdom. The champion of the 2015 Cheesemonger Invitational in New York, and the 4th Place competitor at the 2021 Concours Mondial du Meilleur Fromager, he currently works as a Cheese Specialist and European cheese selector at The Fine Cheese Co. after years running their cheese shop in Bath.

Martin Knapp started in cheese in 2003, at Mellis in Glasgow. His love for cheese led him to Highland Fine Cheese, making blues, fresh cheese and learning cheddar-making alongside Rory Stone.
After two further years in Scotland learning the wines and spirits trade, Martin moved to Bath, managing Paxton & Whitfield’s shop for 6 years. Martin returned to making cheese in 2014 at The Old Cheese Room, and with the late, great Mary Holbrook. He has been the Technical Manager at the Fine Cheese Co. since 2016.

Which cheeses have you chosen to mature?

Quicke’s Cheddar
Fen Farm Baron Bigod
White Lake Solstice
Cropwell Bishop Blue Stilton

Why did you enter the competition?

Nick: I am simply interested to see how malleable the development of each of these cheeses is, and what our specific maturation space will impart.
Martin: It is great to see a competition focussing on a different element of the industry; affinage. And pushing the boundaries of what we traditionally do in the UK cheese business.

What is your relationship with affinage to date?

As a wholesaler/distributer/retailer, we are mostly custodians of a finished product, caring for cheeses in appropriate temperature and humidity environments, rather than trying to change and influence them. This will be an exciting departure.

Nick: I leap at the chance to be hands-on with our cheeses as they develop. While working at Bedford Cheese Shop, I learned about affinage on-the-job from Eric Casella and Joe Howansky, and would assist primarily in our washed rind room and natural rind cave. At The Fine Cheese Co., I advise on the care of hard, natural-rinded cheeses, lactic cheeses, and special washes.
Martin: I have experience of washing rinds, piercing and re-piercing blues, the handling of delicate lactics and salting and ash-coating. Within my retail experience I have probably seen every type of rind imaginable and the many nuances, developments (and faults!) that can arise

How are you approaching the maturation and why have you chosen this approach?

For these four cheeses, we will be taking inspiration from the myriad British and European cheeses that we already care for in our maturing rooms. We will consider to which extent we wish to simply express the microbiology of our rooms, or instead to actively influence, and so transform the cheese. We will undertake a course of experiments before alighting on our final choice.

What are your expectations for the matured cheeses?

Our aim is to coax the maximum potential of both flavour and texture of each cheese. Each cheese will require its own personal approach to both fully express its innate characteristics and to reflect the influence of the affineur.

Further information:

https://www.finecheeseco.co.uk/

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