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Rosie Gardel: The Journey of a Cheesemaker

Chef Rosie Gardel

Rosie Gardel is an English chef living in France. With over 10 years’ experience as a chef and 9 years as a cheesemaker, she is currently teaching the Le Cordon Bleu Online Learning course, The Art of Fermentation, and will be teaching Cheesemaking: A Whey With Curds from early 2022. Learn about Rosie’s journey across Europe to discover her passion for food and cheese.

Why food? What attracted you to the industry?

I initially trained as a graphic designer in London. I received an ‘Artist in Residency’ in Venice for around three years, so I spent a couple of months there each year. It was during this time that I became absolutely food obsessed. Just seeing the fresh markets and tasting things. On my journey back to England, I travelled through France, Italy and Spain and stopped at interesting food producers and wine makers. When I got back to the UK, I wrote a letter to a restaurant, The Ethicurean, looking for a job opportunity. So, my love of food started through travelling. I ended up landing a job at The Ethicurean and I trained up to a Chef de Partie level. I also studied Gastronomy with Le Cordon Bleu Paris.

Currently, I am working for a French immersion school in France. International students come here and learn the French language. I am the Chef for the school. I do cuisine cooking lessons with the students as well, traditional French cooking. It’s really lovely to be able to interact with international students. We have people from all over the world, including Australia, Canada, Europe and England.

How did your chef specialty lead to cheese?

It started when my sister bought me some cheese during the time when I was working at the restaurant. I discovered that the woman who made this cheese, Mary Holbrook, lived only 5kms from where I lived. So, I wrote to her in the same way that I wrote to the restaurant, asking if she needed an extra pair of hands. Mary then took me on as her cheesemaker for two years. I was making goats milk cheese with her. She had over 100 goats that she would milk every day during the season. Mary had a rare breed of pig, the British Lop. She used to feed the pigs the whey, which is a by-product of cheesemaking. The process was a full circle in terms of using every part of the milk and having really happy animals. It was brilliant to see the goats every day and seeing the piglets who would try and escape to come and find more whey to eat. It was an idyllic sort of farm image, a lovely place to work.

I also spent a Christmas working for Neal’s Yard Dairy, a company in the UK who buy cheese and mature it in their caves in London. It’s amazing for the UK to get back to these traditional recipes and respect the animals. For me, cheesemaking became something which is always there during my career.

Images by Rosie Gardel

What is a popular misconception about cheesemaking?

People think that cheesemaking is complicated. But, the process is very simple. I think people forget that this is something we have been doing for hundreds and thousands of years. There is so much necessity for technology and speed, we want things done quickly. However, by taking the time to look back on traditional methods and understand they are still relevant to today, there are a lot of positive aspects to that. Traditional cheesemaking connects us to our history.

Can you share an interesting fact about cheese?

In terms of animals that you can milk for cheesemaking, there is one mammal that feeds it’s young with milk but we can’t actually milk it. And that is a pig. You can’t make cheese from a pig because it’s actually physically impossible to milk a pig!

What is your favourite cheese to make?

My favourite cheese is the cheese I made for Mary Holbrook. Unfortunately, it no longer exists as she sadly passed away two years ago. It was called Cardo cheese. We used to use a cardoon thistle to coagulate the milk. It was a very beautiful process of taking the plant, making an infusion, then using this liquid to coagulate the milk. The plant, cardoon thistle, came from Portugal. Mary had spent some time travelling around Europe to gain experience with cheesemakers, exploring the different types of cheeses that she wanted to make.

Have you ever got tired of eating cheese?

[Long pause] …no! There are so many different types, so even if you get fed up with eating one type, there’s always something else to choose from!

Images by Rosie Gardel

Can you please give us an overview of the course you are teaching with Le Cordon Bleu Online Learning?

Cheesemaking: A Whey With Curds is a 10-week online course starting in early 2022. The course is an introduction to the history and tradition of cheesemaking. Our focus will be exploring the different types of cheese families, such as fresh cheese, blue cheese and hard cheese. We will look at how these different types of cheeses are made and students will be able to start making cheeses in their own home environments. Learn how to taste cheeses and the art of selecting cheeses to make cheeseboards, then sharing these with our loved ones and how we can enjoy cheese properly.

In the course, we will also explore how to maintain cheese products at home through the appropriate storage method. You will be able to take simple ingredients at home and turn them into something. The course will help you to really understand cheese, so that when you cook with or work with cheeses, you will have the knowledge of the best type of cheese to be using for a particular recipe. Cheesemaking: A Whey With Curds will help you gain the skills and confidence to create, look after and enjoy cheese.

What advice do you have for those interested in learning more about cheese?

I think the most important thing about food and cheese is just to be open to tasting things. Don’t be afraid to taste something that you are unfamiliar with. Although it might be something that you taste and you find you don’t like it, but at least it gives you an opportunity to broaden your idea and your palette. Always be open to tasting, trying and talking about new foods as it opens the doors to new opportunities.

Join Chef Rosie Gardel in one of her upcoming Le Cordon Bleu Online Learning courses!


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