Working at a Culinary School comes with its share of foodie surprises. When one morning I was asked if I would like to accompany the team going to a Cheese Workshop being conducted by US Dairy at the Radisson Blu Hotel. And so there I was, along with the students and Chef Instructors of ICCA to get some facts on this milk derivative that has the world swooning in its wake.
Ms. Nina Bakht welcomed us as representative of the U.S. Dairy Export Council, Middle East, before giving the stage to Mark Todd, The Cheese Dude as he is commonly referred to as. Never before had I experienced cheese the way I did that morning. Mark, the expert on cheese, took us down the history of how cheese was accidently made by an Arabian traveller who was crossing the desert carrying milk in a sheep stomach (using it as a bag of course). The combined effect of the heat and the rennet (enzyme) from the animal’s stomach lining caused the milk to curdle, separating it into solid and liquid. The whey liquid quenched his thirst and the tasty solid satiated his hunger.
And that was the beginning of Cheese!
Mark spoke about the very many varieties of cheese that are made in the world today. Over hundreds! The technique and method of cheese making, the moisture content, the breed of the animal, the milk quality, and the aging process are all factors that give the cheese its distinct taste. We got to taste a few varieties too. My favourite was the Pepper Jack, wherein the added pepper gave a bit of punch to the cheese. The Parmesan had the strongest flavour, smell and taste. The Cream Cheese was the softest. That’s the one used to make those dreamy creamy desserts. The other varieties on the plate were a Monterey Jack, Mozzarella and Colby.
Another fact that we got to know was that Wisconsin in the USA is the largest cheese producer in the world. America’s Dairyland as it is called, produces a whopping two and a half billion pounds of cheese a year, followed closely by California.
We then had speakers from the Culinary Research & Development team who gave us the emerging food trends using cheese. And then, how better to ingrain the learning than let us experience it firsthand. We were divided into teams and huddled into the kitchen for an impromptu cooking challenge to make some innovative savouries and desserts.
Finally came the moment for which we were all waiting. Time to eat all that was made. It was a delightful lunch. Cheese, of course, was the king ingredient. By the way, people who love cheese are called Turophiles, and now I count myself as one of them. It wasn’t the case earlier; I could have just let the cheese pass.
The closing saw us all being given a certificate of participation to the workshop and a backpack as a takeaway token. But before that, we all said ‘cheese’ for the camera before heading back to our respective destinations.
A day well spent and if food is the works, I sure am at the right place!