Fun with foodies is about to begin. We at Life Retreat are all lovers of fine food, wine, cooking and eating and drinking experiences, and fun with foodies is a natural progression born out of this love. I am fortunate enough to have a brother in law who is going to introduce himself below. His name is Pepe, and he is our food guru, and we are going to be travelling around South Africa together interviewing as many interesting people as possible in the “food world”.
Pepe is a French goat’s milk cheese maker. I interviewed him as an introduction to our journey, and he has written the introduction in his own words. I have tried to keep the French feel to Pepe’s intro. I hope you enjoy our journey with us, as much as we are enjoying it, and as the saying goes: Eat, drink and be merry.
Before we start…
If there is one cheese tip that I can pass on to you, it is that cheese must be served, and eaten at room temperature. Us South Africans are inclined to keep our cheeses in the fridge, and eat them cold. This is not ideal, as we do not experience the full taste, and texture of the cheeses. Take them out of the fridge, a couple of hours before eating them, and taste the difference. I learnt this on an amazing trip to France. As we progress on our foodie journey, I shall be sharing more simple and effective food tips with you. If you have any for us, we would be delighted, if you would share them. Oh, and always make sure you have some goats cheese on your platter.
“My name is Pepe Charlot, and I am the “cheese-guru”, and a big foodie. I was born in Lyon, France in 1963 and have been living in South Africa since 1993. I am married to Jenny. She is South African, born in Johannesburg like my 2 kids. We live in Kommetjie, South of Cape Town.
My Background / Why Cheese?
“Good things take time, and if you are in a hurry, then you must accept to enjoy only half of what life has to offer. Cheese takes time to mature, and patience is the first quality that a cheese maker needs to have. It’s not by chance that I get to speak to you about cheese, it was more kind of my destiny. From a very early age I have been exposed to this dairy wonder, in particular the one that you would buy fresh at the market, and mature yourself. Like a lot of French people at the time, my grand father used to do that, and from one fresh plain and not very tasty cheese he would produce a whole range of them, from demi sec / semi dry to sec / dry and tres sec / very dry and with theses differences in dryness came different tastes.”
“I used to spend my summer holidays with him in Ardeche, South West of Lyon, and our days were filled with fishing in the nearby river, eating cheese, and long naps after lunch when it’s too hot to go outside, before going back fishing. And, every time we went fishing Pepe Charlot used to break a piece of hard cheese and put it in my mouth. It was so hard I could not chew it but just suck it like a sweetie, but why cheese and not sweets like all the other 7 years old kids? Because there is so much more in cheese than in sweeties, so I sucked the damn thing and the aromas slowly diffused in my mouth.”
“It was the beginning of a life long love affair with goats cheese. 45 years later I produce the same cheese myself, and bring back to life my childhood memories. Every day when I turn and taste my cheeses, it’s like if my grandfather Pepe Charlot came to life again, looking over my shoulder, tasting the cheese with me and this why when you eat my cheese only some of it goes to your stomach, the rest goes to your soul.”
“My approach is along the lines of life is too short to eat tasteless cheese every weekend”
“My mission in life is to educate and convert as many people as possible to eat good cheese. That is unpasteurized milk cheese, and if possible Goat’s milk cheese, as it is healthier, so you digest it better, and hence you can eat more of it.”
“I have reached some of my goals by making and selling cheese, making people taste my cheese, and explaining to them the qualities that my cheeses have. I teach people how to make the cheese themselves, I teach cheese lovers how to look after their cheese and to make it better by maturing it and/or preserving it.”
“I am the only cheese maker in South Africa making mature soft cheese with unpasteurized goats milk. In 2013, I was voted best artisanal cheese maker in South Africa by a panel made of the best chefs in the country. My cheeses are all made from French recipes and are called Chevre Frais – Buche – Buchettes – Pelardon – Valencays – Pepe’s Heart – Tomme”
Article and interview written by Trish