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Interview with Matt Feroze, author of the Cheese and I

matt feroze

Matt Feroze is the 2013 French cheese champion – he is English.

Matt won this prestigious title after he gave up his job as a civil servant in London and went to France to learn about his favourite food – cheese. He went from novice to winning the Concours National des Fromagers at the prestigious Salon Mondiale de Restauration et Hôtellerie in Lyon in just 24 months… and then wrote a book about it called The Cheese and I. (Click to read our review of the Cheese and I)

French Bookworm had to know more about the man with the inspiring and uplifting story!

At school I was terrible at …

English. I was definitely a late starter with writing. I was always much more interested in science and maths and how things worked. I read a lot but was just completely unable to get anything creative down on paper. I think that it wasn’t until I was 24, when I went to live in Aix en Provence to learn French that I first started enjoying the writing process. I had a creative writing class that I loved, I would spend whole weekends crafting stories, playing with grammar and looking up obscure French words in the dictionary.

I was rightly mocked for unnecessarily writing in the passé simple/passé antérieur, or Alexandrine.

I started writing when / because ….

I guess my first writing project where I put myself out there for other people to read would have been a (sadly now-defunct) blog called Blue Cheese and Mangoes. Jen (my fiancée) and I started it to document the food we were eating, and really to push us to be a bit more experimental in the kitchen. I was also pretty keen on trying to take nice pictures of food. When I think back to it now, I definitely cringe at some of the things I was saying about cheese. Let’s say that I’ve learnt a lot since then. Since then I’ve started a new blog about cheese, also called the cheese and I, although I have to confess, blog writing and book writing is a tough double act and the blog does get a little neglected from time to time.

The hardest part of writing a book is ….

Definitely finding the time to write. I enjoy writing more than I ever thought I would, but after a day’s work, it can sometimes be hard to sit down in front of a screen.

I work best when . . .

I’m in complete silence and importantly, when I’ve had a decent sandwich and a cup of coffee. If I haven’t, I’ll fidget and procrastinate.

I have a spreadsheet that tracks my word count. It has numerous, unnecessary columns, statistics and graphs – if I’d had a coffee and sandwich in front of me, that might have been avoided.

matt ferozeIf you could have dinner with a famous French person – living or dead, who would it be?

Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin. He had a big impact on the way that we think about food and is credited with creating the discipline of gastronomy. He was a cheese fan too and is responsible for the quote “A dessert without cheese is like a beautiful woman with only one eye”.

If you were to serve that person cheese

Probably not Brillat Savarin, the cheese named after him as a mark of respect – that would be a little weird… maybe a nice bit of Stilton? Actually, as he died long before the industrialisation of parts of the cheese industry, I would be fascinated to know what he made of something like cheese-strings…

Desert Island book – if you could only take three books to a deserted island what would they be?

Tough one. From a practical stand point, there would be a general survival book (maybe something by Ray Mears a teenage hero of mine). In terms of fiction, one of the books I do go back to now and then is Cat’s Cradle (Kurt Vonnegut). I do like good sci-fi, so how about The Player of Games by the much missed Iain M Banks?

My guiltiest pleasure is . . .

Butter. I absolutely love butter and eat way too much of it. The best I ever had was made on a farm in the Auvergne. I was there for a few days this summer making a cheese called Salers Tradition – made up in the mountains with the milk of the beautiful Salers cow. The milk is incredibly rich and has a mind blowing flavour of herbs and flowers. After making the cheese, the cream was taken off the whey, when enough had been collected it was turned to butter in a plastic bucket, just with the farmers bare hands. I’ve never had anything like it.

Red or white wine?

What a question! Unquestionably both, although I have to say that since coming back to the UK, it’s wine with food – but when it comes to socialising, it’s been great to get back into beer. Wine, well matched to food (particularly cheese)  is one of life’s great pleasures.

If Steven Spielberg makes a film of The Cheese and I who does he get to play the parts of Matt and Jen?

Tough call, I’m not sure whether the film should be an action movie (in which case Christian Bale with Batman voice, and Carey Mulligan, please), or a whimsical Studio Ghibli-style Japanese animation like Spirited Away, in which case we’d be anime versions of ourselves (we could still get Christian Bale and Carey Mulligan to do the voices though…).

Would you do it again – Find yourself in another country?! Do you even need to?!

I’d love to, but it’s one hell of an investment. I’m not sure that I need to go to another country, but I definitely needed to go to France. It’s always had a huge appeal for me and I still love it, the nature, the people, the language and obviously the food!  To have not tried living there would have weighed heavily on me for the rest of my life.

Read more about Matthew Feroze’s journey to cheese champion stardom

See Matthew Feroze’s perfect cheese platter which won him the title of cheese champion of France – a masterclass of cheeses and their tastes…

Read our review of The Cheese and I

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