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Frédéric Van Tricht
Kaasaffineurs Van Tricht

Frédéric Van Tricht

“A cheese ripener’s most important duty isn’t actually the ripening, but the selection.” This is what cheesemaster Frédéric Van Tricht believes. “Ripening is a craft, but you need good products to do your work properly. The cheesemakers are the ones who allow us to shine.”

 Van Tricht is the third generation in a family business which was originally set up by his grandparents. The company started as a small delicatessen in an Antwerp suburb and has since grown into an impressive cheese ripening concern which promotes Belgian cheeses worldwide. In fact, it is thanks to Frédéric that Belgian cheese was first launched into space. “We sell Belgian cheese to specialist cheese shops around the world. That includes a shop in Houston. It is located near the famous spaceport and one of its loyal customers is an astronaut. When she was asked for a ‘guilty pleasure’ to bring along to the international space station, she chose our mature OG Kristal, a Belgian cheese from ’t Groendal with such a long maturation that it contains crunchy salt crystals. Isn’t that fantastic?”

The secret of good cheese

To Frédéric, good cheese must be artisanal. “We prefer cheeses made from raw milk, as these are more complex and deeper in flavour. Farmstead cheeses are also very nice. That’s because the farmer controls everything, from the animals’ feed and welfare to how the milk is processed. Animals that have a good life produce better milk and you can taste this in the cheese. Frédéric also likes unpasteurised cheeses. Pasteurisation is intended to kill bacteria, but it’s precisely those bacteria that give cheese its layers of flavour.

Once Frédéric receives the cheese into his care, he gets to work to allow all the flavours to ripen to perfection. To this end, every type of cheese is placed in its own ripening cell. White mould requires a very different temperature and humidity level to reach its full potential than red-smear cheese, after all.


Pride in Belgian cheese

“Our country has produced some lovely cheeses and we should be more proud of them,” says Frédéric. While visiting international cheese fairs, he noticed that while traditional cheesemaking countries such as France, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Italy were well-represented, Belgian cheeses were being ignored. He decided to take matters into his own hands. “Karditsel cheesemakers in Lummen make world-class cheese, for instance. We sell it to customers from Abu Dhabi to New York. The cheese is produced at their goat farm and all the milk comes from a single herd. The flavours are incredibly pure and refined. I have also collaborated with cheesemaker Guido on my very own cheese, a raw goat cheese with a bright orange, smear-ripened crust. It’s called Juliette in honour of my grandmother. Cooperative Het Hinkelspel in Sleidinge also makes phenomenally good cheese. Their organic blue Pas de Bleu cheese is absolutely a match for French counterparts.”

Belgian cheese and beer, a match made in heaven

Frédéric’s selections aren’t just available at his two cheese shops, they also grace cheese platters at fine dining establishments in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. “It was my father who made us known to top chefs. He would visit and have them taste our cheeses. In France, restaurants were already in the habit of noting cheese ripeners on menus. We are proud to be listed on so many menus in our own region now, up to and including three-star restaurant Hof van Cleve.”
It was again Frédéric’s father who discovered how well Belgian beer and cheese go together.

He even wrote two books on the subject. “People are quick to pair cheese with red wine, but actually, the bitter tannins in the wine clash with the cheese’s high fat content.This pairing accentuates the bitterness of the wine and obscures the cheese’s soft creaminess – hardly a match made in heaven. A nice frothy beer is a much better idea. The fatty cheese creates a layer of grease on your tongue, which the beer’s bubbles break up again. Your palate is refreshed and you are eager for your next bite.” The extensive range of flavours also makes beer an attractive pairing for cheese. “You can find interesting beers to heighten or complement any cheese’s flavour. A refreshingly sour geuze combines very harmoniously with a young, acidic goat cheese due to the similarities, for example. You can also aim for contrast instead. A blond high-fermentation beer such as Duvel has a subtle bitterness and acidity that are lovely with more mature cheese. I love it when two local products work so well together.”

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