While the lockdown was hard on all of us, it was also a time that saw many home cooks and small businesses popping up all over the internet. It provided an unexpected opportunity for many to showcase their culinary talent. People turned to their kitchen as a refuge from the monotony of lockdown life.
For Valentin Melchior, lockdown experimenting turned his love for cheese into a full-blown business. “Initially, I started making small batches of artisanal wine at home, then one day I decided why not make cheese?” That was the beginning of Melchior (pronounced Mel-Ki-Aur) Fromagerie. Their Instagram handle has become a visual feast, showcasing their range of crafted French cheese. Valentin’s cheeses not only embody his passion but also the creativity that goes behind each piece.
From France to India
Valentin born and brought up in France, came to India in 2014, “I was in Bangalore for one semester as a part of an exchange programme during my Fine Arts degree.” After finishing his degree in France, Valentin decided to return and travelled extensively all over India, “I backpacked for six months and returned to Bangalore.”
He joined one of the teachers he met during his exchange programme. “For one year I assisted her during her exhibitions, helping out in different art projects,” he says, adding that was when he decided to stay back in the city.
“I started teaching French here at a French Teaching Institute.” Apart from teaching, Valentin painted. “I try to keep my passion for painting alive. I do murals and graffiti work for restaurants and cafes.” It was the lockdown that got him into cheese making. “I was doing my classes from home during lockdown, that gave me a lot of time to try out other things.”
Valentin’s journey into cheese-making started with small quantities. “We started giving them to friends in the neighbourhood, and a lot of home cooks.”
Making cheese at home, Valentin says can be tedious. “With cheese, you need a lot of time. The process might take weeks and even months to get the desired result. The aging period is the most important in cheese making. Every day you have to check on the cheese, to either brush or wash it, to ensure it ages properly.”
“After almost a year of trial and error, we finally started selling our cheese. Working on all the feedback we received, we moved to a bigger place where we are now making bigger batches of cheese.”
There is a touch of India in some of his cheeses. “We try to use ingredients that are not used traditionally in French cheese, for instance our chilli gouda or cumin gouda. We also make Boursin style crème cheese with spices found locally.”
From a simple spatula to a bigger machine most of their material is sourced in India. “We also make a lot of relishes and chutneys that go well with our cheese.” Most of their milk is sourced from a small farm in Tamil Nadu. “The cows are fed on organic grass, which greatly influences the taste of our cheeses.”
Their Tomme De Bengaluru is currently their best seller. “As with most of our products, it is a celebration of the diverse influences of India, resulting in a cheese that is rich, aromatic and full of character.”
Kempe Gouda, G.O.A.T and Cambrie are some of the other cheeses that are on their ‘must try’ list.
“What sets Melchior apart is our dedication to the art of cheese-making. While machines assist in some stages, the most crucial steps are lovingly carried out by hand.”
The cheese range starts from ₹450 (200g) depending on the quantity and the type of cheese. Their cheese platters start from ₹1800 onwards.
Melchior takes orders from any part of Bengaluru and are reachable via Instagram and Swiggy Mini.