Meet Robert Gillels, Food Writer and Cheese Geek Living in Japan – Marcella The Cheesemonger International Guilde des Fromagers
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Meet Robert Gillels, Food Writer and Cheese Geek Living in Japan

Another internet friend. Robert and I met on a food website and began chatting about cheese. He has shared the growth of the cheese industry in Japan, a country not well-known for cheesemaking… but baby steps… Robert, thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts with us. I’m hoping to get to Japan soon so you can introduce me to the cheese industry of Japan.

1.)    Briefly tell me about yourself. How did you come to cheese? When did you realize you were a cheese geek?

Being born in Bourgogne, France, an area famed for its gastronomy, it is only natural to become a cheese geek to accompany my wines and bread and so on! As for the cheese we are blessed here Epoisses, Carolais, Langres and Chablisien among many!

2.)    Where do you work and what is your job title? Describe a “typical” work day.

I have lived and worked in Shizuoka City, Shizuoka Prefecture in Japan just under Mount Fuji. I’m a French and English instructor, translator, interpreter and a freelance journalist, although the latter is increasingly becoming my main occupation. A lot work is done according to a flexible schedule, even when teaching. The only things I’m sure of is when I wake up and when I go to bed. I might be teaching in the morning, afternoon or evening. Might have an interpreting assignment in between or might be called for interpreting. That still leaves me time for reporting, especially on gastronomy and tourism in general.

Robert Gillels, Food Writer

Robert Gillels, Food Writer

3.)    Do you have a favorite cheese or type? What would be your perfect pairing with this cheese?

Hard question as I love all cheese. I have a weak spot for blue cheese in general. I love tasting it accompanied with honey and walnuts along with a glass of very fragrant Japanese sake, or a sweet “moelleux” white wine or even better a sweet red Port.

4.)    Raw vs. Pasteurized? Does it matter? What difference does it make in the final product?

Definitely raw! The main difference for me is that a raw cheese is always alive and show new facets along its life! A “maquis” from Corsica, France or a Saint Maure from the west of France will be typical examples.

5.)    Should the US create a system similar the European scheme of protecting, controlling and/or regulating specific cheeses?

It is a natural step to promote good products whatever their country of origin although local traditions and laws might differ. Gastronomy in general is the true face of any region, community, country. One should be proud of his/her local products and the local authorities have a duty to to help promote them!

6.)    Tell me about one of your “cheese journeys”. Was it traveling for pleasure or maybe “on the hunt” for an obscure cheese you just had to taste?

In Japan, a country which does not seem too famous for its cheese, is actually becoming a new source of wonders especially in Hokkaido and Nagano Prefecture. I know at least two top-class French restaurants in Shizuoka Prefecture (population 4,000,000) making a point to serve them among the imported cheese on their incredible trays.SN3O5167

The picture herein included was taken very recently in a nationally acclaimed Restaurant called Ca.Va.Ka in Kikugawa City, Shizuoka Prefecture, which specializes in game/gibier. Half of the cheese are Japanese!

7.)    Please share with me one fun, non-cheesy fact about you.

I do still vividly remember a raw cheese producer in Ymanashi Prefecture explaining on TV that a customer of his returned his cheese because it “seemed mouldy”! 

8.)    If you could do one thing, anything, all day long, what would it be?

Spend the whole observing and writing about the creation of a cheese or a Japanese sake at a farm!

Please Check out Robert’s Blogs: Shizuoka Gourmet,  Shizuoka Sushi, Shizuoka Sake and Shizuoka Tourism.

Again, my thanks to Robert for taking the time.

Interviews with All Cheese Professionals: Cheesemakers andCheese Professionals

Interviews will continue throughout 2015… sometimes, they will be “stand-alone” and sometimes they will be presented as round-table discussions with several Cheese Professionals answering the same question. Those participating include Cheesemakers, ACS CCPs™,Cheesemongers and Cheese Professionals and Experts who contribute to this Wonderful World we call “Cheese”.

List of all Interviews from 2013: Cheesemakers, Cheesemongers.

List of 2015 Cheese Professionals.

List of all Cheese Professionals Bios.

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