Meet Richard Green, UK Cheese Grader
In 2008, when my cheese career was blossoming, the first English Cheddar I tasted was Green’s of Glastonbury. I had never tasted a “real” traditional English Cheddar and the earthiness was entirely new to me. I didn’t find it distasteful; just different. Over time, I have come to love those musty, earthy notes. Last year, Richard and I met via LinkedIn and I was pleased when he agreed to participate in our Q&A with Cheese Professionals. Richard is the second Cheese Grader to participate; Craig Gile, ACS CCP™, from Cabot Creamery also graciously answered some of these same questions.
My thanks to Richard for taking the time from his busy schedule to be a part of this project. I will be at Mary Quicke’s farm, March 8/9 of next year and hope that Richard will be grading Mary’s Cheddars one of those days so we can meet… hint… hint…
Briefly tell me about yourself. How did you come to cheese? When did you realize you were a cheese geek?
I originally came into the cheese world, in 1977 joining the lovely sounding Crump, Way and Sons, whom were marketing agents for farmhouse cheddar cheese at what was at the time the Milk Marketing Board’s largest traditional cheese store in Europe, situated on the edge of England’s smallest city of Wells, in Somerset.
Where do you work and what is your job title? Describe a “typical” work day.
I quickly rose up from the ranks of a store man to being a Cheese Grader, assessing the quality of around 30 or so Farmhouse Cheese makers Limited members cheese. The most important factor being that you had to have a good sense of smell, more so on a typical day back then, we could be looking at 200 or more cheeses a day.
From 1977 to 2013, I got to know the Green family very well, and when the Milk Marketing Board and its successor came to an end, I was offered a job to work for Greens, while at the same time working part time to grade and assess the likes of the Keen and Montgomery families cheeses.
At Greens and all the other cheese makers they all had to create their own niches in the market place, and while for a period of time, this was easier for the block shape cheddar makers, the round shape makers like Greens, were saved thanks to the likes of the Specialist Cheese makers Association and the emerging British Cheese Awards ( the former I have been a member when we set it up under Milk Marque, and the latter I have judged at many times ) With the supermarkets more keen on block shape cheese slowly but surely the traditional round shape farmhouse cheddar makers began to dwindle down in the number of families left making them.
At Greens, against this background of constant change, they originally built up a growing trade in Organic Cheddar, but this was to come to major slow down, with the credit crunch of the banking crisis. Not to be beaten, Greens were fortunate to create a double success with a hard Goats cheese and a Double Gloucester, but alas like all in the farmhouse world, escalating costs in animal feed, packaging and so on, saw Greens and several others saying enough is enough and stopped production.
Do you have a favorite cheese or type? What would be your perfect pairing with this cheese?
Judging at local, national and international shows, is another commitment I have continued with since 1977, and I have seen a remarkable turnaround in the types and styles of cheeses being presented, including my 20 years as Steward at the Royal Bath and West Show, but I still come back to good old traditional farmhouse cheddar, with Keens probably just having the edge over Montgomery as my favourite, and along with some crusty bread and some cider, this is Somerset at its best.
Raw vs. Pasteurized? Does it matter? What difference does it make in the final product?
Needless to say with the likes of Westcombe, Keen and Montgomery high on my list, even though they are the very last of the unpasteurized traditional makers, there is nothing wrong with pasteurised cheese, though today all the creamery cheddars, are good, safe clean cheeses, they all taste the same, unlike the individual flavours of the small farmhouse makers.
Should the US create a system similar to the European scheme of protecting, controlling and/or regulating specific cheeses?
I have been fortunate to have been around when the P.D.O. was introduced for the West Country Cheddar Cheese makers, and seeing today what is left of the industry, it is even more important we hang on to this accreditation and is a lesson for other countries to learn from.
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?
When I look back, I have travelled many miles over nearly 40 years, to farms, cheese shows and trade shows, but I still get a buzz from visiting the new era of food shows, particularly the Real Cheese Fair, held every other year at Tavistock in Devon, where it is an informal atmosphere, from one minute you could be just selling to the public, then the next you could be doing a talk !
Please share with me one fun, non-cheesy fact about you.
Away from the cheese world, I am still just much a traditionalist supporting our markets, fairs and customs in the city of Wells, and one year raising money for a local charity, we were bet we could not raise a £1,000 for two Councillors to ride a huge towering 100 foot ride at our annual May Fair, but to their surprise I did, and the fun and publicity was great for us watching but for the Mayor and his guest they were a little worse for the wear !
Since I have been semi retired, when I get time I enjoy writing, and appropriately I have had just published not only my 40 years in the farmhouse cheddar industry, but a history of how only 10 family makers remain from over 1,000, with George Keen, kindly doing the Foreword, for the book entitled, The LAST West Country Cheddar Cheese Makers’ which is available in both e book and print from Indigo Dreams and published by Tamar Books.
My thanks to Richard for taking the time to answer questions and his patience in waiting for me to post it…
Interviews with Cheese Professionals continue through 2016… sometimes, as “stand-alone” interviews and sometimes as round-table discussions with several Pros answering the same question. Those participating include Cheesemakers, ACS CCPs™,Cheesemongers and Cheese Experts who contribute to this Wonderful World we call “Cheese”.
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