French culture is cheese-obsessed. So much so, that the nation has created an extra step in the cheese supply chain for someone who checks, ages, and refines a cheese – called an affineur.
“You need to do a number of things with a cheese to reach ultimate ripeness – it’s something that makes a difference in France. We visited an affineur in the Pyrenees that has been really outstanding – his name is Dominique Bouchait and he sells his cheese across 15 trucks in local markets,” says Gaté.
He explains that Bouchait will age the cheese of smallhold farmers who don’t have the knowledge, time or space to mature their own cheeses themselves. Bouchait then matures them to his own unique style.
“They will often have around 20 animals and may make 50 to 60 cheeses a day. The affineur takes the cheeses and refines and looks after them in a cave.”
This leaves the cheesemaker to concentrate on what he does best, and the affineur to put all his attention into ageing a cheese well.
"The affineur takes the cheeses and refines and looks after them in a cave.”
As well as the cheeses by Bouchait, Gaté has fond memories of the French alps where he visited the Valley de la Maurienne, a popular place for cyclists and famous for producing cheese.
The two female cheesemakers who produce sheep and goat milk cheeses, name Mélanie and Morgane, also refine the cheeses onsite at 1500 m altitude.
Moving away from aged items and into the bakery, we find, unsurprisingly, that croissants are a passion point for the French chef. “It’s all about freshness from the oven – [they should be eaten] half an hour after they have been cooked,” he says.
“Le croissant at Maison Isabelle – it’s in Plas in Mont Pert, a square in Paris with one of the best cheese shops and bakers, so we are often there,” says Gaté. “We [always stayed near] that place because in the morning [while filming] we won’t bother having breakfast in the hotel and just have a coffee with a croissant here.”
Gaté says for those bound to the island-nation of Australia, his favourite croissant can be found at La Renaissance at The Rocks in Sydney – but he has high regards for all of their pastries.
Across France, Gaté hails Cédric Grolet as one of the most innovative pastry chefs. “We filmed with him a few years ago because he was famous and very good but he didn’t have a big name yet. He is very creative and just introduced a fruit concept which is fruit-shaped desserts, coated in chocolate and filled with fruit filling,” Gaté adds.
“There are many talented chefs you don’t hear about. In France there is a good pastry shop in every town – it just doesn’t happen that there isn’t a good pastry shop.”
Need a little protein to complete the meal? Gaté says Boucherie Charcuterie David in Vasles is his top choice for meats. “He also makes smallgoods and takeaway like salads and artichokes. When we featured him we thought it was one of the most interesting meat features we’ve done,” he says. “It’s one of my favourite regions of France.”
The Best of Taste le Tour with Gabriel Gaté airs every night from Saturday 6 July and finishes Sunday 28 July 2019. Visit the Taste le Tour website to catch-up on episodes online, scroll through recipes or find out more about the show.
This is a perfect way to use day-old croissants – if there are any you don’t eat on the first day!