Words and photos by Tania Mauri

Fabio Ciriaci and his love of dough have made Gusto Madre an essential and sought out destination for pizza lovers. Located in Alba, Piemonte, a centre of artisan and world famous foods from hazelnut spread to cheese, chocolate spread to Barolo wines and white truffles. These are typical products of the Langhe, of which the city Alba is among the best ambassadors. Chef Ciriaci operates his pizzeria in the historic center where he prepares, with passion and enthusiasm, a tightly curated range of gourmet pizza.

Born in 1987 and raised in the same northern Italian region where he now lives and works Ciriaci’s passion for cooking was inherited from his grandmother, Elvira, a great family cook. At the age of 14, attending the Hotel Management School in Turin and thanks to his teacher Renato Crivello, he came to understood that cooking was his world and started working as an assistant cook in several restaurants across the French Riviera, the Costa Smeralda and Milan at the restaurant Aimo e Nadia.

But is was while working in the kitchen of the Turin-based Dolce Stil Novo restaurant with chef Alfredo Russo at the helm that his focus and interest shifted to the creativity of making pastry. Before long, Ciriaci moved and gained experience working as a pastry chef at Baratti & Milano and then at Eataly Torino where he was entrusted with the role of managing the pastry of Luca Montersino. After a year and a half he started working in Montersi’s Golosi di Salute laboratory as production manager. It was here that he invented and patented a vegetable fat, a substitute for butter and margarine based on rice oil and cocoa butter, which is still available to buy under the brand name of Risolì.

Around this time his passion for about sourdough with all its nuances and flavours began to take shape. During this time he met his wife Francesca, with whom he now manages Gusto Madre, with who he fashioned the concept of offering a contemporary pizzeria experience, synonymous with the search for simple and authentic tastes. The passion for pastry and the familiarity he acquired in the use of sourdough led him to create light, digestible and tasty doughs thanks to the use of different flours and new blends. Diners at Gusto Madre are offered pizza in six different formats. Firstly Sei Friabile, a reinterpretation of the traditional Roman focaccia, is made with  whole grain flour giving the finished pizza added crumbliness and the aroma of toasted wheat. Sei Soffice has a soft dough which enhances the pristine taste of the five grains that make it up – whole rye, buckwheat, wheat and two varieties of spelt flour.

The Sei Croccante pizza is another interpretion of the classic Roman-style focaccia but his time made with Ostenga, an indigenous  and an increasingly rare variety of white corn flour from Piemonte, which gives the final pizza a delicious, lingering after taste and crunchiness; Sei Infinita, a crunchy 50 cm oblong slice of pizza, is generous enough for two people to share. The Sei Classica is made with live sourdough given plenty of time to ferment, 100% Italian wheat flour and stone-ground rich in fibre, while the sixth pizza on offer, the Sei Autentica, is made by spontaneous fermentation and 100% spelt flour.

Raw materials are selected also for the seasonings, ranging from the classics to the most imaginative and creative, such as the Sei Soffice Giovenca Black Angus (recipe below!). Here the dough is covered with seed for a crunchy effect enhancing both the high quality Angus beef sourced from Piedmont, along with the raclette cheese and vegetables. If this dish would be presented in a blind tasting, the diner might believe they were eating an excellent cheeseburger, accompanied with by a side dish of Jerusalem artichokes which could be easily be mistaken for French fries.

With Ciriaci’s training in pastry cooking the desserts you can expect a delicious choice of final dishes. Here, he has dedicated a whole dessert menu based on novel twists on traditional Italian favourites such as Cream Caramel with lemon cream and a pistachio waffle.

A new father, Ciriaci is not hanging around and is planning a food laboratory and test kitchen with a focus on creating high quality pastries.

Sei soffice con burger di Giovenca Black Angus

For the dough

600 g organic type 0 flour

50 g organic whole wheat rye flour

50 g organic whole wheat spelt flour

100 g organic Enkir flour

100 g organic spelt flour

6 g brewer’s yeast

600 g water

Dissolve the yeast in the water and knead all the ingredients in the mixer for 2 minutes obtaining a rough dough, place in an oiled container and mature for 20 hours at 4°C.

For the sourdough

150 g organic type 0 flour

50 g organic buckwheat flour

90 g water

20 g liquid mother yeast

1 g sweet Cervia salt

Dissolve the mother yeast in water and knead all the ingredients for 4 minutes obtaining a rough dough, place in an oiled container and mature for 16 hours at 18°C

For the final dough

50 g 0 organic flour

20 g water

5 g malt powder

35 g extra virgin olive oil

20 g sweet salt from Cervia

200 mixed seeds

Combine the 2 pre-doughs, add the flour, the malt and mix until a smooth dough is obtained, finally add the water and salt and immediately after the oil mix again for 2 minutes. Let the dough rest for 1 hour, then form the 180 g balls and let it rise for 90m minutes. Gently spread the dough directly on the seeds so as to make them adhere well to the dough, up to a diameter of 16 / 18cm place in a oiled pan and let rise for about 2 and a half hours. Turn the dough upside down on the table and bake directly on the stone in the oven at 260°C for about 6 minutes.

To serve (per portion)

200 g of Black Angus beef burger from Piedmont

50 g of smoked raclette

Radicchio, to taste

Confit cherry tomatoes, to taste

Carrot ketchup, to taste

Fried Jerusalem artichokes, to taste Cook the meat about a minute and a half on each side and insert inside the sandwich. Add the raclette cheese, radicchio, confit cherry tomatoes and carrot ketchup on top. In the center of the plate lay the previously sliced and fried Jerusalem artichok

Words by Ilaria Mazzarella

Photo courtesy of restaurant Antica Fonderia

Crossing the Via del Pellegrino heading towards Campo de ‘Fiori in the heart of Rome, I am excitedly on my to meet an old friend. The biting cold air of an anonymous January afternoon chills my uncovered face. After a brisk walk I arrive, and quickly spot Spanish-born chef Alba Esteve Ruiz’s sweet face through the restaurant’s glass doors, absorbed in thought. Alba’s newest place of work is Antica Fonderia, a Roman restaurant artfully blending human warmth with solemn austerity. The cuisine is one of grilling with fire, tempered with a refined and creative Mediterranean cuisine. The space is decorated in wood, marble, blown glass, inlays of brass and lots, and lots, of golden flourishes. Gold trimming is found on the table, tableware and walls giving the feeling is of a well-balanced compositional tension characterized by a passionate attention to detail. The colours of the interior space and carefully curated design details reflect the space’s former life as the Lefevre Foundry where precious metals such as gold were once heated by raw fire, refined and hammered into shape.

Behind Alba’s large, round signature glasses her face framed by the black bandana and wearing a burnt sienna coloured jacket she is instantly recognizable. It’s always her. The spirited Spaniard who, aged just 19, packed her bags and roll of chef knives and left her family to pursue her path of hard work and sacrifice. If that’s a brave move for a man, it’s very difficult for a woman. Her journey has seen her working in iconic Spanish kitchens such as Girona’s El Celler de Can Roca and before arriving in the Roman kitchens of Marzapane where she embraced  contemporary Italian cuisine. Then she fell in love. Firstly with the life and spirit of the Eternal City and then with a local boy whom she later married. When later she had the tempting opportunity to return home to Spain or to a kitchen in Milano – she chose Rome. Again. Clear, crystalline, focused ideas which shyness cannot hide. I quickly recognise the essence of the young women that I first met all those years ago.

Well, welcome to the realm of ancestral cuisine, or using raw fire to cook. Take a seat, make yourself comfortable, choose from the menu, and fill your glasses. The show is about to begin. And so starts an adventure in which only a raw fire, a wood oven, coals, experience and cooking skills are demanded. “At the beginning it was a nightmare to get used to this new way of cooking,” says Alba. Today the hand tames the flames and selects the wood works with an enviable ease. The fires on the grill are lit at six, before 45 minutes late the the first log is pressed into the oven. “I use eye drops every day and pour water into the glasses of both. “I have to put cream on my face and cocoa butter over and over again.” Her gaze exudes all the tiredness familiar from a restaurant’s start-up phase. Wasn’t it the British poet and writer Oscar Wilde who said that: “The one advantage of playing with fire … is that one never gets even singed. It is the people who don’t know how to play with it who get burned up.”

“Then everyone rushes to changing rooms, to avoid the initial blast of smoke,” she says. At seven the fire is alive and the kitchen is fully operational. Well dried oak and beech wood get the first started quickly, before the slower burning coal is added on a giant Argentine grill. The choice of wood is crucial to achieve the best flavour profiles. For hot smoking apple and cherry wood works best, with almond wood a natural match for cold smoking. Some preparations are oven smoked with beech. Antica Foneria is owned by patron Cesare Bettozzi, deus ex machina of working with live fire, and himself a Roman entrepreneur who has spent three decades away from the city, mostly in the US. Naturally, there are flashes of  Spain on the menu. Jamón, anchovies, baccalà, Segovia’s piglet are all listed. Other meat is sourced from the longstanding Roman butcher De Angelis.

Several of Alba’s signature dishes, such as Crucifere and Carbonara are also listed. Her husband, the Italian with whom she fell in love and stayed in Italy for, is Michel Magoni, room manager and sommelier at Antica Foneria. “I could not think of doing everything alone in the restaurant, you always need the collaboration of a trusted professional,” she says. “Better if it’s your partner”. Indeed, they (rightly) treasure it, reminding us that the most significant catering is almost always done in family-run kitchens and restaurants. “Just don’t take the problems of work home,” is Alba’s advice.

Everything is tested: the large tables, the latest trend, the novelty of the moment. But you inevitably tend to return and sit at those tables where you feel most comfortable. Maybe because it’s like being at home only that you are served and you don’t wash the dishes? Maybe. Honours from critics are important, of course. But is there something that gives more satisfaction than a restaurant full of customers who keep coming and going simply because they are doing well? Maybe not. As the night’s service ends, the restaurant empties, the staff head for home and rest, Alba’s takes one last look around the kitchen and what remains of the fire. She says: “In the evening, the embers are left to die and the next day we start again”.

Antica Fonderia

Via del Pellegrino, 65

00186 Roma (RM)

Tel: + 39  06 6928 2203


I look out of the plane window as we land. The runway attendants are all wearing fur Cossack hats: this is definitely Russia. After the complexities of getting…

Words by Bruce McMichael

A warm, early evening breeze blows gently across a leafy courtyard and through the doors into a welcoming light reflecting around the dining room of a small Italian seaside restaurant with rooms. Inside Locanda Rocco da Francesco in Sirolo on Italy’s east coast, we catch glimpses of beautifully laid tables covered by crisp, starched white tablecloths. By each table setting was placed a sheet of glossy paper boldly coloured black red and white. It showed a photograph of a young man, smiling, with tousled hair looking optimistically forward, into his future. Alongside the image was a menu of eight dishes, a flight of culinary genius created and cooked to honour the young man in the photo, Francesco.

Fondly known as Checco, he held dreams of becoming a chef and creating great, delicious meals. However, this evening was organised in honour of his life which was tragically cut short by a car accident while training to fulfil a passion for cooking, shared with his father Georgio, and of becoming a professional chef. Part of a series of eight dinners hosted this year under the title ‘Sognare con Francesco’ (Dream with Francesco), this evening’s event was organised by his parents, Daria and Giorgio Tridenti, owners of Locanda Rocco. To remember and honour Checco’s life, Daria and Georgio have created a scholarship helping  young people to study at the prestigious professional chefs school, Accademia Niko Romito in Abruzzo.

This dinner was a fund raising event and Cook_inc. was kindly invited. Michelin-starred Italian chef Riccardo Camanini was working in the kitchen. It was an evening where emotions were expressed through the food and wine, throughout a menu celebrating Checco’s life and love of cooking. Chef proprietor Riccardo, of Ristorante Lido84 on the shores of Lake Garda, bought a small team with to work with Locanda Rocco’s brigade. Each courses was paired with natural wines grown on the Italy/ Slovenia border. Riccardo, a long-time friend of Daria and Giorgio, created the menu highlighting classic and modern Italian cuisine. “Cooking was a dream for Checco,” said his father, Georgio. “Through this scholarship we can keep his dream alive”.

The start of the meal veered from delicately baked Crackers with cassava and leek in an eel sauce, to Creamed pumpkin soup with curry seasoning. Both delicious delicate, and offering crunchy mouthfeel to be calmed the soup and its mild curry flavouring. Later, a plate of delicious silky Risotto coloured a bright green and made with celeriac and lovage oil was served. Creaminess was given to the rice by using the oil and not butter or cheese, making the dish good for those with lactose intolerance. A quick spray of Yersinia, an anise liquor made to a secret recipe but including almonds, added a final flourish. Riccardo’s signature dish of Cacio e Pepe cooked in a vescica (pig’s bladder) was ceremoniously served with a sharp knife piercing the inflated ball and releasing steam and wafts of cheese and pepper aromas into the room.

Courses were paired by wines from the Terpin winery, expertly matched and poured by the grower Franco Terpin, whose work in the vineyard have given him strong hands and wrists that bear witness to many hours pruning vines and working in the cellar. Franco and his wife Danielle make natural wines using long macerations and ageing to produce fragrant, wild, colourful, textural white and red wines. The evening atmosphere was reflected in a menu full of love, creativity and thoughtfulness. It was part of a series of eight chefs cooking eight menus at Locanda Rocca over this summer and autumn. Invited chefs included Valerie Piccini of Caino in Montemerano; Vincenzo Cammerucci of Ravenna’s Cami restaurant, and Sven Chartier from Saturne in Paris, Josean Alija from Nerua in Bilbao, Karl Baumgartner from Schöneck in Molini di Falzes, ending with Accademia Niko Romito on the 17th of December.

For our night, Riccardo chose to end the meal with sweet dish of Torta di rose freshly baked served with a brightly flavoured zabaione using lemon zest from fruit grown on the shores of Lake Garda near his home and restaurant. So, as the evening drew to a close and the breeze softened, we left the restaurant and gazed out over the Adriatic Sea which during the day is an inviting, deep turquoise colour and in constant motion and peaceful, and contemplated on the lost promise of Checco’s life.

Locanda Rocco Hotel & Ristorante

Via Torrione, 1

60020 Sirolo (AN)


Words by David J Constable

Quique Dacosta was back in London last month, three months after opening Arros QD, his first restaurant outside of Spain. Arros – the Catalan word for rice – promises a fine dining “evolution of paella”, and, following a € 4.8 M investment, is set to make the Valencian peasant dish the new star of London fine dining. This finely tailored chef – in monogrammed, carnation white shirt and a neatly-barbered beard – is the latest in a line of Spanish superstars to try their luck in the UK capital – Eneko Atxa, David Muñoz and Elena Arzak having established themselves with varying degrees of success – and is setting his sights on taking paella upscale.

Arros QD – the kitchen
Photo credit: Kalen Armstrong

The image of Spanish rice abroad has for too long been that of a lurid, yellow mass of paella – actually the name of the pan it’s cooked in rather than the dish itself – studded with tough chicken and prawns. “Paella is one of the best-known dishes around,” the chef tells me, “yet it is also one of the most mistreated”. Paella, according to Dacosta, has lost its way, bastardised across the globe and mass-produced on a depressing scale. “When you put paella on the table, things become more friendly,” he tells me over a large “Paella Valenciana” consisting of rabbit, chicken, garrofon beans, rosemary and traditional aioli. “Paella is a celebration, a sharing plate, but it has lost its identity”.

It’s difficult to argue. Supermarkets churn out their ghastly fake-styles, passing them off as classic and traditional paella, and creating a sort of Frankenstein-concoction between jambalaya – a pot of red rice loaded with smoked andouille, chicken, shrimp and a sofrito-like mixture known as the “holy trinity” in Cajun cooking, consisting of onion, celery and green bell pepper – and Valencian paella. In what Dacosta calls “an unforgivable decision,” Jamie Oliver further corrupted the recipe by suggesting that chorizo be added. Dacosta bulks at the idea. “Would you put chorizo in fish and chips?” he snorts. I shake my head in agreement, but am not entirely sure myself.

Paella cooking
Photo credit: Kalen Armstrong

A self-taught chef who operates on the gastronomic cutting edge and hold three Michelin-stars, Dacosta blends respect for tradition with a desire to innovate. Arros in paella has initially been a celebratory Sunday dish, and according to Dacosta, should take up to two hours to cook, including vegetable preparation and a stock made from scratch. When complete, the dish sits in a spectrum of rice dishes ranging from soupy arros caldosa to stew-like arros meloson. But in his Dénia research kitchen, Dacosta has created tessellating steel trays called chapas that can cook rice in an oven as well as on an open flame and can be arranged in patterns on the table. “The fire is our guide,” he says. “But it’s not just the heat, it gives an aroma. It’s like an extra ingredient. The way you manage the fire, it has a bit of magic.” When he posted a video on social media of him using a pre-made stock, it made the Spanish papers.

Full vegetables paella
Photo credit – Kalen Armstrong

The focus of Dacosta is to project rice into the high-end gastronomy scene. As one of the most recognised experts in the field of rice and paella, he seeks to challenge preconceptions and restore Valencia’s rice culture to its rightful place, while introducing the technique of true and authentic paella to London and the world. “Bringing our tradition and gastronomy to London is an exercise of commitment and responsibility, which fills me with excitement. The thing that was important for us,” he continued, “was not just to bring the recipe itself, but also the methods, the tradition.” Perfect rice, Dacosta stresses, isn’t stirred like the Italian risotto. It also has a crust, something that must be scraped from the pan, called socarrat. “If you don’t have any knowledge about this, you might think it’s burnt, but that’s where all the flavour is.” I can attest, the blackened, crispy socarrat is a delight and certainly worth fighting over, and the two paellas I sampled, the best I’ve had – despite no chorizo.

Chef’s table
Photo credit – Kalen Armstrong


64 Eastcastle Street

London W1W 8NQ – UK

Tel: +44  0 20 3883 3525


Words by Bruce McMichael

Photos by Slow Food Archive (Photo Cover by Alessandro Vargiu)

Greedy, curious hands grab tiny pieces of diced cheese stalls displaying the Cheese 2019 logo before bringing these taste bombs to the mouth to chew and swallow, imagining new pairings and recipes. Along with 200.000 visitors, the natural cheese world descended on Bra, Piedmont – the town famous for being the birthplace and spiritual home of global activist movement, Slow Food. Every two years over a long September weekend the town is given over to cheese. Roads and car parks are closed; dozens of gazebos installed; street bars set up and household fridges cleared and cleaned ready for chunks of smelly cheeses, and this year charcuterie, craft beer and natural wine. Behind the festival stalls stand heavily bearded cheese makers hipsters, tousled haired shepherds from the mountains of Sardinia and Sicily, and cheese mongers wearing national costume. Cheese rounds from Switzerland, Sweden and Russia compete for attention, while tired palates are refreshed with local wines, sour fruit beers and cups of bitter espresso.

@Slow Food Archive – Paolo Properzi

Food politics and natural cheese are natural partners. This year, controversial issues such as PDO and PGI labels sparked fierce debate, while Sardinian farmers talked about how their protests and campaign to achieve fair milk prices and boost the value of their island’s major export, Pecorino Romano cheese. The festival celebrated 12 years of getting the world to appreciate the skills, traditions and flavours of cheeses made with natural (unpasteurised) milk. Governments and consumers around the world are nervous about eating products created with non-pasteurised milk.

@Slow Food Archive – Alessandro Vargiu

One attention grabbing cheese was Salers, a semi-hard product from Auvergne, central France. Only milk from Salers cattle that graze ancient volcanic soils on mountain pastures between April and November is used. The grass is full of wild flowers including gentian and blueberry that flourish in hot summers months nurturing a strong tasting, pressed semi-hard cheese. Younger rounds offer fresh buttery aromas before maturing and transforming into gentler scents into pungent, woody and smoky notes. Its making requires great skill from the herdsman and cheese-maker, but is very much worth the effort.

@Slow Food Archive – Alessandro Vargiu

Festivals such as Cheese2019 help raise awareness of natural cheeses, with their funky flavours, surprising texture, ranging from soft to runny and from firm to chalky depending on seasons, milk and how the cheese maker presents his terroir, so a Camembert-style cheese distinctively tastes of the fields and milk of Normandy, France; British Columbia or the grass growing in New Zealand.

@Slow Food Archive – Alessandro Vargiu

Intriguing flavour pairings were introduced to cheese enthusiasts such as pairing buffalo mozzarella and buffalo ricotta with oysters and seawater in dish created by Italian chef Vittori Fusari. The meal was paired with the flinty, fresh white wines made Nascetta and Timorasso grape varietals native to Piedmont. Nomadic cheese maker Trevor Warmedahl had just left the Mongolian cheese where he was taught ancient ways of making cheeses using yak milk, and was on his way to a mountain pastures in Styria, Austria to learn more techniques He says he had ”never tasted so many complex and diverse cheeses in one place. The taste and flavours of cheese made using different, natural starter cultures is so much better and interesting that industrially produced cheeses. I knew this intellectually but I fully understood its importance after my sensory experience here at the festival”.

@Slow Food Archive – Alessandro Vargiu

Slow Food’s Cheese festival takes place every other year and a key part of the recruiting students to follow a Masters in Raw Milk and Cheese course starting in January 2021 (www.unisg.it). Applications open next year for those who want to know their Salers from their Pecorinos.

By David J Constable

Cover by Azzurra Primavera

My trips to Italy have been some of the most effervescent and liberating of my life. The food, the wine, the art, the women – fashion is credited rather too much. It isn’t merely the escape of Brexit Britain that thrills me, the will-we-wont-we mess of it all, the cabinet shuffle and reshuffle and frustrating merry-go-round of our leaders, but the fact that Italy is a glimpse into another purgatory. Nothing gets done in Italy, either. That, of course, is part of its pleasure. Doing something new would mean undoing something old and that would be a mistake.

Laura Gilmore Bottura and the staff from Casa Maria Luigia in Modena
Ph by Azzurra Primavera

And yet, there are some Italians who continue to innovate, their contrivances centring around pleasure: the food, the wine, the art, you get the gist of it. They created the Slow Food movement for extended lunches, and then, encouraged by its perennial success, widened it to a slow city movement. They flung open the doors to Eataly, a Circus Maximus promoting everything from manzo to mozzarella. There are 18 Eatalys in the country and a further 22 around the world, flogging pappardelle from Boston to Moscow. None of this is news to Italians, but to a visiting Brit brought up on a diet of bangers and bubble & squeak, it’s fresh and ingenious.

Salvatore Tassa prepares his Cacio e Pepe in tovaglia, Viviana is craving it
Ph by Azzurra Primavera

So it was that I returned to Italy and to Milan, visiting Eataly Smeraldo and the new restaurant of Viviana Varese. I’ll admit to having little knowledge of Viviana, other than she was a pocket-rocket chef, who accumulated techniques from across the globe, marking off stages in some of the world’s most celebrated kitchens. Then came her meeting with Sandra Ciciriello, which led to the opening of Alice Ristorante in Milan in 2007 and a Michelin-star in 2011. Other accolades followed, and now I’m here, in Milan, for something altogether different; for the rebranding, reopening and revolutionising of a common space but an unfamiliar name.

Alice Ristorante is no more, replaced now by VIVA. Viviana has used the opportunity to reopen to redecorate, installing artworks that bring a splash of dappled colour to dinner. Bright canvases adorn the walls, and multi-coloured perspex plastic hangs in front of the open kitchen and above a Kauri wood table, approximately 30,240 years old. The opening party at VIVA continued the creative theme, with Marco Nereo Rotelli’s luminous installation illuminating the Piazza XXV Aprile with the words “sustainability”, “sharing” and “synthetic city” bouncing off the walls. Viviana was somewhere in the kitchen, wrapped up in the revelry of it all, lost among chefs, friends who had travelled to Milan to support her. In total, 30 chefs took to the kitchen and various stationed stoves situated on the upper level of Eataly. I’m told later, that 8,000 bowls of food were served during the party and at least six times as much Champagne. As for the amount of Negronis, well… I had eleven, at the last count.

Ritu Dalmia & Viviana Varese
Ph by Azzurra Primavera

Walking this journey with Viviana is Ritu Dalmia, owner of the Italian restaurant Diva in Delhi and Cittamani and Spica in Milan. Together they present a formidable partnership, driven by an enthusiasm for flair, what Viviana calls “creative and operational synergy.” The formation of the new company VIVA was assisted with help from Ritu who, as part of the Riga Food Srl company with Analjit Singh, holds 20% of the shares, while Viviana controls the remainder. Both are driven by a recovery of ancient flavours, renewed in a contemporary style. They understand that food is about exciting the senses, representing each of their cultures through a lens – music, art, food, colour – and rotating ingredients in accordance with the seasons.

Khao suey, a spicy coconut soup with noodles (left) and Keema pao (right)

Ph by Azzurra Primavera

Both VIVA and Spica affirm the tight alliance of the chefs, with a menu at Spica rooted in the Indian-Italian-Peruvian-Mexican… cultures, celebrating the nostalgia of home and presenting the diner with a peek into the culinary lives of both, whether it’s a Keema pao from Mumbai or a Khao suey, a spicy coconut soup with noodles from Myanmar. The results are stories told through food; stories of a chef’s life, travels, inspiration and their journey up until now. The menu at VIVA reflects Viviana’s passion for quality produce from her vegetable garden, changing according to seasons like the Barbecued pumpkin and bay leaf ice cream dedicated to artist Kusama. I found the Spugna di mare: mussels in acidulated beurre noisette, Noto almonds and tarragon a particular highlight during the dinner at VIVA and Insuperabile: fine spaghetti with smoked broth, cuttlefish, clams and powdered tarallo a bowl that made me long for another, and another.

Omaggio a Kusama: barbecued pumpkin and bay leaf ice cream

Ph courtesy of VIVA
Spugna di mare: mussels in acidulated beurre noisette, Noto almonds and tarragon
Ph courtesy of VIVA

In this instance, doing something new for both chefs means a breakaway from the past, but not entirely forgetting about the past. There are lessons in the folds of history, lessons that propel you forward. Sometimes change is good, sometimes, change is necessary to evolve. But it isn’t always about going it alone, forging your own path; sometimes, having a friend on the journey with you can lead to unimaginable results. And here we have two chefs with two new restaurants from two very different backgrounds: two friends with everything ahead; united by creativity, by fun, by food, by art, by the challenge of it all. Two friends giving it a shot, inviting you along for the party – and what parties they throw!

Ph by Azzurra Primavera

VIVA Viviana Varese Ristorante

Piazza Venticinque Aprile, 10

20121 Milano (MI)

Tel: +39 02 4949 7340


Spica Restaurant

Via Melzo, 9

20129 Milano (MI)

Tel: +39 02 8457 2974


by Jean-Pierre Gabriel

You have until September 30 to apply to become one of the Foundation interns created by Andreas and Sarah Caminada, one of today’s greatest, chefs from restaurant Schloss Schauenstein. First of all, the name Uccellin comes from Romansh, a language spoken by 60,000 people in the Swiss canton of Graubünden… and Andreas Caminada’s family.

Created by Andreas and supported by Sarah, his wife and mother of their two children, Fundaziun Ucellin aims to provide training in 20 weeks to young chefs (under 35) and dining room staff members through the best restaurants of the world. “Fundaziun Uccelin was founded to foster ambitious talents within the gastronomic industry with the long-term goal to secure highly skilled and passionate professionals for our wonderful crafts”, explains Andreas Caminada.

“In a few words,” explains Sarah, “through the contacts we have established with our network of chefs and producers, we want them to have access to the entire activity. Internships alternate chefs and producers. It is important to let them understand all the upstream work needed to bring a langoustine or a beetroot in the restaurant’s pantry”. Since its foundation in Switzerland in 2015, the initial engagement has grown into a global network with over 60 of the world’s most successful restaurants and producers as partners for the foundation’s internship program. Talents who have been accepted for the 20-weeks-scholarship are allowed to choose their individual itinerary out of these partners. Since March 2019, Sergio Herman has become the first international mentor of the Fundaziun Uccelin. «Sergio is not only authentic and successful in business. He is also a highly respected model for the next generation and connected to our target group” explains Sarah.

The foundation provides three specific training programs – one for promising young Swiss chefs, one for their international peers and one for talented waiting professionals. The foundation alsoprovides scholarships towards further education and training. All three training programs sharethe same modular structure over a period of 20 weeks which comprises several individual on-site assignments,hosted by a network of selected producers and restaurants. “All expenses are covered,” explains Sarah, “which leads us to a budget of about 15,000 Swiss francs per person, including pocket money of 500 francs per month. When a trainee joins us, he receives a kind of travel notebook, with the places of training. We “mother” him; we book his transport, where he will stay, etc.

Do you want to turn your dreams into reality?Written applications for scholarships can be handed in twice a year, in March and September,via the Foundation’s website, www.uccelin.com. The current application cycle runs until September 30, 2019.

It’s time to hurry up!

Andreas Caminada & Sergio Herman

Hai tempo fino al 30 settembre per candidarti e diventare uno dei tirocinanti della Fundaziun Uccelin, creata da Andreas e Sarah Caminada. Innanzitutto, il nome: Uccellin deriva dal romancio, lingua parlata da 60.000 persone nel cantone svizzero dei Grigioni… e dalla famiglia di Andreas Caminada, uno dei più grandi chef di oggi del ristorante Schloss Schauenstein.

Creato da Andreas e supportato da Sarah, sua moglie e madre dei loro due figli, Fundaziun Uccellin mira a formare, in 20 settimane, giovani chef (under 35) e membri dello staff della sala, attraverso i migliori ristoranti del mondo. “La Fundaziun Uccelin è stata fondata per promuovere talenti ambiziosi nel settore gastronomico con l’obiettivo a lungo termine di garantire professionisti altamente qualificati e appassionati per i nostri meravigliosi mestieri”, spiega Andreas Caminada.

“In poche parole”, spiega Sarah, “attraverso i contatti che abbiamo stabilito con la nostra rete di chef e produttori, vogliamo che abbiano accesso all’intera attività. Gli stage alternano soggiorni presso chef e produttori. È importante far loro capire tutto il lavoro a monte per portare uno scampo o una barbabietola all’interno di un ristorante”. Dalla sua fondazione in Svizzera nel 2015, l’impegno iniziale è cresciuto fino a diventare una rete globale con oltre 60 tra i ristoranti e i produttori di maggior successo come partner per il programma di stage della fondazione. I talenti che sono stati ammessi per la borsa di studio di 20 settimane possono scegliere il loro itinerario individuale tra questi partner. Da marzo 2019, Sergio Herman è diventato il primo mentore internazionale della Fundaziun Uccelin. “Sergio non è solo autentico e di successo nel suo business. È anche un modello molto rispettato per la prossima generazione e collegato al nostro gruppo target ”, spiega Sarah.

La fondazione offre tre programmi di formazione specifici: uno per i giovani promettenti chef svizzeri, uno per i loro colleghi internazionali e uno per i professionisti di sala. Inoltre la fondazione fornisce borse di studio per portare avanti l’istruzione e la formazione. Tutti e tre i programmi di stage condividono la stessa struttura modulare per un periodo di 20 settimane che comprende diversi incarichi individuali in loco. “Tutte le spese sono coperte”, spiega Sarah, “il che ci porta a un budget di circa 15.000 franchi svizzeri a persona, compresa una paghetta di 500 franchi al mese. Quando un tirocinante si unisce a noi, riceve una sorta di quaderno di viaggio, con i luoghi di studio. Lo coccoliamo come mamme, prenotiamo il suo trasporto, dove alloggerà, ecc.

Vuoi trasformare i tuoi sogni in realtà? Le domande di iscrizione per le borse di studio possono essere consegnate due volte all’anno, a marzo e settembre, tramite il sito web della Fondazione www.uccelin.com. L’attuale ciclo applicativo dura fino al 30 settembre 2019.

È ora di sbrigarsi!

Intro by Gabriele Stabile

Text by Roberta Virgilio

Video by Ari Takahashi

Gabriele says

When Mazzo and Roberta Virgilio first gave me a hint of a new joint effort I was immediately curious. I had seen chefs turning closet sized restaurants to fried chicken shacks before but after all this is Italy and in the kitchen we do it better. The crumb mix Francesca, Marco and Roberta came up with has the power of conjuring up memories of lost childhood and the excitement of modern day refreshment. Food, sometimes, can be reassuring and comforting and relevant and exciting at the same time. This is one of those times. If you make it to Legs ( please open one downtown, or an ape truck, I can drive! ) you’ll probably go for the fried chicken sandwiches ( featuring dark meat ), but also the wings and the fries ( old fellas they pick themselves ) are equally satisfying. Great beers and all in all, solid summertime hang. 

Roberta @ Legs

Legs, as often happens, has its birth from nightly chats at a counter between friends, friends belonging to the world of food, to the world of beer, but also – luckily – able to be completely transversal to different sectors, worlds and passions. It seeds in a relationship with the guys of Mazzo, Francesca and Marco, built up in the last two years to a friendship, made of evenings in Via delle Rose 54 imagining worlds and ways of contaminating and nourishing the sphere of cooking with other interests and paths.

So while Francesca and Marco outlined the idea of the tour and of Mazzo Invaders, we talked about what could happen of Via delle Rose 54, how many transformations it could undergo and how it could become the scene of other and different catering realities. We imagined ghost restaurants, deliveries but also the opportunity to say goodbye to the space that had hosted the lucky 6 years of Mazzo and its life. Then one day they talked to me  about the idea-meeting Mazzo&Artisan, good beer and crispy fried chicken, and, given my experience, it was completely natural to turn ideas and images into numbers, procedures and methods that could be realized even without their hands.

That’s how the possibility of translating this new Mazzo&Artisan combo into Legs was born. Since the definition of the idea I played the role of Hookah-Smoking Caterpillar offering a different point of view from that of both, planning  operationally and numerically the sustainability of the format.

It was very interesting to take a dish that is a symbol of Mazzo and the Italian spirit , which belongs to their cuisine and has always been made according to the highest quality criteria, and making possible for  it to be reproduced in almost total fidelity without compromising its replicability and standardization, over time and with the idea of opening it in different stores and therefore locations.

So, in addition to having studied with them a business plan that could make them imagine what life they could expect in Via delle Rose 54, I had the opportunity to express the two main souls of my training and my life choices: food product engineering and the procedure definition 

I also had the pleasure of helping Francesca and Marco with my presence in Rome, while they took off and landed with the first stages of Mazzo Invaders. Respect and mutual trust did the rest.

Afternoons of overdosing on fried chickens and marinated cabbage were the scenarios of the discussions, if you can call them so, on what techniques and tricks could make life easier for Legs. And so we arrived to the choice of boned thighs, the famous and juicy brown meat, tastier and with a more interesting texture compared to the breast  (among other things already in the process of being included  in the offer for other uses, as well as the skin – because the philosophy of nose-to-tail-eating remains fundamental – to name one of the places of the heart that I share with Francesca and Marco). We selected suppliers of potatoes that could give us  old potatoes which have the right moisture content and perform best in frying.

We studied what we shared as one of the elements that most of all bore the identity of Mazzo and the Italian identity of Legs: bread for the coating. It has been produced by hand for years by Marco to obtain a coarse grain but perfectly balanced with its finest components, the breadcrumbs used to coat  Mazzo’s fried chicken was also included as a souvenir in the tote bag of gifts of the 5th anniversary of Mazzo, seasoned with the historic onion powder that gives it a spicy note. How to make it in quantity and in a more agile way was one of our first concerns  and then the epiphany in a memory: as a child my mother made me use the meat grinder to make  breadcrumbs at home. And so, between amarcord and tradition, the trick was done

Standards, procedures, replicability, many words that often move away from the concept of quality, freshness and fun. Not for me; in fact I imagine and see a path in the opposite direction in these same words.  I aim to apply these concepts to projects aimed at  sharing and quality, without forgetting fun and economy, sustainability in all its forms.

Video by Ari Takahashi who, after a recent visit at Legs, came with me for a centocelle shoyu ramen. More on that soon, hopefully. 


Via delle Rose, 54

00171 Roma (RM)

Tel: +39 06 6496 2847

Words by David J Constable

Photos by Richard Haughton

Authentic cheddar, consumed with voracity around the world, is made by only a handful of artisan producers in the south-west of England, passionate cheese-makers who keep the ancient traditions alive, satisfying the cravings of ardent cheese connoisseurs.


It’s a beautiful spring morning in the south-west of England. The sun is shining (a rare thing to happen here), and the cows move across the plains in slow, purposeful movements. I can see a multitude of breeds, predominately robust and healthy British Friesian and Swedish Red-and-Whites. These thick-set, wide-hipped, large-breasted females appear perfectly in tune with the rhythm of the countryside; eating, sleeping and farting merrily.

Returning to the fields from their morning milking, the heavy-hanging udders wobble like a fat man’s chin, emptied of their milk they are now ready to swell-up all over again. These cows are the starting point for so many things we enjoy every day, from milk, butter and yoghurt to ice cream, eggnog (ewwww – blame the Americans) to, of course, cheese. So, let us move over to the cheese part of the story.

Yes, beautiful, wonderful, delicious, varietal cheese in all of its many forms. Cheese. Cheese. Cheese. It’s one of the great culinary evils, and I can’t stop eating it. Who eats a little piece of cheese, ey? Have a think, I’ll wait. No one, you see. I eat slice after slice after slice, before realising that I’ve eaten the whole fucking wheel. If I’m not cutting chunks and eating it directly, then I’m grating it on my morning eggs, melting it in soups, baking it in the oven. I dip my bread in it, dip my finger in it, I even stick my tongue in it, licking up all of the deliciously gooey, addictive drug that is the heart-stopping, pants-dropping, booty-shaking, earth-quaking, goddam fucking joy that is CHEESE. And it’s these beasts in the field, these fat, sleeping, farting, cows we have to thank for that.

This is the idea: I wanted to work in reverse. Beginning with a single wheel (or truckle) of cheese, I’d take the necessary steps backwards to discover its origin; back to the curd, the churning, the milk, the milking, the cows, the fields. I wanted to go behind-the-scenes of the cheese-making process. I wanted to meet the cows, the farmers, the cheese-makers, so I decided to travel to one of the oldest dairy and cheese-making regions in the UK, to Cheddar in Somerset. Here I’d visit the ancient caves where wheels of cheese are aged, and I’d visit those people responsible for making it, the people who keep the old traditions alive. If you’re going to explore and write about cheddar, there’s only one place to start.


Richard (my travelling photographer companion) and I took a road trip to Somerset, a rural county of rolling hills, famous for the Glastonbury Festival, its cider and its  cheese. Province is essential; in fact, it’s everything. Think balsamic vinegar of Modena, Chianti Classico of Siena and Florence, Sabina oil of Lazio. In terms of Italian cheeses, there are hundreds, perhaps even thousands, all proudly bound by province and their DOP status, but the story of cheddar is different. Yes, there is a place and a cheese called Cheddar, but it is not about the province, but the process. Still, to learn the full story there is only one place to go, and so

There are many stories about how the now iconic cheese came into being. There’s the one about the milkmaid who left a bucket of milk accidentally in the caves, returning to find it had transformed into something more interesting. Another, that the Romans may have brought the recipe to Britain from the Cantal region of France. What is known about the area of Cheddar is that it has been at the centre of England’s dairy industry since at least the 12th Century, with the earliest references to cheese dating from 1170. With the absence of refrigeration or adequate transport, there was a problem with surplus milk. That problem was solved by turning milk into cheese. Cheese-makers discovered that if you pressed the fresh curd to squeeze out the moisture, the cheese lasted much longer. This method of cheese-making along with other refinements was perfected in the Cheddar area, and so the first authentic cheddar cheese was born.


Our first stop on this cheddar pilgrimage, was to the famous caves, a place of ancient myth and quite possibly the birthplace of cheddar itself. It was in these caves that the oldest complete human skeleton ever found in Britain was discovered; aged at around 9,000 years old. He was named, rather appropriately as “The Cheddar Man”. 

The Caves of The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company

The caves themselves are located in a vast gorge, a long, narrow valley between the mountains, which weaves its way like a flowing river through the Somerset countryside. The area is underlain by Black Rock slate and formed by meltwater floods during the cold periglacial periods. Of the many caves, the two most accessible and open to the public, are Gough’s Cave and the smaller Cox’s Cave – which are said to have inspired Helm’s Deep in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Two Towers (1954). Luckily for us, it’s after-hours, and the tourists and school buses have departed, leaving the caves open for discovery.

Along with our guide, John Spencer, Managing Director of The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company – a family-owned, independent small artisan producer, and the only company making cheddar in Cheddar – we enter through a wide passage, into the cold, dank, grotto-like cavity. Sharp, pointy stalagmites and stalactites hang from the ceiling, dangling above me like shark’s teeth. On the walls, dark splotches of mould help to create an environment John describes as “perfect for maturing cheese”.

Cheddars aging inside of the caves at The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company

The influence of the cave environment is remarkable in terms of texture and taste; creating the perfect temperature, with zero interference. The cave-ageing treatment has been used for hundreds of years, although, in more recent times, maturation and ageing rooms closer to the dairy have taken over. The use of the caves to aid in the maturation process was reintroduced by the company in 2006 and resulted in the cheese developing a deeper creaminess and a flavour profile that sets them apart.

We walked deeper into the cave and further into the darkness. It’s eerie, almost impossible to see except for a few small bulbs that pop on like stars in the milky way. A series of tall cages become visible towards the rear, each housing truckles of cheese, wheel upon wheel upon wheel, wrapped in muslin to protect any foreign bacteria coming into contact and messing up the perfectly balanced probiotic cycle. On closer inspection, I can smell the slightest tinge of ammonia mixed with a nutty scent, and it reminds me of winters in London and the men who roast chestnuts on Westminster Bridge. Up close the round truckles are blotchy with mould, splatters of green, grey, purple and orange. It’s a beautiful display of vivid colours, like ink splashed across a canvas or an art installation honouring Jackson Pollock.

Cheddar Moulds

The wheels are only a few months old, having been produced in the dairy by The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company, down the road. Upon leaving the dairy, they are taken to the maturation room where they’ll be stored for 12 weeks, before moving to the caves, where they are aged for six months (Mellow Cheddar); 12 months (Mature); and between 18 and 24 months (Vintage). By the time we depart the caves, stepping back out into the light, my nostrils have been consumed with the smell of old cheddar. We make our way down the gorge towards the process room, where the milk arrives each morning before being turned into curd and eventually, cheese. Around 70 tonnes is produced annually – a small figure compared to the bigger, corporate cheese producers – and last year won prizes in The British Cheese Awards, The Global Cheese Awards and The World Cheese Awards.

While the likes of Montgomery’s, Westcombe and Keen’s – who together, created one of the first UK Slow Food Presidia, for ‘Artisan Somerset Cheddar’ – are the only three producers in Somerset making farmhouse cheddar, The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company are the only people making and selling cheese in Cheddar itself. Producers the world over follow a similar recipe, but the differences between their cheeses are vast, and the style and quality labelled as cheddar vary greatly, with some processed cheeses being packaged as “cheddar” while bearing little resemblance.


Coagulation – cooking the curds during the manufacture of cheddar cheese. The curd is stirred constantly during this step to avoid uneven cooking or overcooking.

Returning to province, we have established that there is a place called Cheddar, but that the cheese itself does not hold PDO status. Instead, I learn that “West Country Farmhouse Cheddar” can be applied to those cheeses that have been produced from local milk within Somerset, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall, and manufactured using traditional techniques. The techniques required include ‘cheddaring’, and it is this process which has become the most essential and defining process of producing cheddar.

Taking all of the above into consideration, none of it has stopped other countries making cheese and labelling it “cheddar”. In 2007, a French-owned cheese company based in Scotland called Lactalis McLelland was named as Supreme Champion by the British Cheese Awards for their “Seriously Strong Cheddar”, beating 867 kinds of cheese. Those in the aforementioned English counties using local, unpasteurised milk and applying the ‘cheddaring’ process are the only cheese-makers who can officially call their product authentic.

To witness the cheddaring process, Richard and I make our way over to Keen’s and their Moorhayes Farm. When we talk about cheddar today, the first name that springs to mind is Keen’s. Here you have a proper, bonafide cheese-making family, five generations of award-winning producers who have been making unpasteurised cheddar since 1899. In 2013, they won the UK Supreme Champion at the World Cheese Awards, although they were already popular and well known to cheese connoisseurs prior to this, the award thrust them onto the world stage.

We’re meet by George Keen, the man responsible for the day-to-day operations of the farm and who, along with his brother, Stephen, and his son, James, continues the traditions of the family who have made cheese on these premises for decades. Their mother, Dorothy, learnt cheese-making at the Somerset Farm Institute in Cannington, and it was their Great Aunt Jane who pressed her first truckle in 1899 and set the wheels in motion for the family business. The farm itself presents a careful process of bovine care, with large cattle shed set up like a day-spa with soft-hay sleeping partitions, bountiful troughs of food and designated massage areas where the cows can press their rumps against spinning brushes.

Draining the curds – The curd is broken into small granules then whey is removed from the curds by allowing it to drain out of the vat. When most of the whey is gone, the curds are raked to either side of the vat, allowing whey to drain down the middle of the two piles.

George and James work in a happy, symbiotic partnership. It’s a process and a routine they have done over and over. The farm and dairy give off a relaxing atmosphere – once you get past the smell of cow shit – and offer a happy-go-lucky environment nestled in quiet seclusion within the Somerset countryside. For instance, cows are not urged to leave their pasture, but instead, return to the dairy for milking whenever they feel. It’s a simple, mechanically run operation in which the cows approach a machine themselves for self-milking. Each cow is fitted with a 5G smart collar which controls the robotic milking system and records the time and volume of milk so that everything is monitored and recorded. I watch as they install themselves for self-milking – it takes 250 litres of milk to make one whole cheese – while others sit sprawled across hay, a farting choir of cows producing a loud morning chorus. The milk here is not stored or transported. It is not tampered with at all. Only unpasteurised milk will do. This can sometimes mean the milk is difficult to work with and unpredictable, which is why it is even more essential that the cheese-makers at Keen’s are experts at making excellent quality cheese.

Cheddaring – Cheddaring is a unique process in making Cheddar cheese that involves the cutting and stacking of curd to squeeze additional whey out. It is a multi-step process that reduces whey content, adjusts the acidity, adds characteristic flavour and results in a denser and sometimes crumbly texture.

James demonstrates the all-important cheddaring process, during which the curds are cut and pressed together into slabs. The slabs are stacked on top of each other, the weight of each pressing out any moisture. They are then cut, pressed into slabs again and re-stacked. The process continues until almost all of the whey is expelled. When the ‘cheddaring’ process is over (it takes about an hour), the curd is passed through a mill to cut it into smaller, even-sized pieces. Salt – another crucial ingredient – is added to stabilise the curd and to stop bacteria growing. Then, the cheese is put into moulds and left to drain before it is pressed for three days, bathed in hot water and then smeared with hot lard and wrapped in three layers of muslin, a permeable coating that allows air to get to the cheese and moisture to evaporate. As James testifies it’s a long, tiresome and laborious process, a gruelling workout, day-after-day-after-day, like lifting weights in the gym. The result is James having shoulders like a battering ram and biceps that pop like Popeye on steroids.

Cheddaring –The curd is constantly cut and turned in a repetitive process that lasts one hour.

As the cheese ages, the surface becomes gradually colonised by those wonderful splotches of multicoloured mould. Looking at a well-aged cheddar cheese, you could be forgiven for thinking that its looks rather rank and is well past human consumption; however, some of the most prized cheddars are aged over 18 months, covered in mould and dark spores. The ideal maturation time, according to George, is between 10 and 12 months, though cheese here can mature for up to two years. Keen’s also produced a 29 month aged that has a nutty flavour and long finish – something I could quickly develop a severe habit for. “What we don’t want is a sharp, acid cheese,” George explains. “The cheese should promote the intricate range of flavours that exists in a raw milk cheese.”

Milling the curd – The mill will cut the cheddarised curd into about 1.3 cm pieces. During this process, the milled curds are constantly stirred to avoid re-matting.


Back at The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company, John takes me to the back of the processing room, where a small museum is dedicated to the history of this special cheese. Black and white photographs adorn the walls and show the old men with medieval farming tools alongside off-duty workers enjoying cheese sandwiches and drinking milk from sloshing jugs. I’m able to gain a better understanding here, not just of cheese-making, but the importance of farming in the region and how it contributed to the industry, both in Somerset and across wider Britain.

Salting the curd –Then, salt is added to the curd slices and stored by hand in order to distribute the salt evenly.

Central to the modernisation and standardisation of cheddar was the 19th century Somerset dairyman, Joseph Harding. For his technical innovations, promotion of dairy hygiene and volunteer dissemination of modern cheese-making techniques, he has been dubbed “The Father of Cheddar Cheese”. Harding stated that cheddar cheese is “not made in the field, nor in the byre, nor even in the cow, it is made in the dairy”.

It was Harding and his wife who were behind the introduction of the cheese into Scotland and North America. His sons, Henry and William Harding, were responsible for introducing cheese production to Australia and facilitating the establishment of the cheese industry in New Zealand, where today, it is still produced en masse. Cheddar had gone global, competing with big cheeses on the international scene. What better way to stick two fingers up to the French, than be rivalling them and their egotistical, nouvelle nonsense fromage.

Packaging and pressing – The curds are placed into moulds lined with muslin cloth that will be used to press the curds and form the blocks of Cheddar. This is to ensure that the last of the whey residue and any water retained is reduced.

In more recent times, Britain has moved to the very top of the international league table of cheese producers, overtaking France. As of 2018, the UK was producing 750 varieties of cheese, 100 more than France, despite the French eating twice as much. According to a United States Department of Agriculture researcher, and a 2014 article titled “The Biggest Cheese” in The Boston Globe, cheddar is the world’s most popular cheese and the most studied type in scientific publications.

Before the 19th Century, however, cheddar was already having an influence, notably in the courts of kings. Both King Henry II and Charles I publicly announced their adoration for the stuff with administrative records showing that both kings made purchasing the very first batches of its production a priority, wanting to ensure that it was only available through them. These kings were, it would seem, the supermarket buyers of their day, the upper-crust suppliers and go-to cheesemongers of Britain.

James & George

Even the great writer Daniel Defoe wrote of the cheese in his book A Tour of the Islands of Great Britain (1724), describing it as “the greatest [cheese], and best of its kind in England.” Defoe wrote, “It is called our English parmesan and brought to the table with the mites so thick around it that they bring a spoon for you to eat the mites with, as you do the cheese.”

And, the British explorer Captain Scott took 3,500lbs (nearly 1,600 kg) of cheddar with him on his famous expedition to the Antarctic in 1901. Enduring months of freezing temperatures, Scott and his men, along with English cheddar, also dined on seal meat, penguin blubber, turtle soup and drank pints of lime juice. Cheddar was becoming a necessity for many and was an identifier of England, becoming one of the essential products the English produced and consumed. Here was a cheese growing in status, building on reputation, collected and consumed by writers, poets, explores and even royalty. Not only was it growing in popularity, but it was symbolic, a defining slice of English and British culture. All cheeses are nationalistic when you think about it; they are nation-defining artefacts: English Cheddar, French Camembert, Swiss Gruyère, Italian Parmigiano.

Aging – The aging room of the Keen’s: they press the cheddar for 3 days, then smear with hot lard and wrap in three layers of muslin, before taking the truckles of cheese to the ageing room.


What was once all farmland and dairies in Somerset, is now only a few farmsteads, as land is sold to overseas investors and the profession of farming appears less than appealing to a new generation. Hundreds of cheese-makers dwindled to only a few, a few select people who work to preserve and keep ancient traditions alive. While cheddar continues to be produced and consumed across the world, only a small number can be found in Somerset. As for those cheese-makers producing cheddar actually in Cheddar, only one remains.

Cheddar is a hard cheese though, literally and metaphorically, one that will fight the fight and continue on its journey. It has already led a fascinating history, influencing the lives of writers, explorers and royals. Even now, it creates buzz and excitement, and has the cheese-world talking. Now, it’s moves forward, forging t a new future and a new story, one that began all those years ago, by accident, in the caves of Somerset, within the Gorges of Cheddar, to eventually ending up on kitchen tables and cheese boards around the world.

George inside Keen’s aging room

The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company Ltd.

The Cliffs


Somerset BS27 3QA – Regno Unito

Tel: + 44 1934 742810


Keen’s Cheddar Ltd

Moorhayes Farm

Verrington Lane

Wincanton BA9 8JR – Regno Unito

Tel: + 44 1963 32286