The King of Cheese
We interviewed Roberto Guermandi, holder of the title “Best Fromager in Italy” and a true lover of local and foreign cheeses
⏱ 3 MINUTES READING
Born in Bologna in 1974, after graduating in accounting he immediately started working in the family shop. Since 1993 he has been the owner and manager of the “Angolo della Freschezza” specialty cheese shop in Bologna.
He has been a judge of the World Cheese Award since 2018 and was a competition judge at the Alma Caseus in Parma. He collaborates and supplies many restaurants recommended by the Michelin Guide, including two starred ones
.He participates in many national and international food trade fairs, organizes cheese tasting events and collaborates with the Italian Sommelier Association in Bologna.
He’s the king of cheese, crowned last May by the Guilde Internationale des Fromagers Italia with the title of Best Cheese Expert in Italy.
Roberto Guermandi, owner since 1993 of “L’Angolo della Freschezza” in Bologna, with his experience, his passion and his savoir faire won the jury of the Gran Premio del Formaggiaio. It was the first edition of this event: after a careful selection it saw five finalists face each other, in the frame of Cibus, in technical and theoretical tests, from cutting to blind tasting, from the composition of a small cutting board to the presentation of the “cheese of the heart”. After seven hours of testing, the jury decided the winner, who for the amount of tests dealt with could be defined as a cheese highlander.
On the other hand Guermandi, son of art, breathed cheese from a very young age, when he started working in the family shop. When he is not behind the counter of his newly renovated shop, which with its 12 meters sends into raptures the cheese nerds, he participates in trade fairs and organizes tasting evenings. For 29 years he has been buying cheeses from the best Italian and French producers and distributors: “My passion for cheese is never satisfied”, he tells us.
How was your passion for cheese born?
In the family shop, where I started working as soon as I finished my studies. Over the years we have evolved, always looking for different cheeses: since I was 19 I like to work on quality and I would not know how to do otherwise.
How did you grow and refine it?
I am a counter animal, I really like the contact with customers. When you specialize and become a reference cheese shop you will have increasingly demanding customers: so you have to be very well experienced. To learn more and more about this world, I often take part in national and international fairs and, as a judge, in important competitions, such as the World Cheese Award and the Alma Caseus. It is important to stay in the shop, but to have a 360-degree view of the world of cheese you also need to go out and compare yourself with other professionals.
Why did you decide to participate in the Gran Premio del Formaggiaio?
Because after trying this competitions on the side of the jury, I thought I’d get involved: it was an experience that taught me a lot.
What did you like about this experience and how did you win over the jury?
It was a very long and intense test. I think I gave my best when I presented my heart cheese, the Fontina Dop “Estrema d’Alpeggio”, of which Alessandro (the sales manager of Valsana, ed) found me a couple of kilos. They are mountain pasture fats that have an extra gear. And then I did well in the cutting tests, in blind tastings, in the presentation of a cutting board.What suggestions would you give to those who are thinking of participating in the next edition of the competition?
Try to get involved, because even if you lose you still win: just learning by seeing how others work. And the more competitors there are, the more the role of the fromager is recognized by the people: it is something that is good for the whole cheese movement.
What are the secrets for building an interesting cheese tasting?
On a tasting of 5-6 products, I would definitely choose one or two that are local, to talk about my territory. But I would also choose a foreign cheese, to let the consumer try the product of a different terroir. And then, for me, pairing with wine or beer is essential: you cannot accompany cheese with water.
Is it better the cheese alone or combined with jams, honey and compotes?
I’m with the Onaf, I’m for pure cheese. But I believe that a tasting can be ended up, when you get to the cheeses with greater structure, combining them with something sweet. This is how you prepare your mouth for dessert.
In your opinion, what are the strengths of your shop and in particular of your cheese counter?
The quantity and quality of the cheeses. In the best period we keep about 220 different types. And then the expertise of the staff is very important: I’m lucky to have young and very passionate guys, who have embraced my project and love the shop as if it were theirs.
Selezione di Sapori director