In a country known for its falafel and hummus, one woman is making her mark by bringing the art and passion of cheese to Israel.
Noemie Richard, a renowned maître fromager (cheese master) and international figure in the cheese industry, has recently made Israel her home, injecting a new wave of enthusiasm in the locals for all things cheese.
Originally from the French Alps, a region celebrated for its rich cheese tradition, Richard’s cheese journey has taken her around the globe. She studied cheese making in France and Canada, graduating as a food engineer, and then moved to Chile, where she spent two years working in a cheese factory. In 2013, she founded the École du Fromage (cheese school), which spread across Argentina, Colombia and Peru, training over 3,000 gastronomy professionals across the continent.
Her expertise and passion for cheese caught the attention of cheese enthusiasts in the UK, prompting her move to London in 2018. There, she continued her travels in Europe as the head of cheese education for Savencia, a renowned French cheese company specializing in continental cheeses.
In August 2021, Richard embarked on a new adventure and moved to Israel with her partner. She is living the Galilean dream, she says, “where goats graze the olive trees of the picturesque valleys, hills are surrounded by rocky watercourses, forests charged with natural perfumes, making this area a place of gastronomy treasures.”
Bringing cheese culture to Israel
In Israel, Richard and her partner established Gvinage, a platform aimed at developing cheese culture in the country and supporting local cheese makers. Gvinage offers training, workshops, events, and a unique cheese portfolio, catering to amateurs and professionals alike. Through Gvinage, she hopes to bring people together via the shared love of cheese and foster a stronger cheese community in Israel.
For Israelis, Richard believes it is essential to understand the connection between cheese and its main ingredient – milk.
“By exploring the different cheese families and the distinct flavors they offer, individuals can truly appreciate the diverse world of cheese,” she says.
She emphasizes the importance of recognizing Israel’s rich cheese tradition, dating back centuries, and applauds the growth and quality improvement the country has achieved in recent years. “The next step is to reveal the unique tastes inherent in the different terroirs across the land and achieve consistent quality through a deeper understanding of milk.”
When asked about her favorite Israeli cheese, she smiles, saying that it depends on the season. For Shavuot, the holiday most associated with the use of dairy ingredients, she recommends Pri Megadim, a cheese inspired by Perail, a ripened creamy sheep’s cheese from France’s Aveyron region. She will likely be preparing a roasted Camembert with walnuts and rosemary on a mixture of greens, and describes how the creamy melted texture of the cheese, combined with the toasted bread, is sure to delight the taste buds and bring joy to any Shavuot celebration.
For Rosh Hashanah, she suggests the Tomme de Galil, a cheese with sweet and flowery notes reminiscent of the Gruyère aromatic wheel. And for Hanukkah, she recommends bringing some spice notes with Sapir Blue, a sheep’s milk cheese that offers the forest notes of Roquefort, alongside the spiciness and firm texture of Stilton.
Reflecting on her journey to Israel, Richard acknowledges the logistical help she received from the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews and the support system on which she could rely during the transition to her new homeland. Since 2014, IFCJ has been operating independently in the field of aliyah for Jews wanting to return home and has helped more than 43,000 immigrants from 30 countries, such as France, the FSU and South America, come to Israel.
“Israel is the place where I can finally settle after a long way around the world,” says Richard. “I am embracing the process and learning from the country and the people every single day.” ❖