A French cheesemaker and his team have put Nepal on the world cheese map, with their prize-winning Yak Blue.
They did not just win a gold medal at the fourth Mondial du Fromage et des Produits Laitiers in France’s Loire Valley. It was a Super Gold Medal that Francois Driard won for the cheese from the mountains of Ramechhap district.
Held over three days this month, the fair featured over 952 cheeses from 48 countries, and drew nearly 3,000 industry professionals to the historic city of Tours.
Francois Driard is a familiar face at the farmer’s markets in Kathmandu which he helped set up over the past 12 years that he has been in Nepal to bring producers and buyers together.
When he started his cheese adventure in Nepal, Driard began with a Tomme which was easy to make as it has a short maturing time and a reliable outcome. However, Driard’s cheese repertoire expanded as his customer base grew hungry for more variety. Now, his Himalayan French Cheese boasts 30 varieties of cheese made from cow, buffalo and yak milk.
“With this win, it means that now when I talk about Nepali cheeses abroad, I can actually have this medal to be proud of, and it gives me recognition,” Driard says.
The Yak Blue is a new cheese designed and created only last year, and not regularly offered in the market. “But with the medal, I don’t have a choice, I will have to make it more available,” Driard says, chuckling.
The Yak Blue came on the back of his efforts creating a mild cow’s blue in response to the strong Danish blues being imported to Nepal.
“Blue is a strong cheese and it is not to everyone’s taste. So I started making a mild cow’s blue, which I call Bluelikhel because we were making it in Dhulikhel,” Driard explains.
It was difficult because blue cheese requires colder temperatures for maturation than other cheeses, but by a stroke of luck Driard had a yak cheese factory in Serding of Ramechaap which is so high that it is naturally cold and ideal for blue.