Selling Fromage to the French as Calais Gets a Taste for Kent


George Ward is achieving the gastronomic equivalent of selling snow to eskimos. He’s selling Kent’s cheese to the French.

“The reaction to Kentish cheeses was two-phase: Phase one — do you make decent cheese in England? Phase two — wow! great flavour!” said George.

George has signed up Histoire Ancienne, a popular bistro in the centre of Calais, for an order of Kelly’s Canterbury Goat, one of Cheesemakers Of Canterbury’s hard goat’s cheeses, to use for a sauce for scallops. He also has bookings from Tony L’Estienne, chef patron of Michelin-starred La Matelote in Boulogne, and a host of other outlets, requesting a tasting or degustation. A purchase by gastronome Tony will alert all the chefs in the region, who all tend to belong to professionals clubs like the Toque d’Opale for chefs.

 

And it’s not just George finding French custom. Patrick Dear, of Patriana, who is also based at The Good’s Shed, Canterbury, offers traditional food from the Basque country & Spain, and is finding sales in the Nord Pas de Calais region.

Spurring their success is the TEN Project, an initiative from Canterbury County Council to help businesses expand into France and Belgium. TEN helped pay for them to attend a trade fair in Calais last month.

Among those attending the fair was the Lycee de Detroit, a school specializing in catering NVQ courses. “This is how to capture the next generation of chefs,” said George. “They might be interested in a visit. I might suggest going over for a degustation for their pupils.”

“I’m immensely proud of the reaction our cheeses had, and warmed by the attitude of the French towards them,” continued George. “Having thought our only cheese was an orange-coloured cheddar that came in huge rectaingular blocks, they now know there is a real, artisanal renaissance of cheeses of all varieties awaiting them.”

Patrick, said: “It was the first exhibition & despite the organisers being disappointed with visitor numbers I’m delighted to say that I’ve had 3 firm orders & 5 strong enquiries, thanks to this TEN initiative. In fact, I’m in Calais today again doing business.”

Project Development Officer, Natalia Sukhram, said: “This is one of many events we support local businesses to attend. Feedback on the project so far has been very positive. One of the unique ways in which we are able to support SMEs is by providing them access to contacts they would not otherwise be able to reach.”

The next business trip lined up by TEN is the Saveurs et Terroirs, a major regional food fair in Arras. If you have a business that could benefit from TEN’s entree to Europe, call Paul Spree or Natalia Sukhram, Local Economy Support Officer, Canterbury City Council T: 01227 862 532 or email paul.spree@canterbury.gov.uk

Top photo-From Left, Patrick Dear, & George Ward with cheese in hand. (The Goods Shed)

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