Big cheese shares her secrets with Kiwis
The first time Juliet Harbutt sampled top quality European cheese was a lifechanging moment.
She owned a Wellington deli-cafe called The Parson’s Nose and the discovery occurred while she was on a research trip in Paris in the late 1980s.
‘‘It was a total epiphany. I couldn’t believe cheese could be so extraordinary,’’ she says.
The goat’s cheese and triple cream cheese she tried that day were a major departure from the cheese she’d grown up eating in her Epsom family home.
‘‘My father used to have blue vein spread on crackers, which I thought was revolting. We used to have Colby and jam sandwiches which was my idea of bliss.’’
Harbutt’s love of food was inherited from her mother.
‘‘Food was my mother’s way of saying ‘I love you’. She was an amazing cook and food was essential to our lives.’’
Everything at The Parson’s Nose was made from scratch.
‘‘I used to go around the hills of Wellington picking wild parsely and watercress,’’ she says.
‘‘It was all about fresh food but only because I didn’t know how else to do it. I was inadvertently very ahead of my time.’’
She sold the business after her Parisian cheese experience and moved to London to set up Jeroboams: The Wine and Cheese Shop in South Kensington.
‘‘I decided if that was cheese I didn’t see any point continuing my career in cooking. I’d just do bread, cheese and wine. It was wonderful but it was a lot of hard work.’’
She sold that business after seven years and started writing and doing consultancy work for companies like Harrods and the supermarket chain Tesco.
She’s written various books on cheese including her first book The World Encyclopedia of Cheese which was published in 1998.
She’s currently working on the second edition of The World Cheese Book, which has sold 84,000 copies worldwide and has been translated into nine different languages in the last five years.
Her expertise has been recognised in many ways over the years, including by the French who made her a member of the Guilde des Fromagers Confrerie du SaintUguzon ( The French Cheese Guild).
Up until about five years ago Harbutt used to write a column on cheese for NZ House & Garden and came back regularly to research New Zealand cheeses.
‘‘The sad thing is since I stopped doing that there’s no other champion of cheese in this country. There’s hundreds of wine writers but where’s the cheese writers?’’
That’s partly why she’s sharing her knowledge at The Wine and Food Celebration which takes place at The New Zealand School of Food and Wine at 104 Customs St West in the city from September 14 to 22.
Harbutt will teach a great cheeses of the world seminar, a charcuterie workshop as well as a five-day certificate in cheese.
Sharing passion: Cheese expert Juliet Harbutt is giving a series of workshops at The New Zealand School of Food and Wine. She grew up in Epsom but is now based in the UK.
Go to aucklandcityharbour news.co.nz to watch a video of Juliet Harbutt talking about cheese.