The cheesemaker who only ate fruits — Episode 1

Unlike other vegetarians, vegans, raw vegans and fruitarians, I have had a unique journey in the plant-based world. When I say I saw, tried, been involved in the worst, I do mean it. I don’t just talk about something that I’ve never been into. That is why I believe my words have strong, undeniable credibility and that this must be told. I have been asked recently, why I am doing all this. Why I contribute myself to an industry that is detrimental to mankind. But behind the enemy lines is a great understanding, much wisdom that can’t be gained from anywhere else. And wisdom is the greatest teacher along with patience. I am not a supporter of aggressive behaviour, the clash of “industries”, the “let’s do this right now at once”. It’s impossible. I want issues to be solved in a wise, smart manner with a transition. However, being harsh has its place and time — against human stupidity.

Not sure why, but I always liked cows better than pigs or poultry for instance. After the elementary school — in 1996 — , I opted in to continue my studies in agriculture. The funny thing is that I was a real geek, I loved computers, playing games and all that. It looked like there’s no better thing to do than learning more about it and make a living on putting computers together, programming and so on. Though I wasn’t really good at mathematics and physics, in fact, I hated these subjects. Because I didn’t have the right brain to understand them. You know some of us were born with a sense to this, some of us weren’t. I was the latter case. Hence my confidence wasn’t enough to push myself over the fence and have the courage to at least give it a try. I thought this choice is for good and no way to turn back later. So whatever I choose, must be something I’m okay to do for the rest of my life. Given that there’s an agricultural technical school in my home town and my cousin was studying there (and me being close to animals all the time) made everything easy. So with this option, I didn’t have to commute or stay away from home sleeping with 4 others in a tiny room. All looked cool. So I chose the easiest way. I have to say, this is where I screwed everything up. I should have tried that bloody IT career!

I studied 5 years and by the end, I got out as an agricultural technician with a sound knowledge on how to rare animals, cultivate crops, spray pesticides. But more importantly, in 5th grade, I had a chance to participate in an agricultural exchange programme organised by the Ministry. Successful applicants won 1.5 years long work and study experience in Denmark. I took this opportunity as I wanted to see the “world” — still as a kiddo. In this programme, I had to commit myself to one particular animal industry. I obviously chose dairy farming. In total, I milked cows for 3 years as I had extended my stay after finishing the studies. During these years I went through hell, faced many challenges, but the outcome was that I don’t want to do this anymore. I was exposed to a lot of blood and animal suffer, not to mention the physical and mental stress that being a milker means. That time I wasn’t vegan, but deep down I did feel that this isn’t right, this isn’t where I supposed to be. Today, as a spiritually aware soul, I know that my decision wasn’t a coincidence — it doesn’t exist anyway. Everything happens for a very good reason, no matter whether you are or aren’t aware of it.

Luckily, before my Danish journey, I had applied to an agricultural and food science university to continue my studies in higher education. This was a move that I wasn’t convinced of doing, however, in my country it’s expected — mostly by the parents, the family — to have a degree as a symbol of intelligence and future wealth. When I moved back home, it was time — after the pause in Denmark — to carry on with the studies.

The uni was the major place where I was taught lies. Needless to say that the whole education system is rotten. It was a struggle. I mean I was okay, mostly I had good grades, but inside I wanted to break out. I felt like a prisoner, chained to books, to an unreal life, not earning money, wasting my time. As a youngster, I earned decent money in Denmark right after the secondary school. Going back to uni and spending 8+ hours with learning stuff that wasn’t life-compatible was killing me. I couldn’t decide what was better: doing that or milking cows and getting covered with animal urine and faeces, but earning money and living life as should.

By the end of the university studies, my knowledge had deepened in agricultural and food science. I was trained how to slaughter, “utilise” animals, take their “value” and turn them into edible (?) products. I was trained how to work in a laboratory, how to assure quality standards at a food production facility (my title is Food Quality Manager by degree). I was trained how to compose a food with the right nutrient levels. I literally knew everything about food, including how the raw materials are produced. They call it “from field to fork” education.

So as you can see by now, I have always been in the centre of the milk churn, agriculture and food triangle. My true devotion to the dairy industry comes from my former muscle building background (from 1998 to 2013 with a few years pause here and there) and the excess consumption of whey protein powder. As a food scientist and dairy head, I was really fascinated how a white liquid can be converted into countless products that — as I believed at that time — improve human health and are necessary — unnatural — “foods” in our everyday diet.

After my graduation, due to my high interest in dairy products (my thesis was written on this topic too) I was offered a job at a renowned dairy research institute in Hungary — from where I come. This was like a dream job to me at first. Working with the experts, close to milk, cheese and milk derived protein powders. I worked there for 3 years and I’d built a great knowledge on all things dairy. But most importantly, this is where I was introduced to artisan cheesemaking of which is a form of art. There are major differences in making a cheese with machines in a large factory by pushing buttons and doing everything with your own hands and selling your creation right to your customers. You put your — blind — love into it. This lead me to become more interested in cheesemaking than enhancing my knowledge in the field of spray-drying whey protein. However, I had the privilege to work with casein and whey proteins, so this gave me an invaluable insight into the nature of milk proteins and how sticky, gluey they are.

So I set cheesemaking as a career goal.

I didn’t know that time how bad decision I made, but on the other hand, nobody came to me spitting the truth in my face. To be perfectly honest, I was in an era of my life where I would have just laughed at the person. I wasn’t ready to be awakened. I knew that England is one of the best countries when it comes to artisan cheesemaking and mastering the skills. Although this wasn’t the sole reason to relocate to the UK, I finally moved countries in 2013 in order to begin my deep dive into the world of cheese. I got a job at a larger bio-dynamic “empire” owned by a famous former F1 racer. Unfortunately, I wasn’t hired to make cheese, but ice cream, mainly. I was disappointed, but at least I was close to the fire as they make mozzarella. I ate a considerable amount of ice cream and cheese. Made me happier in a quite harsh environment — it wasn’t and most likely isn’t the place to work at.

As I was extremely keen to get into cheesemaking, I’d been looking for related jobs intensively. Eventually, I found a job advertisement for a cheesemonger position that I felt attracted with. Not quite making, but close and advantageous. I applied and nailed it. I didn’t know, but it turned out to be the cheese Paradise. You can’t have a better chance to meet and eat the most famous cheeses from all around the world! How cool is that? It was literally shocking! This job involved “affinage” (cheese care, cheese maturation) and processing wholesale orders for customers (i.e. cutting, wrapping cheeses). Working at that place was like getting a job at the Library of Alexandria as a bookworm. And obviously, this was the place where my cheese addiction had grown uncontrollable. Every day I made sure that I ate enough cheese. And the word “enough” is probably much more than you think of!

This business wasn’t just about cheese — despite that’s their flagship. They also trade with the BEST artisan “foods” you can possibly find in the world. As I’d been interested in all things food beside cheese, seeing this quality and love in the creation of edible products made me click. The one reason that urged me to think of my next step was my country. You can find Hungarian products available in the UK, but there was and still is a gap in the market. To this day, Hungarian gourmet food isn’t available to the public or not wide enough. Yeah, you may find fine wines here and there, but it’s not in the mainstream flow of gourmet food. So I thought, this is a good opportunity to ride on and therefore I decided that I build a business to import, sell and promote the best products from my country!

To be continued!

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