"Tell me, Jean-Claude, how are you doing since you've had your cellar for maturing your cheeses"
"It's not a cellar for maturing, it's just to keep them at the best hydrometric and temperature levels"
It was enough to make me kiss my dear Jean-Claude on both cheeks when he gave that reply to a visitor to the inauguration of his cheese "cellar" at the big METRO shopping centre in Lomme, close to Lille. (Eurostar travellers, please note… but you won't be allowed to enter this cash & carry, except if you work in a French company which has a special card !) Especially as he then hit the nail on the head by saying (as I would) that you can only think of maturing a cheese by leaving it with its brothers and sisters stored in the care of their producer.
I've known Jean-Claude for a good number of years. He's an excellent professional and was even named last year Metro's "cheese ambassador", an internal competition to reward department heads, an award based on his skill in devising a new display concept for cheese. Quite simply, it's a large-scale cheese shop within a shop, with a variety of big cheeses on show – well, big ones and little ones! But shielded from draughts and kept at the correct humidity level. So a more protected ambiance, but one that attracts the customer and makes choosing easy.
Jean-Claude is an excellent manager. You should have seen the pride of his troops the day of its inauguration in September! A super-motivated team who listened, asked questions, in fact were truly into cheese... so who could converse knowledgeably with the food professionals who had come to the store.
And here are the photos!