Julien Dumas, the new chef of the Saint James in Paris, tells us about a cheese that he enjoyed as a child, Persillé de Tignes. This excellent product represents the commitment required from chefs everywhere to protect the environment and its biodiversity.
Persillé de Tignes Cheese nominated to the Ark of Taste by Chef Julien Dumas of Saint James Paris in France.
Julien Dumas welcomes us to the magnificent setting of the Saint James. Last June, he took over the kitchen of this Relais & Châteaux palace in Paris. Previously, he had been the chef of the Lucas Carton, where he revealed himself to be the deserving successor to Alain Senderens, a giant of nouvelle cuisine.
To face this new challenge, Julien came up with a flurry of projects: arranging for a kitchen garden 31 mi from Paris to provide for his needs and a rustic breed of pig to produce his Paris-style ham, among much else. Today, he works directly with 64 farms selected over time, including Zone Sensible, the last remaining farm in Saint-Denis. He shows his commitment to sustainable fishing by calling on small-scale techniques, which protect both the aquatic habitat and the quality of the fish. Moreover, he highlights underrated fish that deserve a second look, such as horse mackerel, pout and mullet. “The excellence of a product depends on the way it is raised, fished, grown and prepared... That is true luxury,” he summarizes.
So it is only natural that Julien Dumas struggled to select just one product among so many others for his participation in Food for Change 2021. To do so, he turned to a personal favorite from his childhood, Persillé de Tignes. Julien grew up in the Alps. Although he has always been fascinated with food, he was not always keen on goats’ cheeses. Persillé de Tignes was a gateway to his appreciation.
This Tarantaise cheese is prepared using raw goat’s milk combined with a variable percentage of cow’s milk. Another original feature is that it is made using the curds – the result of milk coagulation – from several days’ production. The tradition harks back to a time when herds were smaller, and they did not produce enough milk for daily cheese-making. Yet another curiosity is that, despite its name, “persillé,” it is not necessarily blue like Roquefort or Stilton. Unlike those cheeses, its paste is not inoculated with mold. Blue veining may (or may not) occur during its long maturing process. It shares this characteristic with Persillé des Aravis, Bleu de Termignon, and Castelmagno, from the other side of the Alps. As it happens, all three of these will be boarding the Ark of Taste as well. “Persillé de Tignes obviously deserves its place on a cheese plate,” explains the chef, “but considering its crumbly texture, it may also be chopped into a salad or grated to top a cauliflower bake, for example.”
However, while the tradition for this cheese dates back to the 18th century at the latest, Persillé de Tignes is no longer made, except at a single farm: the Marmottan family farm. The Tignes dam, built in the 1950s, submerged the old village and forced the population to leave, abandoning their houses, farms and stables. The burgeoning mountain tourist trade appeared more promising than these demanding age-old practices (because let’s not forget that this is at 6,562 ft of altitude).
As Julien says, “We need to make this cheese known in order to stimulate new vocations. That is the role of a chef! Today, it is essential that chefs take the lead to bring people’s attention to the environment and to the protection of biodiversity. Today I am part of the Relais & Châteaux family,” he concludes, “because it is justified to play a motivational role in this change, which cannot wait any longer, including in terms of cookery.”
Relais & Châteaux as a family… Say, that comes up often!