Where do you buy cheese? Supermarkets are the easiest option, while department stores offer more refined products. Cheese shops provide a more upscale option.
What if you are searching for not just any cheese, but cheese made in a traditional way?
Room for affinage, or cheese-aging process (Park Hyun-koo / The Korea Herald)
Finding high quality cheese here can be a challenge, but Cho Jang-hyun may be the person you are looking for.
Cho is an owner-chef and cheesemaker at Cheeseflo in Hannam-dong, central Seoul.
Chef-cheesemaker Cho Jang-hyun poses for photos at his restaurant Cheeseflo’s cheese-making studio in Hannam-dong, central Seoul.
“Cheese making is not easy. The process is affected by all kinds of variables. I do not even think I have mastered the art of the practice,” Cho told The Korea Herald during an interview at his restaurant Tuesday.
Cheeseflo offers between 10 and 15 types of cheese -- including blue cheese, mozzarella, feta, camembert, Stracchino, Halloumi and cheddar -- all made under the direction of Cho. The restaurant and cheese shop serves dishes with house-made cheese.
Various types of house-made cheese are displayed for sale at Cheeseflo. (Park Hyun-koo / The Korea Herald)
Blue cheese (Park Hyun-koo / The Korea Herald)
Cheeseflo’s signature product is truffle-cream Brie, which uses more milk than other cheese. With truffle cream on the inside, the cheese is savory and soft, perfect for pairing with wine or beer.
Another delicacy is Burrata -- a fresh Italian-style cheese made with mozzarella curd. Although all dairy products depend heavily on freshness, this is especially true for Burrata, says Cho. This type of cheese is often paired with salad.
Cho, who has been in the restaurant business since 2005, became interested in cheese making in the early 2010s. As a chef, the interest came about naturally. He even went to New Zealand to learn about cheese making at a farm.
However, upon returning to Korea, he experienced failures in cheese making and made mistakes because of the differences between the two countries. For instance, the weather and milk are not the same.
It took Cho several years to come up with a stable cheese making process, and he opened Cheeseflo about two years ago.
He uses some 800 to 1,200 liters of milk every month to make cheese. Though the amount may seem like a lot, only 10 percent of it ends up as cheese -- the rest turns to whey.
“Depending on the condition of the cow, the climate and everything, the taste of cheese can differ at any time. So even if a skilled artisan makes cheese in the exact same way, the flavors can differ,” Cho said.
“Factory-made cheese, however, is always the same. Regardless of the differences in conditions, factories control other variables, so the taste and quality are the same.”
Imported cheese from Europe has become popular here, partly because of its price competitiveness, as dairy products are relatively cheaper abroad. But Cho stresses that artisanal cheese’s competitive edge lies in its freshness.
“Freshness differentiates artisanal cheese from factory-made cheese,” he said. “The scent of fresh milk and butter is the strength. It is something that cannot be imitated.”
The chef-cheesemaker shares know-how in cheese making through one-day classes held at the restaurant and elsewhere.
This year, Cho is seeking business opportunities to introduce his cheese to more customers. “To meet a more diversified range of consumers, we are looking into e-commerce,” he said.
By Im Eun-byel (firstname.lastname@example.org