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Arunima Maharshi

IWB Blogger

Cheesemonger Mansi Jasani Recalls The Lessons Of Gender Equality She Learnt While Digging Cheese Caves In New York

  • IWB Post
  •  October 8, 2018

She hails from Gujarat, is based in Mumbai, loves New York, and her life revolves around cheese, cheese, and cheese. The quickest and cheesiest possible introduction of artisan cheese maker, expert, and curator, Cheesemonger Mansi Jasani!

From doing a Management degree to going to New York for food studies, to leaving that and landing at Murray’s Cheese, and finally back to the bay and opening The Cheese Collective, Mansi’s cheese expeditions are nothing short of extraordinary. And if like her, for you too ‘Happiness is… Cheese’, then you are going to love the little cheese heaven that she has created in the form of ‘The Cheese Collective’ in Mumbai.

It opened in 2014, and Mansi refers to it as a place where cheese-lovers indulge in ‘kaleidoscopic shenanigans involving copious amounts of cheese’.

“At Cheese Collective we make fresh cheeses, and we curate the rest from cheese makers across India,” Mansi shared with IWB. In cheese there is constant learning, and the talented cheesemonger is always attending cheese conferences or festivals in the US and Italy, and just recently finished a cheese course at the Opus Caseus Acadamie in France!

The Cheese Collective

And now at the ‘Comte. Baguette. Life.’ note, dig in our ‘all things cheese’ conversation with Mansi! 

Let’s begin with talking about your early affair with cheese – How did your love for it surface and when? 

The beginning of my passion for cheese doesn’t have a definite start point but the turning point was in 2011 where after a three-day cheese boot camp at Murray’s Cheese in New York City, I wasn’t cheesed out. Post that I did a ten-day certified cheese-making course in 2012 with VIAC (Vermont Institute of Artisan Cheese).

One cheese-y instance from the time you worked in the cheese cave at Murray’s?

It was my birthday and the “cavemaster” handed me a cheese trier and said I could pick any three cheeses to taste-test from the caves. Birthday in a cheese cave, in my favourite cheese shop, in my favourite city in the world (NYC)! It couldn’t have been cheesier than that…

The Cheese Collective

Haha. And the one important learning you picked on that you believe played a major role on your path forward? 

One major thing I learnt while working at Murray’s Cheese was the gender equality that existed. Every task, every instruction, every expectation was conveyed with neutrality. I may have lifted the heavy trays of cheese a bit slower than others but I was never made to feel weak or had my gender pointed at. This is what I’ve seen across the cheese industry in the United States. Strong women and men doing things side by side, and that’s the one thing I’ve incorporated in my company and wish to see more of in India.

Brilliant. I read that you now plan to work on creating a cheese cave in Mumbai. Intrigued by the very concept of it, would you tell a little about your action plan? What are the prerequisites in the context of space, temperature, pressure like?

We are currently done with our cheese-making room and will start plans with our cheese cave by early next year. Caves for aging/maturing cheese (a process called ‘affinage’) has all the prerequisites you mentioned and more. Each cheese requires a different kind of set up and caring ritual.

The Cheese Collective

The Oxford Companion to Cheese, for which you co-authored a chapter on India – what interesting cheese-finds did the research phase leave you with? And would you shed some light on the geographical distribution of cheese variants in India, too?  

Well, you’d have to purchase the book for the details, but some indigenous Indian cheeses are: Kalari, Bandel, Chhurpi, Surti Paneer, Paneer, Qudam. 

The Cheese Collective

Fair enough. And now let’s switch to #socialmedia:

I came across this Instagram post of yours the caption of which read, “After all these years in awe of how beautiful cheese is.” What would be your most beautiful ‘cheese memory’?

Too many memories, but dinners with my fellow food enthusiasts in New York with lots of food & wine and cheese curated by moi (myself) were the most memorable. Like they say, cheese is best enjoyed when shared with loved ones.

Another moment is when children are excited to try blue cheese and other funkier cheeses and end up loving it – that makes me really happy. 

The Cheese Collective

Another thing I gathered from your Instagram is that you’re a ‘Lover of prosecco, pizza, strawberries, vintage, New York’ and are also as fond of travelling and architecture. Attempting to blend it all – if you were to take a cheese-class, keeping a theme around the aforementioned elements, what would be the venue and menu? 

Oh I love this question! It would be a cheese picnic class at Washington Square Park in NYC. 

And you also happen to be a Yoga enthusiast, how does the love for cheese go hand in hand with this interest of yours? *wink*  

I’d try and balance a wheel of cheese on my head while doing an asana. 

Astounding Asana

73 Likes, 6 Comments – Mansi Jasani (@mansi.jasani) on Instagram: “Astounding Asana”

And now some cheese quickies:

Your favourite cheese dish?

I can’t pick one but my some of my favorite dishes are the classics – grilled cheese, Mac n Cheese, Baked Brie, Fondue.

The Cheese Collective

The most exotic cheese dish you’ve experimented?

Khachapuri – A Georgian dish similar to pizza made of a cheese called Sulguni, eggs, and bread

Ema datshi – A Bhutanese dish made of chillies and yak milk cheese; it is their national dish.

Saganaki – A Greek dish made by frying cheese, usually a Halloumi.

The Cheese Collective

Most cherished cheese spread-out you’ve designed?

Cream cheese with a Korean cheese gochujang

Platteratti…

95 Likes, 3 Comments – The Cheese Collective (@thecheesecollective) on Instagram: “Platteratti…”

 

First published on Jun 21, 2018.

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