By Centine Wilbers
For just over a year now, Fernie residents and visitors have been delighted to discover ‘Le Grand Fromage’, the cheese and fine foods store on Second Avenue. With a stock of up to 100 different products, owner and cheese-lover Pierre Dupont seeks out the finest artisan cheeses from around Canada and the world.
“At the moment, about half of the stock originates in Canada,” says Pierre. “We have a wide variety of cheeses from Quebec, a few from Ontario, as well as a few local cheeses from British Columbia.” A particular favourite comes from the nearby Kootenay Alpine Cheese Company, a certified organic farm producing the Alpindon (Gift of the Alpine) and Notrala (Of this Place) varieties of cheese. “However, the most popular cheese would have to be the Swiss-imported Gruyère de Grotte,” says Pierre. Meaning ‘cave aged,’ this rustic and robust cheese is commonly used in fondue recipes.
Le Grand Fromage is pleased to offer a relatively new craze for Canadian cheese consumption, known as ‘Racletting.’ This Swiss cuisine invites diners to melt Raclette style cheese, and scrape this over accompaniments such as potatoes, mushrooms, cold cut meats and pickles. “It’s a great alternative to a fondue, and is a lot of fun to do with a group of friends and a bottle of wine,” says Pierre. Interested diners can purchase or renta raclette device from Le Grand Fromage, with rental prices starting at $10 a night.
Pierre Dupont, however, does not have a favourite cheese. “I get asked that a lot,” he says, “but I just can’t pick one.” With cheeses imported from Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and France, it is easy to see why. A former software engineer, Pierre travelled through Europe, Asia and the United States, designing cellular radio equipment for Motorola and discovering the rich variety of cheeses available around the world. Leaving the corporation in 2008, Pierre resolved to enter the world of ‘cheese mongering,’ and introduce quality cheeses to the Elk Valley. Deeply involved in the local community, Pierre jokes that he has a board meeting for every night of the week. “I’m involved with the Fernie Pets Society, the Fernie Writers’ Conference, the Arts Station and, of course, the Wapiti Music Festival. I’ve lived in Fernie since 2005, and love the people and the community here,” says Pierre. “There is always a lot going on, and it’s great living so close to the ski hill.”
With an ever-changing stock, Le Grand Fromage seeks to educate and introduce customers to new and unusual cheeses. With varieties made from cow’s milk, goat’s milk and sheep milk, there is much to tempt even the most experienced of cheese lovers.