About a year and a half ago Clement Brossault befittingly left his day job and decided it was time for change. After quitting his financially secure post, he got out his 1971 bike and went on a 2 month bike tour in search of cheese around France and Switzerland. In this interview we talked about changing careers, motivation, and fear of opening up a new business. As the interview came to a wrap, Clement offered me a slice of one of his favorite cheeses and it was the best little pleasure of my day.
Did your studies at university involve food and what were you doing before opening the cheese shop?
In university I did my Masters in management or something like that from Euromed Marseille School of management and then I started working at Societe General as a Banker. Very far from the cheese world.
What was your motivation to open La Fromagerie Goncourt?
I was tired of working a job that didn't fulfill me. Financially I was comfortable, but I wanted more than that. I wanted to discover something passionate and for me that was cheese. I made a plan to quite my job and start my own cheese shop. But before doing that, I traveled with my bike around France trying to gain as much knowledge by visiting different cheese production shops. It was a great experience for me and it educated me.
Biggest challenge in setting up your own business?
The work I did alone (inside the boutique), as well as managing the tiredness were big challenges. But, the most difficult was to take the final decision : “I open my fromagerie”, to step into the unknown is not easy! But, once I took the decision at 100% to create my own fromagerie, everything worked well for me: with energy, implication and motivation, we can solve all the problems and face all the challenges!”
Did you always want to have your own business?
I knew I would like to have my own business, because I like responsibilities and taking decision. Obviously that is something you have more in your own business than in a multinational company, but that was not an obsession neither. It came naturally.
Your biggest competition?
A lot of people buy cheese in supermarkets, so the challenge is to make them change their habit and come back to "les petits commerçants de quartier" (mom and pop shops). As a "petit fromager" I have to prove them the cheese and the service (advise) I offer is better than in a supermarket. I also try to apply reasonable price to compete with them
How many different cheeses do you have?
50 - 70 cheeses and 90% of them are raw milk and the others pasteurized.
Most popular cheese at your shop?
Hard question, I really like the diversity, and I often change my favorite cheese following the season. At the moment and because it is getting cold, I enjoy Epoisses (washed creamy cheese with Marc de Bourgogne). It helps a lot to survive to the winter.
How long can cheese be aged?
In my shop I have a Comté born in 2010, but this is possible to go older. In Italy I have heard some Parmesan are aging decades and even more. But this is not possible to buy them, and I am not sure it tastes good, it must be really salty and strong. I would like to try them in a next trip with my bicycle.
Would you like to make your own cheese one day? If yes, what kind?
At the moment I enjoy running my shop, so I can not see myself leaving everything to go into the mountains and produce cheese.