The past year has been a busy one for Mansi Jasani. Founder of the Cheese Collective—a curated selection of Indian handmade and artisanal cheese, and the ideas that go with it—she has been conducting virtual tasting sessions, creating innovative pairings, and judging international competitions. In fact, Jasani was the first Indian judge and super jury at the recently held World Cheese Awards in Spain. There were 4,000 cheeses from 45 countries, which got divided among 250 judges, spread across 88 tables. “It was like the Olympics of cheese. I must have tasted about a 100 in total on that day [3 November],” she laughs.
While the pandemic might have slowed down segments of the food and beverage industry, for Mumbai-based Cheese Collective it has been the opposite. As people have gotten more aware about artisanal cheeses, they have been ordering a lot more of them to cook at home. “While cheese platters and boards are popular, we are the first to start cheese cups,” says Jasani, who started the brand in 2013. These are single-serve cheese selections, but in the form of a cup. “At this time, people don’t want to eat from shared platters,” she adds. Jasani served these cheese cups for the first time at a friend’s baby shower —a small gathering in an outdoor setting—and it became quite the talking point of the day.
“We are trying to make the most of the given situation, and create something new and exciting while keeping our original ethos intact,” she says. So, earlier this year, Jasani conceptualised a cheese, chocolate and gin pairing with bean-to-bar chocolate makers, Mason and Co. “We did our first in-person tasting at this really beautiful private club in Mumbai. People are now double vaxxed and more open to stepping out. Cheese tasting is a community event, after all, which thrives on people’s interactions with one another,” elaborates Jasani.
The Cheese Collective has also moved into a new space in Breach Candy, which she calls a cheese atelier. “We have such an amazing curated list now, with cheeses from Mashobra, Kodaikanal, Uttarakhand. There is Kumaoni Blessings, which does lovely Formaggio and sun dried cheese with tomato and herbs, and Caroselle from Kodaikanal, which does parmesan, aged cheddar, and more. Artisanal cheese landscape has really changed over the years,” she says.
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