Fromagerie Alain Hess, Beaune, Burgundy.

n 2008 Alain Hess in Beaune will be celebrating 30 years as fromager, cheese maker. His own creation, the Délice de Pommard, saw the light of day 15 years ago. Its reputation has grown steadily and it is now being exported to many countries across the globe.

Today Alain Hess has a shop on Place Carnot, right in the centre of Beaune, where he offers a large selection of cheeses together with both delicatessen and wines. He has been located here since 2005 when he had outgrown the shop just around the corner on Rue Carnot.

Cheese making definitely runs in the Hess family. His grandfather, Otto Hess, was a cheese maker in Switzerland making Emmentaler. René Hess, the father of Alain, kept the tradition going when he settled in Burgundy in 1954.

But making cheese was not the obvious choice for young Alain Hess. He was more into choosing a career within the army. His parents tried to convince him that it would be better if he took on the family business. He was not sure what to do; he ended up working as a chef for a while and but decided to give cheese a go in 1978.

Beaune, Burgundy.

For the first ten years he did not have a shop. Instead he sold his cheeses on the market in Beaune on Saturdays and by driving his van to the neighboring villages.

– Today we have this shop here at Place Carnot and a little factory, a fromagerie, where the Délice de Pommard is made, explains Catherine Sadouk who works with Alain Hess. It is all handmade. There are six or seven people making the Délice de Pommard.

The Délice de Pommard is a soft triple crème cheese, belonging to the same family as the Brillat-Savarin. Shaped as a globe – about 80 mm in diameter – and covered in mustard seeds it weighs in at 100 grams. The name refers to the location of the first Hess factory, in the village of Pommard just south of Beaune.

– It was the Brillat-Savarin that gave him the idea in the first place, says Catherine Sadouk. He wanted to combine that with the region's old mustard tradition. It took nearly two years from the first idea until he had a product to sell.

Since then the original Délice de Pommard has been given the company of another four flavours – cassis, anis, garlic/herbs and most recently truffles. The annual production is around 300 000 and since 1998 much is destined for the export market. Once a week Alain Hess goes to Paris to make sure that most of Europe, as well as the US, Russia and Japan, get their fair share of the Délice de Pommard.

In 2006 the Délice de Pommard was awarded a silver medal at the Concours Général Agricole in Paris. In 2007 Alain Hess returned and got a gold medal.

Market hall, Beaune, Burgundy.

In the shop at Place Carnot the focus is of course on cheese, but there is a large selection of delicatessen and wines as well. Catherine Sadouk runs the delicatessen section with its oils, vinegars, salts, ham, teas and coffees, while Christophe Gremeau runs the wine department. Gremeau has many years of experience as a sommelier, including six at Marc Meneau's three star Michelin restaurant l'Espérance in Vezelay.

– I come from the hotel business, says Catherine Sadouk. I have been working in Paris, England and in northern Africa. I came to Burgundy seven years ago. It is a pleasure to work with a team like this because we work very well together. Alain is very open minded and good at listening to other people and bringing out the best in them.

When asked to put together an introduction to Burgundian cheese she quickly decides on a plate with three

– I would choose three very different cheeses, she says. The first one is the Epoisses that has been washed with marc de Bourgogne. The next one would be the Abbaye de Citeaux. It looks a bit like the Reblochon. Then finally I would pick the Délice de Pommard. There are many other cheeses in Burgundy, but this is a nice selection since they are very different.

© 2007 Ola Bergman