‘Mr. Fromage’ spurs local cheese boom

Michel Valiquette’s passion is served at Ferraro Foods



There’s a story behind every piece of cheese, just ask Rossland’s Michel Valiquette.

The cheesemonger’s passion has certainly helped along Ferraro Foods’ success, which continues to take shape now in Rossland where the grocer expanded its cheese section this month.

The sommelier started with food sampling at this store when he first moved to the area from Vancouver three years ago. The product was moving but when he tried his hand at cheese, customers lined up to taste what he was pushing.

“We have a Portuguese cheese here from 900 kilometres off the coast of Portugal on São  Miguel Island in the Azores, where the cows graze right along the ocean and you can almost taste an iodine flavour,” he would explain São Jorge. “It goes super well with Sauvignon Blanc because it’s a crisp wine.”

Educating customers on what they were buying fed into the belly of the beast.

Rossland’s potluck community took note and began trusting his word. He’d sell one whiskey cheddar and the next day there would be nine customers looking for the same and the store would sell out of a product over night.

“I don’t know if it’s because they’re mountain people or what but it’s a real passion,” he said. “In Rossland, we like cheese and chocolate like I’ve never seen it before.”

The wheel started turning in Trail when the grocer got rid of its pharmacy and expanded the deli section, making cheese the star of displays. Valiquette began working the counter and business was booming.

“We always had cheese, but we just expanded it because it was selling so good,” said the store’s Danny Ferraro. “Outside of Granville Island, we probably have one of the best selections.”

There are still those conservative shoppers who like their cheddar, or in Trail it’s Friulano, but then there are more adventurous palettes that are after the truffle Brie.

Customers like Paul Gregory are as happy as a bird with a French fry. The Trail resident shops the cheese section daily. “I love all of it,” he laughs, admitting that his problem is growing.

“I get customers like him,”  said Valiquette. “But then I get an older Italian customer, and she wants three kilos of provolone, two kilos of parmessiano and then I don’t see her for two months,” he said.

His favourite customer, he argues, could quite possibly be the children he can spot from afar waving their arms and yelling “Mr. Fromage” as they jet toward him.

Standing out in a crowd, getting, “Hello cheese guy from the chairlift,” is very strange for Valiquette, who was anonymous working in the service industry in Vancouver. The wine guy helped open Gotham Steakhouse and spent many years romancing flavours table side.

The Montreal native knows his wine, can read the French/Spanish labels, but the cheese was new territory. When the opportunity presented itself, though, he researched and realized it wasn’t far off from vino.

Like wine, cheese carries notes of flavour that is attributed to where it’s made. The environment plays well into this right down to how the cattle are raised.

“You travel through cheese, so it’s fun to sell to people,” he said. “People’s eyes roll into their head, so that’s a good sign that the job is not very difficult.”

Comté, one of his favourites, is said to carry 83 flavours that linger on the palate, with the main being a balance of brown-butter and roasted-nut aromas. It’s a story like this one that has customers salivating at the counter, wanting more and then before leaving asking which wine to pair it with.

The grocer sees the natural marriage of cheese and wine and now has a pairing wheel to further educate shoppers on their purchase.

“When we choose what we do in the store, it’s all over what the customer wants,” said Ferraro. “They want a good quality cheese, and Michel is a perfect fit for us.

“He knows his stuff, he researches it,” he added. “You can ask him a question about something and he’ll get the answer for you without baloney.”

That passion for fine flavour and celebration of food is shared by the Ferraros and has been brought centre stage through the family grocery chain for over 50 years.

Just be sure you’re not too hungry when you visit next because chances are Valiquette will take you on a flavourful journey, with a story to back the punch of flavour delivered.

Just Posted

Participation by women in West Kootenay/Boundary elections up slightly

More running than in 2014, but about same number as 2011

More burning prohibitions rescinded in southeast B.C.

Category 2 and 3 fires will be permitted in Southeast Fire Centre as of 1p.m. on Wednesday.

High hazard in downtown Trail

Roofing work began early Monday morning at the Trail Memorial Centre

Second hospital road part of plan, says Trail mayor

Martin was in Whistler last week for the UBCM; city delegation met with health ministry

Syringa Creek fire ‘being held’

The fire has burned 3193 hectares; Deer Creek fire is also “being held” at 3849 hectares

B.C. RCMP turn to Const. Scarecrow to shock speeders into slowing down

New addition will watch over drivers from a Coquitlam median for first-of-its-kind pilot in Canada

B.C. home to 1/3 of Canada’s overdose deaths in first 3 months of the year

There were 1,036 overdose deaths in the first three months of the year, with 94 per cent accidental

B.C. candidate moves from hospice care to council race

He beat terminal cancer twice and entered hospice when he decided to run for council.

Canadian tobacco exec pushes back against vaping health concerns

A warning from Interior Health about the unknown health risks of vaping is getting a partial rebuke

Ministry of Agriculture commits $300,000 to help B.C. farmers obtain land

B.C. Land Matching Program supports access to affordable farmland for young farmers

Canadian air force short 275 pilots

Attrition outpaces recruitment and training claims Air Force

Teacher suspended after physically shushing, saying ‘shut up’ to student

Grade 5 student reported feeling ‘confused and a little scared’

A B.C. society helps to reforest Crown land after wildfires

Forest Enhancement Society of BC focuses on wildfire mitigation and the reforestation

B.C. marijuana workers may face U.S. border scrutiny

Cannabis still illegal federally south of the border

Most Read