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Les Trois Vallées in the French Alps: Where to Stay in the World's Biggest Ski Area

Les Trois Vallées in the French Alps: Where to Stay in the World's Biggest Ski Area

Extending across jagged Alpine peaks and smooth, snow-covered canyons, the ski resorts of Les Trois Vallées sparkle. Boasting over 370 miles of linked slopes and trails, the world’s biggest ski area is located in the Savoy region of France and consists of eight resorts including Val Thorens, Les Menuires, Saint Martin de Belleville, Méribel and Courchevel. Conveniently, all are ski-in, ski-out properties.

event_venue=###contact_name=###contact_phone=###contact_email=Photo Courtesy of Hotel Altapura
Val Thorens

At 2,300 meters altitude, Val Thorens, is Europe’s highest ski resort. Having such an attractive location, 170 days of skiing, Europe’s longest toboggan run and a multitude of bars, cafés and restaurants, it has become a popular tourist destination offering more than 24,000 chalet-to-chateau beds, including 13 hotels—three five-star and two four-star.

Hotel Altapura represents classic Alpine accommodation in a five-star setting, complete with three restaurants, three bars and a three-level, 3,280-square-foot relaxation area, encompassing a Pure Altitude spa, gym, indoor and outdoor plunge pools, Jacuzzi, two hammams, a sauna and an Igloo room. With an airy décor of wood, stone and glass, a creative wall decoration fashioned from skis and a large open fire in the lobby, the 88-bed hotel managed by Frederic Carbonnel offers magnificent views over Cime de Caron and Aiguille de Peclet peaks. An added bonus is the fondue restaurant, La Laiterie, where diners are given a touch-tone screen containing information on the restaurant’s history, the chef’s background and a description of the food. Rooms are spacious with high, multi-level wood ceilings, French windows and tiled-floor bathrooms with double sink, bathtub and shower.

Photo Courtesy of Koh-l Nor Hotel

Or, the 63-room, five-star Koh-I Nor hotel (‘Mountain of Light’ in Persian), which opened this season and features two restaurants, one with international cuisine and one a luxury brasserie is great alternative to Hotel Altapura.

A not-to-be-missed, gift-buying outing in Val Thorens is to Le Belle en Cuisse, an intimate gourmet store, owned by friendly Pierre Bosseboeuf. Herein is an abundance of regional specialties including cured meats, cheeses, wines and various brands of the local genepy liquor. For the more daring, a whizzing, adrenal-fuelled drive on a narrow figure-eight ice track with the Ice Driving Academy in a souped-up rally car on studded tires may be more suitable.

Photo Courtesy of Les Menuires/Saint Martin de Belle
Les Menuires and Saint Martin de Belleville

Having 34 ski lifts, close to 100 miles of slopes, 16 mountain restaurants, two toboggan runs and a blend of live entertainment, Les Menuires and nearby Saint Martin de Belleville are synonymous with diversity. Aside from skiing, outdoor activities cater to all ages with Roc’n Bob, a two-mile slide with 22 bends; two Children’s Clubs accepting infants as young as three months; a castle featuring snow structures that the little ones can slide down on plastic shovel toboggans; Walibi Glis, an area on La Masse with Walibi park characters; and various spas and challenging snow scooter circuits for adults. Musical entertainment ranges from rock concerts to choral singing with local group Les Bellevill’ Voix to Boules de Notes, a children’s festival.

Dominated by a large foyer festooned with chairs and soft sofas, a stone-framed fireplace, wood walls and ceiling, and a decorative line of silver birch tree trunks, Résidence Les Clarines provides an interesting accommodation option. Self-catering apartments of various sizes offer space aplenty with fine views over the nearby slopes. The nearest gondola is about 330 feet away, while a fitness center, sauna, heated indoor swimming pool and spa offer attractive après-ski options.

Photo Courtesy of Hôtel Edelweiss

A variety of restaurants lie within a ten-minute walk of Les Clarines, with family-owned La Ruade providing a lively, informal ambience. The potent, homemade fruit cocktail is the perfect start to any evening. The menu features traditional dishes such as fondue, tartiflette and raclette, while sumptuous steaks are cooked on an open grill.

Two other restaurants stand out well: L’Etoile on the slopes and L’Etoile des Neiges inside Hôtel Edelweiss, both in nearby St. Martin de Belleville. The former, a rustic wood and stone chalet with a terrace offering wonderful views over the Belleville Valley, serves brasserie-style mountain food including a succulent onion soup, goat’s cheese salad, beef fillet and magret of duck. The latter, decorated with copper cauldrons, hanging cow bells and miner’s lamps, boasts a six-page menu with the option of a set dinner or à la carte. Starters range from escargot to frog legs, while rack of lamb and veal liver are among the mains. It also serves a dish not often seen, baby pigeon, boneless slices of the bird served pink with a rich sauce, raisins and foie gras. Don’t miss the Vacherindessert, a complete snowball-shaped meringue enclosing a delectable combo of biscuit, vanilla and blueberry ice cream.

Photo Courtesy of Hôtel Le Savoy
Méribel

Nestled in the heart of Les Trois Vallées, Méribel—its main street lined with quaint stores—hosts a variety of snow sports on a 202-hectare area with 68 slopes served by 41 ski lifts. Méribel features a profusion of elegant establishments, two of which are the 37-room Hôtel Le Savoy and Le Cèpe restaurant. Inside its wood and granite façade, the four-star Savoy combines classic lodge décor with an air of modernity, thus old framework and oak floors fusing smoothly with contemporary furniture and images from some of the world’s top photographers.

A sauna, hammam and a library with fireplace encourage relaxation. Rooms with terraces overlooking the mountains and the village feature sleek interiors and brightly colored furniture, creating a cozy, contemporary atmosphere. Each one has an iPad allowing guests to order room service. Immediately outside is the main shopping street and ski lifts, with the resort’s largest sports center, comprised of an ice rink, full-length swimming pool and an extensive spa, just a five-minute walk away.

Photo Courtesy of Shuttersotck

A feast of choice awaits diners at Le Cèpe, a traditional restaurant with local specialties such as raclette and Cep and Savoy cheese fondue and assorted seafood including roasted sea bass, scallop risotto and fillet of arctic char lake fish. For carnivores, there is crusty duck breast, entrecote with pepper sauce, chunky burgers and hearty lamb stew.

Méribel also offers visitors special dawn and dusk activities. They can travel with early morning ski patrols to check the safety of the slopes and enjoy a unique breakfast up there before official opening time and go with the snow groomers in the evening, a particularly exciting outing when they are combing black.

Courchevel

Encompassing 70 restaurants, including seven Michelin-star rated establishments; two of the 13 deluxe Palace-category hotels in all of France; sixteen five-star hotels and the most ski slopes over one mile long, Courchevel, formerly an alpine pasture and hiker’s gateway, has much going for it. Not to mention activities such as hot-air ballooning, paragliding, airplane and helicopter tours, high altitude polo and a fireworks festival. Courchevel Aventure specializes in a wide variety of activities including snowmobile trips, husky dog sledging and snowshoeing.

Such is its popularity, the resort boasts a small international airport amid its slopes, with executive jets arriving from cities such as Paris and London; 47 hotels, most with between 50 and 120 rooms; a total bed capacity of 45,000; and 1,000 ski instructors speaking 12 different languages between them.

Photo Courtesy of Hotel Annapurna

Hotel Annapurna, with 57 rooms and 13 suites, is a choice five-star property located right beside the slopes and a 25-minute walk from the village center (the hotel also has a free shuttle service). With balconies in some rooms, a spacious spa and gym area, including indoor and outdoor pools, a large children’s’ game room and live piano music every night, this classy wood-and-stone hotel caters to both families and adults.

Photo Courtesy of Azimut Restaurant

Among Courcevel’s many restaurants, La Cave Des Creux, Azimut and Black Pyramid at K2 hotel provide exceptional food. Formerly a shepherd’s hut, the Cave des Creux at 6,900 feet is Courchevel’s newest mountain restaurant and is run by former ski instructors; its dishes range from steak tartare to pastas and veal chops. Having Michelin-star chef François Moureaux at the helm, one expects quality at Azimut restaurant. Tucked away in Le Praz, a picturesque village and after a multi-course dinner of fried foie gras with apple and mango chutney, baked lake fish, slow-cooked rump of veal and flourless chocolate sponge, one is certainly not disappointed. White asparagus in February? That’s the extent to which chef Nicholas Sale at the Black Pyramid goes to satisfy his guests. And with white truffle risotto, fried tofu, beetroot & cashew nuts perfumed with Tasmania pepper and delectable desserts to follow, customers leave well satisfied.

Photo Courtesy of Le Mélézin

For après-ski relaxation, there’s the spa at Le Mélézin, a member of Aman Resorts. There, amid luxurious parquet flooring and 200-year-old polished oak beam paneling, a rigorous massage eases away muscle stress associated with schussing the nearby Bellecôte slopes.

Awash in entertainment, food, sport and accommodation options, Les Trois Vallées resorts are tempting playgrounds for both young and old; all within a short drive of each other and less than three hours from Lyon and Geneva airports. For further information, see Atout France and France Montagnes.


Where cheese is made

“Have you ever seen anything like this?” Rémy Perret asks me, raising his voice over the melody of a hundred cowbells. His piercing blue eyes are smiling with pride and probably judging me a tiny bit for the Parisian that I am. This gorgeous piece of land, high up in the Alps, is where he has worked his entire life. Not bad for an office.

We’re at an altitude of 5,500 feet in Méribel-Mottaret, part of Les Trois Vallées, the world’s largest skiable area. Some might even call it the best, thanks to its spectacular panoramas and an elaborate network of resorts, restaurants, lifts, and ski runs. Like many locals, Perret works as a ski teacher in the winters. But today the ground is a bright shade of pale green. It’s summer. And in the summer, here, we make cheese.

Encircled by his 156 cows, Perret’s brother Raphaël explains how the milking machine works. Cows enter the eight stations from one side, the shepherd Yannick Empereur adjusts the pumps on the cows, and they’re out the other side a few minutes later. It takes a little over two hours to milk the entire herd, which is done twice a day. Every two days the cows move to another part of the valley, and the machine follows.

I make way for a (loud, determined) cow and take in the scenery. The air is crisp but warm, and the mountain’s flanks glow in the sunlight. No, I have never seen anything like this.

Look at a map of the region of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and you might feel like you’re reading the bottom line of a French menu: Saint-Marcellin, Saint-Félicien, Beaufort … This is cheese country. In fact, I was brought here by Enzo Richon, a young cheesemonger who works at the Fromagerie Les Alpages in the nearby city of Grenoble. When I asked Richon to tell me about a cheese called Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage, he offered to show me instead. That’s how I met the Perret family.

Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage is a type of Beaufort that’s tastier and rarer than the other two (straight-up Beaufort and Beaufort d’été). But it’s also much more difficult to make: It must be entirely produced at a minimum altitude of 1,500 meters (4,921 feet), which is only possible around 100 days of the year when the snow has melted. The milk should come from only one herd, though two types of cows are accepted, and it must be transformed immediately after they’re milked. Finally, French regulations mandate that this regional specialty can only be made in a certain geographical zone. All of these requirements explain why today there are only about a dozen farmers who make Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage.

The Perret family’s operations take place in a small farm overlooking Lake Tuéda, where groups of tourists stop for sandwiches before a hike. It’s been a few years since the three brothers, Rémy, Raphaël, and Cédric, took over from their parents but during the summer, Robert and Odile Perret, now retired, like to stay here to keep an eye on things. Not that they need to, but they enjoy spending time up at the farm with their kids and grandkids.

“The first time I came up to an alpage [a high pasture where cows graze], I was 12,” says Rémy. It was 1989, and his father had just left the pastoral collective he was managing to start his own business. “At the time we had 140 goats and 70 cows that’s all we could house. And I would be running behind the goats a lot because they weren’t tied up, so the whole valley you see in front of you, everywhere around here, I know it all by heart.”

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France‘s dairy farmers have been in the news since the European Union dropped the cap on milk production in 2015, bringing the price below what many organizations deem sustainable, let alone profitable. Farms have gone out of business, younger generations are looking to make a living elsewhere, and the rate of depression and even suicide is growing among farmers.

Some, like the Perret family, have been spared from the crisis thanks to the nature of the products they make. Last year the Perrets produced and sold 700 wheels of Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage. “We never have any left over,” Rémy and Raphaël tell me, speaking over each other. In a way, the rigid regulations have protected the few producers of cheeses like Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage, ensuring a healthy ratio of supply and demand. “We get a certain number of wheels per year,” explains Richon, whose fromagerie sells Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage for $19.27 per pound. “We would love to buy more, but we can’t—there just isn’t any more.”

I spot the shiny milk canister on the back of a pickup truck, wobbling down the mountain road. In two and a half hours this milk will already be cheese, though it takes at least eight months of aging to become dense and flavorful. In the stuffy workroom, Nicolas Harasémiuc pours it, still warm, in large copper vats before curdling it at a temperature of 33 degrees Celsius (91.4 degrees Fahrenheit). Then he breaks it up expertly into small chunks with a 16-stringed tool and turns up the heat to 54 C (129 F). Now comes the tricky part: Armed with a linen cloth, he wedges his feet below the vat and balances the top half of his body horizontally to pick up the liquid. The linen acts as a filter: Whey pours out of the massive bundle, which is then squeezed into a concave wooden mold.

“Our cheese is made the old-school way,” Rémy explains, rubbing his hand on the large wheels stacked in the cellar next door. “We make it all by hand, and so each wheel is different.” Because Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage demands a highly specific set of skills—the simple act of flipping over a 90-pound wheel requires strength and strategy—employees are hard to come by. Harasémiuc, a shy young man from Romania, has been working for the Perret family for the past six years. He hardly knew how to speak French or make cheese when he arrived, but today he’s part of the family, Raphaël says. “When you want to keep your employees, just like in any job, you treat them well. Especially because it’s becoming harder and harder to find people.”

All of the Perret family’s employees are housed and fed in the summer: Yannick Empereur, the shepherd, has a house up in the alpage, while Harasémiuc and Jean-Luc André live at the farm. Harasémiuc is the only one who works for the family year-round, spending the quieter winter months with his wife in an apartment nearby. The rest of the time she’s back home in Romania, where they are building a house for the family with the money earned here.

As the sun starts to set behind the mountains, André takes the remaining content of the vat outside. Nothing is wasted there is still enough whey to make a cheese called sérac. Rémy Perret and André grab a skimmer each and silently fill the plastic pots placed on a large table. The day is nearly over, and there’s something ethereal about this quiet final step. Suddenly a large bang echoes from inside the processing room: the last flip of the day. Tomorrow the Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage will be moved into the cellar and wait until 2019 to be sold and eaten.


Where cheese is made

“Have you ever seen anything like this?” Rémy Perret asks me, raising his voice over the melody of a hundred cowbells. His piercing blue eyes are smiling with pride and probably judging me a tiny bit for the Parisian that I am. This gorgeous piece of land, high up in the Alps, is where he has worked his entire life. Not bad for an office.

We’re at an altitude of 5,500 feet in Méribel-Mottaret, part of Les Trois Vallées, the world’s largest skiable area. Some might even call it the best, thanks to its spectacular panoramas and an elaborate network of resorts, restaurants, lifts, and ski runs. Like many locals, Perret works as a ski teacher in the winters. But today the ground is a bright shade of pale green. It’s summer. And in the summer, here, we make cheese.

Encircled by his 156 cows, Perret’s brother Raphaël explains how the milking machine works. Cows enter the eight stations from one side, the shepherd Yannick Empereur adjusts the pumps on the cows, and they’re out the other side a few minutes later. It takes a little over two hours to milk the entire herd, which is done twice a day. Every two days the cows move to another part of the valley, and the machine follows.

I make way for a (loud, determined) cow and take in the scenery. The air is crisp but warm, and the mountain’s flanks glow in the sunlight. No, I have never seen anything like this.

Look at a map of the region of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and you might feel like you’re reading the bottom line of a French menu: Saint-Marcellin, Saint-Félicien, Beaufort … This is cheese country. In fact, I was brought here by Enzo Richon, a young cheesemonger who works at the Fromagerie Les Alpages in the nearby city of Grenoble. When I asked Richon to tell me about a cheese called Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage, he offered to show me instead. That’s how I met the Perret family.

Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage is a type of Beaufort that’s tastier and rarer than the other two (straight-up Beaufort and Beaufort d’été). But it’s also much more difficult to make: It must be entirely produced at a minimum altitude of 1,500 meters (4,921 feet), which is only possible around 100 days of the year when the snow has melted. The milk should come from only one herd, though two types of cows are accepted, and it must be transformed immediately after they’re milked. Finally, French regulations mandate that this regional specialty can only be made in a certain geographical zone. All of these requirements explain why today there are only about a dozen farmers who make Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage.

The Perret family’s operations take place in a small farm overlooking Lake Tuéda, where groups of tourists stop for sandwiches before a hike. It’s been a few years since the three brothers, Rémy, Raphaël, and Cédric, took over from their parents but during the summer, Robert and Odile Perret, now retired, like to stay here to keep an eye on things. Not that they need to, but they enjoy spending time up at the farm with their kids and grandkids.

“The first time I came up to an alpage [a high pasture where cows graze], I was 12,” says Rémy. It was 1989, and his father had just left the pastoral collective he was managing to start his own business. “At the time we had 140 goats and 70 cows that’s all we could house. And I would be running behind the goats a lot because they weren’t tied up, so the whole valley you see in front of you, everywhere around here, I know it all by heart.”

The newsletter you need Get more Bourdain in your inbox.

France‘s dairy farmers have been in the news since the European Union dropped the cap on milk production in 2015, bringing the price below what many organizations deem sustainable, let alone profitable. Farms have gone out of business, younger generations are looking to make a living elsewhere, and the rate of depression and even suicide is growing among farmers.

Some, like the Perret family, have been spared from the crisis thanks to the nature of the products they make. Last year the Perrets produced and sold 700 wheels of Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage. “We never have any left over,” Rémy and Raphaël tell me, speaking over each other. In a way, the rigid regulations have protected the few producers of cheeses like Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage, ensuring a healthy ratio of supply and demand. “We get a certain number of wheels per year,” explains Richon, whose fromagerie sells Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage for $19.27 per pound. “We would love to buy more, but we can’t—there just isn’t any more.”

I spot the shiny milk canister on the back of a pickup truck, wobbling down the mountain road. In two and a half hours this milk will already be cheese, though it takes at least eight months of aging to become dense and flavorful. In the stuffy workroom, Nicolas Harasémiuc pours it, still warm, in large copper vats before curdling it at a temperature of 33 degrees Celsius (91.4 degrees Fahrenheit). Then he breaks it up expertly into small chunks with a 16-stringed tool and turns up the heat to 54 C (129 F). Now comes the tricky part: Armed with a linen cloth, he wedges his feet below the vat and balances the top half of his body horizontally to pick up the liquid. The linen acts as a filter: Whey pours out of the massive bundle, which is then squeezed into a concave wooden mold.

“Our cheese is made the old-school way,” Rémy explains, rubbing his hand on the large wheels stacked in the cellar next door. “We make it all by hand, and so each wheel is different.” Because Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage demands a highly specific set of skills—the simple act of flipping over a 90-pound wheel requires strength and strategy—employees are hard to come by. Harasémiuc, a shy young man from Romania, has been working for the Perret family for the past six years. He hardly knew how to speak French or make cheese when he arrived, but today he’s part of the family, Raphaël says. “When you want to keep your employees, just like in any job, you treat them well. Especially because it’s becoming harder and harder to find people.”

All of the Perret family’s employees are housed and fed in the summer: Yannick Empereur, the shepherd, has a house up in the alpage, while Harasémiuc and Jean-Luc André live at the farm. Harasémiuc is the only one who works for the family year-round, spending the quieter winter months with his wife in an apartment nearby. The rest of the time she’s back home in Romania, where they are building a house for the family with the money earned here.

As the sun starts to set behind the mountains, André takes the remaining content of the vat outside. Nothing is wasted there is still enough whey to make a cheese called sérac. Rémy Perret and André grab a skimmer each and silently fill the plastic pots placed on a large table. The day is nearly over, and there’s something ethereal about this quiet final step. Suddenly a large bang echoes from inside the processing room: the last flip of the day. Tomorrow the Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage will be moved into the cellar and wait until 2019 to be sold and eaten.


Where cheese is made

“Have you ever seen anything like this?” Rémy Perret asks me, raising his voice over the melody of a hundred cowbells. His piercing blue eyes are smiling with pride and probably judging me a tiny bit for the Parisian that I am. This gorgeous piece of land, high up in the Alps, is where he has worked his entire life. Not bad for an office.

We’re at an altitude of 5,500 feet in Méribel-Mottaret, part of Les Trois Vallées, the world’s largest skiable area. Some might even call it the best, thanks to its spectacular panoramas and an elaborate network of resorts, restaurants, lifts, and ski runs. Like many locals, Perret works as a ski teacher in the winters. But today the ground is a bright shade of pale green. It’s summer. And in the summer, here, we make cheese.

Encircled by his 156 cows, Perret’s brother Raphaël explains how the milking machine works. Cows enter the eight stations from one side, the shepherd Yannick Empereur adjusts the pumps on the cows, and they’re out the other side a few minutes later. It takes a little over two hours to milk the entire herd, which is done twice a day. Every two days the cows move to another part of the valley, and the machine follows.

I make way for a (loud, determined) cow and take in the scenery. The air is crisp but warm, and the mountain’s flanks glow in the sunlight. No, I have never seen anything like this.

Look at a map of the region of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and you might feel like you’re reading the bottom line of a French menu: Saint-Marcellin, Saint-Félicien, Beaufort … This is cheese country. In fact, I was brought here by Enzo Richon, a young cheesemonger who works at the Fromagerie Les Alpages in the nearby city of Grenoble. When I asked Richon to tell me about a cheese called Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage, he offered to show me instead. That’s how I met the Perret family.

Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage is a type of Beaufort that’s tastier and rarer than the other two (straight-up Beaufort and Beaufort d’été). But it’s also much more difficult to make: It must be entirely produced at a minimum altitude of 1,500 meters (4,921 feet), which is only possible around 100 days of the year when the snow has melted. The milk should come from only one herd, though two types of cows are accepted, and it must be transformed immediately after they’re milked. Finally, French regulations mandate that this regional specialty can only be made in a certain geographical zone. All of these requirements explain why today there are only about a dozen farmers who make Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage.

The Perret family’s operations take place in a small farm overlooking Lake Tuéda, where groups of tourists stop for sandwiches before a hike. It’s been a few years since the three brothers, Rémy, Raphaël, and Cédric, took over from their parents but during the summer, Robert and Odile Perret, now retired, like to stay here to keep an eye on things. Not that they need to, but they enjoy spending time up at the farm with their kids and grandkids.

“The first time I came up to an alpage [a high pasture where cows graze], I was 12,” says Rémy. It was 1989, and his father had just left the pastoral collective he was managing to start his own business. “At the time we had 140 goats and 70 cows that’s all we could house. And I would be running behind the goats a lot because they weren’t tied up, so the whole valley you see in front of you, everywhere around here, I know it all by heart.”

The newsletter you need Get more Bourdain in your inbox.

France‘s dairy farmers have been in the news since the European Union dropped the cap on milk production in 2015, bringing the price below what many organizations deem sustainable, let alone profitable. Farms have gone out of business, younger generations are looking to make a living elsewhere, and the rate of depression and even suicide is growing among farmers.

Some, like the Perret family, have been spared from the crisis thanks to the nature of the products they make. Last year the Perrets produced and sold 700 wheels of Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage. “We never have any left over,” Rémy and Raphaël tell me, speaking over each other. In a way, the rigid regulations have protected the few producers of cheeses like Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage, ensuring a healthy ratio of supply and demand. “We get a certain number of wheels per year,” explains Richon, whose fromagerie sells Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage for $19.27 per pound. “We would love to buy more, but we can’t—there just isn’t any more.”

I spot the shiny milk canister on the back of a pickup truck, wobbling down the mountain road. In two and a half hours this milk will already be cheese, though it takes at least eight months of aging to become dense and flavorful. In the stuffy workroom, Nicolas Harasémiuc pours it, still warm, in large copper vats before curdling it at a temperature of 33 degrees Celsius (91.4 degrees Fahrenheit). Then he breaks it up expertly into small chunks with a 16-stringed tool and turns up the heat to 54 C (129 F). Now comes the tricky part: Armed with a linen cloth, he wedges his feet below the vat and balances the top half of his body horizontally to pick up the liquid. The linen acts as a filter: Whey pours out of the massive bundle, which is then squeezed into a concave wooden mold.

“Our cheese is made the old-school way,” Rémy explains, rubbing his hand on the large wheels stacked in the cellar next door. “We make it all by hand, and so each wheel is different.” Because Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage demands a highly specific set of skills—the simple act of flipping over a 90-pound wheel requires strength and strategy—employees are hard to come by. Harasémiuc, a shy young man from Romania, has been working for the Perret family for the past six years. He hardly knew how to speak French or make cheese when he arrived, but today he’s part of the family, Raphaël says. “When you want to keep your employees, just like in any job, you treat them well. Especially because it’s becoming harder and harder to find people.”

All of the Perret family’s employees are housed and fed in the summer: Yannick Empereur, the shepherd, has a house up in the alpage, while Harasémiuc and Jean-Luc André live at the farm. Harasémiuc is the only one who works for the family year-round, spending the quieter winter months with his wife in an apartment nearby. The rest of the time she’s back home in Romania, where they are building a house for the family with the money earned here.

As the sun starts to set behind the mountains, André takes the remaining content of the vat outside. Nothing is wasted there is still enough whey to make a cheese called sérac. Rémy Perret and André grab a skimmer each and silently fill the plastic pots placed on a large table. The day is nearly over, and there’s something ethereal about this quiet final step. Suddenly a large bang echoes from inside the processing room: the last flip of the day. Tomorrow the Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage will be moved into the cellar and wait until 2019 to be sold and eaten.


Where cheese is made

“Have you ever seen anything like this?” Rémy Perret asks me, raising his voice over the melody of a hundred cowbells. His piercing blue eyes are smiling with pride and probably judging me a tiny bit for the Parisian that I am. This gorgeous piece of land, high up in the Alps, is where he has worked his entire life. Not bad for an office.

We’re at an altitude of 5,500 feet in Méribel-Mottaret, part of Les Trois Vallées, the world’s largest skiable area. Some might even call it the best, thanks to its spectacular panoramas and an elaborate network of resorts, restaurants, lifts, and ski runs. Like many locals, Perret works as a ski teacher in the winters. But today the ground is a bright shade of pale green. It’s summer. And in the summer, here, we make cheese.

Encircled by his 156 cows, Perret’s brother Raphaël explains how the milking machine works. Cows enter the eight stations from one side, the shepherd Yannick Empereur adjusts the pumps on the cows, and they’re out the other side a few minutes later. It takes a little over two hours to milk the entire herd, which is done twice a day. Every two days the cows move to another part of the valley, and the machine follows.

I make way for a (loud, determined) cow and take in the scenery. The air is crisp but warm, and the mountain’s flanks glow in the sunlight. No, I have never seen anything like this.

Look at a map of the region of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and you might feel like you’re reading the bottom line of a French menu: Saint-Marcellin, Saint-Félicien, Beaufort … This is cheese country. In fact, I was brought here by Enzo Richon, a young cheesemonger who works at the Fromagerie Les Alpages in the nearby city of Grenoble. When I asked Richon to tell me about a cheese called Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage, he offered to show me instead. That’s how I met the Perret family.

Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage is a type of Beaufort that’s tastier and rarer than the other two (straight-up Beaufort and Beaufort d’été). But it’s also much more difficult to make: It must be entirely produced at a minimum altitude of 1,500 meters (4,921 feet), which is only possible around 100 days of the year when the snow has melted. The milk should come from only one herd, though two types of cows are accepted, and it must be transformed immediately after they’re milked. Finally, French regulations mandate that this regional specialty can only be made in a certain geographical zone. All of these requirements explain why today there are only about a dozen farmers who make Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage.

The Perret family’s operations take place in a small farm overlooking Lake Tuéda, where groups of tourists stop for sandwiches before a hike. It’s been a few years since the three brothers, Rémy, Raphaël, and Cédric, took over from their parents but during the summer, Robert and Odile Perret, now retired, like to stay here to keep an eye on things. Not that they need to, but they enjoy spending time up at the farm with their kids and grandkids.

“The first time I came up to an alpage [a high pasture where cows graze], I was 12,” says Rémy. It was 1989, and his father had just left the pastoral collective he was managing to start his own business. “At the time we had 140 goats and 70 cows that’s all we could house. And I would be running behind the goats a lot because they weren’t tied up, so the whole valley you see in front of you, everywhere around here, I know it all by heart.”

The newsletter you need Get more Bourdain in your inbox.

France‘s dairy farmers have been in the news since the European Union dropped the cap on milk production in 2015, bringing the price below what many organizations deem sustainable, let alone profitable. Farms have gone out of business, younger generations are looking to make a living elsewhere, and the rate of depression and even suicide is growing among farmers.

Some, like the Perret family, have been spared from the crisis thanks to the nature of the products they make. Last year the Perrets produced and sold 700 wheels of Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage. “We never have any left over,” Rémy and Raphaël tell me, speaking over each other. In a way, the rigid regulations have protected the few producers of cheeses like Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage, ensuring a healthy ratio of supply and demand. “We get a certain number of wheels per year,” explains Richon, whose fromagerie sells Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage for $19.27 per pound. “We would love to buy more, but we can’t—there just isn’t any more.”

I spot the shiny milk canister on the back of a pickup truck, wobbling down the mountain road. In two and a half hours this milk will already be cheese, though it takes at least eight months of aging to become dense and flavorful. In the stuffy workroom, Nicolas Harasémiuc pours it, still warm, in large copper vats before curdling it at a temperature of 33 degrees Celsius (91.4 degrees Fahrenheit). Then he breaks it up expertly into small chunks with a 16-stringed tool and turns up the heat to 54 C (129 F). Now comes the tricky part: Armed with a linen cloth, he wedges his feet below the vat and balances the top half of his body horizontally to pick up the liquid. The linen acts as a filter: Whey pours out of the massive bundle, which is then squeezed into a concave wooden mold.

“Our cheese is made the old-school way,” Rémy explains, rubbing his hand on the large wheels stacked in the cellar next door. “We make it all by hand, and so each wheel is different.” Because Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage demands a highly specific set of skills—the simple act of flipping over a 90-pound wheel requires strength and strategy—employees are hard to come by. Harasémiuc, a shy young man from Romania, has been working for the Perret family for the past six years. He hardly knew how to speak French or make cheese when he arrived, but today he’s part of the family, Raphaël says. “When you want to keep your employees, just like in any job, you treat them well. Especially because it’s becoming harder and harder to find people.”

All of the Perret family’s employees are housed and fed in the summer: Yannick Empereur, the shepherd, has a house up in the alpage, while Harasémiuc and Jean-Luc André live at the farm. Harasémiuc is the only one who works for the family year-round, spending the quieter winter months with his wife in an apartment nearby. The rest of the time she’s back home in Romania, where they are building a house for the family with the money earned here.

As the sun starts to set behind the mountains, André takes the remaining content of the vat outside. Nothing is wasted there is still enough whey to make a cheese called sérac. Rémy Perret and André grab a skimmer each and silently fill the plastic pots placed on a large table. The day is nearly over, and there’s something ethereal about this quiet final step. Suddenly a large bang echoes from inside the processing room: the last flip of the day. Tomorrow the Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage will be moved into the cellar and wait until 2019 to be sold and eaten.


Where cheese is made

“Have you ever seen anything like this?” Rémy Perret asks me, raising his voice over the melody of a hundred cowbells. His piercing blue eyes are smiling with pride and probably judging me a tiny bit for the Parisian that I am. This gorgeous piece of land, high up in the Alps, is where he has worked his entire life. Not bad for an office.

We’re at an altitude of 5,500 feet in Méribel-Mottaret, part of Les Trois Vallées, the world’s largest skiable area. Some might even call it the best, thanks to its spectacular panoramas and an elaborate network of resorts, restaurants, lifts, and ski runs. Like many locals, Perret works as a ski teacher in the winters. But today the ground is a bright shade of pale green. It’s summer. And in the summer, here, we make cheese.

Encircled by his 156 cows, Perret’s brother Raphaël explains how the milking machine works. Cows enter the eight stations from one side, the shepherd Yannick Empereur adjusts the pumps on the cows, and they’re out the other side a few minutes later. It takes a little over two hours to milk the entire herd, which is done twice a day. Every two days the cows move to another part of the valley, and the machine follows.

I make way for a (loud, determined) cow and take in the scenery. The air is crisp but warm, and the mountain’s flanks glow in the sunlight. No, I have never seen anything like this.

Look at a map of the region of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and you might feel like you’re reading the bottom line of a French menu: Saint-Marcellin, Saint-Félicien, Beaufort … This is cheese country. In fact, I was brought here by Enzo Richon, a young cheesemonger who works at the Fromagerie Les Alpages in the nearby city of Grenoble. When I asked Richon to tell me about a cheese called Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage, he offered to show me instead. That’s how I met the Perret family.

Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage is a type of Beaufort that’s tastier and rarer than the other two (straight-up Beaufort and Beaufort d’été). But it’s also much more difficult to make: It must be entirely produced at a minimum altitude of 1,500 meters (4,921 feet), which is only possible around 100 days of the year when the snow has melted. The milk should come from only one herd, though two types of cows are accepted, and it must be transformed immediately after they’re milked. Finally, French regulations mandate that this regional specialty can only be made in a certain geographical zone. All of these requirements explain why today there are only about a dozen farmers who make Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage.

The Perret family’s operations take place in a small farm overlooking Lake Tuéda, where groups of tourists stop for sandwiches before a hike. It’s been a few years since the three brothers, Rémy, Raphaël, and Cédric, took over from their parents but during the summer, Robert and Odile Perret, now retired, like to stay here to keep an eye on things. Not that they need to, but they enjoy spending time up at the farm with their kids and grandkids.

“The first time I came up to an alpage [a high pasture where cows graze], I was 12,” says Rémy. It was 1989, and his father had just left the pastoral collective he was managing to start his own business. “At the time we had 140 goats and 70 cows that’s all we could house. And I would be running behind the goats a lot because they weren’t tied up, so the whole valley you see in front of you, everywhere around here, I know it all by heart.”

The newsletter you need Get more Bourdain in your inbox.

France‘s dairy farmers have been in the news since the European Union dropped the cap on milk production in 2015, bringing the price below what many organizations deem sustainable, let alone profitable. Farms have gone out of business, younger generations are looking to make a living elsewhere, and the rate of depression and even suicide is growing among farmers.

Some, like the Perret family, have been spared from the crisis thanks to the nature of the products they make. Last year the Perrets produced and sold 700 wheels of Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage. “We never have any left over,” Rémy and Raphaël tell me, speaking over each other. In a way, the rigid regulations have protected the few producers of cheeses like Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage, ensuring a healthy ratio of supply and demand. “We get a certain number of wheels per year,” explains Richon, whose fromagerie sells Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage for $19.27 per pound. “We would love to buy more, but we can’t—there just isn’t any more.”

I spot the shiny milk canister on the back of a pickup truck, wobbling down the mountain road. In two and a half hours this milk will already be cheese, though it takes at least eight months of aging to become dense and flavorful. In the stuffy workroom, Nicolas Harasémiuc pours it, still warm, in large copper vats before curdling it at a temperature of 33 degrees Celsius (91.4 degrees Fahrenheit). Then he breaks it up expertly into small chunks with a 16-stringed tool and turns up the heat to 54 C (129 F). Now comes the tricky part: Armed with a linen cloth, he wedges his feet below the vat and balances the top half of his body horizontally to pick up the liquid. The linen acts as a filter: Whey pours out of the massive bundle, which is then squeezed into a concave wooden mold.

“Our cheese is made the old-school way,” Rémy explains, rubbing his hand on the large wheels stacked in the cellar next door. “We make it all by hand, and so each wheel is different.” Because Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage demands a highly specific set of skills—the simple act of flipping over a 90-pound wheel requires strength and strategy—employees are hard to come by. Harasémiuc, a shy young man from Romania, has been working for the Perret family for the past six years. He hardly knew how to speak French or make cheese when he arrived, but today he’s part of the family, Raphaël says. “When you want to keep your employees, just like in any job, you treat them well. Especially because it’s becoming harder and harder to find people.”

All of the Perret family’s employees are housed and fed in the summer: Yannick Empereur, the shepherd, has a house up in the alpage, while Harasémiuc and Jean-Luc André live at the farm. Harasémiuc is the only one who works for the family year-round, spending the quieter winter months with his wife in an apartment nearby. The rest of the time she’s back home in Romania, where they are building a house for the family with the money earned here.

As the sun starts to set behind the mountains, André takes the remaining content of the vat outside. Nothing is wasted there is still enough whey to make a cheese called sérac. Rémy Perret and André grab a skimmer each and silently fill the plastic pots placed on a large table. The day is nearly over, and there’s something ethereal about this quiet final step. Suddenly a large bang echoes from inside the processing room: the last flip of the day. Tomorrow the Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage will be moved into the cellar and wait until 2019 to be sold and eaten.


Where cheese is made

“Have you ever seen anything like this?” Rémy Perret asks me, raising his voice over the melody of a hundred cowbells. His piercing blue eyes are smiling with pride and probably judging me a tiny bit for the Parisian that I am. This gorgeous piece of land, high up in the Alps, is where he has worked his entire life. Not bad for an office.

We’re at an altitude of 5,500 feet in Méribel-Mottaret, part of Les Trois Vallées, the world’s largest skiable area. Some might even call it the best, thanks to its spectacular panoramas and an elaborate network of resorts, restaurants, lifts, and ski runs. Like many locals, Perret works as a ski teacher in the winters. But today the ground is a bright shade of pale green. It’s summer. And in the summer, here, we make cheese.

Encircled by his 156 cows, Perret’s brother Raphaël explains how the milking machine works. Cows enter the eight stations from one side, the shepherd Yannick Empereur adjusts the pumps on the cows, and they’re out the other side a few minutes later. It takes a little over two hours to milk the entire herd, which is done twice a day. Every two days the cows move to another part of the valley, and the machine follows.

I make way for a (loud, determined) cow and take in the scenery. The air is crisp but warm, and the mountain’s flanks glow in the sunlight. No, I have never seen anything like this.

Look at a map of the region of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and you might feel like you’re reading the bottom line of a French menu: Saint-Marcellin, Saint-Félicien, Beaufort … This is cheese country. In fact, I was brought here by Enzo Richon, a young cheesemonger who works at the Fromagerie Les Alpages in the nearby city of Grenoble. When I asked Richon to tell me about a cheese called Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage, he offered to show me instead. That’s how I met the Perret family.

Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage is a type of Beaufort that’s tastier and rarer than the other two (straight-up Beaufort and Beaufort d’été). But it’s also much more difficult to make: It must be entirely produced at a minimum altitude of 1,500 meters (4,921 feet), which is only possible around 100 days of the year when the snow has melted. The milk should come from only one herd, though two types of cows are accepted, and it must be transformed immediately after they’re milked. Finally, French regulations mandate that this regional specialty can only be made in a certain geographical zone. All of these requirements explain why today there are only about a dozen farmers who make Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage.

The Perret family’s operations take place in a small farm overlooking Lake Tuéda, where groups of tourists stop for sandwiches before a hike. It’s been a few years since the three brothers, Rémy, Raphaël, and Cédric, took over from their parents but during the summer, Robert and Odile Perret, now retired, like to stay here to keep an eye on things. Not that they need to, but they enjoy spending time up at the farm with their kids and grandkids.

“The first time I came up to an alpage [a high pasture where cows graze], I was 12,” says Rémy. It was 1989, and his father had just left the pastoral collective he was managing to start his own business. “At the time we had 140 goats and 70 cows that’s all we could house. And I would be running behind the goats a lot because they weren’t tied up, so the whole valley you see in front of you, everywhere around here, I know it all by heart.”

The newsletter you need Get more Bourdain in your inbox.

France‘s dairy farmers have been in the news since the European Union dropped the cap on milk production in 2015, bringing the price below what many organizations deem sustainable, let alone profitable. Farms have gone out of business, younger generations are looking to make a living elsewhere, and the rate of depression and even suicide is growing among farmers.

Some, like the Perret family, have been spared from the crisis thanks to the nature of the products they make. Last year the Perrets produced and sold 700 wheels of Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage. “We never have any left over,” Rémy and Raphaël tell me, speaking over each other. In a way, the rigid regulations have protected the few producers of cheeses like Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage, ensuring a healthy ratio of supply and demand. “We get a certain number of wheels per year,” explains Richon, whose fromagerie sells Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage for $19.27 per pound. “We would love to buy more, but we can’t—there just isn’t any more.”

I spot the shiny milk canister on the back of a pickup truck, wobbling down the mountain road. In two and a half hours this milk will already be cheese, though it takes at least eight months of aging to become dense and flavorful. In the stuffy workroom, Nicolas Harasémiuc pours it, still warm, in large copper vats before curdling it at a temperature of 33 degrees Celsius (91.4 degrees Fahrenheit). Then he breaks it up expertly into small chunks with a 16-stringed tool and turns up the heat to 54 C (129 F). Now comes the tricky part: Armed with a linen cloth, he wedges his feet below the vat and balances the top half of his body horizontally to pick up the liquid. The linen acts as a filter: Whey pours out of the massive bundle, which is then squeezed into a concave wooden mold.

“Our cheese is made the old-school way,” Rémy explains, rubbing his hand on the large wheels stacked in the cellar next door. “We make it all by hand, and so each wheel is different.” Because Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage demands a highly specific set of skills—the simple act of flipping over a 90-pound wheel requires strength and strategy—employees are hard to come by. Harasémiuc, a shy young man from Romania, has been working for the Perret family for the past six years. He hardly knew how to speak French or make cheese when he arrived, but today he’s part of the family, Raphaël says. “When you want to keep your employees, just like in any job, you treat them well. Especially because it’s becoming harder and harder to find people.”

All of the Perret family’s employees are housed and fed in the summer: Yannick Empereur, the shepherd, has a house up in the alpage, while Harasémiuc and Jean-Luc André live at the farm. Harasémiuc is the only one who works for the family year-round, spending the quieter winter months with his wife in an apartment nearby. The rest of the time she’s back home in Romania, where they are building a house for the family with the money earned here.

As the sun starts to set behind the mountains, André takes the remaining content of the vat outside. Nothing is wasted there is still enough whey to make a cheese called sérac. Rémy Perret and André grab a skimmer each and silently fill the plastic pots placed on a large table. The day is nearly over, and there’s something ethereal about this quiet final step. Suddenly a large bang echoes from inside the processing room: the last flip of the day. Tomorrow the Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage will be moved into the cellar and wait until 2019 to be sold and eaten.


Where cheese is made

“Have you ever seen anything like this?” Rémy Perret asks me, raising his voice over the melody of a hundred cowbells. His piercing blue eyes are smiling with pride and probably judging me a tiny bit for the Parisian that I am. This gorgeous piece of land, high up in the Alps, is where he has worked his entire life. Not bad for an office.

We’re at an altitude of 5,500 feet in Méribel-Mottaret, part of Les Trois Vallées, the world’s largest skiable area. Some might even call it the best, thanks to its spectacular panoramas and an elaborate network of resorts, restaurants, lifts, and ski runs. Like many locals, Perret works as a ski teacher in the winters. But today the ground is a bright shade of pale green. It’s summer. And in the summer, here, we make cheese.

Encircled by his 156 cows, Perret’s brother Raphaël explains how the milking machine works. Cows enter the eight stations from one side, the shepherd Yannick Empereur adjusts the pumps on the cows, and they’re out the other side a few minutes later. It takes a little over two hours to milk the entire herd, which is done twice a day. Every two days the cows move to another part of the valley, and the machine follows.

I make way for a (loud, determined) cow and take in the scenery. The air is crisp but warm, and the mountain’s flanks glow in the sunlight. No, I have never seen anything like this.

Look at a map of the region of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and you might feel like you’re reading the bottom line of a French menu: Saint-Marcellin, Saint-Félicien, Beaufort … This is cheese country. In fact, I was brought here by Enzo Richon, a young cheesemonger who works at the Fromagerie Les Alpages in the nearby city of Grenoble. When I asked Richon to tell me about a cheese called Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage, he offered to show me instead. That’s how I met the Perret family.

Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage is a type of Beaufort that’s tastier and rarer than the other two (straight-up Beaufort and Beaufort d’été). But it’s also much more difficult to make: It must be entirely produced at a minimum altitude of 1,500 meters (4,921 feet), which is only possible around 100 days of the year when the snow has melted. The milk should come from only one herd, though two types of cows are accepted, and it must be transformed immediately after they’re milked. Finally, French regulations mandate that this regional specialty can only be made in a certain geographical zone. All of these requirements explain why today there are only about a dozen farmers who make Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage.

The Perret family’s operations take place in a small farm overlooking Lake Tuéda, where groups of tourists stop for sandwiches before a hike. It’s been a few years since the three brothers, Rémy, Raphaël, and Cédric, took over from their parents but during the summer, Robert and Odile Perret, now retired, like to stay here to keep an eye on things. Not that they need to, but they enjoy spending time up at the farm with their kids and grandkids.

“The first time I came up to an alpage [a high pasture where cows graze], I was 12,” says Rémy. It was 1989, and his father had just left the pastoral collective he was managing to start his own business. “At the time we had 140 goats and 70 cows that’s all we could house. And I would be running behind the goats a lot because they weren’t tied up, so the whole valley you see in front of you, everywhere around here, I know it all by heart.”

The newsletter you need Get more Bourdain in your inbox.

France‘s dairy farmers have been in the news since the European Union dropped the cap on milk production in 2015, bringing the price below what many organizations deem sustainable, let alone profitable. Farms have gone out of business, younger generations are looking to make a living elsewhere, and the rate of depression and even suicide is growing among farmers.

Some, like the Perret family, have been spared from the crisis thanks to the nature of the products they make. Last year the Perrets produced and sold 700 wheels of Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage. “We never have any left over,” Rémy and Raphaël tell me, speaking over each other. In a way, the rigid regulations have protected the few producers of cheeses like Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage, ensuring a healthy ratio of supply and demand. “We get a certain number of wheels per year,” explains Richon, whose fromagerie sells Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage for $19.27 per pound. “We would love to buy more, but we can’t—there just isn’t any more.”

I spot the shiny milk canister on the back of a pickup truck, wobbling down the mountain road. In two and a half hours this milk will already be cheese, though it takes at least eight months of aging to become dense and flavorful. In the stuffy workroom, Nicolas Harasémiuc pours it, still warm, in large copper vats before curdling it at a temperature of 33 degrees Celsius (91.4 degrees Fahrenheit). Then he breaks it up expertly into small chunks with a 16-stringed tool and turns up the heat to 54 C (129 F). Now comes the tricky part: Armed with a linen cloth, he wedges his feet below the vat and balances the top half of his body horizontally to pick up the liquid. The linen acts as a filter: Whey pours out of the massive bundle, which is then squeezed into a concave wooden mold.

“Our cheese is made the old-school way,” Rémy explains, rubbing his hand on the large wheels stacked in the cellar next door. “We make it all by hand, and so each wheel is different.” Because Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage demands a highly specific set of skills—the simple act of flipping over a 90-pound wheel requires strength and strategy—employees are hard to come by. Harasémiuc, a shy young man from Romania, has been working for the Perret family for the past six years. He hardly knew how to speak French or make cheese when he arrived, but today he’s part of the family, Raphaël says. “When you want to keep your employees, just like in any job, you treat them well. Especially because it’s becoming harder and harder to find people.”

All of the Perret family’s employees are housed and fed in the summer: Yannick Empereur, the shepherd, has a house up in the alpage, while Harasémiuc and Jean-Luc André live at the farm. Harasémiuc is the only one who works for the family year-round, spending the quieter winter months with his wife in an apartment nearby. The rest of the time she’s back home in Romania, where they are building a house for the family with the money earned here.

As the sun starts to set behind the mountains, André takes the remaining content of the vat outside. Nothing is wasted there is still enough whey to make a cheese called sérac. Rémy Perret and André grab a skimmer each and silently fill the plastic pots placed on a large table. The day is nearly over, and there’s something ethereal about this quiet final step. Suddenly a large bang echoes from inside the processing room: the last flip of the day. Tomorrow the Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage will be moved into the cellar and wait until 2019 to be sold and eaten.


Where cheese is made

“Have you ever seen anything like this?” Rémy Perret asks me, raising his voice over the melody of a hundred cowbells. His piercing blue eyes are smiling with pride and probably judging me a tiny bit for the Parisian that I am. This gorgeous piece of land, high up in the Alps, is where he has worked his entire life. Not bad for an office.

We’re at an altitude of 5,500 feet in Méribel-Mottaret, part of Les Trois Vallées, the world’s largest skiable area. Some might even call it the best, thanks to its spectacular panoramas and an elaborate network of resorts, restaurants, lifts, and ski runs. Like many locals, Perret works as a ski teacher in the winters. But today the ground is a bright shade of pale green. It’s summer. And in the summer, here, we make cheese.

Encircled by his 156 cows, Perret’s brother Raphaël explains how the milking machine works. Cows enter the eight stations from one side, the shepherd Yannick Empereur adjusts the pumps on the cows, and they’re out the other side a few minutes later. It takes a little over two hours to milk the entire herd, which is done twice a day. Every two days the cows move to another part of the valley, and the machine follows.

I make way for a (loud, determined) cow and take in the scenery. The air is crisp but warm, and the mountain’s flanks glow in the sunlight. No, I have never seen anything like this.

Look at a map of the region of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and you might feel like you’re reading the bottom line of a French menu: Saint-Marcellin, Saint-Félicien, Beaufort … This is cheese country. In fact, I was brought here by Enzo Richon, a young cheesemonger who works at the Fromagerie Les Alpages in the nearby city of Grenoble. When I asked Richon to tell me about a cheese called Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage, he offered to show me instead. That’s how I met the Perret family.

Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage is a type of Beaufort that’s tastier and rarer than the other two (straight-up Beaufort and Beaufort d’été). But it’s also much more difficult to make: It must be entirely produced at a minimum altitude of 1,500 meters (4,921 feet), which is only possible around 100 days of the year when the snow has melted. The milk should come from only one herd, though two types of cows are accepted, and it must be transformed immediately after they’re milked. Finally, French regulations mandate that this regional specialty can only be made in a certain geographical zone. All of these requirements explain why today there are only about a dozen farmers who make Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage.

The Perret family’s operations take place in a small farm overlooking Lake Tuéda, where groups of tourists stop for sandwiches before a hike. It’s been a few years since the three brothers, Rémy, Raphaël, and Cédric, took over from their parents but during the summer, Robert and Odile Perret, now retired, like to stay here to keep an eye on things. Not that they need to, but they enjoy spending time up at the farm with their kids and grandkids.

“The first time I came up to an alpage [a high pasture where cows graze], I was 12,” says Rémy. It was 1989, and his father had just left the pastoral collective he was managing to start his own business. “At the time we had 140 goats and 70 cows that’s all we could house. And I would be running behind the goats a lot because they weren’t tied up, so the whole valley you see in front of you, everywhere around here, I know it all by heart.”

The newsletter you need Get more Bourdain in your inbox.

France‘s dairy farmers have been in the news since the European Union dropped the cap on milk production in 2015, bringing the price below what many organizations deem sustainable, let alone profitable. Farms have gone out of business, younger generations are looking to make a living elsewhere, and the rate of depression and even suicide is growing among farmers.

Some, like the Perret family, have been spared from the crisis thanks to the nature of the products they make. Last year the Perrets produced and sold 700 wheels of Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage. “We never have any left over,” Rémy and Raphaël tell me, speaking over each other. In a way, the rigid regulations have protected the few producers of cheeses like Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage, ensuring a healthy ratio of supply and demand. “We get a certain number of wheels per year,” explains Richon, whose fromagerie sells Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage for $19.27 per pound. “We would love to buy more, but we can’t—there just isn’t any more.”

I spot the shiny milk canister on the back of a pickup truck, wobbling down the mountain road. In two and a half hours this milk will already be cheese, though it takes at least eight months of aging to become dense and flavorful. In the stuffy workroom, Nicolas Harasémiuc pours it, still warm, in large copper vats before curdling it at a temperature of 33 degrees Celsius (91.4 degrees Fahrenheit). Then he breaks it up expertly into small chunks with a 16-stringed tool and turns up the heat to 54 C (129 F). Now comes the tricky part: Armed with a linen cloth, he wedges his feet below the vat and balances the top half of his body horizontally to pick up the liquid. The linen acts as a filter: Whey pours out of the massive bundle, which is then squeezed into a concave wooden mold.

“Our cheese is made the old-school way,” Rémy explains, rubbing his hand on the large wheels stacked in the cellar next door. “We make it all by hand, and so each wheel is different.” Because Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage demands a highly specific set of skills—the simple act of flipping over a 90-pound wheel requires strength and strategy—employees are hard to come by. Harasémiuc, a shy young man from Romania, has been working for the Perret family for the past six years. He hardly knew how to speak French or make cheese when he arrived, but today he’s part of the family, Raphaël says. “When you want to keep your employees, just like in any job, you treat them well. Especially because it’s becoming harder and harder to find people.”

All of the Perret family’s employees are housed and fed in the summer: Yannick Empereur, the shepherd, has a house up in the alpage, while Harasémiuc and Jean-Luc André live at the farm. Harasémiuc is the only one who works for the family year-round, spending the quieter winter months with his wife in an apartment nearby. The rest of the time she’s back home in Romania, where they are building a house for the family with the money earned here.

As the sun starts to set behind the mountains, André takes the remaining content of the vat outside. Nothing is wasted there is still enough whey to make a cheese called sérac. Rémy Perret and André grab a skimmer each and silently fill the plastic pots placed on a large table. The day is nearly over, and there’s something ethereal about this quiet final step. Suddenly a large bang echoes from inside the processing room: the last flip of the day. Tomorrow the Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage will be moved into the cellar and wait until 2019 to be sold and eaten.


Where cheese is made

“Have you ever seen anything like this?” Rémy Perret asks me, raising his voice over the melody of a hundred cowbells. His piercing blue eyes are smiling with pride and probably judging me a tiny bit for the Parisian that I am. This gorgeous piece of land, high up in the Alps, is where he has worked his entire life. Not bad for an office.

We’re at an altitude of 5,500 feet in Méribel-Mottaret, part of Les Trois Vallées, the world’s largest skiable area. Some might even call it the best, thanks to its spectacular panoramas and an elaborate network of resorts, restaurants, lifts, and ski runs. Like many locals, Perret works as a ski teacher in the winters. But today the ground is a bright shade of pale green. It’s summer. And in the summer, here, we make cheese.

Encircled by his 156 cows, Perret’s brother Raphaël explains how the milking machine works. Cows enter the eight stations from one side, the shepherd Yannick Empereur adjusts the pumps on the cows, and they’re out the other side a few minutes later. It takes a little over two hours to milk the entire herd, which is done twice a day. Every two days the cows move to another part of the valley, and the machine follows.

I make way for a (loud, determined) cow and take in the scenery. The air is crisp but warm, and the mountain’s flanks glow in the sunlight. No, I have never seen anything like this.

Look at a map of the region of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and you might feel like you’re reading the bottom line of a French menu: Saint-Marcellin, Saint-Félicien, Beaufort … This is cheese country. In fact, I was brought here by Enzo Richon, a young cheesemonger who works at the Fromagerie Les Alpages in the nearby city of Grenoble. When I asked Richon to tell me about a cheese called Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage, he offered to show me instead. That’s how I met the Perret family.

Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage is a type of Beaufort that’s tastier and rarer than the other two (straight-up Beaufort and Beaufort d’été). But it’s also much more difficult to make: It must be entirely produced at a minimum altitude of 1,500 meters (4,921 feet), which is only possible around 100 days of the year when the snow has melted. The milk should come from only one herd, though two types of cows are accepted, and it must be transformed immediately after they’re milked. Finally, French regulations mandate that this regional specialty can only be made in a certain geographical zone. All of these requirements explain why today there are only about a dozen farmers who make Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage.

The Perret family’s operations take place in a small farm overlooking Lake Tuéda, where groups of tourists stop for sandwiches before a hike. It’s been a few years since the three brothers, Rémy, Raphaël, and Cédric, took over from their parents but during the summer, Robert and Odile Perret, now retired, like to stay here to keep an eye on things. Not that they need to, but they enjoy spending time up at the farm with their kids and grandkids.

“The first time I came up to an alpage [a high pasture where cows graze], I was 12,” says Rémy. It was 1989, and his father had just left the pastoral collective he was managing to start his own business. “At the time we had 140 goats and 70 cows that’s all we could house. And I would be running behind the goats a lot because they weren’t tied up, so the whole valley you see in front of you, everywhere around here, I know it all by heart.”

The newsletter you need Get more Bourdain in your inbox.

France‘s dairy farmers have been in the news since the European Union dropped the cap on milk production in 2015, bringing the price below what many organizations deem sustainable, let alone profitable. Farms have gone out of business, younger generations are looking to make a living elsewhere, and the rate of depression and even suicide is growing among farmers.

Some, like the Perret family, have been spared from the crisis thanks to the nature of the products they make. Last year the Perrets produced and sold 700 wheels of Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage. “We never have any left over,” Rémy and Raphaël tell me, speaking over each other. In a way, the rigid regulations have protected the few producers of cheeses like Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage, ensuring a healthy ratio of supply and demand. “We get a certain number of wheels per year,” explains Richon, whose fromagerie sells Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage for $19.27 per pound. “We would love to buy more, but we can’t—there just isn’t any more.”

I spot the shiny milk canister on the back of a pickup truck, wobbling down the mountain road. In two and a half hours this milk will already be cheese, though it takes at least eight months of aging to become dense and flavorful. In the stuffy workroom, Nicolas Harasémiuc pours it, still warm, in large copper vats before curdling it at a temperature of 33 degrees Celsius (91.4 degrees Fahrenheit). Then he breaks it up expertly into small chunks with a 16-stringed tool and turns up the heat to 54 C (129 F). Now comes the tricky part: Armed with a linen cloth, he wedges his feet below the vat and balances the top half of his body horizontally to pick up the liquid. The linen acts as a filter: Whey pours out of the massive bundle, which is then squeezed into a concave wooden mold.

“Our cheese is made the old-school way,” Rémy explains, rubbing his hand on the large wheels stacked in the cellar next door. “We make it all by hand, and so each wheel is different.” Because Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage demands a highly specific set of skills—the simple act of flipping over a 90-pound wheel requires strength and strategy—employees are hard to come by. Harasémiuc, a shy young man from Romania, has been working for the Perret family for the past six years. He hardly knew how to speak French or make cheese when he arrived, but today he’s part of the family, Raphaël says. “When you want to keep your employees, just like in any job, you treat them well. Especially because it’s becoming harder and harder to find people.”

All of the Perret family’s employees are housed and fed in the summer: Yannick Empereur, the shepherd, has a house up in the alpage, while Harasémiuc and Jean-Luc André live at the farm. Harasémiuc is the only one who works for the family year-round, spending the quieter winter months with his wife in an apartment nearby. The rest of the time she’s back home in Romania, where they are building a house for the family with the money earned here.

As the sun starts to set behind the mountains, André takes the remaining content of the vat outside. Nothing is wasted there is still enough whey to make a cheese called sérac. Rémy Perret and André grab a skimmer each and silently fill the plastic pots placed on a large table. The day is nearly over, and there’s something ethereal about this quiet final step. Suddenly a large bang echoes from inside the processing room: the last flip of the day. Tomorrow the Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage will be moved into the cellar and wait until 2019 to be sold and eaten.


Where cheese is made

“Have you ever seen anything like this?” Rémy Perret asks me, raising his voice over the melody of a hundred cowbells. His piercing blue eyes are smiling with pride and probably judging me a tiny bit for the Parisian that I am. This gorgeous piece of land, high up in the Alps, is where he has worked his entire life. Not bad for an office.

We’re at an altitude of 5,500 feet in Méribel-Mottaret, part of Les Trois Vallées, the world’s largest skiable area. Some might even call it the best, thanks to its spectacular panoramas and an elaborate network of resorts, restaurants, lifts, and ski runs. Like many locals, Perret works as a ski teacher in the winters. But today the ground is a bright shade of pale green. It’s summer. And in the summer, here, we make cheese.

Encircled by his 156 cows, Perret’s brother Raphaël explains how the milking machine works. Cows enter the eight stations from one side, the shepherd Yannick Empereur adjusts the pumps on the cows, and they’re out the other side a few minutes later. It takes a little over two hours to milk the entire herd, which is done twice a day. Every two days the cows move to another part of the valley, and the machine follows.

I make way for a (loud, determined) cow and take in the scenery. The air is crisp but warm, and the mountain’s flanks glow in the sunlight. No, I have never seen anything like this.

Look at a map of the region of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and you might feel like you’re reading the bottom line of a French menu: Saint-Marcellin, Saint-Félicien, Beaufort … This is cheese country. In fact, I was brought here by Enzo Richon, a young cheesemonger who works at the Fromagerie Les Alpages in the nearby city of Grenoble. When I asked Richon to tell me about a cheese called Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage, he offered to show me instead. That’s how I met the Perret family.

Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage is a type of Beaufort that’s tastier and rarer than the other two (straight-up Beaufort and Beaufort d’été). But it’s also much more difficult to make: It must be entirely produced at a minimum altitude of 1,500 meters (4,921 feet), which is only possible around 100 days of the year when the snow has melted. The milk should come from only one herd, though two types of cows are accepted, and it must be transformed immediately after they’re milked. Finally, French regulations mandate that this regional specialty can only be made in a certain geographical zone. All of these requirements explain why today there are only about a dozen farmers who make Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage.

The Perret family’s operations take place in a small farm overlooking Lake Tuéda, where groups of tourists stop for sandwiches before a hike. It’s been a few years since the three brothers, Rémy, Raphaël, and Cédric, took over from their parents but during the summer, Robert and Odile Perret, now retired, like to stay here to keep an eye on things. Not that they need to, but they enjoy spending time up at the farm with their kids and grandkids.

“The first time I came up to an alpage [a high pasture where cows graze], I was 12,” says Rémy. It was 1989, and his father had just left the pastoral collective he was managing to start his own business. “At the time we had 140 goats and 70 cows that’s all we could house. And I would be running behind the goats a lot because they weren’t tied up, so the whole valley you see in front of you, everywhere around here, I know it all by heart.”

The newsletter you need Get more Bourdain in your inbox.

France‘s dairy farmers have been in the news since the European Union dropped the cap on milk production in 2015, bringing the price below what many organizations deem sustainable, let alone profitable. Farms have gone out of business, younger generations are looking to make a living elsewhere, and the rate of depression and even suicide is growing among farmers.

Some, like the Perret family, have been spared from the crisis thanks to the nature of the products they make. Last year the Perrets produced and sold 700 wheels of Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage. “We never have any left over,” Rémy and Raphaël tell me, speaking over each other. In a way, the rigid regulations have protected the few producers of cheeses like Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage, ensuring a healthy ratio of supply and demand. “We get a certain number of wheels per year,” explains Richon, whose fromagerie sells Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage for $19.27 per pound. “We would love to buy more, but we can’t—there just isn’t any more.”

I spot the shiny milk canister on the back of a pickup truck, wobbling down the mountain road. In two and a half hours this milk will already be cheese, though it takes at least eight months of aging to become dense and flavorful. In the stuffy workroom, Nicolas Harasémiuc pours it, still warm, in large copper vats before curdling it at a temperature of 33 degrees Celsius (91.4 degrees Fahrenheit). Then he breaks it up expertly into small chunks with a 16-stringed tool and turns up the heat to 54 C (129 F). Now comes the tricky part: Armed with a linen cloth, he wedges his feet below the vat and balances the top half of his body horizontally to pick up the liquid. The linen acts as a filter: Whey pours out of the massive bundle, which is then squeezed into a concave wooden mold.

“Our cheese is made the old-school way,” Rémy explains, rubbing his hand on the large wheels stacked in the cellar next door. “We make it all by hand, and so each wheel is different.” Because Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage demands a highly specific set of skills—the simple act of flipping over a 90-pound wheel requires strength and strategy—employees are hard to come by. Harasémiuc, a shy young man from Romania, has been working for the Perret family for the past six years. He hardly knew how to speak French or make cheese when he arrived, but today he’s part of the family, Raphaël says. “When you want to keep your employees, just like in any job, you treat them well. Especially because it’s becoming harder and harder to find people.”

All of the Perret family’s employees are housed and fed in the summer: Yannick Empereur, the shepherd, has a house up in the alpage, while Harasémiuc and Jean-Luc André live at the farm. Harasémiuc is the only one who works for the family year-round, spending the quieter winter months with his wife in an apartment nearby. The rest of the time she’s back home in Romania, where they are building a house for the family with the money earned here.

As the sun starts to set behind the mountains, André takes the remaining content of the vat outside. Nothing is wasted there is still enough whey to make a cheese called sérac. Rémy Perret and André grab a skimmer each and silently fill the plastic pots placed on a large table. The day is nearly over, and there’s something ethereal about this quiet final step. Suddenly a large bang echoes from inside the processing room: the last flip of the day. Tomorrow the Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage will be moved into the cellar and wait until 2019 to be sold and eaten.


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