Indre / The Cheese Charmer
I first met Indre 8 years ago - I was starting at a new school and she was a student there, as sixteen-year-olds normally are. We weren’t classmates and we weren’t close friends; however, we used to see each other most of the days, we knew each other’s names, we’d say hello, exchange chatter about biology or literature, but...we never knew much about each other.
by VIKTORIJA KORDIUKOVAS
It’s funny how sometimes life brings people back together because they suddenly realize they’ve got more in common than they’d ever imagined - so here I find myself, eight years later, writing about food. And here is Indre, all those years later, an incredible subject and example of life led by food to write about. So, let me share a story of a Lithuanian who trusted that thoughts like “I wonder how fermented bread is made” do mean that you should drop out of business school and pursue your dream in food.
Here’s a little list of who Indre is:
A pastry chef
An advocate of all things real
A sister to three brothers
Read attentively as I try to put Indre’s story of wonderful experiences, cheese, wine, pastries and desserts into some brief words. You might salivate, you might gasp with amazement, you may even get jealous for a second there. Don’t let that stop you from reading - I’m warning you, this story won’t have an ending as Indre is just starting her incredible journey, but let’s try and follow her footsteps for a bit.
Indre’s love for food and cooking started at school, but, like most people, she tried to fool herself into studying finance in the UK and becoming who she wasn’t. Let’s all now thank the universe that it didn’t last long. Lost in a place she didn’t belong, Indre came back to her hometown Vilnius and tried her luck in hospitality. Except she didn’t need luck - naturals don’t need it.
Indre set her foot in the food industry as a waitress at the beginning, but then, after purchasing every other book on desserts found on this earth and studying it extensively, she managed to become a self-taught pastry chef. And not just any - an exceptional one! Pastry cheffing, placements in vineyards, practice in farms, studying the art of fermentation, cheesemaking, vine growing and wine pairing - this is what Indre’s life was made of. France, Austria, Italy and all the places we remember when we think of the best food and wine - this is where Indre’s life is being made.
“After my trip to the farm located in the French Alps, I realized that I have to leave Lithuania and travel for a while, so I left for the Austrian Alps for the summer. While creating desserts in a restaurant in South Tyrol, I was still dreaming about cheese, so I went straight to North Italy. I spent three months in Veneto making cheeses at the Perenzin dairy - I spent quite a bit of time studying the production side of cheeses. I was doing various jobs there - in the mornings, I’d be helping men (most cheesemakers are men, because it’s a physically demanding job) make ricotta and other cheeses, flip them in ageing rooms, wash them and then get cheeses drunk in the afternoon (“formaggio ubriacato” means “drunken cheese” in Italian). These are cheeses that need to spend a few hours in a hot grape must and then take in the aroma and colour from the grapes over the course of a couple of weeks. Lastly, they only make their way to shop shelves once dry. Some days, I would paint cheeses in beeswax or drown in olive oil and then in pepper. Some cheeses would age in the hay, some - in walnut leaves we would collect. That was an incredible and unique experience that made me follow my path even deeper into the world of cheese.”
The path went far - at the moment, Indre is settled in London, working for Androuet - a century old fromager company originally started in Paris. Just like Indre, Androuet believes in real food, seasonality, local produce and tradition.
“Androuet is a family business, run by passion, hard work and the urge to spread the right philosophy and teach Londoners to better understand the importance of handmade products, value them and their makers. Androuet is not just a shop, we age cheeses here, wash them in beer, Champagne or Calvados, and we also have a cheese bar, whose fondue and raclette makes the whole Spitalfields market smell divine.
I taste different cheeses every day because their taste changes - cheese is a seasonal product, so I tend to it daily, making sure it’s clean and aged correctly. We only sell cheeses of the highest quality - providing the best restaurants in London, including the Michelin starred.
Androuet is providing me with the fundamental knowledge about cheese and its world; and the owners are making sure I keep learning - not only do I travel to Paris for the most important expo on cheeses but I am also on my way to becoming a professional sommelier.”
As I’ve already mentioned, this story won’t have an ending, but the text is coming to an end. I couldn’t find better words to sum up this amazing journey of an incredible woman than by what she said herself:
“I don’t know if I’ll be making cheese in the future, maybe it will be wine, maybe cider, all I know is that it will be an honest product, created from nature, by hand and with a huge love and appreciation for food. I still don’t know if my friends understand, but my dream is to spread the philosophy and make people go back to the fundamentals, to their beginning. We need to provide ourselves with everything, we need to take care of nature and lower the demand of the food industry that is now taking advantage of the environment, people and animals.”