Sunday 1 June 2008

Cheese review

I don't know how many speciality cheese shops Perth has, but I know only of one - a gourmet spot in Subiaco.  We bought a selection of five cheeses there this week, and here is how they rated:

  • Champignon Cambozola - totally excellent blue.  Must have cheese, even at $78 a kilo.
  • Rouzaire fromage de meaux - also excellent, and just as costly at $80 a kilo.
  • Cambray manchego - acceptable
  • Mauri fontina doc - acceptable
  • Tarago river cheese co - Jensen's red - J commented that it smelled like earwax (don't ask me how she knows that) and it went in the bin.  
The skills shortage that we hear so much about is clearly biting in Perth.  We have visited this cheese shop every time we have been to Perth over the last 5 years, and the cheese has always been good.  The service has also been good - up until this visit.

Previously, we were always served by a woman who I think is the owner.  Her knowledge of things cheese-like and whiffy is encyclopaedic.  Even though it is well over a year since we were last there buying stinky cheese, she remembered us.

However, on this visit, most of the cheese was served up by a new staff member, and she didn't know her hard cheeses from her soft.  Trying to point out the Rouzaire Fromage De Meaux to her was a nightmare, and I thought she was going to lose a finger whilst trying to slice the hard cheese that we bought.  She would have been better off down the road selling shoes.

How hard is it to learn something about the products that you are selling?  Although the shop has a good range of cheeses, in the end, they are only selling a maximum of say 30 cheese products.  If you worked there for more than a week, you should be able to pick up the names of at least half of them by then, and all of them after a fortnight - unless you have a memory made out of swiss cheese.

Handing out samples of cheese is also a bit of an art form, and I can definitely state that it is something that I am completely incompetent at.  I am good at eating cheese, not slicing off little bits of it and handing it over on the end of a big, big knife to a customer.  But if I spent a week slicing cheese, I'm sure I'd be reasonably adept at slicing bits off and handing them over even if I had to do it with a katana.  

Are businesses really at the point where they are employing people who are incapable of picking up even the simplest of skills, or the barest slivers of knowledge about the products that they are retailing?

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