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Last month, Khéma was extremely honoured to welcome Mr Patrice Marchand of Les Frères Marchand as he made his first trip to Cambodia as our exclusive cheese supplier. We filled his three days here — the first of many more to come — with a host of degustations, trainings and events, but found it easy to persuade to him to take the time to present a special Cheese Discovery to a class from local NGO, Pour un Sourire d’Enfant.

This is part of Thalias social mission to open up the world of French cuisine to as wide an audience as possible, broadening horizons, palates and tastes, especially for those who might not otherwise have the opportunity. For many of these youngsters, who are busily building their futures with the support of one of Phnom Penh’s most successful vocational training NGOs, it was their very first experience of cheese’s many surprising forms and flavours. Any fears we may have had that they might hesitate were swiftly laid to rest.

Before a keen-eyed assembly of 35 12-year-old students, Mr Marchand described his family’s six-generation history as cheesemongers, how cheese is made and the ways his family works with small, local producers so they can secure and supply the finest cheeses to customers all over the world, thus safeguarding their rank among the country’s elite fromageurs. Mr Marchand’s own brother, Philippe Marchand is in fact one of only 15 Cheese Masters in France. There are only 25 people in the whole world that carry this title.

With apologies that they wouldn’t be eating cheese burgers today, Mr Marchand took the students on an exquisite gustatory tour of France’s highlands and lowlands through a fine, raw-milk Camembert, an Emmental grand cru, a 15-month-old Comté, and deliciously sweet and crumbly 24-month-old Mimolette. The students even tackled the formidable Epoisses and a rich blue Fourme de Montbrison, and gobbled them up.

Mr Marchand has spent years introducing generations of people to cheese all over the world, including Asia. Yet we think this afternoon was one of his greatest experiences yet. “To see your faces, your smiles, and the stars in your eyes”, he said, “I will take this home as one of my happiest memories yet of bringing Frères Marchand cheeses to the world”.

That was before the students decided to express their delight with a group photo with everyone hollering “CHEESE!!!!!” at the camera before turning to Mr Marchand to thank him with a giant group hug. We’re already looking forward to his return so we can all learn more about the magical world of cheese, and we’re absolutely sure that even after such a brief and busy visit, Mr Marchand has been captivated by Cambodia. Watch the video here