BENGALURU: Nestled in a quiet shady corner in T C Palya is Gualbert Bhavan, is a seminary of the Vallombrosan Benedictine Congregation and the home to Vallombrosa cheese. The Vallombrosa cheese, initiated by Father K L Michael, is considered to be amongst the finest in the city and produces about 100 kg of cheese every day with a team of just seven members.
The unit makes 10 different varieties of cheese such as Bocconcini, Ricotta, Mascarpone and Caciotta with 500 litres of buffalo milk sourced every day from a farm in Bannerghatta. But the one most in demand is the Burrata, a buffalo milk cheese where the outer layer is made from mozzarella and the inside, stracciatella and cream. “This one particular variety goes all over the country. Nobody makes Burrata cheese with buffalo milk. So, it’s in huge demand among chefs across India. It is the most popular one in Bengaluru as well,” states Father Michael. His clientele list includes luxury hotels such as the Taj, The Oberoi and J W Marriot. Vallombrosa cheese has made quite a name for itself even with the retail market. “We also get visitors coming in to sample our cheese from different parts of the globe. If they like what they taste, we get huge orders from them too,” he adds.
Father Michael, popularly known as the monk who makes cheese, studied in Rome for eight years. He was appointed as the head of Gualbert Bhavan in 2000. “It was around that time our heads in Rome suggested I take up the art of making cheese. Back then, cheese was only coming up in the Indian markets. So, I was sent for training near Naples in Northern Italy,” he says. But on returning, he realised that the way things worked here was different from that in Italy. “Everything is different here, right from the weather to the way a business runs. I didn’t know where to start,” he shares.
In 2004, an Italian business man who frequently visited India for work suggested Father Michael to start making mozzarella cheese for the Indian market. “Franco Thrumby was always travelling to major metropolitan cities in the country and he noticed that he was yet to come across good pizza cheese. He then gave me the idea to start working with buffalo milk,” he says. Up until then, cheese made out of buffalo milk was a rarity in the country. “It’s been growing since then. The quantity produced has been steadily increasing. We make about 100 kg of cheese a day.”
Today, a small team of around seven members has orders coming in from all over the country including Mumbai, Chennai, Pune and Goa. “The process by itself is not very difficult. But it does take time. Most varieties take around five hours to get ready. We don’t require a big workforce for it. Even with the huge demand, we are able to meet the orders with our small team,” says Father Michael adding, “Sometimes, we get adultered milk and that affects the quality of the cheese.”
Father Michael says the main aim of the venture is to help students who are preparing for priesthood. “This is just a side-business we run to make our ends meet. Everything earned from this is used mainly for the students and then to run the community,” says Father Michael. “We have no plans of making it a full-scale enterprise. It gives us enough to keep us running. And that’s all we are looking for,”
he says. For more details about Vallombrossa cheese, visit its website www.vallombrosacheese.com.