Meet the Cheese Grader

As the grader for Cathedral City, Mark Pitts-Tucker tastes as much as 500 samples of cheese a day. What does he look for, and is it possible to have too much of a good thing?

The Cheese Grader

What time would a big cheese grading day start?

Up at 6.30, bowl of porridge during the winter months or Dorset cereals in the summer months. I’m a creature of habit!

Is there a preferable time of day to grade cheese?

Definitely before lunch if possible, this is because your palate is “cleaner” in the mornings and so is more sensitive to tastes and flavours.

What does an average day involve?

Typically a mixture of cheese grading (tasting), stock management and customer (retail) contacts. Oh, and driving. I did 47,000 business miles last year!

What are the tools of your trade?

A nose, taste buds, a cheese iron and a bit of attitude!

How many different cheeses would you grade in a day?

A typical grading session would be approx 500 samples.

How do you actually grade the cheese - is there a scale and if so, what is it?

Three main attributes are assessed during the grading process: These are the body (firmness), texture (feel), and flavour (level and style). It is the balance of the three that delivers the unique Cathedral City character. The cheese is either acceptable or unacceptable, there are not degrees of acceptability.

How do you know when a cheese won’t make the grade - what happens to it?

‘Failure’ on any of the attributes assessed will lead to the cheese being rejected from Cathedral City. The mouth-feel and functional qualities of the cheese are as important as the flavour when providing cheese suitable for all eating occasions. It is my experience and judgement that allows me to decide these matters, along with a personal pride in setting a very high quality standard for the brand. If it isn’t right it will never see a Cathedral City pack.

How do you keep Cathedral City consistent quality?

By being consistent in my assessment and working closely with the manufacturing site.

What makes Cathedral City cheese so special?

The unique mouth-filling creaminess and depth of flavour coupled with the unrivalled consistency is what sets Cathedral City apart.

What makes a really great cheese?

As with so many things in life beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so opinions will always differ but it’s that “can’t stop nibbling it” element about certain cheeses that set them apart. Some cheeses are just sharp and acid in flavour, I like cheeses with a longer, slower flavour release.

What is your favourite cheese and if you can’t pick just one - what would be your ideal cheese board?

My ideal cheese board would consist of a broad appeal Cheddar like Cathedral City, a premium Farmhouse cheddar that really bites back, a rich and creamy Mature Stilton, a beautifully buttery Cornish Brie and a mouth cleansing crumbly like Cheshire or Wensleydale. Supplemented with a glass of Calvados!

Do you have a favourite cheese recipe you can share?

Cathedral City Extra Mature and Stilton melted together on top of a slightly over-cooked jacket potato (oven cooked for very crispy skin).

Lastly, after a full day of grading cheese, do you have mad cheese dreams?

Just the usual nightmares!