My wife and I have been in the Netherlands for the past week visiting my daughter. This is the fifth time we have been during the two years she has lived in the northern city of Groningen. On the first visit to the city, before our daughter moved out there, we found that a cheese shop was mentioned in the guide book.
Peter van de Ley runs one of the best cheese shops in the Netherlands and it is a wonderful experience each time we visit. Firstly, there is the vast stock of Gouda that line the walls, then the aroma of cheese which is very heady. They carry a range of over 600 cheeses and are rated as one of the top 25 cheese shops in the Netherlands.
What struck me most though from our first visit two years ago, and has been repeated and re-enforced each time we have been to the store, is just how the owner and his staff go about selling cheese. Apart from the well-crafted display, one notices sample bowls that allows customers to taste various cheeses while they browse the store or wait for service. There is the feast of different cheeses that are on offer.
Once at the counter, the customer is offered a sample of every cheese that he asks about, and the knowledge of any member of the store’s team is amazing. I only eat goat’s cheese so we buy enough to bring home every time. This time it is two differently aged Gouda, a young cheese and a 2-year-old. The owner also offered a 5-month and a 1-year-old.
The lessons from this cheesemonger are about passion, knowledge, training, entertainment and theatre, high standards, range and a desire to be the best. And after that, you know, the price is secondary.