My Life in Food: Mark Pitts-Tucker, cheese grader

 

Pitts-Tucker is in charge of assessing all the cheese made by Davidstow, the largest cheddar producer in the UK. He grades each cheese on body (firmness), texture (feel) and flavour (style and strength level). He works most often with the Cathedral City brand, eating around 500 chunks of 500 different cheese blocks each week.

What are your most and least used pieces of kitchen kit?

My most used is my cheese iron. It is the tool of the trade for the cheese grader. It is a T-shaped instrument with a semi-circular barrel. You bury the sharp end in the cheese and give it a rotation and then remove the core for tasting – it's the only way to see if it is ready in the middle. In a busy week I use it on thousands of cheeses. Least used is just about anything electronic – there is a push in my trade to use electronic gadgets, but I like the old-fashioned way.

If you had only £10 to spend on food, where would you spend it and on what?

I would find the local shops around wherever I am – localism is important to me. It would be ideal if there was a bakery around. I'd go there and I'd buy a nice, hot, fresh loaf and a flapjack if they have one – my guilty pleasures.

What do you eat for comfort?

Well, you might not expect me to say this, but cheese. I like to have a piece of cheese in my fridge that no other consumer or producer will have. Every good cheese grader has a secret bit of his fridge where he keep his finest stuff. I have some Davidstow Cornish cheddar and it is just over four years old. It is, in a word, intense.

If you could only eat bread or potatoes for the rest of your life, which would you choose?

I love bread. But, you know, my favourite time of the year for food is the winter months, when potatoes are at their best. A nice creamy mashed potato, sausages, all covered in gravy, sustain you through the winter. I couldn't get through winter without potatoes.

What's your desert island recipe?

Something I do occasionally for myself as a treat is lamb's liver in a thick onion gravy with – you guessed it – mashed potatoes. My mother used to make it every week. I remember the smell; I have carried that emotional attachment to it throughout my life.

What's your favourite restaurant?

I work down at Davidstow creamery on the south coast, so I love to go to Nathan Outlaw's place at Rock. Last time I went I had the tasting menu, with the six or seven courses. I can only describe it as a walk along the seafront. The smells, the flavours, the textures – it was quite wonderful.

What's your favourite cookbook?

I tried Nathan Outlaw's but I just wasn't good enough. So I go for the more companionable Nigel Slater. I return again and again to his book Simple Suppers.

Who taught you to cook?

My mother and some tough love at boarding school taught me to cook. My palate, however, has been educated by my job. When I go with clients to expensive restaurants I get quite excitedly inspired by the food.

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