Francesco Cerutti worked as a veterinarian until he decided to leave his career to make 100% artisan cheeses using only his hands, right in the heart of Barcelona! Committed to sustainable and respectful agriculture and livestock farming, Francesco buys organic milk and makes his product in a traditional, artisanal style. In this interview, he tells us the reasons for this radical twist in his life.
Francesco, what led you to study veterinary medicine and why did you want to go into animal husbandry?
Because I first studied agriculture. I’ve always lived in the countryside and I like this lifestyle. I also like farm animals and the products you get from them.
What factors do you think can trigger burnout in large animal veterinarians?
The impact of what is seen from our point of view, the stress, and in the end the low appreciation of the final product. I’ve had these experiences in large intensive farms. These are situations where a veterinarian doesn’t have a lot of decision-making power, as they depend on the farmer or the production company. With time, in my case, you realise that maybe it’s just a dream: the market demands very low prices for these products in order to be competitive and improving aspects related to management or welfare makes the product more expensive.
What prompted you to set up your own company and leave the veterinary clinic, and did you consider perhaps going into another, more related speciality such as animal nutrition or pharmaceuticals?
It was a combination of things, not only what I explained before. I was thinking about it and it was clear to me that I wanted to change sectors altogether. And since I wanted to try cheese, I finally made the decision. I would love to work with animals again, and have my own in the near future, but in a different way.
Why did you want to try your hand at cheese making, and did you have any previous knowledge or experience?
First of all, I’m very passionate about cheese, but I only had the knowledge that any veterinarian might have. It was something that had been on my mind for years – I even thought about setting up shop in my garage in Italy while I was studying!
In the end, I took a two-month holiday and went to learn the technique at a historic cheese dairy in Venetto, the Accademia dell Arte Casearia with Maestro Carlo Piccoli, who also has a training centre. I learned the four or five basics and then I dived right in.
“With time, in my case, you realise that maybe it’s just a dream”
How many years ago did you start this cheese adventure?
This is the third year and I can’t complain. I’m not living in the lap of luxury, but it’s a good life.
And compared to Francesco the vet, how do you see yourself?
Sure, as a vet you have a pretty good fixed salary. And now Im running a cheese factory in the centre of Barcelona, buying the milk and not knowing how to make cheese. I’ve had to get my chops up.
The first year the cheeses didn’t turn out the way I wanted them to, but you learn as you make more and more products, and now I’m happy with the result. I work with very high-level restaurateurs who really appreciate my product. It’s a high-quality cheese, made with raw milk from a farm called Can Roger in Cardedeu – the first farm to change to organic in Catalonia. It’s a farm with few cows, less than a hundred, and a fairly high level of animal welfare.
And do you feel more aligned with your personal ethics now?
Yes, I feel that I’m doing my bit to raise awareness of slow food in society by producing sustainable and respectful food.
If you could change or improve anything in your training or career path, what would it be?
I wouldn’t change anything at all. Although I’m not a veterinarian now, I have ethical and professional knowledge that allows me to control many things. In agricultural school, I learned a lot of chemistry and biology and in veterinary school, I learned a lot of physiology. I don’t have a speciality, but I do have a very strong background that I do not use now, but it’s there.
And why don’t you use all the technical knowledge you have as a veterinarian to promote your brand on your social networks?
Because I think it’s more important to convey that I’m making cheese in an urban context, in a very humble, very clean way, as it was done 100 years ago. I’ve mentioned that I’m a veterinarian somewhere or other, but I don’t put it in the bio.
“I wouldn’t change anything at all. Although I’m not a veterinarian now, I have ethical and professional knowledge that allows me to control many things.”
And finally, do you plan to diversify the business or expand it?
Not at the moment because cheese-making doesn’t afford you much free time . But in the long run, I would like to have my own herd, and to live in the countryside. I would like to keep the shop here and open another one wherever I end up.
Would you like to see how Francesco makes his cheeses? Don’t miss the following video