An ongoing series exploring unusual careers in the inner-west of Melbourne, by Belle Hann.

    Westies may be familiar with Stefan Armentano as the owner of Small French Bar. However, he has lately been better known as Footscray’s resident fromager (‘fromager’ being French for cheese seller.)

    Footscray Fromagerie operates from Barkly Street where Stefan specialises in French cheeses. He sells well-known French favourites such as Camembert as well as other French delicacies.

    Being a full-time fromager came about through necessity. Like many restaurants, Stefan morphed his love of French cuisine into opening his cheese shop. Yet for COVID fatigued locals, access to cheese couldn’t have come at a better time. “People say ‘finally we have cheese in the west’,” Stefan says.

    “Cheese is the new chocolate,” according to Stefan. With more people seeking to eliminate sugar from their diet, cheese is becoming a new comfort food. “People like to snuggle when they eat their cheese. Maybe while they wear thick socks or cuddle the cat.” This may explain why his best-selling cheese is the triple-creme brie. “It is oozing, creamy, and decadent”, says Stefan.

    Stefan is also perfecting his famous duck liver parfait. “It tastes silky, smooth, buttery with liver being the center of the action. It is a traditional French recipe with my own twist.” The parfait is currently in the laboratory stage and Stefan hopes to sell wholesale by the end of the year.

    Born in Nice, France, Stefan decided to learn cooking when other trades didn’t appeal to him. As a young man, he was in the fire brigade until he was seduced by the kitchen. “I was contaminated by the adrenaline.”

    Stefan also attributes his love of fine foods to his grandmother Alice. Her wedding portrait, dressed in 1920s fashion, hangs on the walls of Small French Bar.

    “My grandmother was an inspiration to me. She was a cook of Italian heritage and her food was her way of showing love.”

    Stefan continues this legacy through bringing beautiful cheeses for the inner west.

    “I have an appreciation of special produce where there is lots of effort, so much effort to bring cheese from France to Australia. There is lots of love going into it.”

    Follow @footscrayfromagerie for the latest information plus drool-worthy cheese photos.

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