Isabelle and Erik Bartels, founders of the cheese shop QUI L’EÛT CRU (Guebwiller) were at the Cheese and Dairy Products Show 2024. It was an opportunity to reflect on the adventure of a successful career change.

You opened your dairy-cheese shop as part of a career change. How did your setup go?

We founded the company in 2019 and opened the store doors on December 1, 2020, against all odds with the arrival of Covid! We are located in Guebwiller, in the Florival Valley, because that's where we live and it was important for us to add value in terms of local commerce to our town. I (editor's note: Isabelle) am the daughter and granddaughter of cheesemakers from the Jura, and this decision to change careers was based on a connection to childhood memories.

What is your vision of the profession ?

We are dairy-cheese merchants and we buy all our cheeses already matured. For us, the imperative is the consistency of the products we market. When we talk about a cheese to our customers, it's because we have tasted, appreciated it, and know its origin. And when we talk about consistency, it's because we make sure the cheeses are good today as they are tomorrow. We are very strict on the quality and diversity of products! The choice of our partners, both in terms of their relational aspect and their supply flexibility, is essential for our store.

Aside from the quality of your selection, what is the added value of your establishment?

We immediately liked responding to new consumer trends, by offering tastings outside of traditional meals. Like many of our peers, each with their own style, we offer cheese buffets, appetizer boards,tiered cheese creations, and other delicacies "transformed" without altering the product and while preserving the true taste of cheese. We also created our Cheese Bar space right from the store's opening, which perfectly adapts to a nomadic consumption mode. We also offer ephemeral evenings focused on seasonal cheeses. We are dairy-cheese merchants, but also wine and grocery retailers trying to promote French gastronomy as a whole.

Do you feel threatened by the cheese sections of large supermarkets?

Yes and no, France is still the cheese country par excellence! Customers who enter our store are looking for something other than "pre-packaged" cheese. Our product selection is meticulous, and we never have the same references or cheeses in our showcase as those offered by large supermarkets.
Portrait of Isabelle and Erik Bartels, founders of QUI L’EÛT CRU.

How do you ensure the advisory part of your profession?

We have to get a bit involved in our customers' lives by asking if they are planning a "cheese meal" or rather a dessert plate, and if so... we talk cooking! What do you have as a main course? And for dessert? Customers like to talk "cooking" with us and they also appreciate that we advise them in their choice of cheeses. We have sometimes offered just one cheese under a bell jar, because it is enough on its own and because it will be savored and appreciated in its entirety. Otherwise, generally, we advise not to overload the plate: 3 to 5 cheeses often suffice with a balance in textures and, if possible, a harmony in shapes and colors. You eat first with your eyes!

Do you have any special creations QUI L’EÛT CRU in your store?

We have a specialty that resembles a small pastry and we are very proud of it. We (re)work a fresh Brillat-Savarin from Maison Delin with mango cream, a blend of black and white Voatsiperifery peppers, cubeb, Jamaican and Timur berries, all enhanced by edible rose petals. We offer this same specialty with seaweed and marinated salmon.

What do you appreciate the most in your new profession?

Apart from the cheese itself: independence, freedom, and sharing! Every day, when the store opens, it's a bit of a new adventure that begins, with the waltz of our regular customers but also the "newcomers". These are meetings, and happiness!

Why participate in the Cheese and Dairy Products Fair?

For us, it's the major professional meeting of the dairy sector, which allows us to gather over a few days a majority of the producers, ripeners, wholesalers, and traders with whom we work throughout the year. It's also an opportunity to discover new products, or new trends. And it's also a place to meet with "colleagues" dairy-cheese merchants, with whom we can discuss the economic situation of the profession.