Think of the Maître Fromager as a cheese sommelier. Look about the Dallas- Fort Worth area and you will be hard pressed to find one — that is unless you happen to be at the Gaylord Texan Hotel, or more specifically the Old Hickory Steakhouse Restaurant. That is where you will meet chef Drew Stodghill.
We caught up with chef Stodghill yesterday and asked a few questions about how he became a cheese guru.
CraveDFW: Tell us about your journey as a fromager.
Drew Stodghill: I started off at the Culinary Institute of Scottsdale and immediately went to work as a line cook in Tennessee before moving back to the Fort Worth area to be with my then girlfriend and eventually married her. I was hired by Tom Fleming at the Gaylord. He left shortly after that and they hired chef Joanne Bondy. There was an opening for the fromager position and I jumped all over that not knowing much about cheeses at the time but wanted to learn.
CraveDFW: What compelled you to cheese?
Stodghill: Initially it was a higher pay grade, but I have always had a great fascination with cheese. I have this fascination with organic, raw and a more naturalistic style of food. When they opened the cheese program to me it was a great way to experiment with that whole thing and see the different style of cheeses.
CraveDFW: What are some of the best local cheeses?
Stodghill: Without a doubt the best local cheese is the Hoja Santa made by Paula Lambert at the Mozzarella Company in Dallas. It is by far one of the best goat cheeses. It has great acidity, great texture and a good solid ratio to it.
CraveDFW: What is your favorite cheese these days?
Stodghill: Currently I am liking the raw Bleu d‘Auvergne from the Auvergne region of south-central France. It has a clean acidity to it, great salt ration and a good creamy fattiness to that acidic bleu. It’s not really peppery at all, just a good clean bleu cheese that everybody should try.
CraveDFW: Where do you procure your cheeses at the Gaylord?
Stodghill: We get most of our cheese from Murray’s in New York, and also Cowgirl Creamery in California. Of course we buy from Paula Lambert for her Hoja Santa.
CraveDFW: Tell us about a few great cheese pairings.
Stodghill: Sure. Easily enough a raw 12-month Manchego paired with a port. The sweetness of the port brings out that nuttiness from the Manchego. It is one of the cleanest pairings I can think of and definitely something exciting. You will notice the wine does a lot of the work, but you will still get a wonderful cheese note at the finish.
For beer I would select a Moose Drool, probably known as one of the greatest American brown ales. You pair that with a Gruyère de Comté [an unpasteurized cow’s milk in the Franche-Comté region of eastern France] are fabulous with that nice nuttiness and it picks up the fruit tones. The Moose Drool is just a really great beer anyway, but good for this pairing.
CraveDFW: Where do you go for cheese when not at the Gaylord?
Stodghill: Everyone tells me I need to make it out to Scardello in Dallas, but I live in Fort Worth so I generally hit up Central Market. They take very good care of the cheeses and have a great selection including that Hoja Santa.
Visit chef Drew Stodghill at the Old Hickory Steakhouse at the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine where he will prepare your very own wine or beer pairing.