Meet the Producer: Tasia Malakasis
Owner of Fromagerie Belle Chevre, Elkmont, Ala.user rating
After a 10-year career as the vice president of global product management and marketing for a software company in New York, Tasia Malakasis was ready for a change. So she enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America. But it was a trip to Dean & DeLuca that really changed her course. It was there she discovered Belle Chevre goat cheese, made in her hometown of Elkmont, Ala. Intrigued, she contacted Liz Parnell, the owner, and asked to be an apprentice so she could learn how to make award-winning goat cheese. By 2007, Malakasis had convinced Parnell to sell her the business.
She started with four amazing cheeses and has grown the line to 26 products, including the latest offerings: a DIY Goat Cheese Kit and Goat Cheese Cheesecake, launched in late 2012 and already featured on “The Today Show” and Food52.com. The DIY Kits have been an overwhelming success. “I did a TV morning show and the anchor said, ‘Aren’t you sad to give away your secrets?’ Not at all. I want people to be close to cheese and the process,” she says.
Belle Chevre cheeses have received numerous national awards, including the prestigious Good Food Award Gold Medal 2013 for her Pimento Chevre. She’s a favorite of the media, featured by Martha Stewart, O, The Oprah Magazine and Southern Living, to name a few. And her new cookbook, Tasia’s Table, gives fans an inside peek into her home kitchen, covering the meals she enjoyed with her Southern grandmother, her Greek family and hundreds of Sunday suppers at her house spent around a big table with great food and friends. Endlessly inspired by her business, in 2013 she has plans to introduce even more new products, a creamery and a retail location.
Here, Malakasis shares more with foodspring.com.
What’s your favorite product in your line?
Our basic chevre, because I’m kind of a purist. I like it on any sandwich, whatever I’m having, instead of mayonnaise or anything else. Even if I’m cooking, I’ll throw it in a sauce. The Pimento is a lot of fun too—I served this on New Year's Day, with black-eyed peas and cornbread. Pimento cheese on cornbread is delicious.
Who is your culinary idol?
Alice Waters, of course. Food should taste like food is her thing. I had the privilege of meeting her in January at the Good Food Awards Marketplace. She came over and tried my cheese, and then she bought it. I said, “I’ll give you free cheese for the rest of your life.” She said, “No, this is important.”
What’s your guilty food pleasure?
My two favorite foods are the elemental and sublime: fried chicken and pâté says it all. For comfort food, it’s Vietnamese noodle bowls. I don’t cook a lot of ethnic myself, so Indian, Vietnamese and Korean are foods I pay someone else to make for me.
Biggest perk of your job?
The people. The ones I’m honored to work with who take pride in their jobs every day. And the people I meet through my job. It’s also the consumers. My responsibility is that if they take my cheese home and feed their children with it, or their loved ones, I’m playing a part in their life. I take that really seriously.
Aside from your products, what three items can you always find in your kitchen?
Butter, good salt and olive oil.
If you weren’t making artisanal cheeses, how would you like to spend your time instead?
I do all of these things already so it’s not an either/or for me: I love to travel, I love to read and I love to eat. And I love to learn new things. If someone said, whatever I know now, I can’t add anymore, there wouldn’t be much job in the process for me. I love discovery, which is why I end up with new products so often.