Affineur

I am keen to explore diverse contexts to develop my understanding of teaching, learning and coaching. Many of my posts over the last two years have looked at the relationships between performing arts and sport.

In this post I draw upon a different context for my exploration of expertise. I do so from the wonderful world of cheese via the ABC’s Cheese Slices program from the Massive Central And The Auverge. In that program I learned about Herve Mons and the role of the affineur.

Jennifer Meier points out that:

Many French cheesemakers make cheese, then pass it along to Affineurs like Herve Mons who handle the ageing process. Affineurs guide cheese along as it matures in caves or ageing rooms, ripening the cheese to its peak flavor and texture.

Alison Brien worked with Herve Mons for a month. In her post about her experience in France, she notes that:

An affineur is a person who ripens and matures cheese; who has an intimate understanding of the production and life cycle of different cheeses and nurtures each cheese to perfection in carefully controlled environments. It is a specialised field requiring knowledge of cheese-making techniques and AOC regulations, animal health, grazing pastures, the seasons, microbiology, “cave dynamics” such as air flow and humidity, the sensory attributes of cheese and changing consumer trends.

Herve Mons, Alison reports:

has just completed work on a new maturation facility that can accommodate around 90 tonnes of cheese – and yes, it will all be turned by hand! The site is an old railway tunnel which has been transformed into a massive cheese cellar. Because the tunnel passes through a hill, it is a perfectly insulated environment for maturing cheeses. I was lucky enough to work in the tunnel for one day, turning my way through almost one tonne of cheese over 12 hours.

Alison spent a lot of her time in the other Mons facility known as “the caves”:

a series of underground rooms specially designed for maturing different cheeses. Each cave has natural earth and stone floors which are important elements in controlling the temperature and humidity. The affinage team consisted of six people, managed by Eric Meredith – an American with as much energy and passion for cheese as Herve.

She recalls that:

We would spend our days receiving young cheeses and sorting them according to their level of ripeness, then the cheeses would go into different caves depending on their needs. We would also tend to the cheeses already maturing in the caves, turning them, brushing them, patting down the mould or washing them with special solutions to encourage favourable mould growth on the surface. Each cheese receives quite a bit of personalised attention – it’s a bit like a cheese nursery.

What I found fascinating about these descriptions of the science and art of cheese maturation and finishing is how closely the skills of the affineur reflect the characteristics of coaches of young and maturing athletes.

As we move with more confidence to personal training approaches the more likely we are to see the ability to modulate training environments as a companion to affinage. Perhaps the two worlds would collide if any team decided to use the services of Alison Brien’s Cheeseboardroom … or explored the insights Liz Thorpe shares about Herve.

Photo Credits

Persille de Malzieu

The cheesemonger did not say cheese

Getting Coaching

Talent and Giftedness

I have written a great deal in this blog about the impact CCK08 had upon my thinking and practice. Recently I had an opportunity to catch up with one of my on-line companions from CCK08, Carmen Tschofen. We came together to discuss talent and giftedness. Our conversation drew upon some exchanges we had during CCK08 and subsequently after I wrote this post about nature and nurture.

I was fascinated to learn from Carmen about the Lighthouse Program in Minnesota (some background information here). A Lighthouse Program student is:

  • In possession of an insatiable curiosity
  • Drawn to complex ideas
  • Comfortable with ambiguity in learning
  • Self–directed in learning
  • Eager to learn the practice of experts from discipline
  • Capable of working effectively with team members
  • Capable of a sustained focus to resolve questions
  • Recognized as highly able in performance, as well as, potential
  • Currently 7-18 years of age
The Lighthouse Program comprises:
  • Accelerated pace of learning
  • Non graded, multi-aged grouping
  • Integrated curriculum
  • Opportunities for On-line Learning
  • Opportunities to experience the practices of experts
  • Depth of study in complex Inquiry
  • Student focused learning
  • Teacher/facilitator focused on students’ learning
  • Connections to rigorous high school options
  • Collaborative and Competitive Opportunities

Meeting Carmen and her colleagues gave me a wonderful opportunity to explore and reflect on generic issues around talent and gift that had prompted me to write about performance and share some early ideas about the identification process.

Our conversation used Elluminate and this is a recording of our hour-long exchange that linked early morning Australia and lunchtime Minnesota.

During that time we discussed:

2:40 Supporting and defining talent on an individual basis

5:15 The role of personal volition/motivation/environment

8:30 The importance of allowing time for self-discovery and play

14:30 On being the same/being different

20:00 The meaning of growth potential and potential triggers for growth

23:10 Resilience, persistence, and the issues with electronic entertainment

27:50 Understanding personal talent development through biography and narrative

30:30 Who guides talent development?

33:40 Values and ethics in coaching and mentoring

36:10 The “Birth Year Effect,” the development of talent over time, and “the system”

40:00 Relationships and life lessons

43:00 The role of deliberate practice, the problem of instant gratification, and computer games

48:35 The difficulties of “elite performer” lifestyles, the problems with shallow praise

51:50 Extrinsic rewards and the issues of ownership and autonomy

54:00 Self-ownership and self-accountability

I really enjoyed the hour I spent with Carmen and her friends. It was quite difficult to go back to bed (4 a.m.) after such a stimulating conversation. I am hopeful that this is the start of a close link with the Lighthouse Program. Sport has a great deal to learn from innovative educators within and beyond its cultural contexts.

I am convinced that any approach to talent and gift must have a profoundly personal focus that celebrates learning biographies. I am keen to explore the interrelationship between context and opportunity that can permeate personal stories.

Photo Credits

Lighthouse

Girls skipping at an athletics carnival