20th Annual Deli Changemakers Award Winner: Pierre Guérin

President and Co-Owner
Belle Chevre Inc.
Huntsville, AL

Q. Can you tell us a bit about your upbringing and how it has shaped you?

I was born and raised in Paris. When I was young, one of the traditions was to go to the “farmers market.” Of course, my mother would spend a lot of time choosing cheese among the numerous options available. Then we would go home and prepare a traditional Sunday lunch, sometimes with extended family, sometimes just the two of us.

I also spent summers in Normandy where, at the farmers market, I would have so many options of Camembert — from young to very ripe. It was an enriching experience.

I would have to say the farmers markets were important in maintaining cultural and familial traditions and how we approached food preparation and the enjoyment of it.

Q. What were some of the pivotal moments in your early life that led you to where you are today?

My dad had always been in the food business, working in chocolate in France. I was exposed to factories at a very young age, visiting the Meunier chocolate plant with my dad outside of Paris. While it wasn’t exactly like Willy Wonka’s factory, I remember seeing the key ingredient — cocoa beans. This raw ingredient left an impression on me. Thanks to my father’s food business contacts, as a teenager I went to Columbus, GA, to work for Tom’s Foods.

When it was time to get my first job after university in Tours, France, I had the opportunity to work for a wonderful family-owned business called Bongrain, which is now Savencia. I moved back to the U.S., to Lancaster, PA, and spent several years working for them on various cheese products.

Q. Tell us, how has your career evolved over the years?

After several years of working for Savencia in the U.S., I moved back to France to work for Andros. I was in a business where ingredients were key.

In 2007, my family and I moved back to the U.S., and my wife and I purchased a fine dining restaurant on Martha’s Vineyard. For seven years, we owned and ran The Sweet Life and discovered the ins and outs of the foodservice and restaurant industry.

In 2013, I was offered the position of president of Couturier North America, also known as Hudson Valley Creamery.

I helped grow Couturier’s business until 2018, when I left to work as a consultant, helping various U.S. cheesemakers to work their brand and sales strategy.

In 2022, I was able to realize my dream of becoming a co-owner of a cheese business when I partnered with Foster McDonald, owner of Belle Chevre since 2019, and we worked out a deal to purchase Chevoo. We decided to merge the two companies under Belle Chevre Inc. Merging the production of those different lines and the relaunch of both brands has been my passion since 2022.

Q. What is the best advice you ever received and why?

“Don’t push off to tomorrow what you can do today.”

Q. With everything you do, how do you balance your work and personal life?

I think a lot has to do with being organized and trying to make some separation from work and your personal life, but it’s not always easy. I’ll admit that if you’re passionate about your work, the lines can be blurred, but I think it’s OK and for the best.

Another part of my life that helps is to be able to travel outside of business trips. I enjoy going back to France in the summer and traveling to other countries.

Q. In your opinion what deli retail trends have impacted the industry over the last year?

Unfortunately, inflation has amplified what was already happening in specialty cheese as retailers are trying to reduce their risk (and spoilage) by moving away more and more from fragile and shorter shelf-life types of cheeses and reducing their assortment. Many retailers have been eliminating their own “cut-and-wrap” programs as it costs a lot for that type of operation.

However, on a positive note, there are still people passionate about specialty cheese and those made in the U.S., with the goat cheese category always gaining in popularity.

What is also exciting to see, which is one of the trends that picked up during the pandemic but continues to grow, is the crazy love for cheese and charcuterie boards.

Q. Is there a book, movie or event that’s recently impacted you personally or professionally?

I would say what impacted me most was when I decided in 2018 to start consulting after having spent my career working for corporations.

Q. What hobbies do you enjoy outside of work?

I have a couple of hobbies, but what I really enjoy is cooking. My second hobby, especially now that we’re back living on the Vineyard, is road biking.


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