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Bengaluru Benedictine monks make quality Italian cheese

The Vallombrosa brand is now online for regular customers, after selling to high-end hotels for more than decade. SHARON THAMBALA reports

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A bunch of Bangalore-based Benedictine monks dabbling in the business of cheese-making to sustain themselves for more than a decade, have top chefs in town lining up for their choice Italian cheeses.

The monks have been supplying their wares to top hotel chains in the country for quite some time now.

The Benedictine monastery

AT A GLANCE

  • A Benedictine community in Bangalore has been producing Italian cheese since 2006, under the brand name Vallombrosa.
  • They supply to major hotels in the country
  • They have recently entered the international market, as well as started online sales
The Bengaluru Benedictine monks who have top chefs saying cheese!.

“We have been selling cheese for more than a decade already and many five star hotels buy from us,” Jinse Puthuppallimyalil, a monk from the Vallombrosian Benedictine Order (OSB) told
IANS.

Vallombrosa majorly makes Italian cheese with varieties such as olive stuffed bocconcini, mozzarella, burrata, mascarpone, ricotta, cheddar, parmesan, pizza cheese and goat cheese.
According to Puthuppallimyalil, Benedictine monks have two main missions, prayer and working for their own sustenance. This motto is followed by all the Benedictines the world over.

Some monks run schools, while some do manual work like growing vegetables. Each Benedictine community finds its own work to support itself financially.

In Bengaluru’s suburb Kengeri, the Benedictines have a large cattle farm.

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Benedictine Bocconcini

K.L. Michael, the pioneering monk established Vallombrosa in 2006 after spending eight years in Italy, where he picked up the Italian fromage or cheese making skills.

He presented the cheese idea to his fellow monks, who accepted and supported his brainchild, achieving success after many trials.

Incidentally, the monks did not spend any money on publicity, Vallombrosa found fame just by word-of-mouth publicity from chefs.

Oberoi and Taj group of hotels are some major hospitality players who regularly buy from the local Benedictines, considering its quality.

Benedectine mozzarella

Within India, Vallombrosa’s cheeses has buyers in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai and several other places.

Recently, the cheese brand even received an order from a Singapore buyer for a consignment.
As many as 10 Benedictine monks produce 100 kg cheese in a day but these dynamics have changed because of Coronavirus.

“Now that Covid has affected many hotels, we are making less cheese and have also changed our policy. Lockdown has really affected our operations,” said the monk.

From being only a B2B seller, Vallombrosa is now supplying to customers in B2C model as well, without any minimum order quantity frills.

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Benedictine ricotta

Encouragingly, the monks have started receiving many enquiries about their cheese, including phone calls and messages on whatsapp.

The cheese not only sustains the monks but is also supporting a programme which trains priests.

Buffalo milk is the chief ingredient of Vallombrosa cheese. As the monks do not have a buffalo farm, they are sourcing milk from two to three sellers.

“We are also planning to raise a goat farm near Hosur to meet our goat cheese ingredient demand, Vallombrosa’s most expensive cheese,” he said.

In India, the Benedictine order is headquartered in Kottayam, Kerala and internationally in Italy. The Kottayam seminary was founded in 1988.

By 2018, Benedictine Confederation had 7,500 monks, belonging to 19 different congregations with regional differences, particular missions and specific spiritual traditions.

As many 13,000 nuns and sisters also belong to the Benedictine order.

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