'Fondue is Swiss... the French just don't know how to make it'
The World Fondue Championships are underway in Switzerland and even before the winner has been named tensions are running high between the Swiss and the French over what cheese goes into a fondue.
Some 120 competitors are literally stirring the pot this week in Tartegnin, in the Canton of Vaud, trying to create the world’s best fondue recipe.
And while the contestants come from several countries, the battle of the cheeses is mainly between the Swiss — who invented the fondue in the 1930s — and the French, who also like to claim supremacy over this hearty wintertime dish.
Creating the perfect fondue recipe is no simple matter, it seems, as many important decisions have to be made. Among them — what cheese and what wine should be used?
“This is a serious matter, we are not here to kid around”, said Jérôme Lefevre, one of the jurors in charge of designating the 2019 world fondue champion.
Lefevre is Swiss, but when it comes to fondues, he is not neutral.
“The fondue is Swiss. The French don’t know how to make it. Cheeses must come from the Gruyère region and have no holes. In France, they use cheese with holes”, he told FranceInfo.
But apart from the obligation to use real Gruyère cheese, competitors are free to innovate. Each contestant has his or her own technique and ingredients. "The secret of good fondue is to take the time," one participant said. "Our secret is the wooden spatula, always the same one to turn the fondue, and always in the same direction".
Another competitor noted that “the secret of good fondue is first and foremost a good cheese, and then, it's training, training, training. We are confident we have a good mix with some secret ingredients, such as smoked whiskey”.
Stéphane Jayet, the chairman of the organizing committee, said that even though the competition is all about the fondue, it is far from cheesy.
“We must be credible in everything we do, from the choice of jury members to the reception of visitors”, he said.
Some 10,000 people are expected to attend this event, which takes place over three days.
And now for the real question: what is the difference between Swiss and French fondue?
First, the similarities: both are prepared in a special pot called “caquelon” and stirred while cooked. Often, white wine and sometimes a bit of Kirsch are added. When ready, it is eaten by dipping pieces of white bread into the cheese with long-stemmed forks.
The main difference lies in the kind of cheeses used. In Switzerland, the main ingredients are Gruyère and vacherin from Fribourg, in equal parts (it is called, fittingly, ‘moitié – moitié’).
In France, it is often made from French cheeses like Comté, Beaufort and Emmental - which is the recipe for the classic Fondue Savoyarde, from the Alpine region of Savoie.
However, in both countries cheeses and recipes may vary according to the region.