StarChefs Q+A: Rachel De Jong of Cou Cou Rachou
We’re so excited to sponsor the 2022 StarChefs Rising Star Awards! The awards celebrate up-and-coming industry professionals who are trailblazing the contemporary American dining scene. Meet Rachel, an incredible baker and one of our phenomenal culinary partners from Charlottesville, VA, who participated in StarChefs D.C-Chesapeake. Read on to hear from Rachel herself, then stay tuned […]
We’re so excited to sponsor the 2022 StarChefs Rising Star Awards! The awards celebrate up-and-coming industry professionals who are trailblazing the contemporary American dining scene. Meet Rachel, an incredible baker and one of our phenomenal culinary partners from Charlottesville, VA, who participated in StarChefs D.C-Chesapeake. Read on to hear from Rachel herself, then stay tuned for Rachel’s exclusive recipe featuring our flagship soft-ripened goat cheese, Humboldt Fog!
Name: Rachel De Jong
Bakery: Cou Cou Rachou
City: Charlottesville, VA
Hometown: Charlottesville, VA
What is cheese’s role in a meal?
Oh, boy – what a tough question! For a meal, I love starting or ending with cheese (or both!!). As a Francophile, I’m an earnest lover of aperitifs and their food accompaniments. There’s not a whole lot better than a cheese board and it can be such a perfect way to set your palette for the meal to come (or, be a meal itself!!).
What’s your favorite unexpected way to use cheese?
As a baker, I love using cheese as an anchor for pastries. It can add such depth of flavor and texture – can be the star of the pastry or supporting character. I always have a fun cheese in our petite quiches, which change daily. Lately it’s been some variations of roasted leeks/spring onion with a local fresh goats cheese and pea shoots.
Also, I think this counts – I love using mascarpone to set whipped cream/chantilly for frosting cakes or finishing desserts. Adds a lovely flavor and stability!
Favorite food memory?
Well, all this talk about cheese and hors d’oeuvres has me thinking a lot about my Grandma and Mom’s style of entertaining (Gram has 7 kids, my mom has 5). Even if it were just family, added friends, or a party, we always had a huge appetizer hour (or two). It was not rare for Thanksgiving dinner to start after 10pm because we were just enjoying each other, cooking, and snacking. It was always so carefree and joyous – so many of my warmest memories are from those evenings – and probably had such a huge influence on my career choice.
Culinary secret weapon?
Citrus and salt! Neither are revolutionary, but I think they are two things that have become my signature with pastry and desserts. I don’t like for sweets to be overly sweet, and I love the bright and floral nature of adding citrus.
Hometown favorite restaurant or food?
This isn’t specific to Charlottesville, or even Virginia, but I do have a Southeastern soft spot for corn grits. Every Christmas morning we have grits and country ham, and they’re always on my Waffle House order 😉
Favorite Cypress Grove cheese — personally, and in the kitchen?
Oh, gosh another tough question! I’d have to say Humboldt Fog for both. It was the first one of Cypress Grove’s I tried, and I really feel like it was a door-opener for me in the world of cheese. As I mentioned above, this is a great example of a cheese that can really hold its own in a dish, or play off flavors that are more prominent. We recently featured it on our French onion croissant and I love that it matched the savory sweet nature of caramelized onions.
We’d love to hear the inspiration behind the recipe you developed with Cypress Grove cheese!
Ah, well, as I just noted we featured Humboldt Fog on our French onion croissant. I’d always loved the cheese but hadn’t used it much in recipes – it’s just so good on its own. I was a little worried about how it would pair with the danish and all that it has going on – for the filling, we caramelize onions and accent with white wine, bay leaf, black pepper, thyme, and malt or wine vinegar. But, it was so lovely and added a smokey, balanced sweetness and depth – truly grounded the brightness of the onion
And now — click here for Baker Rachel’s French Onion Croissant with Humboldt Fog recipe!