Top-performing French athletes Muriel Hurtis, Nathalie Péchalat and Victoria Ravva all have something in common besides their deep love of sports. These three talented ladies all share a love of one of the emblems of European culture and French heritage — cheese.
They also all belong to “Mounia et ses Filles à Fromages”, a group of aesthetes, beautiful women and gourmands founded by Mounia Briya, owner of Les Portes Restaurant in Paris. These remarkable women go as wild for the softness of a perfectly ripened Camembert or the fruitiness of a Comté as they do for the latest handbag or pair of trendy stilettos. “Mounia and her cheese chicks” — as translated — hope to assume a certain elegance, in a French way, while affirming their passion for cheese.
“Les Filles à Fromages” is a photographic collection that Mounia created with the help of fashion photographers Sophie Carre and Vincent Lappartient. It celebrates a generation of admirable women who wish to freely indulge their appetite for cheese. Although the noun le fromage is masculine in French, “Les Filles à Fromages” demonstrates the strong feminine side of cheese.
In this second installation, “Les Filles à Fromages” features women who are top athletes and excel in track and field, volleyball, basketball, rugby, gymnastics, horseback riding and other sports. Many of these individuals have gone on to break records and win national and world championships, while continuing to enjoy French cheese. They proclaim their passion loud and clear, without hesitation, in defiance of the fear of fat and of being nutritionally correct.
They disregard nutritional restraints to allow room for the smaller luxuries in life while preserving a balance that enables them to maintain their athletic momentum. So what’s the best-kept secret of women’s sports? It seems to be an immoderate passion for the elegance, fashion and pleasure of French cheeses. It has been said that the benefits of cheese and other dairy products provide strong bones and gain more lean mass and less body fat.*
In the accompanying photographs, these world-class French athletes swap their shorts and sneakers for elegant formal attire and pose with their other passion — French cheese. The beauty and grace of these athletes is inspiring, and their love of cheese is overwhelming. In this photographic essay, you’ll discover their passions, their stories and a little more about the French cheeses they hold.
Péchalat was the Ice Dance European Champion in 2011 and 2012, and Bronze Medalist in the 2012 and 2014 World Championships. Here, she slings thin curlicues of Comté, a PDO (protected designation of origin) cow’s milk cheese from the Franche-Comté region. The rind is usually a dusty brown color, while the cheese is a pale creamy yellow inside. Its texture is relatively hard and flexible, while its taste is slightly sweet. Comté is made in flat circular discs, each between 16 inches and 28 inches in diameter. “This is a bold, noble and unconventional project,” says Péchalat about Les Filles à Fromages.
Three time Champion of France (2011, 2013, 2014) and twice European Champion (2011, 2013) for BMX cycling, Valentino prepares to devour some Tommette des Bauges, a cave-aged goat’s milk cheese from Savoie in the Alps. Made with unpasteurized milk, the ivory-colored cheese is salty and slightly firm, and contains a bloomy, gray rind. Its name is derived from the word toma, which translates as “cheese made in the alpine region.” “I love new experiences and discovering new environments, and I love fashion and food,” says Valentino.
Ourahmoune was named World Middleweight Champion in 2008, co-Champion of Europe for Flyweight in 2011, and eight-time French Champion between 1999 and 2012. Ourahmoune carries a slice of Beaufort, a cow’s milk cheese from Savoie. Beaufort is made from the milk given by the Beaufort cows, an ancient mountain breed originally from the Indo-Asian continent. Beaufort cheeses are available in three versions: Beaufort, Beaufort d’été and Beaufort d’Alpage. The cheeses are constantly rubbed with brine. Young cheeses have a mild fruity taste, which becomes stronger and more complex with age. “My relationship with food is tinted with pleasure: pleasures of the senses, of meeting, sharing and discovering and cheese clearly has an important place in my diet,” says Ourahmoune.
Mélanie Plat and Delphine Garcia-Dubois
Plat received the Prix des Amazones in Longchamp, the Prix des Aulnes in Chantilly, the Prix des Cavalières in Saint-Cloud and represented France in the World Championships in 2008 and 2009. Garcia-Dubois is a horse owner, one of only two obstacle riders in France, and World Champion of the Arab Thoroughbred races in 2012. Plat and Garcia-Dubois both win with Emmental, a partially skimmed, unpasteurized cow’s milk cheese from Savoie and Franche-Comté. Emmental has a buttery, nutty flavor that makes it a great accompaniment for any range of foods. It is straw colored and contains large holes. “From athlete to model, I find the jump as fun as it is exciting,” says Plat. “It is very rare to showcase women and food because often the latter is seen as an enemy to women,” adds Garcia-Dubois.
Gold Medalist in the World Cup for the Modern Pentathlon in 2012, and French Champion, (2011, 2013, 2014), Clouvel holds a slice of Petit Vinageois, an unpasteurized cow’s milk cheese from Normandy washed with beer during affinage. It has a supple and tender texture and a mildly spicy flavor. A handmade cheese, Petit Vinageois is traditionally molded with ladles. “I want to show that you can be athletic, feminine and sexy while eating Roquefort,” says Clouvel.
Yahé was captain of the French National Team between 2011 and 2014 (46 selections), and winner of the Six Nations Tournament in 2014 by grand slam. Yahé prepares to bite into Bleu de Gex, a creamy blue-veined cow’s milk cheese from the Jura mountains. Also known as Bleu du Haut-Jura or Bleu de Septmoncel, it is a creamy, semi-soft cheese made from unpasteurized milk. During production the unwashed curds are loosely packed, and the cheese is aged for at least three weeks. Bleu de Gex has an aroma that is mild, and is characterized by its nutty taste. The rind is fine and yellowish, and the interior is ivory colored with evenly distributed green-blue veins, and almost crumbly when touched. “I am proud to be associated with all these athletes who are excellent representatives of women and sports,” says Yahé. “I like that we are not always where you would expect us to be.”CC