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The Chiswick Cheese Market was the Cookbook Kitchen’s response to the dire state of the food industry in the face of the pandemic. We were initially inspired by Jamie Oliver’s Save British Cheese campaign, a message which was compounded by the daily pleas from cheesemakers to share their posts when they were desperate to sell their cheese to a new public. Many of these producers only supplied restaurants and caterers; they suddenly realised they essentially had just one client, hospitality, which was closed.
Committee member Fran Warde spoke to Sarah Stewart from Neal’s Yard Dairy on one of her nightly Kitchen Conversations on Instagram Live about the huge challenges the cheese making industry was facing. It seemed like a real call for help and we had to answer.
Closer to home, my dear friends Catherine and Philip Colton’s dairy supply business West Horsley Dairy was nearly out of business without hospitality orders. My husband and I set up a weekly dairy order in our area to help support them but it was a drop in the ocean compared to the orders they were used to filling.
A cheese market seemed like a natural fit for Chiswick (formerly known as Cheesewick due to its cheese farm and cheese market). Our goal was to create a monthly destination event that would attract cheese lovers to Chiswick, offering everything from extraordinary cheese varieties from small producers near and far, cheese products, cheese paraphernalia and accoutrements to enjoy with your cheese. We also wanted to help support our bricks and mortar businesses and help breathe new life into our high street.
Lucy Cufflin and I took on the roles or curators of the market to ensure that we offered the widest variety of quality cheeses from across Britain and beyond. We launched with 23 stalls operating under strict Covid safety measures. In our research for the market, we discovered some local gems on our doorstep with relish makers from Ealing and Mozzarella makers in Acton.
From day one, the cheese market was extremely well-received by both the local businesses and the over 5,500 visitors to the market. For some of the cheese makers it was the first time they had met the public and could tell the story of their cheeses. One trader commented, “You have created one of the most important food events in London for us.”
The most exciting aspect of the buzz created by the first market was the collaborations that it initiated. We introduced High Weald Dairy & Ealing Relish Company to Honest Burger and together they have created the Cheesewick Burger which is the local special on the menu at their Chiswick Branch. It is one of the best- selling burgers and it continues to keep the market relevant to our local community even when it isn’t market day.
Allie Thomas and her daughter, of Cradocs Savoury Biscuits, came from Powys in Wales for the first market and sold so well that they are now stocked in three of our local fine food retailers. They wouldn’t have taken a train to London hoping to secure these connections but our market was the ideal spring board. They are also working on a bespoke cracker with another of our regular traders Marlow Cheese.
A further collaboration among market traders has given rise to an entirely new cheese named for us. ‘Cheesewick’ is Marlow Cheese’s truffled brie made from Guernsey cows’ milk and truffles from one of our Italian traders, Thee Olive Tree.
From its inception, we knew Cheesewick would need to grow and with the relaxation in Covid rules we have been successful in securing a new license from Hounslow council with space for 36 stalls. The additional stalls create an opportunity to introduce a broader range of cheeses and accoutrements including vintage kitchenware and linen as well as encouraging local food hubs to work with us. We are hoping to showcase Welsh cheeses in November in collaboration with The Welsh Fine Food Cluster. We are already known in the cheese world to be a very nurturing bunch.