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Who is Charlie Turnbull?

Charlie is one the foremost cheese experts in the UK.  Teaching people is what he does to spread the love of cheese and other foods.

EXPERIENCE

Charlie’s primary focus is in cheese and Delishops, the online artisan wholesale market, but in a long career he has been involved in many projects to promote the best in food and drink. Charlie currently lives in Brighton, Sussex, with his family,

Charlie is a founding director of Academy of Cheese. He

  • Has contributed much of the Level 1 material
  • He was instrumental in designing the MPM model and Tasting programme
  • He leads on the MPM and Tasting content at Level 2
  • He is preparing the Tasting module for Level 3 and the Master of Cheese

The Academy is now teaching in 70 countries around the world, and is the most global and best recognised cheese certification today.

Charlie believes very strongly that cheese knowledge is for the uneducated lover of cheese as much as the educated lover of cheese or the cheese professional. He wants cheese knowledge to spread easily, to not use unnecessarily technical or elitist language, and to speak primarily of the enjoyment of cheese

Charlie is a leading judge at

  • World Cheese Awards
  • Great Taste Awards
  • International Cheese Awards

He also judges at other competitions including the Concous Generale Agricole, the leading food and drink awarding body in France.

To judge well is to understand two sometimes competing elements in a cheese – what it “should” taste like (for its type), and how “tasty” it is. To judge is to represent and guide the consumer, the day-to-day lover of cheese, how to navigate these two essential needs in cheese.

That is his motto in the judging room – if he can justify his choice to a crowd of ordinary cheese lovers, not cheese experts, and inspire them to try it and enjoy it, he has made the right judgement.

Charlie led the Guild of Fine Food’s cheese training team for many years, training retailers across the country. He also co-wrote the Retail Ready business course for the Guild, drawing on his skills as a Chartered Accountant and 15 years of running his own retail and food service business.

Working with the Guild introduced Charlie to the many cheese retailers and how hard they work and how very passionate they are, often for very little money. He believes strongly that cheese should be profitable as well as pleasurable. An industry that profits is an industry that thrives.

Charlie ran his own cheesemongers, delicatessen and bistro in Shaftesbury, Dorset in the UK from 2003 to 2018.
Charlie saw his cheesemongers as a sweet shop for adults. Standing behind the counter and selling cheese is at the centre of his philosophy that a cheese is good if it makes someone happy, and it his job to show them more cheeses to make them more happy.

  • Arla
  • Lactalis
  • Harvey & Brockless
  • Bradburys
  • Many delis and farm shops across the UK

Charlie uses his knowledge to increase the love of cheese in small and large companies. He does not believe in winner takes all volume production with high profits, or the superiority of raw milk or heritage recipes or pre-industrial techniques. All cheese is on a journey, it always has been. We are all fellow travellers.

I grew up on a small farm in Surrey, England, growing lamb and beef. My mother was offering box schemes way back in the early 80s. Most of what the family ate back then was lamb and beef with zero food miles.

We had no idea this would become a huge trend down as local became synonymous with low impact farming and high quality and artisan foods. Being one of five children I was more concerned with getting my plateful before it all disappeared.

I learned two things around the kitchen table – to use good ingredients and keep it simple, more true now than ever. Plus the more people and louder the noise the better!

I tried to be an engineer (turned out my early aptitude for tractors and spanners didn’t carry over to thermo-dynamic equations), then an accountant (succeeded, but auditing Tottenham loo rolls wasn’t my thing). I came to cheese after getting to know local cheesemakers in the West Country during a time when I was considering returning to farming. I couldn’t afford the fields and the tractors, but the cheese… now there was something to be inspired by.

I went to see Chris Ashby to learn more about cheesemaking, and Bob Farrand at the Guild of Fine Food (and founder of The World Cheese Awards), to learn more about cheese varieties and how to care for and sell cheese.

I found it the most wonderful subject – from sunlight to grass to cow to milk to junket to curd to cheese. Press it, scald it, mill it, salt it; put it in a mould, culture the moulds, wrap it in cheese cloth, in tin foil, in waxed paper, in wax; put it in a box, sell it at the counter in a restaurant, at a farm stall; give it for Christmas, eat it with a pork pie, wash it down with a pint of beer, maybe even cook with it. Sneak a bit in before supper while the chef isn’t looking. Endless possibilities it seemed to me! But most of all, I enjoyed selling it. it made me happy and I enjoyed making my customers happy.

I opened Turnbulls Cheesemongers/Deli/Bistro in 2003 – with the ambition of having the best cheese counter in Dorset – maybe the UK. Shaftesbury High Street was not the choice, the shop was simply the best premises someone would let me have. Landlords weren’t aren’t that keen on startup shopkeepers with no trading history in 2002. And at the time the rest of the shop – the café, the catering, the jars of gherkins – were simply necessary to keep the cheese boat afloat. There is a lot of happy accidents in my history.

Since then I have become an acknowledged expert in cheese. I judge cheese in the UK and around the world; for Nantwich, Taste of the West, The Great Taste Awards, Bath & West Show, even occasionally for the French at the Concours Generale Agricole. I give talks and tutored tastings on cheese and beer matching at food festivals and lectures local social groups like the WI on the pleasure of cheese.

I visit small cheesemakers all over Europe to learn from their cheesemaking skills, finding them welcoming people, full of passion and history. I have never met someone whose love of farmhouse food does not extend to a love of friends, family and hospitality in general. It is this ethos I like to translate with my own retail and teaching enterprises.

In the UK, I sit on the steering group of the Guild of Fine Food, judging on the Great Taste Awards and World Cheese Awards along with teaching cheese, charcuterie and retail skills to food retailers and other professionals.

I was part of the team that set up the the annual Shaftesbury Food & Drink Festival, which attracts over 6,000 visitors to the town in just one day. I started the Gold Hill Cheese Run, the Dorset version of cheese rolling on Coopers Hill, but we go up the famous cobbled Golf Hill with 25kg cheese, not down hill after 3kg cheeses.

I became a P&O Cruises food hero – taking cheese to the high seas with the launch of the luxury cruise liner Britannia with such famous people as Marco Pierre White and James Martin.

Then we launched the Academy of Cheese with Paxton & Whitfield, The Guild of Fine Food, Harvey & Brockless, leading dairy technologist Paul Thomas and Mary Quicke of Quickes Cheddar. I am extremely proud of what we have achieved there and I hope you will join us.

My most recent project is Delishops, The artisan online food and drink market place. Covid has given us challenges, but no one buys an island with the profits of artisan food and drink. We just make the world a slightly better and more enjoyable place.  And that is what I will continue to do.

Join me on social media, follow our courses and visit my live events. The speciality food and drink industry is full of good people doing beautiful and earnest things. It is a good thing to be part of.

PROJECTS

Family, friends, food, put in a mixing bowl and stir. Add cheeseboard.

Connect with me…

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