CHARLIE T | FARMER'S SON |CHEESEMONGER
Charlie’s favourite recipe: “Family, friends, food, put in a mixing bowl and stir. Add cheeseboard.”
Charlie Turnbull grew up on a small farm in Pirbright, near Guildford Surrey, growing lamb and beef, and where his mum was offering box schemes way back in the early 80s. Most of what the family ate back then: lamb and bullock, had zero food miles; but they had no idea this would become a huge trend in the future. Being one of five children, Charlie didn’t exactly grow up with culinary skills… more gluttonry skills he seems to remember!
Charlie learned two things around the kitchen table – to use good ingredients and keep it simple. Actually truer ever now than then. And make that three things – the more people at your table the merrier! Around Charlie’s own table you will mostly find his wife Lou and baby daughter, Margo.
Charlie tried to be an engineer (turned out his early aptitude for spanners didn’t carry over to thermo-dynamic equations), then an accountant (succeeded but auditing Tottenham loo rolls wasn’t his thing). He came to cheese after getting to know local cheesemakers in the West Country during a time when he was considering getting into farming. As it turned out, farming wasn’t for him, but the cheese… now there was something that inspired Charlie!
He then 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. He 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, inject it with mold, 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 him… so Charlie’s career in cheese was born!
Charlie 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 him have. Landlords aren’t that keen on start up shopkeepers with no trading history. 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 happy accident in Charlie’s history.
Since then Charlie has become an acknowledged expert in cheese. He judges cheese in the UK and around the world; for Nantwich, Taste of the West, The Great Taste Awards, Bath & West Show and the World Cheese Awards, even occasionally for the French at the Concours Generale Agricole. He gives 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. He visits small cheesemakers all over Europe to learn from their cheesemaking skills, finding them welcoming people, full of passion and history. Charlie has 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 Charlie likes to translate with his own retail and teaching enterprises.
In the UK, Charlie sits on the board of the Guild of Fine Food www.gff.co.uk judging on the Great Taste Awards and World Cheese Awards along with teaching cheese, charcuterie and retail skills to food retailers and other professionals. More locally he is a well know business figure, organising the annual Shaftesbury Food & Drink Festival, which attracts over 6,000 visitors to the town in just one day, and creator of the Gold Hill Cheese Run. His Gorgonzola Appreciation Society, with 1000 followers and seasonal events especially for cheese lovers. He most recently became a P&O food hero – taking cheese to the high seas with the launch of the luxury cruise liner Britannia in March 2015 as well as founding a new business, ClicBox, which offers online DeliShops to real world independent food retailers.