An interview with Stacey Hedges: maker of Tunworth cheese
An interview with Stacey Hedges; cheese-maker of the fabulous Tunworth and Winslade cheeses! Find out what Stacey loves on the food scene, her ethos for her business and her recommendations on the best places to eat and shop for food!
Brief synopsis of your business & career?
I have always worked in the food industry but wanted to make something of my own and cheese had always been a passion. I started by collecting buckets of milk from local farmers and making it in the kitchen at home, making only 30 cheeses a week! Eventually my husband said get out of the kitchen and do it properly… this led to Hampshire Cheeses being set up in 2005 in a very small creamery in Herriard, Hampshire.
What made you get into doing what you do?
I had a real passion for eating cheese and a desire to make something of really high quality, and speaking to some of Britain’s cheesemongers a British Camembert style was decided upon!
What is your philosophy for your food/business?
All we are trying to do hear at Hampshire cheeses is to make the best quality soft cheese we can. I want to be proud of the what we do and the cheese we sell.
Describe a typical working day.
The day starts early at 6am with the milk being delivered to the creamery. Production of that days cheese commences with our team of eight – from setting the curd, to cutting then ladling by hand – an exhausting task. Other tasks are carried out whilst the cheese is being made including in the ripening room: cheeses are turned every day, wrapped before being eventually packed and sent out to customers. The day finishes at about 5.
What’s the best part of your job? And do you have a favourite memory from work?
I love being part of a process. You see the milk come in and the final product go out to a customer about 6 weeks later. Very simple but satisfying.
My favourite memory would have to be Tunworth winning the title of Supreme Champion in 2013 for the second time. Truly surprised and honoured.
When you are at home what is your staple dish for the family?
They love anything out of Ottolenghis Jerusalem book, and a BBQ – weather permitting (I am Australian after all!).
What is your favourite place to go eat (if you’re not eating at yours!)?
Our local pub in West Meon “The Thomas Lord” – delicious food and a lovely garden.
Do you have any other hidden foodie gems you think are worth people knowing about – shops, producers or otherwise?
There is a woman in the next village who has set up a bakery in her garden and she makes amazing sour dough bread: Froxfield bakery – if you are down in Hampshire look them up!
Do you have a favourite cheese at the moment? If so, why is it your favourite?
At the moment we are eating Gruyere at home as I have just come back from visiting friends in Switzerland and we did a tour of the Gruyere factory and village. It is delicious- sweet, nutty and with such a beautiful smooth texture.
Where do you look for inspiration in your business?
I speak to lots of other small food producers and really pick their brains about how they manage their businesses and by speaking to other cheesemakers too. They can be really helpful with ideas and support.
What couldn’t you live without?
Cheese and bread!
What is the best success you’ve had with your product?
We have been very lucky and won lots of awards with Tunworth. I feel the best success is that it now supports 8 employees- that is something I am really proud of.
What is your plans for the future?
We have just started exporting to the US and Australia- only small quantities but I would like to see that grow but the main thing is to maintain the high standards we have for producing Tunworth and to make sure every little wheel reaches its customer in perfect condition!