More (grilled) cheese please Louise…
“You don’t like cheeeese?” exclaims a very perplexed Wallace to a potential suitor. “Not even Wensleydale?” And that’s that. If she doesn’t like cheese, they aren’t suited. End of.
Not that I blame Wallace (from Wallace and Gromit if you hadn’t figured that out already), I mean who doesn’t like cheese? Sure, some poor unfortunate souls are allergic (I think I’d kill myself), but do you honestly know anyone that chooses not to eat it? Exactly.
Whether it’s hard and pungent or soft and fragrant, cheese is wonderful stuff – and so versatile: with Port at Christmas, with crackers and pickle after a nice meal or simply smothered (or sliced) on a doorstop of bread.
So why am I waxing on about cheese, you might ask. Well, it’s National Grilled Cheese Day (I don’t make these things up gov) and one man who understands our relationship with the white/yellow stuff better than most is co-founder of The Cheese Truck Mathew Carber and his partner in crime, Alex.
Since 2013 this two-man band has been travelling around the country (and more recently abroad) to deliver grilled cheese sandwiches directly to the public. Travelling cheese, basically – it’s like a dream come true…To celebrate National Grilled Cheese Day, I grilled (geddit?) Mathew about what makes The Cheese Truck so successful. [Be warned: this interview will make you mightily hungry – if you don’t have bread in the house, run out quickly!].
When did you launch The Cheese Truck?
We launched late 2013/early 2014.
What was the thinking behind the project?
I was working for someone else selling food at music festivals and, after four years, had had enough. I went travelling around America – from the West coast to the East – and really got into grilled cheese. It’s really big over there. When I came back, I already had an old ice cream truck [called Archie] sitting in my driveway so decided to make use of it.
I painted the first Cheese Truck van with a small paintbrush and it looked awful, so I paid to get it spray painted. Alex and I started at Maltby Street Market in Bermondsey on a Saturday and Sunday morning and things went well.
Our turning point was doing Glastonbury – a £10K investment in all and 20 hour days but worth it [they sold 11,000 sandwiches during the five-day event]. Each year we do more and more festivals – this year we will do 25 using two trucks.
We also go to Dubai for the whole of February to feed the massive expat Brit and American communities there.
What’s on the menu?
I really wanted to celebrate British cheeses and let the cheese do the talking, so have kept the menu fairly simple. There are just four sandwich options: Keen cheddar, Montgomery Ogleshield and mixed onion; Rosary goat’s cheese with honey and walnut; Cropwell Bishop stilton, bacon and spiced pear chutney; and a Mexican-style cheese produced in London served with Chorizo and rocket – that one is for the men!
Why do you think the concept has been so successful?
We launched at a turning point for food when more and more restaurants are focusing on just one ingredient – be it cereal (Cereal Killer), eggs (The Good Egg) or puddings (Dessert Island). Just concentrating on cheese meant we were capitalising on a growing trend. Plus street food as a concept has really blossomed so that helped us massively too.
What are your plans for the future?
We are opening our first restaurant in June in Deptford (South London). It’s small, with just 20 covers, but licensed. We will do craft beers and wines alongside cheese dishes such as our take on Mac ‘n Cheese, a Mexican version of fondue and a baked cheesecake. We have strayed away from offering cheese boards as we don’t want to be seen as a cheese and wine bar; nor will we sell cheese from a deli counter as we don’t want to be too many things to too many people. Keeping it simple has worked for us so far, so we will maintain that.
How much weight have you put on since launching?
None (laughs). At a festival you are on your feet and running around all day so don’t put on weight.
The Cheese Truck uses Italian sourdough bread and smothers both sides in butter before grilling. thecheesetruck.co.uk