Cheesemaker David Jowett of King Stone Dairy in Oxfordshire began his journey in cheese at the School of Artisan Food. After graduating with an Advanced Diploma in Artisan Food Production in 2011, he started making his own award-winning Rollright cheese in 2015.
“I’ve always loved food and cooking, but cheesemaking first grabbed my attention when I was at catering college. After working at Paxton & Whitfield cheesemongers and doing an internship at Ram Hall Farm I decided I would much rather learn to make my own cheese than work in kitchens for a career.
“I was only 20 when I started on the School’s Advanced Diploma. At that time the School was the only place to go to learn the skills you need to make cheese and to run an artisan food business. I loved every minute of my time at the School. It was my first time living away from home, I suppose you could say it was my university experience. It was fantastic to live in a world with other people who loved food as much as I do, making and studying food together.
“The School gave me the technical knowledge and understanding I needed to make great cheese. I learnt all the fundamentals of dairy science on the course which is something I wouldn’t have picked up just from working in the cheese world. The business modules we studied were great too. I didn’t do business studies at school, so the skills and knowledge I picked up from Yvonne O’Donovan have really helped me as I’ve established my own business.
“We learnt so much from our tutors and cheese experts Ivan Larcher and Val Bines and the School also set me up with prestigious work placements. The relationships I started building while I was at the School are still going strong now that I am a cheesemaker. Those industry contacts last long after you leave.”
After graduating from the School David spent several years working for big names in the cheese industry, including Neal’s Yard Dairy in London and Jasper Hill Farm in Vermont, then took on a role as head cheesemaker for Gorsehill Abbey Farm in Worcestershire. In 2015 he decided to set up King Stone Dairy to make a washed rind cow’s milk cheese called Rollright. Over the last three years Rollright cheese has won multiple awards and is supplied to businesses specialising in quality artisan food across the UK.
“I learnt an awful lot from working with other cheesemakers, but I knew I wanted to do my own thing. I was lucky enough to get a lot of support from my colleagues in the industry when I was starting out. I’ve had fantastic people supporting my cheese from the start, including those I met at the School, and their advice and feedback has been important in helping me to steer my business in the right direction.”
“Setting up a cheese business has been a real challenge, it involves a huge amount of paperwork and I found that daunting. I can remember seeing my first batches of cheese mounting up and wondering ‘will anyone actually buy it?’ But the positives far outweigh the challenges. One of my proudest moments was seeing Neal’s Yard Dairy selling my cheese and I love it when I go to a favourite restaurant and see Rollright featured on the menu. Making cheese that other people like to eat and enjoy is a good feeling.”
Inspired to set up your own artisan food business? Take a look at our range of food start-up business courses designed to take your business from wishful thinking to commercial reality.