Michael Thomson

Michael Thomson is the only cheese maker in Northern Ireland who makes cheese from raw milk.

Michael secured funding for the production of his ‘Young Buck’ blue cheese through crowd funding and is now inspiring others to start their own artisan business.

Michael is always asked “How did you get into cheese?". His response is he wouldn’t be into cheese if it wasn't for The School of Artisan Food. Whilst studying at the School, the contacts Michael made with fellow students and those connected to the School, helped him set up back in Northern Ireland.

Michael learnt both the science and the craft of cheesemaking from inspirational teachers Val Bines and Ivan Larcher, and with the School’s good reputation gained vital work placements in dairies all over the UK.

He moved back to Northern Ireland in November 2012 to try to set up his own dairy, but being 27 at the time and having no security banks had no interest in funding. So looking at other options he came across equity crowdfunding platform seedrs.com, where he raised the capital to get going and hasn’t looked back.

Michael began making cheese in November 2013 and with the first cheese just hitting the market a few months ago they have received some great feedback. The ‘Young Buck’ cheese is a raw milk blue cheese based on an old Stilton recipe. The cheese is now on the menus of many Northern Irelands’ top restaurants from James Street South, to Deanes, OX and Balloo House to name a few.

The connections Michael made during the cheesemaking course at the School have also helped him to tap into the UK market. Joining Michael on a short course was Andy Swinscoe, who set up Courtyard Dairy, a BBC food and farming finalist. Andy has been a big supporter of Mike’s Fancy Cheese from the start.

The company has been featured on the BBC Radio 4 Food Programme and Michael is now getting involved in Slow Food NI. As Michael says: “I learnt from The School of Artisan Food, being a producer of such a product is only the beginning, I can now use what I have done to help inspire others to start their own businesses and help Northern Ireland continue in its good food revival.”

Find out more about Mike's Fancy Cheese.

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.