Kristen Schnepp 47, founder of Gringa Dairy
Do you come from a cheesy background?
‘I don’t, it’s just something I always wanted to do. Before this I worked in business development at Lloyds Banking Group, but you can’t start a small business at the weekend, you can’t make cheese at home, you have to just do it. So I left in 2012 and by April 2013 I had sold my first cheese.’
Can you remember what it was?
‘A Mexican queso fresco; it means “fresh cheese” in Spanish. It’s the simplest and easiest cheese to make and there aren’t good substitutes for it in Europe. We make roughly 200 kilos of cheese a week – that’s 200 wheels. I couldn’t choose a favourite, though. They’re like my children.’
The queso chihuahua on your website sounds special. Does it contain the essence of a tiny dog?
‘It does. Do you know how long it takes to milk those dogs? It’s exhausting. No, Chihuahua is a state in northern Mexico, where the dogs are from. It’s a melting cheese that has a mild, tangy flavour and is similar to a mild cheddar.’
Where do you create your cheese?
‘We have a railway arch in Peckham. The thing with cheese making is you either need to be close to the cows and move the cheese, or be close to customers and move the milk. Our customers are mainly restaurants, so it made sense for us to move the milk to be closer to the customer.’
What's the biggest thing that can go wrong in the process?
‘Oh my gosh, how long do you have? Milk is a living ingredient, so throughout the year its properties change and you need to be able to react to it. And, of course, there are the things that happen with every small business: you have equipment failures or someone gets sick. The important thing is that you have to always be prepared.’
Do you need strong willpower to stop yourself devouring your stock?
‘Absolutely not, we eat lots of our own cheese. It’s quality control, you know? It’s a vital part of what we do.’
Starting salary: £20,000 p/a
Qualifications: Cheese-making course
Or why not become a voiceover artist?