Hampshire Cheese Company has grown from strength to strength. Stacey Hedges, Founder, credits its success to her expert team. Over the coming weeks we’re introducing the team that are so integral to these award winning cheeses. Today we meet Charlotte.
Q. Where did your passion for cheese stem from?
Born in Hampshire, I spent my teenage years on the East & West coasts of America. I have now come full circle – back in Hampshire, with two daughters and have just celebrated my 25th Wedding Anniversary. My parents both worked in sales & catering. I am the middle child of three girls – all of us independent, resourceful and easy going. My first job was in a family diner in the USA and every job up I’ve had until joining Hampshire Cheese Company has been managing or opening restaurants. This is where my passion for good food and cheese comes from!
Q. When did you start working with cheese?
I started working for Hampshire Cheese Company in 2006. Mine and Stacey’s daughters were at primary school together and my youngest daughter had just started preschool. I had some time on my hands during the day, so popped along to see how cheese was made and never left! I did a cheese course with the famous Val Bines – and the rest, as they say, is history.
Q. What’s your role at Hampshire Cheese Company?
I am now Head Cheesemaker and Production Manager. When I started, I worked just a few hours a day helping in the creamery. But very quickly I fell in love with cheese making. I was amazed at how we would start off with fresh milk early in the morning and have a cheese made and moulded by just after lunch!
Alongside Stacey, I developed our second cheese, Winslade, which was an incredible achievement and something I am most proud of.
Q. What have you and the team achieved so far ?
One thing we have never changed is making the cheese by hand. To this day it is and always will be a handmade artisan cheese. It is a labour of love but the whole team is passionate about producing a top-quality consistent product. We won Supreme Champion at the British Cheese Awards in 2006 and 2013 which we are all very proud of.
Everyone is very excited that we are building a new creamery. We outgrew our current space about 5 years ago! We are all looking forward to building our brand, welcoming visitors and developing new cheeses to sit alongside Tunworth & Winslade.
Q. Tell us a little about working with Stacey!
Stacey and I have worked together successfully for 16 years. We know what each other’s strengths and weaknesses are. We have never fallen out, there has been a lot of laughter (and a few tears) along the way. We are quite different in many ways, but we have the same vision when it comes to making the best cheese we can.
Q Tell us about the team and the atmosphere?
I have an incredible team of cheesemakers who all work extremely hard. They are very loyal and proud of the cheeses we all make together. Our working day is like a well oiled machine, everyone just slots into place no matter what task we are doing. Sometimes, especially during cheese production, it can look like a ballet with all of the milk troughs and tables being spun around whilst moulding curd.
Q. What words would you use to describe yourself?
Resourceful, genuine and passionate.
Q. What words would others use to describe you?
Practical, hardworking and loyal.
Q. How would you like to be perceived by others?
Genuine, considerate and sincere.
Q. What are you passionate about?
Family, travel, entertaining and food.
Q. What talents and skills do you have?
I can fix most machinery with Jubilee clips! I have an excellent eye for detail, I love to sing (although I can’t)!
Q. What do you personally bring to Hampshire Cheese Company?
I have an excellent eye for detail. I am super organised. I have trained my team very well which allows me time to be able to see the little details, which are usually the most important. I believe that I, along with my team, produce some of the best soft cheeses in the UK and I am extremely proud of what we’ve achieved.
Q. What is your best advice in or out of the working world?
Trust your gut, it’s rarely wrong.
Q. Are there any particular events you’re happy to share that have contributed to where you are today?
I have always been taught that if you work hard, you’ll achieve good things. Cheese making is certainly hard work, it’s something you’ve got to be passionate about and it hopefully shows in the cheeses we produce.
Q. And when you’re not making cheese ….?
I like to swim whenever I can, it helps me to switch off. I also have 7 chickens which I could spend hours watching…..they are very entertaining!!
Q. And finally, any anecdotes?
As a young child we would holiday in France and my parents would take us into the most incredible food shops. I remember the cheese shops well, as my sisters would stand outside as they didn’t like the smell. I remember being fascinated by the many different shapes and sizes that a cheese could come in.