Gringa Dairy is new and one of only three dairies making cheese in London. Housed within a railway arch in Peckham, its founder Kristen has perfected the making of authentic Mexican cheese.
Mexican cheese made in Peckham? When asked to help with her start-up, it was such a curious combination that we couldn't resist getting involved. Kristen's vision was clear and strong; she wanted this to be known as an urban dairy (obviously, these are rare), she wanted to have fun (having escaped corporate life to follow her passion for cheese-making), and she wanted her business to be ethical (of course).
Atelier first had to understand the process of cheese-making and what made it 'Mexican'. Kristen briefed us with an evangelical zeal. Despite our high cholesterol levels, we were smitten. Fired up, we researched all things Mexican and eventually noticed, when looking at tourist pictures, that the way local businesses promote almost everything in Mexico is to daub the nearest wall with their adverts. It seemed the perfect way to look urban...
Off we trotted to South London to photograph interesting blank walls — much to the curiosity of local passers-by. The lettering artist Rebecca Chilvers was commissioned to create Mexican-esque graffiti. With some careful retouching, we 'painted' a number of walls in Peckham without leaving our studio — or being arrested.
The result was fun, definitely 'urban', ethical (no walls were damaged during the design process), and Kristen's cheese looks completely artisan — as far away from a corporate, mass-produced product as it could possibly be. Kristen immediately fell for it, as have her new customers.
Kristen's first line was queso fresco, a soft, fresh cheese that is delicious to crumble over tostadas and salads or slice into tortas (sandwiches). It tastes a bit like feta, but less salty. She started out at farmer's markets and supplying a couple of restaurants, but has grown significantly in the first 13 months of trading and has added two additional cheeses, queso Chihuahua and queso Oaxaca. Her cheeses are now being used by the top Mexican restaurants in London and are available for retail sale in independent shops, Whole Foods markets in London and very soon, Selfridges.
Kristen is using social media to great effect. She is busy promoting herself as the only Mexican cheese-maker in the UK, and word is out that new cheeses are to be added to her range very soon.
Kristen Schnepp, founder of Gringa Dairy