Meet the producer: Wildes Cheese
Philip has had very particular ambitions for his craft from the outset: to be creative with cheese and allow room for plenty of experimentation. Even today as an established cheese maker with plenty of high-brow customers, he still has time set a side to, on a regular basis, as he puts it: “do whatever the fuck I want”.
It was five years ago that Philip decided to switch careers in search for a more creative direction. After trying a few different paths, he stumbled upon cheese-making and started his training at Reaseheath College, Nantwich, where he learnt how to master the entire process, from milking cows to working with starter cultures and maturing cheese.
The milk is the foundation of the business, and Philip sources his from a single herd outside Rye on the south coast. It is pasteurised to the legal minimum. It also changes with the seasons, so that the more summery cheeses benefit from the extra creaminess when the cows’ milk is richer during the warmer months. The result is cheese that is fuller and rounder in flavour compared to industrially produced cheese.
He contemplated moving to the country for a few months before realising that there was nothing stopping him from making cheese in the middle of the city - it was just that few people had ever attempted it before. Philip opened his dairy in Tottenham two years ago, and at the time he was a complete outsider. “I was the cheese equivalent of middle aged men in lycra” he says.
Tottenham is still far from gentrified, but Philip is no longer considered as obscure as he was when he started out. “There are a few of us who help each other now” he says, mentioning Redemption Brewery and the Flourish Bakery organising pop-up events in Tottenham. “What I am astonished about is the support from the local people where I live”, he explains “people come up and talk to me in the street or at the stall”, which is part of the point; "if you do not want the interaction with anyone you go to the supermarket and serve yourself with the beep machine - beep beep beep”, but he says "when you go to a market you want a bit of banter”.
Philip loves his part of London, and is determined to continue to engage with his community. He opened his Tottenham dairy the same summer that the area saw the start of the worst riots in London in thirty years, damaging the neighbourhood's image. Philip's ambition is now to create opportunities as he expands his dairy, starting by taking on a local young apprentice in the coming months.
I ask him what his longer-term vision is for his business, but he just shakes his head and says “most days I have trouble looking past lunchtime”. After another sip of his morning coffee he explains that his ambition has not changed from what prompted him to switch paths five years ago: “I still want to be a cheese maker, not a manufacturer, and I still want to go to the markets and meet my customers”. "What I need is business partner” he says, “someone who is more logical, more objective, and less driven to be creative and disobedient”. “I need someone who is capable of saying no to me, and who doesn’t get upset when I do not listen”.