Walking cheese encyclopedia, Brent Wilkinson, has helped bring the heart back to the high street with his shop, Cheddar Deli - which opened on Northfield Avenue, Ealing, back in August 2011. This neighbourhood gem stocks plenty of excellent artisan cheeses (cheese made by hand, not in a factory) predominantly from Britain and Ireland (although favourites from other countries can also be found), as well as other gourmet goods. There’s always something new to try in the shop and Wilkinson also runs regular tasting events and wine and cheese evenings, often working with local suppliers and businesses. Other initiatives include a monthly cheese club box selection on subscription as well as £5 and £10 cheese bag offers every Saturday.
Colleague, Ben Jones, who has nominated Brent for the ‘Business Champion’ category of our Pride Awards says. “I've been impressed with his willingness to experiment with new things - there's even rumour of having a traditional cheese maturing room installed at the shop! I think the ability to adapt and listen to your customers' needs is incredibly important - which is why the shop thrives as it does."
The father of three, of St Kilda Road, Ealing has an extensive background in the food industry: growing up, Brent’s grandparents were farmers and his father was a food developer, creating recipes for Marks and Spencer to be produced on a large scale.
Little wonder then that after leaving school, Wilkinson started out in food hospitality operations and wholesaling. But by 2007 Brent was burnt out. "I had to drive around a lot,” he explains. “I was on the motorway again at about 8pm, I knew the kids would have been going to bed and I wasn't going to see them again for another evening. I thought 'what's it all about?'”
He decided to make a change and turn his passion for cheese into a career by starting his “own cheese wholesale business. [However] it still meant commuting to Bermondsey (south London) everyday and at the end of 2009 I sold that business. Using the knowledge I had gained from that I decided to move into retail giving me a new challenge and the chance to see my family more.”
Brent hasn’t looked back: Cheddar Deli has earned a reputation as one of London’s best cheesemongers. Or as one satisfied customer, Kirstie M, writes on the shop’s website: “The enthusiasm for cheese - not just from the owner but from all the staff on every single visit - is fantastic.”