Ann-Marie Dyas is a pioneer and renowned cheese master. Here she reveals her second greatest love, her architectural pin-up and dream home. She has just opened a branch of the Fine Cheese Co. opposite the Henry & James Motcomb Street office. Meet our new neighbour.
Q: How did you get started?
A: In the early Eighties, there was a campaign for real ale. It coincided with the time when supermarkets were not really interested in anything artisan. Back then, Artisan cheese did not fit the mould. Then Patrick Rance wrote a book about cheese (The Great British Cheese Book) in 1982. It inspired me and many other people, so we decided to open in our home town of Bath. This was the renaissance of British cheese. We wanted to protect and foster British cheese. We started to collect different cheeses and never looked back. Today, we take cheese to the customer through our mail order service. Our products are available in more than 30 countries around the world. We have a shop in Walcot Street, Bath and our new flagship shop is in Motcomb Street, London.
Q: If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things would you take with you?
A: After cheese – my greatest love is gardening. I would take a seed catalogue as there may not be many flowers. I will flick through the catalogue, then order something to grow in a hot climate. I would also take a copy of Persuasion by Jane Austen to remind me of England and especially of Bath. And the third thing… an unlimited supply of Fry’s Turkish Delight. We all have food weaknesses that we rather not admit to and I am afraid this is mine!
Q: What is your favourite cheese?
A: How do I choose between my children? Cheese varies and my favourites changes, too. It depends on the moment. I enjoy cheese made with sheep’s milk. Wigmore is a delightful cheese. Lord of the Hundreds is another favourite. I have been trying to find the ultimate Manchego for years and have finally discovered the Manchego of my dreams. It is organic, from the original breed and has a richer flavour than many other cheeses.
Q: Do you live in London?
A: We have a house in Blackheath which has been pressed into action recently. We also commute from Bath – bringing both things and people with us when we travel to London.
Q: Can you describe your dream home?
A: I live in my dream home. It is in a peaceful and quiet village. I see more horses than cars and have never been more content in my life. It is not a grand property, but is located in a tranquil setting with a three- sided garden. There is a sense of community – a theme that runs through my life. But if there is one thing that I could change? I just need waves. A hidden, natural swimming pool with fresh water and rushes to swim in between. That would be perfect.
Q: Who and what inspires you?
A: My customers inspire me the most. I learn many of my ideas from being behind the counter. We travel a lot too, so I talk and listen to my distributors. The world is my canvas.
Q: Do you have any favourite architects or interior designers?
The designer David Hicks (www.davidhicks.com) interprets the classical in an elegant and paired down way. I enjoy Swedish and Scandinavian interiors, too. I’m a village girl at heart, but my architectural pin-up is John Nash.
Q: What new projects are you working on at the moment?
A: We are planning to introduce a range of American cheeses. They will be original artisan cheeses, not copies of European cheeses. The new range will be available in the UK, Europe and France. We should be launching the range around September. Watch this space.
Q: You have just launched your new shop in Motcomb Street. What advice would you give to anyone who wants to start their own business?
A: Be prepared to put the rest of your life on hold. I feel very strongly that you should not copy other people, but invest in your own taste and vision. If you don’t feel passionately about it – then it will never work. Passion is everything when you run your own business.
- The Fine Cheese Co. has just opened their new flagship store at 17 Motcomb Street, London, SW1X 8LB (finecheese.co.uk). Ann-Marie Dyas owns and runs The Fine Cheese Co. She is also a judge at both British and world cheese awards.
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/finecheeseco
- Instagram: instagram.com/thefinecheeseco/
- The Great British Cheese Book, by Patrick Rance is available on Amazon (amazon.co.uk/Great-British-Cheese-Book/dp/0333359003)