A new cheese stall wants to bring the best of British cheese to Hastings. RACHEL KARASIK speaks to the people behind it.

CREDIT: James McSmart

James and Ruth McSmart of Cheese on Sea are passionate about cheese. The husband-and-wife duo are not only food industry veterans, but also have a track record of putting sustainability and community at the heart of what they do as founders of one of the earliest pay-what-you-feel food waste cafes in the UK, Save the Date Cafe (now closed). I’ve known James and Ruth since James and I worked together as chefs many moons ago, and in the years since I watched them grow their social enterprise while catering waste-free weddings and working at markets around London. When I heard they were launching a cheese business in Hastings and St Leonards specialising in local British cheeses, I had to find out more…

How would you describe Cheese on Sea in one sentence? 
Delicious British cheeses with a fun twist.

What were you doing before you started planning Cheese on Sea? 
In 2014 we both left our jobs (James as a head chef and Ruth as a PA) to start Save the Date Cafe, a waste food social enterprise which was based in East London. Over the course of six years, we ran a variety of venues, some of which we built ourselves (including a cafe in Dalston [East London] built out of salvaged materials and a coffee shed made of crates in a church yard.) As Save the Date was a voluntary project, we both worked around it for a variety of traders in Borough Market which is where we fell in love with British cheese.

Both of you have wide ranging backgrounds in the food industry, what made you decide to focus on cheese? 
Most people love cheese in some form, whether that’s cow, sheep, goat, or vegan. Lately people have started to really care about where their food comes from, and we believe that everyone should have access to beautiful cheese made by small producers. 

Can you tell us a bit about the cheeses you will have on offer?
We will be stocking cheeses from British producers, the majority of whom are local and who we’ve been out and about meeting. Just last week we went to Kingcott Dairy (Staplehurst) where we even met some incredibly happy cows. Our plan is to ensure that all our products are made to the highest standard by ethical producers. We will be offering individual cheeses, pickles, and ferments on our market stall, along with cheese board/hamper deliveries, cheese and wine nights and even cheese wedding cakes (on order). 

What’s the best cheese to eat on the beach? 
Cornish cumin Gouda. It’s delicious, has a nice little bit of spice and travels well. 

Where can our HIP readers find you? 
From the 13th of August you can find us on Fridays in the yard at Tommy’s Pizzeria (28 Norman Road) alongside Little Gate Farm and Rock A Nore Fisheries and we will be hosting a cheese and wine night at Dandelion Deli (14 Kings Road) over the bank holiday weekend too. 

Keep up to date with the latest from Cheese on Sea on their Instagram @cheeseonsea


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