Working in Cheese – The Cheese Importer

Academy of Cheese are quickly becoming known as the leading authority on cheese. As the first provider of formal cheese education in the UK aimed to standardise the language around cheese and in doing so created the unique Make Post-Model of categorising cheese and the Structured Approach to Tasting Cheese. Both models form the basis of our educational materials, they are one of kind and are widely used throughout the industry; by retailers to design their counters, wholesalers to review their ranges and consumers to design their cheese boards! Using the Structured Approach to Tasting Cheese enables the greatest appreciation for a cheese and its character.

For our next Q&A we speak to Academy Patron Brindisa and meet Rupert Linton, Cheese Project Leader. Brindisa was founded in 1988 when Spanish gastronomy was little known in the UK. Over 30 years it has grown to include retail outlets in Borough Market, Southwark and Balham, a thriving wholesale business, 5 tapas bars across central London, a ham school and an online shop. Brindisa’s selection of exceptional Spanish foods is highly regarded, including its fantastic range of Spanish cheese.

About Rupert Linton

Rupert Linton has worked in the dairy industry for over 20 years, specialising in cheese for 6 of those. He is based in London but regularly travels to Spain to meet cheesemakers to taste and assess many delicious Spanish Cheeses.

A Q&A with Cheese Importer with Rupert Linton

I’ve been working exclusively in cheese for … 6 years, but began working in Haccp in Spain, including many dairy audits, around 20 years ago.

My first job in the cheese world was … herding goats and learning how to make cheese in Extremadura when I was a student.

My current job title is … Cheese Project Leader at Brindisa and in my role I’m responsible for liaising with the dairies we work with in Spain, using our cheese fridges to maintain the quality of our cheeses and training our sales team in the wonders of Spanish cheese.

Staff training at London Bridge with Paloma Baez, maker of Monte Enebro Cheese

A typical work day involves … replying to a surprising amount of emails, checking the quality of our lactic cheeses and planning for a future where Spain’s other ewe’s and goat’s milk cheeses as well as Manchego are more widely appreciated.

My favourite part of my job is … travelling up into the Sierras to visit cheesemakers and re-connect with creative people living a slower more rural life.

Rupert at the farmhouse near Alaior where Brindisa’s Artisan Mahon cheese is made.

In my career I’m most proud of … our range of artisan cheeses in our shop at Borough Market. You could walk into a cheesemongers in Valencia, Madrid or San Sebastian and find a comparable selection.

The worst part of my job is … not being able to import all the incredible cheeses I’ve been lucky enough to taste.

Rupert & Ernesto Mendez de la Cueva the cheesemaker at Torta De Barros Dairy

My advice for someone wanting to become a cheese importer would be … to get fluent in the relevant European languages. The domestic market is often going to be more important to cheesemakers than exporting to the UK but having good personal relationships is invaluable.

”Having good personal relationships is invaluable”

I studied with Academy of Cheese because … being mostly self-taught I wanted to learn a structured approach to cheese to fill in the gaps.

My favourite thing about Academy of Cheese is … the broad range of cheese I’ll be able to taste and learn about when I progress to Level 2.

I see the future of the cheese industry as … at a crossroads, hopefully we’ll choose the road with no tariffs, higher standards of animal welfare and a market where we can sell the produce of rural areas of Europe in a way that protects the environment and local economies.

My favourite cheese is … Torta de Barros and I like to enjoy it on toast with anchovies and piquillo peppers.

Torta De Barros

My Christmas 2020 cheeseboard will definitely include … Zamorano Gran Reserva it’s made by my friend Felix and in my opinion it’s one of the few raw milk ewe’s milk cheeses that really stacks up to being aged for two years.

With thanks to our Patron Brindisa. All cheeses Rupert mentions are available to buy on their website or instore :