Fourth-year panic has descended over the town in recent weeks. Careers, graduate schemes, internships; for some, it has all become a little overwhelming. Do you secretly, deep-down wish to wave those plans in the big city away and open a cheese shop? After getting her IR degree, The Guid Cheese Shop owner Svetlana Kikharchuk-Redpath did exactly that.
Once she completed her internship in New York as an affineur—the person who monitors the aging process of cheese by turning it, monitoring the moulds in the air and generally caring for it, like a loving parent—she moved back to her native Russia, opened a shop and wrote a cheese book. Three years ago, she moved to her husband’s native Fife and waited two years to find a space in St Andrews suitable for a cheese shop. By “waited”, I mean served as a judge for the World Cheese Event and trained under a qualified affineur in France. In December, she will be celebrating the shop’s first birthday.
The fact that I know terms like ‘affineur’, I owe entirely to this shop. Do not be surprised if, after a few visits to the The Guid Cheese Shop, you find yourself picking up French (or Spanish, Italian and American) cheese lingo. As a supporter of local businesses and, more importantly, of cheese, I went into the shop when it opened last year. I love cheese, but I openly admit to knowing very little about it. I embraced my ignorance and turned to Svetlana for help.
Over the last year, my friends and I have frequented the shop, armed with nothing but a craving. This role of teacher is what Svetlana loves most about her job. “I could never open a cheese shop in France,” she says, “because French people come in and know exactly what they want: this and this and this. They don’t ask any questions!” The Guid Cheese Shop offers regular tasting events, such as Italian Night and Oktoberfest, which Svetlana hopes make people more confident in asking questions.
Svetlana’s passion for and knowledge of cheese is evident. All of her cheeses are artisan or farmhouse, which results in richer, deeper flavours. She explains animatedly that these cheeses begin with “happy cows eating fantastic grass” – a more specialised approach than you would find in mass-produced supermarket cheese.
Her favourite cheese of the moment is Gruyere Premier Cru, from a particular affineur in Switzerland, whose job is to find Gruyere suppliers and make sure their product ages perfectly. Soon the The Guid Cheese Shop will welcome its first American cheese, from a Wisconsin supplier called Pleasant Ridge Reserve. The cows that produce this cheese are transferred to a new pasture to feast on fresh grass every day; a unique element that bumps up the price of the product.
However, Svetlana is keenly aware that the shop is located in a student town, adding that everyone can afford a little individual wedge of cheese to brighten their day. I regularly walk away with £1.50 worth of cheese to help me ease into an afternoon of essay writing.
With its unique selection and ability to educate, the The Guid Cheese Shop should proudly consider itself an individual part of St Andrews’ food scene.
Visit The Guid Cheese Shop on Burghers Close, 141 South Street, St Andrews. For more information, visit their website.