2017 is shaping up to be the year for Black Radish Creamery. A dream many years in the making, the creamery part of their name is falling into place with a facility in Granville, a stall at the North Market is connecting diners with Ohio-made cheese, and, of course, there’s still the preserves and jellies.
It’s a perfect storm for owners and husband-and-wife team John and Anne Reese.
For John, the culinary world is one that kept making appearances in his life, from working at restaruants in high school, to the eventual decision to attend the Culinary Institute of America (CIA). Describing himself as a professional student, John explored nursing and business, before he and Anne watched a fateful episode of Alton Brown’s “Good Eats.” Banter of wouldn’t it be fun to open a small restaurant someday turned into, “Well why don’t you just do that now?”
Never one to “half-ass” something, “I always go all out, so in making that decision to switch over to culinary, I wanted to go to some place really good,” John says.
Six months later, the couple was in New York with John enrolled at the CIA.
For Anne, her love of food came through the lens. Attending CCAD, she knew photography would be her focus, but didn’t want to do weddings or people. When she took one of the first food photography classes offered at the college, “Day one I was like this is it; this is what I want to do,” Anne says.
However, to make a career in the field, a move out of Columbus was necessary. As she and John began discussing food-focused plans, Anne was also drawn in by the CIA.
“If anything it would be awesome to work there,” Anne thought. “I knew photography but I didn’t necessarily know anything about the food.”
She would eventually end up at the institute as well as its in-house photographer.
The cheese part happened practically by mistake. As John was finishing up his time at the school, he turned his talents towards butchery. When an invalidated application for a butcher position left him in a lurch, John sought the advice of his professors and one food group kept coming up: cheese.
John went to work with an artisanal cheesemaker and fellow CIA grad in New York and, “I just took to it like a fish to water,” he says.
By 2011 the couple was ready to start their own venture, but saw a saturated cheese market in New York. Seeing a growing interest for quality food products and with supportive families nearby, John and Anne headed back to Columbus.
“We felt like there was a market here for artisan cheese,” Anne says, but that reality was going to take some time. As the couple realized just how much time, they recalled the popularity of a jam they made for the cheese plate at their wedding (the Billionaire). The couple decided to whip up a few batches and head to the farmers markets to see what happened while they fleshed out plans for the creamery.
“That was where a lot of our products started,” John says. “It ended up being wonderful to get us to where we are now.”
The same artisanal, premium quality of the jams that they are known for will extend to Black Radish’s cheese offerings. It’s this approach that sets them apart from other cheesemakers.
“Nobody has essentially done this before the way we are gong to doing it,” Anne says.
Most cheese producers come at it from the animal side – farmers creating an outlet for their product. Black Radish is in the cheese business for the love of cheese, approaching it with the mind of a chef.
“That stems from the culinary background,” Anne says.
Black Radish will also be on the larger end of more artisanal operations, of which there are a limited number in the state. It’s led to many challenges which have kept the facility on paper for longer than planned.
“Nobody knows what the regulations should be or could be,” Anne says.
A zoning hurdle alone took a year to be finalized. There have been challenges finding the right size of equipment for the creamery, and the folks who know how to install it properly.
After breaking ground on the Granville creamery in November of 2015 and initially expecting a five-month build out, month 14 is showing much promise. All the major equipment is hooked up with a few piping details left to go. (Again, a challenge to find the proper installer.) While a month hasn’t been nailed down, the couple is confident that within the year, Black Radish Creamery will be churning out its own cheese.
Black Radish already has a spot, several actually, for the goods at go time. After the owner of Curds & Whey at North Market opted to retire, Black Radish signed on to keep a cheese presence at the market. It was a right place, right time situation that connected the dots to take over the space.
First, as members of the Ohio Cheese Guild, the group was already discussing the possibility of an Ohio-centric cheese shop. Black Radish could create that curation through its space at the North Market. Second, fellow cheesemaker Brian Schlatter reached out to the couple expressing interest in getting back to Columbus, with the general manager role at the shop providing the perfect opportunity to be in the biz and still practice his craft.
Also on the list for 2017 is a makeover of the North Market stall. Black Radish will shuffle to an open spot in the market for a few months as the build-out is completed. Once renovated, the North Market shop will stock cheeses from across Ohio, gourmet grocery items and offer a limited food menu. The creamery facility also includes a commercial kitchen where Black Radish can complete its food prep and continue turning out its jams.
John is mum on just what kinds of cheese Black Radish will offer, but says to expect things nobody has seen before. Obviously the first few months will consist mostly of fresh products, with aged varieties coming in over time.
For more information, visit blackradishcreamery.com.
All photos via Black Radish Creamery.