We went to a party of cheese professionals and asked them about butter boards
Are butter boards in and charcuterie out? Cheese professionals weigh in on the TikTok butter board phenomenon
Have you ever been to a party full of cheese mongers and cheese professionals? It’s a rare experience. Last week, Utah-based Beehive Cheese hosted an intimate gathering of all sorts of cheese professionals to learn tricks of the trade and get to know one another — and, of course, to eat cheese.
The party took place at the Salt Lake Community College Culinary Center. Retreating from a crisp autumn night, we stepped into the warm room and were immediately greeted by one of the largest charcuterie boards we have ever seen.
The board overflowed with an assortment of Beehive’s best cheddars like Apple Walnut Smoked and Queen Bee Porcini. Every cheese product from Beehive Cheese begins with its “buttery cheddar” base (called “Promontory”) before the company infuses and seasons the cheddars to perfection. Prosciuttos and crudites accented the cheese.
We tried them all.
Gitanjali Poonia’s favorite cheese was the Red Butte Hatch Chile, which she went back for a handful of times. Hanna Seariac preferred the Apple Walnut Smoked and Queen Bee Porcini. The green and red grapes added a refreshing burst of freshness as we surveyed the appetizers.
Beehive Cheese is different, said sales manager Jackie Assaad. It’s all about artisanal products like the Seahive, a cheddar rubbed with ancient sea salt and honey, which is very popular among customers.
As we roamed around the room, nibbling on charcuterie and making small talk, cheese professionals echoed Assaad and raved about Seahive.
While we were there, we couldn’t help but bump into Britton Welsh, the president of Beehive Cheese, who was willing to entertain our questions. He carried around a small plate of assorted snacks retrieved from the big charcuterie board in the middle of the room.
Usually, it’s the American Cheese Society that hosts a gathering once a year and brings together hundreds of enthusiasts and industry folk for what Welsh described as a “cheese summer camp.”
But why meet just once a year? So, Beehive Cheese decided to “just throw a party for all of the local Utah cheese professionals,” he said.
Welsh pointed out that the gathering included “lots of really cool cheesemongers,” like people from Harmons, Whole Foods and Smith’s, as well as local cheesemakers. As he described how tight-knit the Utah cheese community is, a couple of cheese professionals warmly waved at him.
Of course, Welsh has an interesting story of his own — his career in the industry began when he was 14 years old, helping his dad, Tim Welsh, and his uncle, Pat Ford, with making and selling Beehive’s products since the company’s incorporation in 2005.
He washed the dishes, stirred the curds and began enjoying the family’s business venture “to bring back craft food to northern Utah,” Welsh said.
It was clear — he was an expert. So, we boldly asked the turophile about his feelings towards butter boards, a viral trend where TikTok users spread butter over a board and garnish it with nuts, honey and even flowers.
Butter boards aren’t for everybody. One table of Harmons employees scoffed when asked what their views were on the subject.
“You can dress butter up, you can dress it down,” one said. “But who’s going to bring butter to a party?”
Another added that it seemed like an excuse to eat bread. Fair point.
One Harmons employee expressed that cleaning a butter board would be almost impossible as the butter would seep into the wood. Also, fair.
Meanwhile, Welsh loved the idea of butter boards, but didn’t think this new wave posed a threat to charcuterie boards.
The word charcuterie is French for “flesh,” not cheese or grapes or crackers.
When the concept came to America, it was adopted to be “like a whole spread,” Welsh added.
“Why do you need to choose? You could have a little bit of butter, a little bit of cheese, just don’t overdo it,” he said, adding that a combination of fresh, sweet and sour ingredients can create a cohesive board.
As self-proclaimed Utah foodies and Utah food connoisseurs, we asked Welsh about what it’s like making cheese along the Wasatch Front.
“You go to California or Vermont, and they have a Wisconsin, and they have this vivid cheese community,” he said. “That being said, though, we’re doing the same thing here in Utah.”