You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t love cheese. Chef NIck Illingworth, 30, uses the universally loved milk-based goodness in every dish he creates for The Cheese Shop, a locally-owned nugget of foodie bliss in the Shops at Roosevelt, and the guests can’t get enough. We stopped by after another busy lunch rush (thanks in part, we’re sure, to his delectable menu) to chat about what makes his new gig so darn gouda.
Q: When did you start cooking?
I’ve been cooking all my life. I went to the Iowa Culinary Institute at DMACC, and worked at Bistro Montage for four years and the Flying Mango for two years before starting here in January.
Q: Why The Cheese Shop?
It’s my style of food, and the Beinarts (owners C.J. and Carrie) have been long-term friends of mine. This is a great shop, and I love being a part of it.
Q: The kitchen is in the basement. What are some challenges you’ve faced since starting?
The biggest is that currently I’m the only cook. We just hired a new guy and he’s training, but for now, it’s mainly just me. The kitchen is also a lot smaller; I don’t need a lot of equipment for what’s on the menu. It’s been a good challenge to keep things cheese-related. I don’t use a whole lot of ingredients — just fresh, local produce and meats and, of course, cheese.
Q: What are some of the perks of being The Cheese Shop’s chef?
Since I work with such few ingredients, almost everything I need is right here. I create weekly specials based off of what we have, and since The Cheese Shop is just that — a shop — it’s like having a whole pantry upstairs. Whenever I’m out of something, I don’t have to go far. Also, my hours are different. I’m used to working late, so it’s nice to get off work while the sun is still shining.
Q: With more time to cook dinner for yourself, what are you usually whipping up at home?
Lately I’ve been making a lot of pasta. Sometimes, on a weekend — if I’m feeling fancy — I’ll make my own. I also consume plenty of frozen pizzas, just like everyone else.
Q: What’s in the works, as far as the menu is concerned?
We currently serve lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. (Tuesday through Saturday) and dinner on Friday and Saturday evenings, which is a different special each day. We’re working on offering small plates on more week nights, but we don’t want to get in the way of this being a shop. We want this to be a place to sample and snack at the bar, but not a full-fledged restaurant. That said, one of our customers’ favorite specials is just a bacon spread on toast. When you’re working with such good ingredients, you don’t have to do much.
The Cheese Shop
Find it: 833 42nd St.
Hours: 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 10 a.m.-close Friday and Saturday
Info: 528-8181; thecheeseshopdsm.com