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The Cheese Grotto: Brooklyn-Born, Richmond-Made



It’s the perfect way to keep cheese — well, perfectly. The glass and bamboo box is called a cheese grotto, and although its price tag is a hefty one at $350, it’s made locally and shipped from Ashland.

The grotto is built of glass, Plyboo — a formaldehyde-free green plywood made of bamboo that’s often used for flooring and cabinets — and a handmade ceramic brick that’s soaked in water every two weeks and placed in the bottom of the case.

Cheese, unwrapped, goes directly onto the shelves. Close the door, slide the whole thing onto a refrigerator shelf, and there you go! The proper humidity and temperature for optimum cheese preservation is achieved.

This is important to cheese nerds. The box also looks pretty cool sitting on a countertop when friends come over to sample your collection.

It isn’t a Richmond product, technically. The cheese grotto was developed by San Francisco native Jessica Sennett, a former cheese monger and cheese-maker, for her Brooklyn-based business.

It isn’t easy to find a manufacturer, she says. It took four months for Sennett to find a company that was willing to make it for her. “It’s an invention,” she says. “It’s not just your standard cabinet or box.”

When she was looking to find materials, Sennett ran across Eco Supply. The Richmond-based building supply company sells Plyboo, and she ended up asking if the company also could fabricate the product.

“I finally found a place that was excited and willing to do it, and I worked with them for [another] four months to refine the model,” Sennett says. “They want to grow with me as we go along.”

In a similarly roundabout way, she also found Richmond artist Lee Hazelgrove to make the ceramic bricks. “It just happened that he wanted to do it, too,” she says, “and was just 15 minutes away” from EcoSupply. And Orbit Logistics, Sennett’s fulfillment company, is in Ashland.

Each grotto is made to order. The process takes about four weeks, although orders can be expedited for the holidays. Sennett is also developing a larger model for restaurants, and her goal is to eventually sell what’s now only an online product in stores such as Williams-Sonoma and Sur la Table. She’s also working on an electric version that can more finely tuned to temperature and humidity levels.

“I’d like Cheese Grotto to be the brand for learning everything you need to know about cheese,” Sennett says.

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