If y'all are anything like me, you love those "how it's made" shows. You know the kind: a massive warehouse full of heavy machinery and humanoid robots churning out 10 tons of Product X™ per second. As cool as those setups are...this is not gonna be that sort of blogpost. At Queen Charlotte's, we pride ourselves in the fact that every, single, detail of every, single tub is personally attended to by a tiny crew of Pimento Cheese fanatics. 1) we think it's the only way to ensure ours' is the best dang Pimento Cheese on the planet & 2) we're not smart enough to figure anything else out. In typical QCPCR-fashion, I've compiled an overly-verbose-yet-thouroughly-thorough glimpse at a "day in the life" of our little team. Hope y'all enjoy!
I generally get to our incredible home base, Carolina Commercial Kitchen at anytime between 3:30 and 4:30 am (if you're not familiar with CCK, you ought to be; it's home to most of the best food trucks and independent food producers in the Charlotte-region. If it weren't for CCK, there'd be no QCPCR, nor would there be a whole lot of your other local favorites). It might sound crazy---because it IS---but we churn anywhere from one-half to one and a half TONS A WEEK out of an approximately 500 sq. foot corner of the kitchen. It's......kinda ridiculous.
It'd be a fools' errand to attempt to create the World's Finest Pimento Cheese™ while using anything less than the World's Finest Pimento Cheese Ingredients (patent pending). That's why every run of the Queen's Finest uses only REAL cheese. I know I shouldn't have to say that, but the next time y'all are shopping, check some competitors' labels. Some of the "cheese" y'all are eating...isn't cheese. No "pasteurized cheese products" or "imitation" anything, only the realest, fanciest-stuff we can find: extra sharp cheddar, sharp white cheddar, and pepper jack for our original and jalapeño flavors; blue cheese crumbles and smoked bacon cheddar for our blue and bacon flavors, respectively. We EXCLUSIVELY use Carolinas-favorites like Duke's Mayonnaise (duh), Mt. Olive diced jalapeños, and Texas Pete Hot Sauce. We do everything in our power to price our cheese competitively; frankly, I'm pretty doggone proud of our price point. But if we're a buck more expensive than some of the other guys' stuff at your favorite grocer, I PROMISE y'all...there's a reason.
Every run starts with our Duke's/cream cheese base---I call it the "sauce". We add some highly-classified herbs/potions/magic spells to the sauce, beat it to near-death in one of our two 30-quart Hobart mixers (the true work-horses of our operation), then we get to the fun part: SHREDDERATION. I know it sounds like a fairly esoteric detail, but I firmly believe it's a fundamental part of what makes QCPCR stand out. Doesn't matter if we're doing 100 or 2500 units, we hand shred our cheeses, 5 lbs. at a time. Again, this might seem like one of those things that should be a given, but if you really zero in on some of our competitors, you'll see that this process makes us the exception, rather than the rule. Don't get me wrong: preshredded-bag cheese (and all of the weird, modern science that enables it to stay so "fresh" in that bag) has it's place---impromptu taco night, any recipe you invent when you're eight, etc. But when it comes to creating the World's Finest Pimento Cheese™ (I feel like that tagline's gonna come up a lot...sorry), settling upon something somebody ran through the grater at the Topeka Kraft plant 3 months ago just ain't gonna cut it.
Once the sauce is saucy enough and the cheese is shreddy enough, we mix them together, pour it all into a big ol' bin, and we toss it in the fridge to await packing. I know, I know...that's a pretty technical process I just outlined...SPEAK ENGLISH, QUEEN. The reality is, it's just that simple. If it tastes handmade and homemade, that's because the fact is: IT IS. Every tub of QCPCR is made with precisely the same level of technology and chemistry as grandma's was.
Now's probably a good time to introduce y'all to our wacky little cast of characters. My then girlfriend (now wife/babymama) Myers and I started the company in early 2014. She wisely exited day-to-day operations about 20 minutes later to found Charlotte's Finest Salon (although she still rears her lovely lil' head when I beg and plead). These days, it's primarily me (John), my childhood best pal (Eric), my high school buddy (Marcus) and a dude who would've been our pal back then were he not so annoyingly spry and young (Vaughn). Marcus and I hand-make every, single tub. None of those humanoid robots from the first paragraph; just two old buddies from Union County churning out the a couple tons of the World's Finest Pimento Cheese™ a week.
Once we knock that part of the process out, Eric and Vaughn hand weigh, pack, and date every unit. Again...thousands upon thousands upon thousands of them. We pack 'em, stack 'em, and send 'em to the fridge. Like I keep saying: strikingly, beautifully simple.
After we've cleaned our sprawling corner up for the day, the four of us divide and conquer the greater-Charlotte region (and beyond) by hand-delivering (or, in those 'beyond' cases, shipping) every single unit to the finest specialty markets/gourmet shops/restaurants you or anyone else has ever come across. Recently, we've been fortunate enough to ink a deal with 142 regional Food Lion stores, so we rented our own refrigerated truck, bought some pallet wrap, and delivered 2,448 units to their doorstep. If you're starting to sense a theme developing, good on ya: this thing was a 110% American Dream/bootstrapped/D.I.Y. rig from day one, and it will be for as long as y'all pay us the honor of allowing us to keep truckin'.
And that, as they say, is that. All that's left is the eatin'. I wish I could blow y'alls' mind with some mythical tale of the ancient alchemy that makes OUR Pimento Cheese reign supreme, but the fact is, it all comes down to some pretty boring, basic, principles. We believe that the best food ought to be made out of real stuff, by humans. We think that while adding weird chemicals and shelf-life extenders might benefit our short-term bottom line, folk who care about what they're consuming will reward us in the end (and again, we ain't smart enough to conjure up that sorta witchcraft anyways). We believe that quality will always trump quantity, and that when it comes to something like this, "compromise" might as well be a 4-letter-word. There're bigger, cheaper, longer-lasting brands (who doesn't want 4-month-old Pimento Cheese that SOMEHOW looks the same as the day they perfected it in the lab, right?!?) out there, but I feel confident in saying that there is NO fresher, NO more obsessed-over, and doggone it, NO BETTER Pimento Cheese on the planet than what you'll find inside of every tub of Queen Charlotte's Pimento Cheese Royale. The fact of the matter is, when it comes to Pimento Cheese: anything else is just a 'spread'.