Charcutier, Melinda Dimitriades

As featured in Mind Food Magazine, 2020

A passion for regional artisanal cheese and charcuterie led to a successful brand with ambitious expansion plans.

At 17, Melinda Dimitriades’ plan to become a barrister was thrown a curve ball. “I definitely always had an interest in food. My mother was a beautiful cook and my brothers and I are all food obsessed, particularly my brother Alex (actor Alex Dimitriades), but I wanted to be a barrister – I liked the theatre of it.”

Life had different plans for her though and she had to abandon her HSC studies after a family altercation resulted in her needing to leave home.

“I had $35 and no skills, so I walked up and down Oxford Street looking for a job, and eventually got one at this crappy café where your ability was measured by the height of the froth on your cappuccino,” she says.

“I was more interested in what was going on in the kitchen though, so I’d stick my head in and I’d quiz the cook. And, six weeks later, he left so I jumped in and started cooking.”

Dimitriades did her chef apprenticeship, then cooked for seven years before moving to London and working in the famous Borough Market. It was here that her love of smallgoods and cheese was born, with a total immersion into the world of regional artisanal cheese and charcuterie.

“I discovered proper prosciutto and salumi and raw-milk cheeses; there was stuff I had never heard of before, let alone tasted. It was beautifully complex and very, very regional.”

In the years since that epiphany, she has sharpened her knife skills and bought a butcher’s shop in inner Sydney which organically morphed into selling a range of preservative-free smallgoods under her Chop Shop carnivorium brand.

“I wanted to celebrate the farming practices and the amazing flavours that these producers and farmers are able to achieve,” she says. “Without the nitrates, you can actually taste the flavour of the meat.

There are plans afoot to open a retail store, supplementing the charcuterie with her other love: cheese. Dimitriades says it is set to open sometime in the first quarter of 2021.