R A N D O L P H  H O D G S O N

Founder and owner of Neal's Yard Dairy

I needed a job.  That's how I ended up working in the cheese industry.  After finishing a degree course in food science at London University, I applied for a summer job to help make cheese at a whole-food shop in Neal's Yard.

I was working for a guy called Nicholas Saunders.  He set up Neal's Yard Dairy in 1979.  He used to call in a lady who ran the neighbouring coffee shop to sample the cheese.  I used to say, "Oh, no, not that fierce woman again."  Now she's my wife.

One of our first customers was John Cleese.  He dropped in to buy some cheese, but I was still learning how to make it.  All we had was some yogurt, so it all rather descended into a Monty Python sketch.

I've been coming to Borough for over 20 years.  I knew it as my first wholesale customer was in Cathedral Street.  We moved in more than a year before the Food Lovers' Fair.  Our shop in Convent Garden was very busy and we needed a space to store cheese and run our wholesale business from.  The choices were either a modern industrial estate or something with atmosphere.

I loved markets and loved the area.  It was a natural place for us to be but the shop in Covent Garden was purpose-built to retail cheese.  Borough was designed for storage.  As a result it's a little chaotic — we didn't expect it to be so busy.

Farmhouse cheeses in Britain and Ireland are returning from the brink of extinction.  There are many skilled cheesemakers in the UK and Ireland but they really didn't have a market before.

In Britain we still have a more utilitarian view of food as fuel.  This is not because we lack the palate or the interest.  The interest is there but the opportunity to express it isn't.

Borough Market gives consumers an opportunity to taste and compare and learn.  This will increase the demand for good food and then more will become available.  Cheese in supermarkets has improved hugely over the past 10 years.  Supermarkets are part of the revolution to better food — they're just not leading it.

I love the architectural evolution of the market.  There's been a unique mixture of individuals and events.  The fact that our shop opened before the regeneration has meant the way our business was operating led the design rather than the other way round.  The vision of George Nicholson and Ken Greig has been perfect.

My favourite cheese changes every day.  It is important to realise that cheese varies a lot from batch to batch.  You must taste it before you buy anything.  I have a soft spot for the traditional varieties:  Lancashire, Cheshire, Stilton, and Cheddar.  

I don't have a specific way of eating cheese.  It is often a snack food — fast food, in fact.