This winter, as you get ready for friend reunions, awards season, or hosting a cozy night in, we want to help you prepare and assemble the perfect cheeseboard. So, we've recruited culinary artist and founder of TYSM.la, Aimee Lennox. Aimee believes that art can very much sustain you. We met and immediately became massive fans of both Aimee and her thoughtfully-curated boards while on set for a catalog shoot last year. We were blown away by the individual boards she created for our crew on set. The Angeleno took advantage of a recent career change to channel her passion for curating cheese boards and grazing tables to start her own business. We were excited to reconnect with Aimee to chat about her creative process and styling tips when building a board, her go-to cheeses and pairings, and how her hometown and its amazing markets inspire her work.
Tell us a little about yourself and how TYSM came to be.
Hi! My name is Aimee! I am a first-generation Filipino-American, born and raised in Los Angeles, California. I've always enjoyed making fun cheese boards and grazing tables for my family and friends on any occasion throughout the years. In 2017, I worked for a men's brand where I analyzed our sales patterns. I was also on a team that set and nourished the culture at the company. One of the benefits of the team was planning the events for the company, and it allowed me to create grazing tables for groups of 20+ often. My colleagues and friends started to express interest in my work for their gatherings. It was during this time I realized I could potentially turn this creative outlet I love into a business.
Was there a moment of inspiration that you went from enjoying creating these beautiful boards for friends and family to deciding to start your business?
When lockdown started, I stocked up on cheese and used the time to experiment, study, and hone my style. Like many others throughout the world, I was furloughed, and then, ultimately, my position was eliminated. That gave me the big push to turn my dream of selling my art a reality. I officially launched late this Summer and have been steadily expanding, learning, and growing.
Graze boards are not only beautiful but are also a lovely way to feed a crowd—we're still dreaming of the cheese board you made on set for us. Tell us a little about the process of curating one.
I love to cater to each client based on what they love, so I start with a cheese selection as the foundation. The next thing is to complement the cheese with seasonal items, adding unique flavors and colors that change throughout the year. Each board has a mix of charcuterie as well. I prefer uncured meats like Creminelli Varzi, which is nutmeg and clove-infused salami. The board is filled out with a mixture of dried fruit, honey, jams, pickled items, nuts, crackers, and topped with edible floral garnishes. The variety of ingredients ensures there is a winning combo for everyone's palette.
We also love your idea of curating individual cheese boards, and especially during the pandemic, they are a must-have for socially-distanced gatherings. How has it been balancing taking precautions with keeping that communal feel?
People are still getting together in socially-distanced settings, so I wanted to create a collective experience that a group could enjoy safely. That's how the idea of individual boards that share the same ingredients and delicate art detail came to me. The group can have a communal experience while remaining safely distanced. It's the perfect solution for getting together with your girlfriends you haven't seen in months, a work meeting or event, a baby shower, or a birthday party—the possibilities are endless.
Any tips for someone putting together a board at home for the first time?
I love to get down on a cheese board and am eager to dig in immediately, but patience pays off. Let your cheese sit out of the ridge for 45–60mins before enjoying it. Give your cheeses a chance to get that soft and gooey texture. Also, sharp knives are essential.
What are some of your favorite go-to pairings on your cheese boards? Similarly, it's a given that wine and cheese blend well together, any recommendations there?
My favorite, and always my go-to: Cypress Grove's Truffle Tremor, plus blackberry, plus a drizzle of honey on a sourdough baguette. Wow. *Chef's kiss.* And if you want to get wild—add a chunk of honeycomb on that baby. Hubba hubba. I also really love Cowgirl Creamery's Mt Tam, a California ode to an organic triple cream brie, and pair it with prosecco.
You're located in Los Angeles. Do you feel the city provides a source of inspiration?
The abundance of fresh produce at my fingertips is out of this world. What's in season drives my inspiration.
That leads us to our next question: Where do you source your ingredients? Any local shops or markets that you love?
Supporting your community Farmers Markets is where it's at! We live in a city where we have access to the best farms. Farmers Markets are happening almost every day of the week throughout the city. Having access to the variety of seasonal produce inspires me.
How are you getting ready for hosting this winter season?
There was a board I recently created for a client, which featured all my favorites: Cypress Grove's Truffle Tremor, Cowgirl Creamery's Mt Tam, Rogue Creamery's Rogue River Blue (winner of "Best Cheese in the World" at the 2019/2020 World Cheese Awards), and Parmigiano Reggiano.
What's next for you and TYSM?
It would be a dream to have my own little storefront and more partnerships and collaborations with a restaurant or chef.