The Art of Cheese at Meet & Eat Charcuterie

By Jessica Kelly

Published on

Kristen Cronyn, owner of Meet & Eat Charcuterie / Photo: WNY Photos (Facebook)

The art of charcuterie has become such a trend that there are cookbooks, classes, and guides on how to create a piece of edible art for your next party, event, or girls night. A good charcuterie board has a little sweet, a little salty, a variety of cheeses and meats, and a range of spreads and accoutrements. Food art isn’t everyone’s forte, but Kristen Cronyn is here to help the Buffalo community become board masters. It all started a few years ago…

“I was an executive at M&T for 10 years. Three years ago, during the pandemic, I started playing with my kids’ food, making boards out of pancakes,” Kristen said. “I’d post them on Instagram and people would just go crazy because I would arrange them like a charcuterie board. A well-known Peloton instructor named Ally Love shared one of my pancake boards and from there I got all of these followers.”

After that, Kristen was at a bachelorette party when she decided to make a board. “I’m at Mom, so I was the first one awake. I came downstairs and thought I would make one for the girls,” Kristen said. “I made a board and one of the girls was a wedding planner. She’s like, ‘this would be really cool to have for when the bridesmaids get ready’” she continued. “The bride was like, ‘I’ll have you do this at my wedding and I’ll pay you’. I was like, ‘you’re going to pay me?!’” The morning of the wedding she did the board for the bride and her bachelorette party, and the make up artist actually ended up booking her for her own wedding a year later. That’s when things really started to snowball.

“I started doing this more and more on the side, doing Reels and tutorials on Instagram, and started sharing what I was learning with other people,” Kristen said. She even partnered with Shea’s during the pandemic to do a virtual charcuterie class. “I personally delivered the kits and we had 65 people sign up. We did Buffalo shaped boards and raised $2,000 for Shea’s! That moment really gave me a feeling that I’ve never felt before and I needed to do that again,” Kristen explained. She’s gone on to do around 100 classes, many of them fundraisers, even before the grand opening. 

Kristen softly opened Meet & Eat Charcuterie this year, with the grand opening happening on April 20th. Meet & Eat was created as a way to bring the culinary community of Buffalo together, sourcing local products, mustards, jams, cheese, and more for beautiful charcuterie boards. The beautiful mural of Kristen’s Buffalo skyline made of cheese, art sold in store, and the charcuterie earrings are all thanks to the talented Christy Francis of Avery & Harlow. She sells Weber’s Mustard products, Sadie’s Hot Relish, Top Seedz crackers, cheese blocks and knives by Seven One Six Design Co., Latina Boulevard Foods, Tis the Season NY, and much of the cutting boards and furniture in the store were made by Nickel City Woodworking. In addition, Leslie Zemsky even created her custom charcuterie board wallpaper (the same woman behind the customized wallpapers in places like Space on Seneca Yoga Studio, Toasted, Hydraulic Hearth, and Swan Street Diner, among others).

“I’m big on community over competition. We put the community first and ask what the community needs? I partner with a ton of other charcuterie people in the area, so that if I can’t do something, I’m happy to send them to someone else, so we can serve the community.”

One of those partnerships meant teaming up with a former Buffalo Bill. Thurman Thomas and his wife, Patti, produce a wine named Choose Love. Every bottle that you buy goes back to the Buffalo Urban League. “We’re going to soak the cheese in the wine and create a Choose Love Cheese with Eden Valley Creamery Cheese,” said Kristen.

When it comes Meet & Eat’s experiences, not only will Kristen create the boards for you, but you can learn the craft yourself in her event space – the Western New York Cheese Academy. 

“I had a dream that I carved the Buffalo skyline out of cheese. It was a vivid, lucid, freaky dream, the kind when you wake up and wonder if you really just did that. I came downstairs, grabbed a bunch of Swiss, cheddar and provolone and carved the skyline out of cheese, using a Buffalo cookie cutter in the brie, and it went viral,” Kristen explained. She ended up with around 60 orders just for the skyline board alone. “Then I started doing classes – a lot of corporate team building – teaching people how to do the Buffalo skyline carving. I decided to stick with classes because that’s really what I enjoyed, and from there it just kept growing,” she said.

Kristen teaches a charcuterie class at M&T Bank / Photo: Meet & Eat Charcuterie (Instagram)

Eventually leaving her previous career behind, she poured her heart and soul into the charcuterie business after Chef Darian Bryan and his wife Jessica, of The Plating Society and Bratts Hill, told her there’s a retail space open next door, inspiring her to take the plunge and bring something new to the Larkin neighborhood. She connected with the Zemsky family about the property and the rest is history. The doors are open and the Cheese Academy has plans to expand.

“For the classes, it’s going to be industry training and consumer training. For industry training, my goal is to use it as a community asset for the next generation of cheesemongers, restaurant staff, and also potentially sell them wholesale cheese,” Kristen said. 

“I offer different kinds of consumer classes. The newest one is the wine and cheese pairing,” she said. “It’s 4 glasses of wine that we serve with a cheese and meat for each glass for $50 per person,” said Kristen. “For $64, there’s a ‘Charcuterie 101’ class where you’ll cut, prep, and learn about what makes a good charcuterie board.” The third class costs $110, and attendees get a 9×12 Nickel City Woodworking board that you can customize and engrave. Plus, the class comes with more food. You can even rent the space out for your own event and Kristen can do a graze table and a wine package, working with you to plan your next happy hour, bachelorette party, shower, and more.

“Meet & Eat Charcuterie is about coming together, eating and sharing experiences. I want people to be able to come back a million times and not feel like it’s overdone. You can come make a board, take a class, buy products, or hang with your friends on the patio,” explains Kristen.

She’s had a lot of mentors throughout this process that have helped her along the way including Pete Cimino from Lloyd Taco Factory, Mike Tobin from Fresh Catch Poke, and Mark Mahfouz from Pita Gourmet. With the help of mentors and her community, Kristen is rolling with this new journey.

“I focus on progress over perfection. By doing that, you’re focusing on the journey. If I chose an end goal for this, I’m limiting it in my opinion. When you can open it up to possibilities, that’s when things start to really grow, change, and evolve into beautiful things.”

Meet & Eat Charcuterie
799 Seneca St., Suite A, Buffalo, NY 14210
(716) 861-6738
Instagram: @meetandeatcharcuterie

Jessica Kelly headshot

Jessica Kelly

Jessica is freelance writer and photographer with a focus on food, travel, and events. Her work has appeared in 10 different WNY publications and the Huffington Post. Follow her on Instagram @adventures.are.waiting.