As It Happens

Cheesemaker offers £500 reward for 'masterpiece' cheddar stolen from champion's podium

Cheesemaker Rich Clothier was devastated when a thief came in the night to steal his family farm's prize-winning vintage cheddar.
Rich Clothier, a managing director of Wyke Farms, believes his prize-winning cheddar was targeted. (Paul Glendell/Wyke Farms )

Story transcript

Cheesemaker Rich Clothier was devastated when a thief came in the night to steal his family farm's prize-winning vintage cheddar right off the champion's podium.

The two 20-kilogram cheese blocks were crowned champion and reserve champion at the Yeovil agricultural show in Somerset, England, on Saturday before they disappeared from their showcase overnight.

"It was quite surprising that someone has been able to walk off with the cheese. You know, these are not small. They're the size of a suitcase that you could board a plane with," the managing director of Wyke Farms told As It Happens guest host Helen Mann.

"You couldn't put it in a handbag or up your jumper or anything like that. You'd have to carry them out on your shoulder."

Wyke Farms is offering a £500 reward ($825 Cdn) for its stolen award-winning cheese. (Wyke Farms)

Clothier, a third-generation cheesemaker, runs the family business in Somerset. The stolen prize-winning Ivy cheddar is named after his grandmother and based on her original recipe, he said.

"The recipe's been handed down through the generations. The family has made cheese here in Somerset near the Village of Cheddar for hundreds of years," he said.

The cheese's high quality and unique history could make it a target for an enterprising thief looking to sell it to a cheese aficionado, Clothier said.

Together, the blocks have a retail value of up to  £500 per block ($825 Cdn) — but with the right buyer, they could fetch thousands more, Clothier said.

"They're like a masterpiece that can't be replicated," he said. "They've got what we call a complex flavour profile — a bit like a fine wine."

In fact, his family's cheese has been targeted by thieves before, he said — in 1780. 

"I suppose this crime only happens every 300 years or so in Somerset," he said. 

According to Clothier, that thief from the Georgian era was caught when he tried to sell the goods. 

While Clothier says security was tight at Yeovil, he doesn't suspect an inside job.

"The world of cheese, you know, we're all a pretty friendly bunch, and it's just not something my fellow cheesemakers will do."

Police are investigating the theft and Wyke Farms is offering a £500 reward ($825 Cdn) for information leading to the cheese.

But what Clothier really wants back are the certificates awarded by Yeovil.

"Obviously, they're of huge sentimental value to the family," he said.

"If they've already eaten the cheese, hopefully they'll return the certificates to us because obviously it's a huge accolade for the team of cheesemakers here in Somerset to win them."