Funky Town Cheese Co. delivers a customized and delicious food truck experience
By Meda Kessler
Photos by Ron Jenkins
Let a mobile chef with a discriminating palate and a laser focus be your guide to some of the world’s best wheels and wedges, buttery to stinky
“What kind of cheese do you like? Mild? Stinky? Something in between?”
Rachel Wylen fires off questions as we peer into her cheese case. She deftly slices up a few nibbles and reaches out with a gloved hand. “Here. Try this Challerhocker, a raw, hard cheese from Switzerland made with cow’s milk. It’s one of my favorites right now.” We gratefully accept the sample as well as others, including a Gorgonzola-style cheese made in Oregon and a goat’s milk Gouda from Holland.
Wylen peddles her wares from a customized food truck, the home of Funky Town Cheese Co., complete with a refrigerated glass case. Think of it as a retail shop on wheels, with wedges of cheese carefully displayed in the window and available for purchase by the ounce or pound. Wylen meticulously weighs, slices and bundles up your takeaway purchase in cheese paper. She also sells “snack packs” for two or for many, all made fresh to order with the addition of meats (also chosen from select vendors and sliced to order), fruit, olives, crackers, nuts and condiments. Choose your own cheeses, or let Wylen do it for you and discover how keen she is on making sure there’s a mix of sweet and savory flavors with each order.
While her party platters rival those popular as part of the “grazing” craze, Wylen is more about quality over quantity. Part of her mission is to educate people about the many kinds of cheese and how they’re made. She researches the farmers and their cheese-making process, including what the cows/goats/sheep eat to give them their flavor. And she’s happy to share her knowledge. “It’s important to support this small ecosystem of growers and makers,” says Wylen, who sources Texas-made products when she can, although she admits she’s partial to European and California cheese.
Food has long been her passion. “I grew up watching cooking shows on PBS.” Raised in Weatherford, she went to culinary school in Austin and ended up at a resort on the island of St. John on an externship.
“I learned so much on the job,” says Wylen, who adds that her advice to wannabe chefs is not to go to culinary school. “From St. John, I went to Germany to help cater at the World Cup in 2006. From there, I worked and staged wherever I could, including for Michelin-star chefs. But then, my student loans kicked in, so I headed back to the States to get a real job. I eventually ended up as executive chef for a global private contractor. I’m now back in Fort Worth to help take care of my grandmother.”
Rather than return to kitchen work, she opted for a mobile kitchen despite not knowing much about them. “When I get an idea, I go for it. My love for cheese started when I worked for Antonelli’s Cheese Shop in Austin. I took a lot of notes there and turned to them immediately as a source for Funky Town Cheese.”
In Fort Worth, Wylen found a kindred spirit in Liz Mears at The Holly, a natural wine bar in Fort Worth’s Near Southside neighborhood that also serves cheese from Antonelli’s. “I learned they were making deliveries to Fort Worth to a food truck, and I told them I wanted to know this person,” Mears says with a laugh. Now you can find Wylen parked outside of The Holly at least once a week.
“Cheese is an intensely personal thing for me,” says Wylen. “People probably think I’m crazy when I start talking about cheese. But this stuff, especially small-production cheeses, is someone’s labor of love, and I’m here to help others appreciate it. When a customer has a revelatory experience, I know I’ve done my job.”