December 8, 2020 – God bless…rolling blackouts. At least that’s what Monterey native and burgeoning entrepreneur Amy Aubuchon thinks, as they were an impetus for what’s becoming a cult hit business as popular as her Instagram feed is eye-catching.
She was working at Sushi Fly mid-August 2020 when the power went out. Sushi Fly’s owner sent her home to grab coolers and ice for the restaurant’s raw fish. At the time Aubuchon was tinkering with a startup idea and, earlier that day, had assembled some charcuterie boards in stylish patterns to photograph.
So she grabbed a few platters while she was there and ended up serving them to a regular and his friends. The group demolished the plate in a few minutes and asked her to cater an upcoming wine tasting.
“I didn’t do the event because I had no clue what I was doing,” she says, “but seeing how well received it was gave me the courage I needed to really take that leap.”
That was August. A short time later she’s around 1,000 followers on Instagram and her boards sold out over Thanksgiving.
Jess Ansberry, co-owner of new multi-use venue The Shop Monterey and its cold-prep commercial kitchen where Aubuchon assembles her cheeses, is one of the legion early adopters who has followed Little Luna from the start.
“Her attention to detail and visual presentation is insane,” Ansberry says. “It’s so fun to eat, with all these surprises in it.”
Ansberry also admires how well Little Luna navigates COVID realities, particularly via alliances with the likes of Parsley + Fig, another noteworthy 2020 upstart that does garden-driven dressings that go well with a range of the cheeseboard ingredients.
“It’s been exciting to see this work so well for the pandemic,” Ansberry says. “She’s firing on all the key points of what’s needed right now: She knew that people are going to need something special for small gatherings and outside events. She understands the importance of collaborations.”
Eaters looking for holiday reinforcements or an any-given-day assortment can email Aubuchon at email@example.com; spreads start at $65, can be customized to consider allergies and preference, and include delivery in Monterey (pick-up is also available in downtown Monterey).
Edible Monterey Bay reached Aubuchon at a rare moment when she wasn’t working as a do-it-all dentistry assistant/X-ray technician, at Sushi Fly, or assembling her boards at The Shop. Here’s what she had to share:
How would you describe the origin story that got you to right about here?
I was definitely brainstorming business ideas during the COVID shut down. I’ve always wanted to own my own business. I wanted to go to culinary school. I’ve been building cheese plates since college. I was thinking, “If I can’t go back to work for a while, what am I going to do?” And I want to be my own boss. I work a lot of 16-17 hour days, so I started brainstorming what Monterey doesn’t have.
I had this idea that I could buy one of those [three-wheel] Piaggio Apes from Italy and convert it into a food cart to sell churros and dipping chocolate like I had in France and Spain. Something small and cute, to be served in little cones.
Everyone thought it was the worst idea and, in retrospect, they were right. I had been making these cheese platters and a few friends kept saying, “These are amazing! You should do this,” and the rest just sort of wrote itself. I sold some to my boss and her family and other friends. They all gave me feedback and slowly but surely it all came together.
What’s the way you sum up how you curate your goodies?
I love cheese and building the perfect bite. I try to make each board into a flavor treasure hunt for sure. You definitely want crunchy, sweet and juicy aspects on every board to balance with your cheeses and after that there really are no rules. I try to supply what makes me happy and what I think others will love.
Is the cracker/crouton foundation underrated?
I think the base is important. I think you should try a cheese on a very plain cracker or by itself first (at room temperature). Get to know it, then you build. I’m a very big fan of those rosemary fig crackers and will definitely slather on some Camembert and honey on 10 of those bad boys if given the opportunity.
What are unconventional risks you can take with pairings that clients don’t see coming?
One unconventional pairing I love: candy corns and mimolette [cheese]. I have not put this on a platter because I didn’t know if people would go for it if it was just dropped on their doorstep, but I do incorporate candied ginger to go with blue cheeses, definitely unexpected. Cheese can be paired with so many different things and can be such a fun little culinary trip!
Can you order a dealer’s choice or is it purely customized?
I prefer dealer’s choice. I don’t like when people give me a laundry list of cheeses they like and want. At that point you can make your own cheese plate and get exactly what you want. If you tell me you don’t like something, I will omit it but I dare you to let go and try something new. You might enjoy yourself.
I see some creative techniques to bundle ingredients on your feed—cones versus personal bento boxes versus large format parties. Please discuss!
I definitely think there’s a time and a place for everything. I’m Sicilian and I love a huge spread but COVID and the cuteness of cones cannot be argued with. I’m good with any vessel that delivers the goods.
Are we experiencing peak charcuterie?
I do feel like every single person on my feed is making boards and posting pictures. Maybe it’s because they grew up with Lunchables but older millennials are obsessed with charcuterie. I think it is having a moment. People are staying home in COVID, and want an elevated thing they don’t have to make themselves so boards are taking off.
When do you feel most alive in the work?
When I see people excited about their board. I love seeing people’s reactions and getting feedback that they enjoyed it. It’s absolutely the most gratifying experience.
More at instagram.com/littlelunacheeseboards/.