Meet the Maker: Robin Allen of Birdie’s Pimento Cheese

  • , by Emily Havener
  • 3 min reading time
Robin Allen of Birdie's Pimento Cheese headshot

For Robin Allen, pimento cheese goes all the way back to her childhood, to a specific flavor she associates with a tub that was always in the fridge. Searching for that same taste as an adult, she tried brand after brand, without success—until she started making her own with Birdie's Pimento Cheese

“I started hand shredding sharp cheddar, mixing up small batches with different ingredients,” she says. “Everyone I know has their own ‘secret’ ingredient. So, I was playing, really, deconstructing and reconstructing recipes.”

During this experimentation, three flavors stood out to her: cream cheese and black pepper, garlic parmesan, and jalapeño. She and her husband took these flavors to the South Hill Farmers Market in 2014. “It’s a ready-made focus group, with instant feedback,” she says. “It was amazing watching people get so excited about this idea I had been playing with.”

At this point, though, pimento cheese was just a hobby. Allen had no plans to start a new company, as she and her husband had their hands full with their printing business. But she was inspired to make adjustments to her recipes by feedback from samplers at the market: She processed the jalapeños differently so they retained more spiciness, and then her sister gave her the handwritten recipe for her mother’s pimento cheese so she could continue to experiment with that familiar flavor of her childhood.

Tubs of Birdie's Pimento cheese on a checkered tablecloth and wooden serving tray

She credits the Virginia community, especially the Richmond area, with its “more room at the table” attitude, with supporting her as she expanded Birdie’s Pimento Cheese to the Richmond farmers market and then to a full-scale operation. Despite this growth, her commitment to quality has continued undiminished: “We don’t buy spice blends or use pre-shredded cheese. Even though we are making on a larger scale, we use the same care I would in my home kitchen.” This commitment has paid off—she often receives photos from neighbors and friends whenever they discover Birdie’s products for sale in other states. And she loves the connection with customers.

Birdie's Pimento cheese tubs surrounded by fresh fruit and veggies on a cutting board

“Some of the sweetest conversations I have with customers are about their memories. Food has a way of transporting us back to childhood, a visit to Grandma’s house, a favorite aunt or uncle, the warmth of the kitchen.” She’s also converted those who say they don’t like pimento cheese: “I’ve had more than one [customer] say, ‘Being Southern, I feel like I’m supposed to like pimento cheese, and I just don’t.’ I always respond that I’m pimento cheese therapy—try mine. I love it when their faces light up and they say, ‘I’m so happy, I finally found one I like!’”

Allen recommends serving her pimento cheese in all the regular ways, from sandwich spread to charcuterie boards to dipping celery and crackers—but unsurprisingly, her creativity also extends to new ways to enjoy Birdie’s many flavors: mixed into grits for a creamier spin on cheesy grits, or broiling the spread in a ramekin just until it browns before using it as a dip.

“I’ve learned a lot about myself as Birdie,” Allen says. “Mainly that I’m a people pleaser, and I want to do it with food. It brings me joy.”

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