Let them eat cheesecake

Matt and Sharon Watts, of St. James Road South Shore, have established a cottage industry company making unusual cheesecakes, and are soon to feature on a Sky television programme.  PIC BY ROB LOCK'28-9-2012
Matt and Sharon Watts, of St. James Road South Shore, have established a cottage industry company making unusual cheesecakes, and are soon to feature on a Sky television programme. PIC BY ROB LOCK'28-9-2012
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You can tell by the self confessed “cheesy smiles” that Matt and Sharon Watts are on to something good.

Their small but perfectly formed Blackpool-based Lancashire Cheesecake Company makes its TV debut tomorrow on Cooks to Market on Sky Living at 8pm.

And while success may be sweet they admit the experience has left a slightly sour taste.

Sharon explains: “I think if we had been allowed to be ourselves we would have enjoyed it but TV takes over and tells you to do certain things in a different way.

“When that came down to my salted caramel mix I saw red. I thought the presenter’s tasted too bitter and said so. There was a bit of a personality clash.”

In fact, there may not have been a personality clash like it since one TV chef famously ordered the owners of Blackpool restaurant Kwizeen to change the name. They didn’t and the restaurant remains a success to this day.

Matt and Sharon, of St James Road, South Shore, make and sell handmade bespoke cheesecakes.

They do the rounds of food festivals but admit: “They tend to be outside the area. We only distribute locally unless people collect – so it would be great to see a festival in St John’s Square, for example, before Christmas.”

They may also promote made-to-order cheesecakes at farmers’ markets locally – and hope to pitch to Booths supermarket chief Edwin Booth.

“It’s not easy as we run our business from our South Shore home,” says Sharon. “But we’ve hit a niche market. It’s a nice niche.”

It’s also a recession beater, individual portions from £2.50, six inchers from £8, showstoppers (11 inches with all the trimmings) up to £34.

“We now use a cheesecake image as our logo. Men were called beefcakes, women cheesecakes,” says Sharon. “We looked into packaging our product for the programme – and that was the image that most appealed to us.”

Cooks to Market features people who make and sell food on a small scale from home.

Following in the footsteps of companies such as Innocent Smoothies and Ben and Jerry’s, which both started life on a market stall, the show aims to help turn a culinary passion into a successful business venture.

Each episode features two pairs of cooks going head to head, against the clock, as they try to sell their products to market and make the highest profit. The pair who succeeds get the opportunity to pitch their product in front of a line-up of industry buyers.

It’s presented by chef and food writer Gizzi Erskine, with Gü founder James Averdieck lending his business expertise. Sharon and Matt were head hunted by producers and pitted against a couple who make fudge.

They fudge the issue of who won. “We can’t say until the programme goes out.” But they concede: “The fudge was an easier product to promote, package and present.”

Undeterred, they already supply fresh bespoke cheesecakes across the Fylde coast. They have already picked up a contract to supply individual cheesecakes to the award winning Ship at Elswick.

The family has their own restaurants already serving their latest venture, Winston’s on Highfield Road in South Shore and a newly opened branch of the same name on Red Bank Road in the heart of Bispham village.

So what precisely is a bespoke cheesecake? “It’s pretty much anything I can invent or other people want and request. I get crazy ideas for cheesecakes and generally they work,” says Sharon.

She’s only struck out once with her creativity – and is currently working on a liquorice cheesecake, definitely a niche market, using black Sambuca.

Popular choices include sarsaparilla – and dandelion and burdock. The children’s party market has taken off with a Haribo cheesecake – coated in the gummy sweeties - and they can also be themed for Halloween.

Bonfire night is well and truly covered with cinder toffee cheesecake – the honeycomb toffee crumbles supplied by the Blackpool cinder toffee company.

It’s not as sweet as shop bought cheesecake. The couple don’t have a sweet tooth themselves – and have a daughter with type one diabetes.

There’s no secret to the ingredients in cheesecake – Sharon uses crumbled digestive biscuits for the base. The cheesecake proper is from cream cheese and salted butter. “It tastes bland without salted butter. You can add alcohol for a boozy cheesecake. The Haribo cheesecake is really popular at parties. You find the kids eat all the sweets and the adults polish off the cheesecake proper.”

It may seem like a child of the Seventies, but just as fondue dates back to the middle ages, cheesecake has been around a long time too. It’s said to date back to 76 BC, when the Greeks served cheesecake to the athletes at the first Olympic games.

jacqui.morley@blackpoolgazette.co.uk or tweet her @jacquimorley