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Jessica Mattingly: Cultured

By Mckenna Graham • Photos by Matt Johnson 

It was February 2020 when Jessica Mattingly, former Aveda educator and wellness professional, signed a lease. It was for a small space in an old building at 1007 East Main Street, near an up-and-coming area of NuLu. The future looked bright. Though many challenges, financial and otherwise, had stood in the way of realizing her long held dream for an urban creamery and cheese shop, she had overcome the obstacles. The shop, dubbed Cultured by her brother after a couple cold Michelob Ultras, was scheduled to open before Derby… And then-- we all know the story well-- mere weeks later the worldwide pandemic changed all our best laid plans. 

Mattingly’s business opened anyway and thrived despite the trying times. They built a spectacular deck onto the side of the building for open air dining. Lined with wisteria vines and nestled in the shade of the building, it is still a welcoming retreat to enjoy wine and charcuterie in a spacious and breezy setting. Inside is a mixture of rustic farmhouse décor with wooden butcher block table tops and homey mustard-hued curtains contrasting against more moody contemporary elements, blackboard style specials menu and charcoal colored metal chairs. 

Cultured features mainly Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheese but also serves the cheese of a few trusted friends as well, such as Capriole Goat Cheese from Indiana and Urban Stead Cheese out of Cincinnati. Alongside the cheeses are a selection of local accoutrement- veggies, fruits, jams, mustards and humanely raised meats from well-known purveyors such as Red Hog. Unlike the more petite charcuterie boards you might snack on before your entrée at another restaurant, the boards at Cultured are abundant and hearty-- meant to be a meal unto themselves. 

Though Mattingly’s family has long been entrenched in the world of cheese- she hails from the infamous Kenny of Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheese—her path to opening Cultured has been anything but easy and direct. After watching her father, Kenny Mattingly, and grandfather endure back breaking physical labor on their tobacco and dairy farm for decades, Mattingly yearned for the security and benefits of a corporate position. 

She attended Western University in Bowling Green briefly for sports and massage therapy before moving to Louisville fourteen years ago at her mother’s behest to help with her sister’s new baby. She went on to become a manager at Joseph’s Salon and Spa and then later worked in spa development for Aveda and Este Lauder. But a critical turning point for Mattingly came when Aveda opted to dissolve a number of sales positions and her time with the brand came to an end. The severance pay allowed her the time to work on a business plan for her long held dream. 

“I wanted to do something to contribute to the family business,” she says, “To start a place where people could try [the cheese] on its own. Plus create an environment that my grandma had always created for everyone her entire life.” Mattingly credits her grandmother, Mary Rose Mattingly, for Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheese being what it is today. Mattingly recalls that when she was growing up her grandmother would cut up fruit, vegetables and cheese and lay it all out on the table for the gaggle of grandchildren to eat, noting, “This was before charcuterie was even a thing!” 

Unlike some farming families that go back many generations, the now expansive nearly two-hundred-acre farm belonging to the Mattingly’s has a more humorous and unconventional beginning. Her grandparents actually started out raising baby cows out of a shed in an urban area of Indianapolis, much to the chagrin of the next-door neighbors who endured the backyard moo’s. Advisably, the grandparents moved their urban herd to a more appropriate location, a farm located two hours south of Louisville in Barren County, Kentucky. In addition to being dairy farmers they also grew tobacco, and when milk prices crashed in the 1990’s, Mattingly’s father had the idea to begin making cheese. 

“My aunt found some equipment here in Louisville that this lady was selling so my dad purchased the equipment, but it sat in a barn for three to four years until he had it paid off and then he built a really small creamery. The lady [who sold them the equipment] came down for a few days and taught them how to use it. My grandma and grandpa came out of retirement and learned how to make cheese and they started with making gouda. Now they make around 30 types of cheese.” 

Mattingly’s grandmother, Mary Rose, began making the two-hour commute to Louisville and back every week for the Saturday market. “My grandma started at the farmers market and no one was a stranger to this woman. She would go into Lily’s, Mayan Café, Wiltshire, wherever/ and just walk into the kitchen and put [cheese] in the chef ’s mouth.” Many of the cheeses Cultured serves, such as Norwood, St. Jerome and Pauline, are named after family and friends. 

“The Pauline is one of my favorites,” says Mattingly, “It’s washed in bee pollen so it smells funky, but when you eat it, it’s a very different experience. The Pauline is a little creamy and it has a little bit of a pinkish, brownish rind on the outside and it’s delicious- especially with honey.” 

Cultured has also served as a site for experimentation and collaboration. Once in a while Kenny might send up a “weird” wheel of cheese to see what Mattingly can do with it. Her passion for bourbon inspired a particularly successful episode of cheesemaking when one of these “weird wheels” came her way and they decided to suspend it in a bourbon barrel. The cheese was, “not touching the liquid but the aroma is breathing through it” she describes, “we took it out, patted it down with the actual bourbon and scraped the char off the bourbon barrel, crumbed it up really fine like coffee, then smashed it into the cheese wheel… we served it Raclette style where we hit it with the flame and melted it over prosciutto”. Mattingly was so excited about how it turned out that she was going table to table offering it to customers to try for free. 

Cultured is currently expanding into the upstairs portion of their building so they can offer additional events, classes, and grow the catering aspect of the business. The upstairs is slated to be done this August or September and Mattingly is hopeful about finding additional investors to help her achieve some of her future goals for Cultured. “It’s been really hard, it’s been a lot of sacrifice. But it’s not one that I regret.”


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