Imagine walking the streets of Paris, when, on a whim, you pick up a freshly baked baguette and cheese from the local market and head up to the Eiffel Tower to enjoy the view, good company, and a delectable snack.
Sounds like a dream, right?
But this was Long Island’s own Corrina Cafarelli’s reality during her time studying abroad in Europe, and her first introduction to the deli-cacy known as charcuterie board craftsmanship.
While in Paris, one of her favorite things to do was go to the market, grab cheese and a fresh baguette and a small charcuterie board — that’s “cooked meat” in French, served cold and laid out decoratively on a wooden board — and head over to the park surrounding the Eiffel Tower with friends.
“We would just sit and hang out,” the lifelong Wantagh resident said. “It was the best thing ever.”
Fast-forward to today: That love of cold cuts has made her a hot commodity as The Charcuterie Queen, who, since 2020 has been selling her own artisanal charcuterie boards that have become wildly popular on social media, leading to her appearance on “The Drew Barrymore Show.”
Meat and Greet
Since those days in Paris, the 26-year-old has used the boards as a way to not only make some money, but to also gather friends and family together and create memories.
“Just putting a board in the middle of a table, or on the beach, picnic blanket, anything, just setting it down and really enjoying your friends and family,” she said. “And making those memories, that’s what it truly means to me. I feel like the cheese and charcuterie bring people together, on happy or sad occasions.”
The boards, she said, can also light up someone’s day or be a form of self-care during tough times — when a cheese and meat pick-me-up can be just what the doctor ordered.
“When I send boards to people that are going through things, they said it made their day much more special,” she said. “To just sit and relax in front of the TV with their friends with a glass of wine and the board.”
When she started out, Cafarelli’s boards looked nothing like the Instagram-ready spreads she makes now. Back then, she would grab her ingredients — typically cheese, fruit, meat, nuts, and jam — and make them presentable on a plate.
“When I was abroad, we would take whatever flat surface we could find and throw everything on it,” she said.
The beauty of this craft is finding your way. There are so many different combinations, ways to cut products, and placements. It’s about trying different techniques and foods and discovering your own style.
“I’ve taken inspiration from other charcuterie companies as well,” she said. “Like, ‘Oh wow! I really like the way she cut that orange, little things like that, and make it your own. I’m always growing and learning.”
The Coronation of Corrina
Even though she loved how her mastering of the charcuterie arts was bringing people together and providing her with an enjoyable and fulfilling way to spend her time, Cafarelli did not anticipate ever selling her own boards, let alone starting her own company. But during the pandemic, when she brought a board to some friends, they told her it was time to get into the business.
At first, she thought the idea was crazy. At the time, the St. John’s University graduate with a degree in business management was working as a marketing director for a small cosmetics company on Long Island. But after two months of hounding, she decided to do some research, looking into possible competition in the area, then determining who could supply things she’d need to scale up.
After looking up charcuterie-themed hashtags and business names and finding nothing, she ordered 10 boxes and launched the week before Father’s Day in 2020 — and, much to her surprise, things took off.
“I never planned to be or could ever imagine where I am or what my business is today,” she said.
In December of that same year, the producers of Barrymore’s CBS show reached out and asked if she was interested in being on. On March 15, 2022, she appeared on an episode alongside Eric Stonestreet, in which she taught the two how to make the perfect “rose salami” for a charcuterie board — something the two stars quickly figured out thanks to her expert tutelage.
Behind the Boards
These days, Cafarelli has her commercial kitchen in Levittown complete with a walk-in fridge and a 7-foot stainless steel table where the magic happens. There, she builds the boards, packages them, and sends them off to customers with a list of ingredients and a pairing guide for wine that goes well with the food on the platter.
And the food isn’t just slapped down — it’s placed distinctly while keeping in mind which ingredients meld best in your mouth.
In the end, flavors can be muted, loud, tangy, spicy, sweet, and, when combined, becomes a whole new indescribable sensation.
“I’m putting things near each other that I know will go well together — this cheese with this charcuterie and some honey,” Cafarelli said. “There’s a whole science to it!”
She teaches that science to the masses first by posting informative videos online, and with in-person classes and workshops where she goes over the basics of prep, pairings, and building the boards.
Lesson No.1: If you want to get it done in 20 minutes or less, be prepared by washing your fruit, cutting everything, and having your crackers on hand.
“Prep is key!” Cafarelli said.
Get Your Summer Charcuterie On
Though there is a lot that can go into charcuterie boards, getting started can actually be easier than expected and can make a memorable date night, a night with friends or family. First, gather your ingredients: three to four cheeses, two charcuterie, blueberries and grapes (or your favorite fruit), nuts, fig jam, or honey. Complete with a baguette or crackers and some wine.
Next, get any flat surface: the table and some parchment paper, a cutting board, get creative! Began placing your ingredients, pre-slicing cheeses, cutting shapes, and playing with colors. Changing up the cheese and produce keeps things unique.
“I only used purple grapes for a while, but now I’ve been loving green and decided to switch,” she said.
Final Touches that Pack a Visual Punch
One of Cafarelli’s favorite steps is the final little details, such as the aforementioned salami rose and the simple addition of fresh herbs.
“Adding a leaf of basil, mint, or sage next to your charcuterie rose can take things to the next level,” Cafarelli said. “The stem and leaf make it so realistic and cute. I teach it in all my classes. Fresh herbs and edible flowers can really elevate your board.”
Never a Boring Board
No two of Cafarelli’s boards are alike, even when customers order the same ingredients — something she takes pride in.
“Every board is unique and it’s always a fun surprise for my customers,” she said. “I need to keep them on their toes. Customers sometimes tell me ‘This board looks so different from last week!’ I love the excitement.”
Cafarelli keeps the element of surprise alive by trying various cheeses and charcuterie from all over the world and using different products. She wants to ensure that her customers feel taken care of when eating off her boards and this can be done by experimenting with both local and exotic products.
“I want to spoil my customers,” she said. “I want them to get what they paid for and receive an experience.”