<b>MR. & MRS. CHEESE:</b>  After extensive work, Michael and Kathryn Graham are now serving baked goods, coffee, cheese, and much more in their expanded C'est Cheese.

Paul Wellman

MR. & MRS. CHEESE: After extensive work, Michael and Kathryn Graham are now serving baked goods, coffee, cheese, and much more in their expanded C'est Cheese.

C’est Cheese, Part Deux

Santa Barbara Street Cheese Shop Expands Café and Catering

Thursday, July 3, 2014
Article Tools
Print friendly
E-mail story
Tip Us Off
iPod friendly
Share Article

There are numerous ways to pronounce the luscious laminated pastry kouign-amann from Brittany. But after eating one, everyone speaks the same language: a deeply satisfied, bit-ashamed-for-liking-something-so-much groan. You can only get these buttery caramelized delights in one place in Santa Barbara, and that’s the newly, finally(!) expanded C’est Cheese, four times its old size and about to be a full-fledged café, marketplace, and extended catering service.

The two-year-long process owners Michael and Kathryn Graham endured upon taking over the former homes of Thrasher Books and Our Daily Bread has not been easy. “This was the 20-year step that most people would have done in two steps,” explained Kathryn. “Even when we opened 10 years ago,” explained Michael, “we never wanted to stop improving and growing, so this is a step.” To which Kathryn laughed, “You think? It’s a leap.” And then Michael countered, “I’m from the Midwest: I understate things.”

That the couple still have their senses of humor after increasing their staffing threefold, going to a seven-day-a-week schedule, and still being about five weeks out from the cheese/market section of the shop being refurbished is a kind of miracle. And the growth won’t stop there. “In the next couple of months, we’ll have wine and beer on tap,” promised Michael. “And we’re really excited to add dinner, once we get to the point where we won’t be the ones washing dishes at midnight.” While they think people want their regular faves for breakfast and lunch — and there’s lots of grilled cheese goodness for both, of course, even with a gluten-free bread option — Michael asserted, “You can do more with dinner, have more creativity and variety.”

Much of that creativity will be driven by house-made products. “Even when we started, we were driven by that statistic that 98 percent of the produce in Santa Barbara is exported and what we consume is 98 percent imported,” said Michael. “I looked about the shop at all the goods we sell and import from France and Italy, and yes, they’re delicious and in cute packaging, but why can’t we make our own products like that?”

So C’est Cheese is now baking, making its own pâtés, crème fraîche, sour cream, and yogurt and roasting its own meats for sandwiches. Leading that pack is a roast beef made from Snake River Farms wagyu, the kind that will reawaken the sense of what roast beef can be — moist, meaty, lovely. “It tastes like a French dip sandwich you’ve already dipped, but not overcooked like those usually are,” said Michael. They actually grill the rest of the sandwich and then add the beef, so as not to have it cook even the teensiest bit more.

The Grahams are particularly happy this expansion gives better career opportunities to a talented staff, including Chef Jamie Libardi, Sous Chef Gereamy Cater, and Pastry Chef Jocelyn Kuzminski. Plus, all three functions of the establishment — market, café, and catering — feed each other. For example, Michael explained, “The leftover nubs of prosciutto from the market that don’t cut well can be used for stocks in the café.” As for that dangerously addictive kouign-amann, the kitchen has turned the scraps from its baking into a bread pudding that C’est Cheese is almost afraid to put on the menu, it’s so rich and crave-making.

“When we opened 10 years ago, it was crazy sparse and bare, and we filled it up over time,” said Michael. “Now we’re going to do it again.” Added Kathryn, “People get to be part of that evolution and influence it, be part of the fun.”

C'est Cheese

825 Santa Barbara St., Santa Barbara, CA
805-965-0318. More Info


C’est Cheese is located at 825 Santa Barbara Street. Call (805) 965-0318 or see


Independent Discussion Guidelines

Sounds great, but this story reads like an advertisement. It would be helpful to know what are (or will be) the prices. For most of us, unless the appeal is to Montecito and Hope Ranch, price is a distinct factor.

at_large (anonymous profile)
July 5, 2014 at 7:38 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The story is an advertisement.
Their prices are astronomical, the quality just OK. The place at the Public Market has better product at equally high prices. Lazy Acres and Whole Foods have much better product. Otherwise, head to TJ's or Costco...

nomoresanity (anonymous profile)
July 5, 2014 at 8:09 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I've no opinion about C'est Cheese but I miss Thrasher Books.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 5, 2014 at 8:12 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Indeed. And while ODB is alive and well on De la Vina, the familiarity of Thrasher and ODB together was a nice part of SB that is gone forever.

nomoresanity (anonymous profile)
July 5, 2014 at 8:17 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The new space is freaking beautiful and the food is top notch, yet no more expensive than most good sandwich shops around town, like Three Pickles around the corner.

The restaurant business is notoriously difficult to succeed in. I have no issue with the Independent spotlighting local businesses that are opening or expanding. There doesn't have to be a controversy involved for something to be "news."

Lars (anonymous profile)
July 5, 2014 at 9:25 a.m. (Suggest removal)

10 years is a great achievement in itself, especially for a restaurant in Santa Barbara. Many big chain restaurants haven't been able to keep their doors open that long. I still miss the bookstore ;)

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 5, 2014 at 9:42 a.m. (Suggest removal)

That's good they expanded. Everytime I went for something, they always ran out. Good for them, bad for me.

nelsonjazz (anonymous profile)
July 5, 2014 at 12:24 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I also miss the bookstore. When I lived in that sweet downtown area, it was good to pause there. It had a surprisingly good selection.

at_large (anonymous profile)
July 5, 2014 at 7:16 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Thrasher was great and I rue its passing; however, do try Granada Books on State, they're trying really hard to make it a Community Center cum Book Store.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
July 5, 2014 at 8:01 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I love Granada Books. They are indeed much more than a book store.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 5, 2014 at 10:22 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Dunno where you ate Lars but their prices are far higher than Three Pickles and beyond almost any sandwich place...but it is your money to waste on overpriced, medium quality hipster food.
On a more productive note, Granada Books is fabulous albeit I fear for their longevity.

nomoresanity (anonymous profile)
July 6, 2014 at 7:43 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I decided to take a peek at C'est Cheese's online menu and the prices don't seem out of line at all for what you get.
I know it can be easy to get conditioned to lower prices vis a vis chains like Subway which are serving up garbage food. C'est Cheese's menu seems a cut above and reasonably priced.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 6, 2014 at 9:52 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I never go to subway and the like...There are plenty of non chains in this town where you do not need to spend $10-12 for a freakin' sandwich.
But hey, I don't care where people spend there money and I will stick with TJ's and Costco for my cheese with an occasional splurge from Gelson's or Lazy Acres.

nomoresanity (anonymous profile)
July 7, 2014 at 6:59 a.m. (Suggest removal)

event calendar sponsored by: