From the Diner focuses on charcuterie boards and educational experiences.
From the Diner founder and Maple Grove resident Dawn Cleveland traded her stethoscope for a second chance at following her passion after realizing she had just the recipe for success when it comes to charcuterie boards.
Ironically, when Cleveland first heard the term “charcuterie,” she had no idea what it meant.
“One of the nurses I worked with at the hospital told me where she’s from they had a charcuterie restaurant,” she says. “I was like, ‘a char-what?’”
Little did she know charcuterie boards would grow to become the next big culinary trend. According to the Institute of Food Technologists, charcuterie sales are valued at $1–$2 billion annually.
Twenty-five years ago, Cleveland toured La Cordon Bleu as a possible career path, but, knowing she didn’t have an interest in working at a restaurant that she didn’t own, she ultimately decided to pursue a nursing career instead.
“I’m more interested in having my own restaurant and creating things on my own,” she says.
To balance her love for cooking with her devotion to nursing, Cleveland began creating boards on the side. “I just woke up one day and was like, ‘I think I’m going to make a charcuterie board,’” she says.
In November 2020, Cleveland began bringing her creations to her family gatherings and creating boards for various people. The word soon began to spread about her masterful board creations to the greater Twin Cities community.
“People wanted them for more than just the holidays. They wanted them for really every occasion that you can think of,” she says.
Soon, Cleveland’s boards were being featured at birthdays, anniversaries and baby showers. A little over a year later, in May 2021, she had enough orders to keep her busy full time. Saying goodbye to the scrubs, Cleveland ordered a prescription for a fresh start.
Word of Mouth
Sharing her charcuterie boards on social media, her growth was organic. One wintery day in 2021, Angry Inch Brewery in Lakeville reached out to see if Cleveland would teach a charcuterie making class. “People were looking for things to do because they [were] tired of being held up in their homes,” she says.
She hesitantly accepted, knowing teaching was completely out of her comfort zone. Her first class sold out instantly, so the brewery asked if she would do another class. Within days both classes were sold out. “It just took off,” she says.
Cleveland began to see other people shared her love for charcuterie. After reaching out to other local wineries and breweries, her calendar filled up with classes. Before she knew it, From the Diner and its “Boarding School” was launched.
Today, she is asked to teach charcuterie at other businesses, such as Bridgewater Bank and UnitedHealthcare, as well as for private events, including bridal showers. “It’s been such a joy for me,” she says. “I want to teach them new things they haven’t heard of.”
A centerpiece at weddings and larger parties, her largest creation—called a Grazing Table—serves groups of 20 and more. “They’re a showstopper and a focal point,” she says.
Boarding School classes cost $75 where attendees create regular and themed boards full of everything from artisan cheeses to mouthwatering fruits.
To make charcuterie less overwhelming, Cleveland founded the Clock Method, a system of putting the board together that tastefully organizes the ingredients. She encourages students to use this when putting together charcuterie at home.
“They’ve heard of it, they’ve seen pictures [and] they think it’s pretty,” she says. “You bring the ingredients home; you have it sitting on your counter, and it’s pretty intimidating to know where to start.”
Cleveland says charcuterie should be a creative outlet. Her goal is that students express themselves and their diverse tastes through creating boards that represent them.
“When you’re putting these boards together, there really is never one that’s the same,” she says. “Each time, they can be different, and you can express yourself creatively with the food.”
Although it may be hard to believe, her background in nursing has inspired an intangible addition to her boards. “When I was a nurse, I was trained in Healing Touch, and I would do different types of energy work on my hospital patients,” she says.
Before preparing a charcuterie board, Cleveland grounds herself, remembering who she is making the board for. “[I] think about what the occasion is, and I put all that positive energy through myself into the food for others,” she says.