Q&A: Thea Wunderer

Categories: Behind the stalls

The face of Alpine charcuterie stall, Exquisite Deli

What brought you to Borough Market?
I joined the Market in 2010 when I had only just started the business. This is one of the best food markets in the UK, possibly in the world. From the outset I loved its vibrancy—you can get food from all over the planet and it’s just the best produce. I feel very honoured to be here.

Have you always worked with food?
I grew up in a small village in the Italian Alps and my parents owned the local pub, which had a big restaurant. My father was also a farmer so we grew vegetables and I would help out with the planting and harvesting. I worked for my parents’ business for many years before doing a hotel and catering degree. But then when I first moved to London I started working for a new media company. It was good fun, but Exquisite Deli brought me back to my roots.

Setting up your own business must have been nerve-wracking...
Not really—I didn’t see it as a risk. In my mind everything seemed clear and straightforward. I knew I had to work hard to be successful, but I am 100 per cent committed to the stall and the Market. This is the job I wanted to do; there’s never been any doubt. It all just flows from there.

What do you sell?
All our produce comes from South Tyrol, which is the most northern region of Italy. Historically, South Tyrol was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but after the First World War it became part of Italy. As a result, it’s a fusion of north and south—not just the people, but also the food, the mentality. It’s very unique.

The main product we sell is speck alto adige PGI. It’s a gently smoked ham—the pride of the South Tyrolians. The smoked sausages are also very popular, as well as our wild boar salami.

Is it all traditional fare?
We sell Alpine biltong, which is not something South Tyrolians traditionally make—it is a South African speciality, but at the time nobody was selling it at the Market and many customers asked for it. First we said, “We don’t make biltong in South Tyrol” and people said, “Well you should!” So we took our chances—we’ve been selling it for a few years now and our customers love it.

Why charcuterie?
It’s the food I’ve grown up with, which was part of the reason I started the business. Food is something you associate with your childhood, with your upbringing, with comfort, and after I had been living here for a while I started to miss all those flavours of home. I looked for it here in London but couldn’t find it anywhere, so I realised I’d found a gap in the market.

Who are your producers?
I only work with one family business, we have a special connection. What’s really nice is that a few of our products are made solely for us. Our producers are constantly developing products based on what our customers like, and they will send over samples and refine the flavour until it’s right.

Has much changed since you joined the Market?
Things have changed a lot. As a trader, when I first started I was very much learning as I went along; I’ve learnt how to sell and I learnt the business side of things. When I started it was just me, then I got a girl in to help out on Saturdays—now there are five of us.

Our range of cured meats has grown hugely, which is mainly down to the customers, what they like, what’s been popular. The customers have changed too. When I first got here people didn’t know much about cured meats, but now they are very knowledgeable. People are more aware of where food comes from and how it’s been produced. They care about what they’re buying and eating.

How do you see Exquisite Deli developing?
I would like to have a shop one day. It would be really nice to have one here at Borough Market but at the same time, it’s nice to just be a trader under an umbrella. You develop a different relationship with the customer. It’s more suited to my spirit—more free.

What would you do if you didn’t have the stall?
I imagine I would do something that’s in touch with my spiritual side—a holistic, healthy lifestyle. I would love to teach people about nutrition, yoga and meditation. It’s something that’s very close to my heart.