MERCER ISLAND, Wash. — When Nicole Dowds styles a charcuterie board for her small business Charcuterina, it's authentically European — but she's not from France or Italy.
Dowds was born in South Korea.
"It's a very unique background, you know?" she said. "Food is not just food for me. Food builds community, connection, and shared experience."
Her own experience with charcuterie followed a difficult time in her life — becoming a single mother following her divorce. She studied in Rome through a University of Washington extension program and after venturing into a small, humble restaurant, she discovered the art of styling meat and cheese.
Italy is also where she met new friends who welcomed her in like family.
"We just clicked right away. I became their daughter,” she said, laughing.
After returning home to Mercer Island, she began styling her own charcuterie boards for friends. The more she studied and learned, the more people responded with enthusiasm.
She decided to launch her small charcuterie business during the pandemic, and the name she chose honored both her Italian “family” and their food.
“My Italian mama's name is Maralina, and I combined those two words together — it became Charcuterina,” Dowd said.
Dowd creates everything from individual orders to giant grazing tables for events. She also offers unique approaches to traditional platings, like single-serve charcuterie cups, bouquets, and — for the holidays — meat and cheese wreaths.
She also teaches her trade through charcuterie styling workshops.
Dowd hopes her experience will inspire others to try new things, travel, and remain open to other cultures.
"Food is the metaphor for me to connect with the world,” she said. "This is my dream job."
Dowds’ next styling workshop is scheduled for Mother’s Day Weekend.
Her event and personal charcuterie creations can be ordered online.
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