Movers & Shakers – Diego Alvarez

Elegance, artistry, passion, creativity, craft.

Ask any frequenter of Cookeville’s WestSide who embodies the above combination and you’re likely to get one response, “Diego.”

Diego Alvarez is a second-generation American who moved to Cookeville from San Diego, California as a high schooler.

After graduation, he served in the United States Air Force, as a medic, his main duty station was at Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, Nebraska. Here he treated active duty military personnel, their dependents, and VA members.

Once his enlistment was complete, Diego moved back to Cookeville and entered the food industry as a server and bartender.

During this season of his life, a spark emerged; food art.

It started with cheese plates with coworkers at dinner parties after long shifts, which led to more frequent and complex cheese and artisan meat plates being requested. 

Eventually, the demand, and Diego’s work, kicked open the door to the world of entrepreneurship; Royal House of Cheese was born.

From an early age, Diego had an eye for presentation.

He would help his family arrange food in visually appealing ways, unknowing that this instinct would eventually chart the course for his life.

On his self-expression through food, Diego commented, “Art comes in many different forms. Hair stylists, baristas, interior designers, they are all artists; they just use different mediums which often leads to them being looked over when a community thinks about the art being created within it.” He continued, “Food art is one of the most important non-traditional artistic expressions. You see it, you smell it, you taste it, you hear it, and touch it, what other art can you say this about?”

To Diego, Royal House of Cheese is an avenue to connectedness.

No matter your background or belief system, Diego believes unity and community can be fostered through delicious, beautifully presented food.

“Diversity is like charcuterie,” Diego noted. “People are diverse just like the ingredients, some are sweet, others salty, some are spicy, nutty, fruity, aged, tart, rich, inexpensive, and of course some are cheesy.

However, in the end, we all still belong on the board.”

Putting a desire to give back and foster connection into action, Diego became a board member for the Stephens Center, a local non-profit that aids in child abuse and neglect prevention along with helping young mothers transition to parenthood.

In addition to a dedication to community improvement, Diego is committed to aesthetic beauty in all he does.

With inspiration ranging from chefs like Grant Achatz (owner of renowned Chicago restaurant Alinea) and trend-setting icons like Martha Stewart, Diego draws on an eclectic mix of inspiration as he adapts to the changing food art medium.

Traditionally, Diego has used a more rustic presentation style in his charcuterie boards and cheese plates, but as the landscape is changing, he looks forward to introducing a new, more modern model.

He explains, “Trends are always changing and it’s important for anyone who does what I do, whether they are a food artist or any other aesthetic-centric field, it’s essential to adapt with the trends and needs of your clients.”

As an artist, elegance, and as Diego puts it, “food you can enjoy with your eyes and taste buds,” has been at the heart of Royal House of Cheese since its naming.

With a moniker based on the regal, aesthetic-centric sophistication of world monarchies, RHOC is bringing Cookeville together through intentionality, artistic expression, and a passion for excellence.

The grandson of immigrants, Diego Alvarez is using his gifts, his drive, and his vision to empower the entrepreneurial spirit for all in Cookeville, Tennessee.

“Anyone from a marginalized, minority background of any kind, I want them to see me and say, ‘I can do it.” Diego finished by saying, “I want to inspire people. If I know I have inspired even one, I’ve done my job.”

– by Andrew Buckner, photo by Cris Stroud

1 Comment

  1. Edie Brady

    This made me so happy !!! So proud of you my friend,, keep up your great work !


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