The Daphne Zepos Teaching Award: From One Cheese Dreamer to the Rest

As many of you know, in July the cheese community mourned the loss of Daphne Zepos, one of our greatest educators.  She touched everyone she met with her unrivaled passion and fostered a deeper appreciation of cheese and its history among the growing ranks of cheesemongers.  Daphne co-owned The Cheese School of San Francisco and lived in the Mission.

To continue her quest for education and learning, a group of cheese retailers and educators from across the country (including our own Sam!) have founded the Daphne Zepos Teaching Award (DZTA) which will be awarded annually, beginning in 2013, to a cheese professional to travel and share their knowledge at the annual American Cheese Society conference.  The foundation was set up to help turn Daphne’s dream and vision for this award into reality; she conceived of the award, so now we as her cheese community are trying to make it happen. The founders have set a goal of raising $250,000 by the end of this year so that the award can be offered in perpetuity.

Photo of Daphne courtesy of Chester Higgins, Jr./NY Times

Being a cheesemonger is a delicious, fascinating field but not necessarily the most lucrative. Accordingly, few cheesemongers can afford travel to where cheese is made, to witness the old traditions and share in the sense of place. I know that if I hadn’t had the chance to go to the Jura mountains (where Comté is made), for example, I wouldn’t be able to share the passion the cheesemakers there have for their craft. The winner of the DZTA will have the opportunity to choose from a range of places to visit, or they can create a unique experience just for themselves.

We’re donating 25% of our sales of Essex St. Comté and L’Amuse Gouda (both cheeses that Daphne selected, imported and introduced to our selection) from September 1st – December 31st to the campaign.  Our ambitious goal is to sell $20,000 worth of these two cheeses over the next four months (that’s an average of 1 wheel of Comté and 3 wheels of L’Amuse per month!) so that we can donate $5,000 to the DZTA fund, helping to continue the educational work of our late friend and neighbor Daphne.   We need assistance from all of you: if you haven’t tasted either of these amazing cheeses, come by for a taste!

Comté in the aging caves, courtesy of Essex St. Cheese Co.

Comté: The first cheese Daphne imported through Essex St., hand selected from among  the 60,000 wheels slowly and coolly aging in the caves at Marcel Petite Fort St. Antoine. Herbaceous, fruity, and kissed with deep, heavy cream, it’s delicious in sandwiches or served simply with fruit, nuts, and bread.

L'Amuse Gouda, courtesy of Essex St. Cheese Co.

L’Amuse Gouda: This two year old aged Gouda, made at the Cono cheese making facility in the Netherlands, is a great example of the flavor that comes from aging at a higher temperature (as opposed to a cooler temp that suppresses bacterial activity), and a testament to the art of affinage.

If you want to honor the memory of one of the greatest cheese educators in America this century, but can’t make it into the Market, please consider donating online. By donating we ensure that 100% of your money (minus credit card fees) will go to the endowment. The endowment is managed by a president and board of directors from the cheese industry who are volunteering their time. All of the endowment’s funds are safely invested and their annual returns fund the scholarship.

Thank you!

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