Food, Food Artisans

Remembering Daphne Zepos

This past Wednesday, Zingerman’s was honored to host the Cheesemonger’s Choice event at the Zingerman’s Events on 4th space at Kerrytown Market. The occasion was a benefit honoring the life of our friend and internationally known cheese authority, Daphne Zepos. All proceeds from the event went to the Daphne Zepos Teaching Award, a scholarship available through the American Cheese Education Foundation. This award is given annually to a USA-based cheese professional who will use it to travel, learn, and further their education on cheese.


On hand were several notable cheesemongers and cheesemakers, sharing their favorite cheeses, as well as anecdotes about Daphne and the cheese world.   The guests included some of the most talented people working the in the cheese business today.

The evening began with an introduction by Sean Hartwig, cheesemonger at the Zingerman’s Deli, who talked about the event and invited guests to sample the wonderful selection of cheeses on display. Each cheese was presented with an accompanying Mediterranean olive mix, slices of dense fig & almond torte, and a variety of Zingerman’s Bakehouse breads, all of which complimented the inherent flavors of the cheese.

Sean then introduced Zingerman’s Mail Order‘ partner Mo Frechette, who shared some great memories of Daphne and gave an overview of the Daphne Zepos Teaching Award, and what it means to someone just starting out on the business.


Zingerman’s co-founder Ari Weinzweig stepped up to talk about meeting Daphne for the first time at a small airport in Greece, just before embarking on a flavorful tour of local cheeses. He recalled another time when, traveling through France with Daphne and ZingTrain partner Maggie Bayless, he tried to convince local cheesemongers that he wanted to sell their cheese. “Your people will never like this,” was the reply time and again, an unfortunate statement on the perception of the American cheese market at the time. Thankfully, things have changed.

Next was Jason Hinds, of Neal’s Yard Dairy in London. Jason said that Daphne was like “the Aphrodite of the cheese world” and that “she lit up a room.” Jason sampled a wonderful Comté, selected by legendary affineur Maison Marcel Petit and aged at Fort St. Antoine, France.  Jason also introduced guests to a very traditionally made Cheddar called Hafod, which has a lovely smooth texture and a rich buttery flavor and slightly tangy finish.

Amanda Bernhardt, of Di Bruno Bros. in Philadelphia, talked about the influence Daphne had on the cheese world, and sampled their excellent sheep milk Ossau-Iraty cheese. A mild cheese, the flavor is deceptively complex with notes of almonds and hazelnuts.

Brian Schlatter, of Canal Junction Cheese located in the rolling farmland of Defiance, Ohio shared his take on an Irish washed-rind cheese in the flavorful Charloe. This cheese was a 2012 Good Food Award Winner.

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John Loomis, of Zingerman’s Creamery was a third-generation dairy farmer who owned his own cheese making business before Zingerman’s lured him away. John showcased one of this favorites, the creamy, soft-ripened cow milk Manchester. John gave kudos to Creamery co-partner, Aubrey Thomason, for helping develop the Manchester into the full-flavored cheese that it is today.

Next, Jonathan Richardson, of Columbia Cheese. Jonathan gave a brief history of cheese making in Switzerland, and explained how the relaxation of market practices in that country led directly to the development of Swiss-inspired alternatives like the delicious washed-rind, cow milk Challerhocker he provided.

Anne Saxelby, of Saxelby Cheese shared her own wonderful memories of Daphne as well as getting started at the Essex Street Market, which has its own stories.  Anne was a true trendsetter in that she focused exclusively on fine cheeses made in the U.S. She sampled the outstanding Alpine-influenced Pleasant Ridge Reserve from Uplands Cheese Company.

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The evening was a wonderful remembrance of a pivotal, hugely influential figure in the world of fine cheese. Daphne Zepos and her work touched the lives of many within the room, as well as exponentially more throughout the world. Her tireless work and many contributions are much of the reason we can enjoy the wide selection of truly excellent cheeses at the Deli, and in the U.S. today. Although she is greatly missed, her legacy continues to thrive.

The evening’s event was a benefit to help fund the Daphne Zepos Teaching Award. In their own words:

The Daphne Zepos Teaching Award is an annual scholarship awarded to an USA-based cheese professional who uses the funds to travel, learn and further their education on cheese.

This award will grow a squad of cheese professionals who teach about the history, culture and techniques in making, aging and selling cheese. Each year someone new will go forth to learn about cheese. The scholarship will fund travel and living expenses.
The winner will return to share their learnings with the cheese community — at the annual American Cheese Society Conference and beyond.

The scholarship is funded by the Daphne Zepos Endowment, which is held in the American Cheese Education Foundation.”

Thanks to the generosity of our guests, Zingerman’s was able to raise a several thousand dollars toward this worthwhile cause, but the DZTA could still use help. Direct donations are accepted at their website, so those unable to attend can still help with a donation. Please visit their website here and help us reach the goal of furthering the education of the next generation of cheese professionals.

Zingerman’s would like to thank everyone who participated for their time, effort, and passion. Thanks also to all the Zingerman’s staff who helped make the event a success. Finally, we’d like to thank Everyday Wines & the Bar at 327 Braun Court for their contributions of fine spirits.

Thank you. 

Daphne DZTA