Travel. Teach. Cheese.

About Us

work-cheese

The Daphne Zepos Teaching Award (DZTA) 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, a 501(c)(3) non-profit. Our goal is to raise an capital endowment of $250,000.

By donating to this endowment we ensure that 100% of your money goes to the endowment (minus credit card and site fees). The endowment is managed by a president and board of directors from the cheese industry who work for no pay. The endowment’s funds are safely invested and their annual returns fund the scholarship. With careful management, the scholarship will be offered in perpetuity.

About Daphne

about-daphne

Daphne Zepos was one of the most outspoken, insightful and dynamic advocates for the cause of traditional cheese here in the U.S. and around the world. Over the last twenty years Daphne played a prominent role in nearly every major cheese event in the U.S. and Europe.

She lectured, moderated, and presented at the American Cheese Society’s Annual Conference. She taught at Slow Food’s bi-annual Cheese in Bra, Italy, at the College of Marin, and at courses throughout the country, including the Cheese School of San Francisco, Neal’s Yard Dairy in London and Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor. Over the years she has taught literally thousands of students both professional and vocational, and in the process helped significantly improve the quality of cheese in the U.S. and the knowledge and understanding of cheese mongering in this country.

Read More
In 2006, Daphne founded the Essex Street Cheese Company, which imports a small selection of hand-selected cheeses from Europe. Together with her business partner, Kiri Fisher, Zepos and her husband Brad purchased The Cheese School of San Francisco in 2011. It is the only independent institution of its kind in the U.S. dedicated to helping people maximize their enjoyment and appreciation of cheese through education and tasting events.
Daphne served as a board member of the American Cheese Society and did formative work for many years as the Chairperson of the organization’s Annual Judging. She was a co-founder of the Cheese of Choice Coalition, an advocacy group dedicated to the preservation of raw milk and artisan cheeses. From 2002 to 2005, she played a lead role in selecting and maturing more than 300 cheeses in Artisanal Premium Cheese Center’s pioneering affinage cheese caves in Manhattan, established Artisanal’s Affinage Internship Program and, contributed to creating and running Artisanal’s Cheese Master Class program.

Daphne was the recipient of the 2012 American Cheese Society’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Ari Weinzweig, co-founder and CEO of Zingerman’s Community of Businesses in Ann Arbor noted that “Daphne’s work to educate retailers, chefs, cheese mongers and cheese makers has contributed enormously to a huge improvement in the quality of the cheese on counters across the country. Her passion, the poetry of her cheese descriptions, her never-ending drive for better flavor, for teaching people what makes good cheese good, and for making already-good cheese even better is truly unrivaled.'”

Daphne passed away in San Francisco in the summer of 2012.

Daphne’s Vision

daphnes-vision

The American Cheese Society conference just ended. Loads of attendees are still talking about the incredible presentation on Basque cheesemakers. Cheesemakers are heading home to test techniques. They took the presenter’s email address so they could get more details and follow up with questions. Retailers are excited to find and carry more of these cheeses. They’re inviting the presenter to their shops to give the presentation to their crew and customers.

The presenter was the fourth winner of the Daphne Zepos Teaching Award. The award—and the work that comes out of it—has been recognized across the industry as one of the most positive additions to the cheese world in recent years. Each of the winners has traveled abroad then returned to North America to share what they learned.All four have presented at the ACS conference, formally sharing what they learned to improve their cheese teaching.

Read More
They did amazing work. They would have all made Daphne happy. More importantly, knowing the cheese world is better for the learning and teaching that these cheese professionals have shared would have made her proud. Everyone involved in the program—people from across the industry who knew Daphne well and who are equally committed to craft tradition and high quality cheese—are engaged and excited about how this is helping the cheese world. We miss Daphne dearly but we’re honored to be able to contribute to educating about cheese, something she devoted such a significant part of her life to.

As the presentation wrapped up on the first day of the conference this year’s award winner was announced. She was chosen among six candidates. Each applied for the award using our documented process, which included getting nominated by another member, securing two letters of recommendation from other ACS members and completing an application. As usual the winner was announced on the first day of the ACS conference, the better to honor Daphne’s good work and to help the winner connect with others knowing that they’ve received the award.

Five years in, the award program proceeds smoothly and effectively. Its basic tenets are solid. The candidate is a member in good standing of the American Cheese Society. They have at least three years of experience in the cheese industry. They’re a food professional—not a consumer or writer with an interest in cheese. Like Daphne, they have a passion for teaching. We want to grow new leaders, so preference is given to candidates who are younger. The winner uses the award to travel to learn about traditional cheesemaking techniques. The award covers travel and lodging and provides a modest stipend for living expenses. The recipient presents their work formally in writing in the ACS newsletter and in a full-blown presentation at the conference. Overall, the award’s expectations are understandable, transparent and touched up annually to make sure they’re current and improved.

While at the ACS, the Teacher’s board met to go over the rules and make some changes to improve things. The original board of Ari Weinzweig, Peggy Smith, Greg O’Neill, Emilio Mignucci, Cathy Gaffney, Cathy Strange, Charlotte Kamin, Sam Mogamman, Debra Dickerson, Mo Frechette and Jason Hinds has changed a little, but most of the members are still active and engaged. The board meets once a year, directed by the endowment’s president—Mo Frechette originally, and he’s passing the presidency on when his terms expires, as will the board members—and then communicates intermittently throughout the year electronically to assure that things are on course.

The funding for the award is solid. We raised $250,000 in 2012 when we kicked off the endowment at the ACS conference. Small donations were gathered by crowdsourcing on a webpage. Larger ones were gathered by key members of the board. While paying out the Award of at least $5,000 each year, we’ve built up another $50,000 in equity in the account, allowing it to keep up with inflation and consider greater donations in the future. We do fundraising events at ACS conferences and elsewhere year to year and we’re hoping to create a second award within five years.

Board of Directors

board
ari-weinzweigAri Weinzweig 
Co-founder
Zingerman’s
cathy-gaffneyCathy Gaffney
Vice President of
Specialty Cheese,
Deli and Kosher Deli
Wegmans
cathy-strangeCathy Strange
Global Cheese Buyer
Whole Foods
charlotte-kaminCharlotte Kamin
Co-founder
Bedford Cheese
debra-dickersonDebra Dickerson 
Sales Director
Tomales Bay Foods
emillio-mignucciEmilio Mignucci
Owner
Di Bruno Bros.
greg-oneillGreg O’Neill
Co-founder
Pastoral
jason-hindsJason Hinds 
Owner
Neal’s Yard Dairy
mo-frechette

Mo Frechette 
Founder
Zingerman’s
Mail Order

peg-smithPeg Smith
Co-founder
Cowgirl Creamery
sam-mogamman

Sam Mogamman 
Owner
Bi Rite