Daphne Zepos, an internationally known authority on cheese, died on Tuesday at her home in San Francisco. She was 52. The cause was lung cancer, her husband, Brad Brown, explained.
A writer, teacher, consultant, importer, chef and cheese-competition judge, Ms. Zepos was, as The New York Times wrote in 2005, “one of the most respected voices in the field of American cheese.” (In this accolade, “American cheese” does not denote American cheese.)
From 2002 to 2005, Ms. Zepos was associated with the Artisanal Cheese Center, the restaurateur Terrance Brennan’s vast Manhattan complex at which cheese is aged before being shipped to consumers, shops and restaurants. In 2006, she helped found the New York-based Essex Street Cheese Company.
Ms. Zepos bore a truly artistic nature and even when she described the flavor of cheese she used poetry or quoted famous writers to express her emotions.
Last year, Ms. Zepos became an owner of the Cheese School of San Francisco, America’s only independent institution of learning devoted entirely to cheese.
Ms. Zepos’s work — as well as her writings on cheese for The Atlantic magazine’s Web site and elsewhere — helped prompt the current interest in artisanal cheese among American consumers.
Ms. Zepos was as much anthropologist as ambassador, for her travels in pursuit of fine cheese took her to the farms and pastures of small producers throughout Europe and the United States.
In perhaps her most important role, Ms. Zepos was a gerontologist of cheese. More precisely, she was an affineur, as someone who oversees the aging of cheese to its exquisite, carefully calibrated pinnacle is known, explains The New York Times. The profession, which combines the skills of artist, chemist and nursemaid, is one to which only a few dozen people in the United States can lay claim.
Daphne Zepos was born in Athens on July 13, 1959, to Costa and Greta Zepos. Her father was a Greek diplomat, and she was reared in Athens, London, Geneva and Brussels. She studied medieval history at the University of Kent in England, and architecture at the Architectural Association, a professional school in London.
In 1987, her father became the Greek ambassador to the United Nations, and Ms. Zepos moved with her family to the United States.
The New York Times dedicated a long article to the famous cheese expert. Her life and profession was unique and the Greek-American community is devastated about her death.