Today we are pleased to introduce you to LeeAnn Zubay, ACS CCP Cheesemonger and Owner, with her husband, Jerry, of ZZest Market and Cafe in Rochester, Minnesota. Like The Lady and me, LeeAnn understands that sometimes if we don’t “toot our own horn”, it may not get tooted… so in her own words…
“My passion for gourmet food and cooking began in grade school. My mother worked part-time so I jumped at the chance to help out with dinner. My specialty was pizza burgers and lasagna. I read and re-read Betty Crocker and The Bisquick cookbooks, (the only two my mother owned.) Soon, I was making cheese soufflé, cheesecake and Bisquick sweet rolls. So began my love of collecting and reading cook books like novels. I bet I have 200 books now along with my beloved Bon Appetit magazines, that I wish I could say are catalogued, but are really just jammed in a cupboard for 30+ years. You know, just in case…)”
“The kitchen seemed to always call me. My first job was a part-time salad and dessert cook at 16 and I loved it! When my husband, Jerry, began Creative Cuisine Company in 1978 I was hired as a waitress. I thought he was a cute cook, not the owner (he was only 21!) Jerry was instructed to not fool around with the help… but true love prevailed. We got married in 1982 and that meant also being married to the restaurant business. I wore many hats in the restaurants over the 30 plus years my husband had them. I baked desserts, ran a retail seafood shop, dabbled in catering and spent a lot of time doing menu item research and development.
After he sold the restaurants I wanted a chance to do my thing. I loved finding great products for the chefs. And, I knew many people and amateur cooks would love to get their hands on them too. Rochester was missing artisan and imported cheeses so I added that to my specialty food items and learned as fast as I could all about cheeses and the proper way to cut, wrap, handle and store them.
Three years and a second move of my shop later, I studied my butt off and became one of only 121 Certified Cheese Professionals – worldwide! And in 2011, ZZest Market and Cafe was award the gold SOFI award for retailer of the year, by NASFT (National Association for the Specialty Food Trade).
I know I am tooting my own horn but someone has to. It has been a blast growing the business and I hope I have a few more years to bring small batch, artisan, passionately made, over-the-top “gourmet” ingredients to both our café and your kitchen.”
In addition to being so gracious in taking the time to tell us about herself, LeeAnn also took time to answer our questions:
Your perfect/favorite pairing: I love fruity lush reds, so a Merlot that fits that criteria with Cabot Clothbound Cheddar.
Build your dream cheese plate: Cana de Cabra (Spanish goat), Mt Tam (US California, cow) Abbay de Belloc (French sheep), Foglie de Noce (Italian sheep), Bayley Hazen Blue (US Vermont, cow) with fresh figs, Marcona Almonds, red grapes, blackberry lemon verbena jam from June Taylor and dried cherries.
Tell us one non-cheese fact about yourself. I love Halloween.
If you could have dinner with any famous person alive or historic, who would it be and why? And with that, Alfred Hitchcock, I think he had a great sense of humor and I love to laugh, plus I love movies especially his, kind of like the scary stuff, and look at him… pretty sure he loved food and would talk about it as do I!
Again, we thank LeeAnn for one of our best Cheesemonger interviews and can hardly wait to stop into ZZBest Market and Cafe when we’re in Rochester. If you live anywhere near her market and cafe, be sure you stop in and tell her, “The Cat sent me!”
My thanks to everyone participating in my 2015 Virtual Q&A with Cheese Professionals. I hope all of you, my loyal readers, are enjoying this as much as I am…
Interviews will continue throughout 2015… sometimes, they will be “stand-alone” and sometimes they will be presented as round-table discussions with several Cheese Professionals answering the same question. Those participating includeCheesemakers, ACS CCPs™, Cheesemongers and Cheese Professionals and Experts who contribute to this Wonderful World we call “Cheese”.
List of 2015 Cheese Professionals.
List of all Cheese Professionals Bios.
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