Cheese by Hand is a project conceptualized by us, Michael Claypool and Sasha Davies, to explore the landscape of artisan (hand-made) cheesemaking in the United States. Our goal is to capture the experience of cheesemakers around the country, in their own voices, and share them with consumers and cheese fans everywhere. We hope that this will promote understanding and support for the products themselves and also the variety of farms that make up our country’s agricultural system.

The project

In April of 2006 we embarked on a cross-country tour, visiting cheesemakers of all sizes and herd types, interviewing them about their craft and their lives. Our aim was to spend at least two days at each farm, asking questions and pitching in wherever we can. We posted blogs to our website regularly with photos and even some small audio clips to give a full sense of the places we visited.

The People

First and foremost Michael and Sasha are food enthusiasts with cheese at the top of their list. They worked corporate jobs for as many years as they could stand (6 and 5 respectively) and then, upon deciding to marry, agreed to find a couple of those ever-elusive “satisfying” jobs.

Sasha stepped out of financial services at Charles Schwab into the cheese world eight years ago and has never looked back. She ran the caves at two large-scale affinage facilities in the U.S., (both conveniently located in New York City) the Artisanal Cheese Center and Murray’s Cheese and managed the general store at Marlow & Sons in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Sasha is awaiting the release of her book about West Coast Cheeses (coming in September 2010), co-chairing the 2010 American Cheese Society annual conference, and cheesemongering in Portland, Oregon. She is also serving her first term as an American Cheese Society Board member. Her family and alma mater, UC Davis, both in Northern California are relieved that she is finally making use of her bachelor’s degree in Nature and Culture.

Michael, despite his central Illinois roots, has become obsessed with wine. After extensive reading and even more tasting, he took a certification course at WSET, the Wine and Spirit Education Trust, in New York. He moved on to the retail side of the business at Astor Wine and Spirits, and then to assistant sommelier at the esteemed Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Of course he did all of this while maintaining his day job at the small but mighty marketing firm, Learning Worlds. Michael now works for HUGE Inc., a strategic design organization based out of Brooklyn, NY.

If you have any questions or problems with the site, etc please feel free to email us at info[at]cheesebyhand[dot]com