Anne Saxelby, Who Helped Redefine America’s Independent Cheese Industry, Dies at 40
Saxelby Cheesemongers is beloved for specializing in artisan American cheeses
by Emma Orlow Oct 12, 2021, 11:07am EDT
Anne Saxelby, the founder and co-owner of Saxelby Cheesemongers, has passed away at the age of 40.
The New York Times first reported that Saxelby died on Saturday, October 9 and had an underlying heart condition.
Saxelby became a leading figure in the industry for championing artisan cheeses made in America
— an ethos that set her apart from other shops when she opened in the Essex Street Market’s original location in 2006. At Saxelby Cheesemongers, she gave independent makers like Vermont’s Jasper Hill Farm a platform that helped catapult it to national success. In 2017, Saxelby expanded her Manhattan footprint with an additional location in Chelsea Market. Last year, she published an illustrated book with Ten Speed Press, The New Rules of Cheese: A Freewheelin’ and Informative Guide.
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Below is an Instagram post from DiBruno’s Cheese Monger Hunter Fike
I’m sick to my stomach writing this. Anne was a beacon in this industry, and leaves behind a legacy that few could ever hope to achieve.
I first met Anne in 2005, when she was touring our stores with @cheesemee33, hoping to glean as much as possible before opening her eponymous retail counter in Manhattan’s Essex Market. Though ostensibly she was in Philly to learn from us, I think we all knew we’d be taking lessons from her in no time.
Anne had the daring vision of opening a cheese shop that sold only American cheese. This, during a time when most of us were just starting to accept Pleasant Ridge Reserve or Humboldt Fog as mainstays in our stores. Anne took up the flag as ambassador for craft American cheese and led the way for 15 years.
I, myself, experienced my first taste of several beloved cheeses having received them directly from Anne’s hand. As soon as she found something worthy, she passed it on to spread the love and support the maker.
My favorite memory of Anne was at Fonduel in 2019.
Most competitors showed up with elaborate recipes, esoteric ingredients, “scented” cheeses, truffles and foie gras. We decorated our tables to wow the judges and set to work preparing our fondue. Anne showed up late, exuding her quiet grace and dignity. Working on an unadorned table, she created the classic fondue recipe with Reading Raclette and Calderwood, a cheese of her own imagination made manifest by Jasper Hill. She served it with stale bread. I think you know who won. Without saying a word, she taught us all a lesson that day.
I was worried that, in writing this, I’d only repeat what has already been said many times the last few days. But for all that she represented – her stalwart dedication to American cheese, her representation of the absolute benchmark of being a monger, her generous and loving character – there is very little about her that doesn’t bear repeating again and again. I am confident that, for someone as inspiring as Anne, no one will ever speak the final word.