While some of us consider all cheese makers to be saints, there’s only one patron saint of cheese making: Saint Uguzon. In January 2017, Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery Founder Jennifer Bice was inducted into an elite international order named for the saint, the Guilde International des Fromagers and Confrérie de Saint-Uguzon.
At a ceremony in San Francisco, Jennifer was honored alongside 11 other cheese experts and aficionados at the Garde et Juré (Guard and Judge) level. The mission of the Guilde, also known as the Brotherhood of Saint Uguzon, is to preserve the standards and traditions of the ancient art of cheese making.
Who was Saint Uguzon?
According to legend, Lucio Uguzo was a poor shepherd who lived in the Italian Alps around the year 1200. He is credited with discovering thermal caseification, a heat process that increases cheese yields from milk. Uguzo distributed the extra cheese to those less fortunate, which raised the suspicions of his thrifty master. He left to work at a neighboring dairy, where his cheese bounty continued to flourish. Unfortunately, this enraged his first master so much he murdered poor Uguzo. Saint Uguzon is celebrated with a feast every year on his birthday, July 12th.
Creation of the Guilde
In 1969, master cheese maker Pierre Androuët created the Guilde International des Fromagers and Confrérie de Saint-Uguzon as a way to honor the patron saint and uphold the traditions of artisan cheese making. Internationally renowned cheese expert Roland Barthélemy succeeded Androuët as Guilde president in 1992, and was present at the January ceremony to bestow medals on the 12 inductees. The prestigious society, headquartered in France, now has chapters in 37 countries. Members include cheese mongers, producers, refiners, chefs, food scientists, journalists, and artists.
Continuing the Legacy of Cheese Making
This honor is one of many for Jennifer Bice in a lifetime of artisan cheese and dairy making. Over the course of her career, she has created a number of award-winning cheeses and was inducted into the American Cheese Society Academy of Cheese in 2011 as one of eight pioneers of artisan goat cheese in the United States.
As Jennifer shifts her focus to supporting the next generation of cheese makers, she has put in place an annual $10,000 scholarship to a deserving individual involved in the field of artisan dairy or cheese making. The grant will be administered by the California Artisan Cheese Guild and will be awarded for the first time in the summer of 2017.
As part of her succession plan for retirement, Jennifer will also pass on recipes and cheese making equipment for her French-style and fresh goat milk cheeses to fellow Guilde des Fromagers inductee Seana Doughty of Bleating Heart Cheese, ensuring that cheese lovers will continue to enjoy Redwood Hill Farm’s signature flavors for years to come.