Interview with Allison Hooper of Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery
"Those early days in France were so formative. I was 19, a student, living in Paris—I needed something to do between semesters. So I wrote some letters offering to work on a farm if a family gave me a place to live and fed me..."
"One family wrote back, from Brittany. They had cows, goats, some sheep, pigs . . . they made a variety of fresh and aged cheeses and charcuterie. It was a wonderful existence on a hardscrabble little farm. The farmhouse was an old stone Brittany-style house with a dirt floor; I slept with sausages hanging over my head..."
"I went off to Taiwan, to learn another language. But I found I really wanted to be back in France. So I returned to a farm near Grenoble where they made goat cheese and honey. Each night we’d put cold milk from the evening milking in a cistern in the middle of town. The next day we’d blend it with the morning milk, and miraculously, the milk would be at just the right temperature for making cheese..."
"I thought, 'I could do this'..."'
"Then I met Bob Reise [Hooper’s business partner and co-owner of Vermont Butter & Cheese]; I was in the ag department at Montpelier, and he was a marketing specialist there. It was a perfect marriage of interests and skills..."
"The naïveté we had was absolutely precious. Had we known even a little more than we did, we probably never would have started this business..."
"Bob and I each had $1,200; we needed to be resourceful. So we converted a little 10' by 10' milk house on Don Hooper and Alice Pell’s farm..."
"I made the cheese twice a week. Bob had a little office with a phone and a typewriter. We’d dial around, but people with an appreciation for nice cheese were few and far between..."
"If you could get your goat cheese on the menu, you had assurance there was business, so you could concentrate on the cheese. Chef by chef, we made it work. They helped us refine and develop an aesthetic that evolved our business to what it is today..."Photo by Jim Westphalen