We’re introducing you to our passionate team of experts. Today’s featured Deli crew member is cheesemonger Zach Sievers!
Meet Zach Sievers
Zach grew up in North Manchester, Indiana, just outside Fort Wayne. He moved here 10 years ago with his partner, Caitlin, an Ann Arbor local. He is currently studying fermentation science at Eastern Michigan University, an intriguing and vast field of study, including chemistry and biology. Zach has developed his technical knowledge of volatile compounds and how they affect the way we taste and smell—crucial factors in how we experience food, especially cheese! Zach compares the classes to undergrad chemistry, with the addition of a focus on fermentation in food, beer, and wine. “When I started going back to school,” Zach says, “my primary goal was just to prove to myself that I could do it.” At this point in Zach’s studies, his degree will open many doors in terms of cheesemaking, food quality, and quality assurance!
Since Zach’s day at work is jam-packed with cheesemongering, he sticks to making the simple stuff at home—fromage blanc or ricotta. He also enjoys experimenting with kimchi, sauerkraut, and fruit-based fermentations like beer, wine, and kombucha. He keeps his projects on a half-sized baker’s rack with an insulated vinyl cover, and a heater attached to control temperature. His first attempt at kimchi was “something close to inedible,” but the more he practices, the better his finished products have become.
Zach at Zing
Zach has been a part of the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses for seven and a half years. Before arriving at the Deli, Zach worked under Tessie Ives-Wilson at the Creamery for six years and even received the American Cheese Society Cheese Professional certification in 2020! His favorite part of working at the Deli is the people! “Being around a group of people that are passionate about traditional food and great service is very energizing and inspiring,” Zach says. He enjoys exploring more traditional foodways (especially related to cheese) and is proud to be a part of a team that values those traditions.
It’s Easy Being Cheesy
Not surprisingly, Zach Sievers is known around the Deli for his cheese knowledge. In fact, he wishes the rest of us knew more! “I think it would be great if people had a better understanding of how cheese is made at a small scale,” says Zach. “It’s extremely labor intensive and that labor is what makes small-scale, traditional cheeses special.” His primary cheesemaking experience is lactic and surface-ripened cheeses; he’s looking forward to developing larger, alpine-style cheeses in the future. His desert island cheese is any freshly-cut alpine, from Challerhocker to Pleasant Ridge Reserve.
No one question is a silver bullet for finding a cheese you love when you’re getting help at the Deli counter, but Zach says that being armed with a good description of a previous cheese you loved is a great way to find more awesome cheeses for your palette. Zach’s current fave is Sainte Maure, an ash-ripened French goat cheese from Touraine. Nice, ripe, with a smooth paste and a bit of acidity on the finish. An underrated cheese in our case at the moment that Zach wants to shout out is Caprioline from Arnoldi in Val Taleggio; a lovely, velvety, washed rind goat cheese. We don’t have it all the time, so get it while you can!
Zach hasn’t had the chance to travel to Europe since beginning his work in cheese, so eventually, he’d love to go and try all of the younger raw cheeses that we can’t get our hands on here in the States. But in the meantime, a regional cheesemaker that he’s got his eye on right now is Veronica Pedraza from Blakesville Creamery, who makes some of the best goat cheese in the country according to Zach’s trained palette!
So you may be wondering: what’s Zach’s ideal cheese board? He likes to keep it simple with two or three cheeses: a soft goat cheese, a blue, and an alpine. His current picks are Pleasant Ridge Reserve, Saint Maure, and Bleu 1924 paired with a wonderfully crunchy and airy baguette and fireweed honey from Moonshine Trading Co.
3 Fun Facts
- One of Zach’s favorite food memories growing up is going to get Hoosier Tenderloins with his family. This Midwestern sandwich features giant breaded, deep-fried pork tenderloins, and his family would always get them with a side of fried veggies.
- His pantry is full of honey (mostly fireweed) and Telicherry black peppercorns.
- When Zach isn’t at work, his biggest hobbies are cooking, container gardening, and video games. He also loves basketball.