Dozens of NYC restaurants join forces to honor Anne Saxelby, America’s Cheese Champion

Anne Saxelby has dedicated her career to celebrating and championing cheese made in the USA – and her impact has been exponentially greater than the retail store she operated in New York’s Chelsea Market. Through her boutique Saxelby Cheesemongers, which opened in a small space inside the Essex Market in 2006 and later expanded to a warehouse in Brooklyn, she has shed light on locally produced varieties by small manufacturers and passionately championed the sustainable and regenerative practices behind farmers. ‘ cheeses. The foodie world collectively mourned the loss of Saxelby when she died aged 40 last year.

Today, his passion for the hard work and creativity of American producers lives on through the Anne Saxelby Legacy Fund. The nonprofit, founded by Saxelby’s husband Patrick Martins, offers internships for young adults to live and work on sustainable farms for a month, fully paid, and learn how climate change, biodiversity and land conservation have an impact on the family of the country. operate farms. Apprentices will see first-hand how growers and producers are prioritizing environmental conservation, promoting food sovereignty, and creating more equitable food systems. (The 2022 cohort is the organization’s inaugural class. By 2024, the Legacy Fund aims to provide at least 400 apprenticeship places per year.)

Anne Saxelby championed American-made cheeses in her Chelsea Market window in New York. Photograph by Christine Han

On September 14, dozens of New York’s top chefs and artisans who have worked with Saxelby come together to raise funds for the organization and to remember her. From 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., part of Chelsea Market will close while famous establishments like Gramercy Tavern, Momofuku, Gage & Tollner and Carbone will bring their signature dishes to share together at the remembrance. (Tickets for the annual performance are available here.)

Prior to the event, we asked some of the participating restaurateurs and chefs to share a favorite memory of Anne and what they will be cooking for guests.

“She was the warmest, funniest person you could ever meet, someone you were delighted to see every time she walked in,” says Melinda Shopsin, owner of Shopsin’s restaurant in Essex Market. “She had the most delicious cheese and she really cared about every one of them. She spent so much time with each client. Anne was an American Farmer’s Cheese Evangelist and there was no way out of that store without joining her cheese church.

In an unexpected turn of events, the two ended up running their stores in neighboring spaces in Essex Market. “Working alongside her was the best,” Shopsin says of her good friend. “She was just so nice. I’m sure she did a lot for American Farmer’s Cheese, but more importantly, I think she made people kinder.

The dish: macaroni and cheese pancakes “because Annie loved it”.

“She was such an uplifting and generous force,” says Trigg Brown, chef and co-owner of Taiwanese American establishments Win Son and Win Son Bakery in Brooklyn. He first encountered Saxelby while looking for a cheese that could melt like American cheese, but held its shape well enough to hold the sauce for the bakery’s now-iconic breakfast sandwiches. “She chose the slightly funky, perfectly melt-in-the-mouth Redding raclette,” Brown recalled. “Texture is often as important as flavor, and Anne hit the mark for us with that.”

The dish: Seared pork buns with heritage pork shoulder and belly from Heritage Foods (Martins’ shop, which specializes in preserving endangered species of livestock.)

When Asian-American retail store Pearl River Mart opened its Chelsea Market outpost in 2017, chairwoman Joanne Kwong quickly befriended Saxelby, another store owner in the space. (where Saxelby opened a location in 2017). The couple, along with a handful of other female owners, formed a cocktail club they called the Boss Ladies, meeting for happy hour every two months. “We were both fast talkers, always racing against the clock, which I think is why we got along,” Kwong explains. “His generosity was remarkable and his energy electric. She was always ready to share valuable business ideas, or a pep talk with enthusiasm and kindness. Anne was universally loved and just the brightest light wherever she went.

The Dish: Pearl River Mart food vendors offer five dishes that “run the gamut of some of the [Anne’s] favorite Asian bites, but with a twist,” says Kwong – cherry miso lamb baos, tuna kimbap, hoisin mushroom crisps, strawberry hibiscus boba and Hong Kong cakes.

In 2007, when Ryan Bartlow was a young cook who had just moved to Manhattan’s Lower East Side, he “often made the effort to stop and gaze at the assortment of cheeses Anne had to offer” in his Essex Market store, although artisan cheese wasn’t necessarily in his budget, he recalls. “From Old Chatham to Jasper Hill Farm, it was an introduction to iconic, cult and national cheesemakers,” he explains. When Bartlow developed the concept for the Basque restaurant Ernesto’s years later, he and his team visited the Saxelby store in Brooklyn to sample different varieties of cheese. “[Patrick] told me Ernesto’s was one of his favorite restaurants,” adds Bartlow. “It meant a lot to me. Anne meant a lot to me too. She meant a lot to many.

The dish: tortilla de patatas stuffed with Moses Sleeper cheese from Jasper Hill Farm, finished with truffles.

TJ Steele and Lincoln Clevenson, Claro

Whenever TJ Steele, the chef of Brooklyn’s Oaxacan-inspired restaurant Claro, needed to source a French-style or Spanish-style cheese, he sought out Saxelby. “She always had the perfect domestic equivalent. It made things really fun and interesting,” he recalls. “Anne was such a domestic cheese champion, so I loved that she always had a cheese up her sleeve.”

The dish: barbacoa de chivo, with goat meat from Heritage Foods.

Riad Nasr and Lee Hanson, Frenchette

“Butter, eggs and cheese are the foundation of our cuisine,” says Riad Nasr, co-owner of Frenchette, a French bistro in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood. It is therefore only natural that the restaurant has found a dairy expert in Saxelby. “Anne’s influence has been instrumental in how we source ingredients. The [legacy fund] in his honor is a direct expression of his boundless decency and enthusiasm.

The dish: boiled brouillade, soft scrambled eggs, served with rye crackers.

Andrew Tarlow, the restaurateur behind catering group Marlow Events, met Saxelby over 20 years ago when the two met in the catering world. “She inspired me to think a bit more about where our food comes from, where the cheese comes from, how it affects these farmers, how the cows are cared for,” he says.

The dish: Chef Greg Idler will prepare a Tarentaise and celeriac fondue from Spring Brook Farm, served with She Wolf bread.

Richard Ho, who owns Taiwanese beef noodle soup restaurant Ho Foods in the East Village, met Saxelby after sourcing meat from Martins for years. “The two together seemed like such an amazing thing. They had so much joy living in this global way,” he says, adding that the couple shared a passion for championing and uplifting family farms and sustainable practices.

The dish: Ho’s signature fan tuan, a sticky rice dish he’ll stuff with meat floss made from Martins’ heirloom pork.