Sad week for the cheese community


There was very sad news in the cheese world this week with the passing of two important cheese people.

I did not know Dr. Pat Elliott very well so I will leave memorializing her to others. I do remember meeting her at my very first American Cheese Society conference though. I didn’t know anyone at the bar but she invited me to her table of cheese folks and made me feel welcome. Over the years we always said hello at various national cheese events, but reading her obituary makes me wish I had sought her out and made time to really talk to her. She will be missed.

Fred Hull was a different kind of cheese person. He wasn’t a cheese maker or distributor and he didn’t seem to work in cheese stores very often. I did not know what he did with himself when he wasn’t at the American Cheese Society, but I know that when I would arrive, Fred would have already been there for awhile, doing crucial behind the scenes tasks. If you didn’t work in the judging room, you may never have met him, but he was one of the handful of people who made the whole thing work. He was there to bring out the cheese, to replenish supplies, to make sure everyone had what they needed. He loved being around cheese so much that he would do things, unpaid, that others might complain about while getting a paycheck.

Indeed, Fred was someone who – every year – would help me rekindle my love for my job. As much as I love cheesemongering, there are times in any job where things get you down. The customer service nightmares, the invoice hassles, the cleaning of the drains… whatever. Fred’s enthusiasm for cheese couldn’t help but make you forget all those things. Every year I judged I would start saving little nibbles of the best cheeses so that when he walked by I could share them. I loved watching his reactions, hearing his voice when he would talk about the richness or the complexity or whatever he liked about the sample. I noticed that a lot of the other judges did the same thing. I think our moments with Fred were a treat for all of us. I know he was one of a few people who, just being around, helped me go back to my work refreshed and energized.

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I am having a hard time believing that when I show up to Madison this year to judge. In his years volunteering at the conference he became an integral part of our community. He was not a fame seeker (unlike those of us with enough narcissism to write cheese books). He just seemed to love every minute of the time he got to spend around cheese. He soaked everything in, exuding back a pure joy of appreciation for the time he got to spend a whole week doing nothing but talking cheese, tasting cheese, and being in that rarefied community of cheese people that gather every year in a different state because, sure it’s our job, but also because we are a little obsessed.

I am not sure yet what should be done to honor Fred this year at the conference. But his love of cheese was something that needs to be remembered. Fred will be missed by all the cheese people who knew him.

Cheese Hunter / Episode Two: American Cheeses from Kevin Davidson on Vimeo.

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4 responses to “Sad week for the cheese community

  1. Sorry to hear about Fred Hull, I last saw him a couple months ago at Dean & Deluca, ended up getting sucked into a good 45 minutes of cheese tastings and discussion as he pulled wheel after wheel out of the case and enthused over their glories; a genuinely nice guy and classic NYC personality, in the best sense.

  2. Priscilla Luoma

    Thank you, he was my brother, and you could not have written a more accurate and honorable account of him. I could not get away from the constant “forced” cheese tastings that are a sister’s duty! He was truly as you all knew him, no pretenses. He loved opera, Proust and everyone he met. In his time away from cheese conferences he would expose us all to cheese and more cheese. I am deeply grateful for your spreading the sad news of a great and humble man. Obit:
    In loving memory of Frederick M. Hull, beloved son, brother, uncle and friend, Fred, 55, of Brooklyn NY passed away peacefully Friday, May 10, 2013. Born in Meriden on November 7, 1957, Fred was the son of Phyllis Lorraine (Owen) Hull and the late Frederick S. Hull. Fred is survived by four sisters: Karen Shaw and her husband Perry; Gayle Gann and her husband Kevin; Priscilla Luoma and her husband Troy; and Valerie Hull; as well as two brothers: Stephen Hull and Jonathan (CJ) Hull, both of Meriden. Fred is also survived by his 11 wonderful nieces and nephews: Christopher and Phoebe Shaw; Jonathan, Christina, Sadie and Katie Gann; Jonathan R. Hull; Jonathan (Hunter), Mitchell, Robert and Valerie Luoma. Fred loved his family deeply and generously. He was a kind, gentle and thoughtful man who touched the lives of everyone he encountered. Friends remember Fred as a true light who loved people, culture and especially cheese! Fred’s family will receive relatives and friends at New Life Church, 262 Bee Street, Meriden, on Wednesday, May 15, 2013. Calling hours will be from 5 to 7PM and a celebration and remembrance of Fred’s life will follow at 7PM.

  3. Pingback: Sad news for the cheese community | Cheese To You

  4. It’s going to be a lot different at the Conference this year…
    Fred will indeed be missed.
    I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside Fred for several years within the Judging and Competition portion of American Cheese Society’s annual conference. He had an ability to see to the good and his attitude and work reflected it each and every year.
    His passion and joy for cheese was infectious, I think I’ll hear his laugh in the back rooms this summer in Madison.

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