Jim Boyce died last week. He was the long-time owner of Marin French Cheese Company and a really nice guy. I didn’t know him well, really just from going to the same events for many years now, but his loss will be felt by everyone in our cheese community.
I’ve always had a soft spot for Marin French since they are my hometown cheese plant. I grew up stopping there on any family trip to Pt. Reyes or Limantour Beach. While Marin French (or simply The Cheese Factory to locals) is the longest continually operating cheese plant in the country,* it has had a number of owners over the years. Until Jim took over and revamped the operation, I had actually stopped buying their cheese, even though it kind of broke my heart. Jim and family totally turned the operation around.
At the American Cheese Society Competitions, it was always an epic battle between him and Sid Cook as to who would win the most ribbons. True, they usually always had the most entries in the competition as well, but I know I wasn’t the only one who looked forward to their friendly taunting and ribbon-mugging. It was always one of my favorite parts of the conference. It was even suggested that the cheese society get a separate scoreboard for the two of them so we could all know the ribbon count.
I got to sit at the same table as Jim and his wife at one ACS cheese tasting event. We went around the table eating amazing cheeses and when we got to the perfectly ripe and luscious Epoisses, we tried it and I said, “Ah, it’s ok, but it’s no Schloss.”** They laughed, but they also had the good grace to demure.
Marin French has won lots of awards but Jim was always humble and always there to support new cheesemakers and donate cheese to worthy events. He will be missed.
*Eat it Vermont!
**Except for both being washed rind cheeses, they are not really similar beyond both being stinky and pungent. Epoisses is rated as one of the best cheeses in the world and almost no one gives Schloss the credit it deserves for being such a long-time American classic.
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rouge et noir brie is my very first memory of falling in love with cheese. my dad used to keep a wheel in his desk drawer, and i would sneak in and eat it when he wasn’t around. i told Jim that when i met him and gave him a good chuckle. i love that not only can i still taste that memory when i think of it… but that very cheese is still around and can take me right back to happy times with every bite.