In December Quality Cheese is founded by Caroline Hostettler with the purpose to import the cheeses of famous Swiss affineur Rolf Beeler. Picholine Restaurant in Manhattan becomes the first customer.
In September Crystal Food Import in Boston, one of the Nation’s biggest importer and distributor of high end products, picks up the Rolf Beeler Selection. QC chooses Mathis&Thuerig as its exporting partner in Switzerland.
Quality Cheese opens its wholesale operation in Fort Myers, FL. The product list is extended with dried meats, condiments, olives, and other gourmet foods.
In February Quality Cheese is incorporated.
In August the “Caroline Hostettler Selection” is introduced with cheeses Caroline had handpicked during a summer trip to her native Switzerland.
1998: It All Began in Manhattan
Even for a place like Manhattan it is not quite common to see a person walking through the streets pulling a simple cooler, even less so in January. Of course, the heavy leather jacket that was pulled up to the person’s chin told you that this was not a walk to the beach.
A leisurely day was certainly not what Caroline Hostettler had in mind as she fought through the chilly winds on this day in January 1998. It was more of an adventurous task, and, indeed, the cooler contained a treasure: samples of cheeses from famous cheesemonger Rolf Beeler whom they call the “Pope of Cheese” in his native Switzerland, samples that had just arrived a few days before Christmas 1997.
New York City’s fancy places like Picholine, Lespinasse, Lutèce, Le Cirque 2000, the original Restaurant Daniel, or the Union Square Cafe, at the time the flagship of the Danny Meyer Union Square Hospitality Group, were her targets. It was a tedious journey, and not one without any embarrassment: Caroline cut her finger as she presented the cheeses to the kitchen crew of Daniel Boulud. Luckily she could hide the bleeding under the long sleeves of her jacket.
Then again the journey was probably fitting to the way the whole thing had started. Caroline had befriended Rolf Beeler after meeting him for an article she wrote for Swiss magazine “Bolero”. It was the passion for food, and cheese in particular, that connected them. And it had been Rolf who – after being told that Caroline would emigrate to the U.S. – jokingly said: “Why don’t you sell my cheeses over there?”
1999: Slowly Growing
That conversation came to Caroline’s mind often as she toured NYC, and then Chicago, San Francisco and L.A. with her cooler. It wasn’t a joke anymore but certainly the closest you can come to “build a business from scratch”. She also quickly found out that not all of these famous food places were serious when they claimed they “use only the best ingredients”.
2001: Collaboration with Crystal Foods
Still, some of the chefs and store managers were immediately hooked due to the high quality of the products. And, indeed, the first customer list read like a “who is who in gourmet foods”. MaxMcCalman of Picholine’s, the first American “Dean of Cheese”, wrote: “With her imports Caroline has singlehandedly risen the bar for artisan cheesemaking in the U.S.”
Nevertheless, the beginning was tough for “Quality Cheese”, her company. Sales in the first year were minimal. Besides, she had some very unpleasant experiences with importers and distributors who offered their help but then tried to get the products behind her back. But the exclusive contract she had signed with Rolf Beeler made all these dishonest attempts fail. In the meantime Daniel, her husband, had his own headaches with the FDA, Customs, brokers and forwarders. But steadily the business grew. It got another boost when Crystal Food in Boston started to import the cheeses in the Fall of 2001. By that time the name Rolf Beeler was widely known in the trade.
2004: Wholesale in Fort Myers, Florida
During the early years Caroline introduced artisan cheeses in a local restaurant in Fort Myers where she had emigrated to in 1996. She then launched cheese programs in a gourmet store and later in a wine store. And soon she was known as the “Cheeselady” in the area. This led to the next step: In 2004 she opened a wholesale with cheese and other gourmet foods in Fort Myers, delivering to the best restaurants and stores in Southwest Florida.
Two years later she added her own line of handpicked Swiss cheeses to the Beeler Selection. In the Summer of 2006 Quality Cheese went into an even closer relationship with Crystal Food who became the sole importer/-distributor of the Rolf Beeler and Caroline Hostettler Selections. A bit later Caroline became a Crystal Food Representative for the Southeast of the U.S.
2005 : 55º – Cool Wine + Cheese
It had always been Caroline’s dream to open her own cheese shop. After evaluations with partners hadn’t produced any results Caroline and Daniel met Osmin Rodriguez, a banker with plans to open a wine store, in the Fall of 2005. Together they designed “55º – Cool Wine+Cheese”, a modern, European influenced concept of a wine and cheese store with a little bar where customers would be able to taste what the store had to offer.
The store finally opened mid May 2007 at the Gulf Coast Town Center in Estero. Unfortunately, Southwest Florida was hit the hardest with the recession. And in September 2010, after just a little more than 3 years, 55 Degrees closed its door. Since then there is not one single store in whole Southwest Florida that offers world class cheeses.
2010: World’s Best Cheeses – Our New Partner
After going bankrupt Crystal Food was bought by World’s Best Cheeses (Cheezwhse.com) in the Spring of 2010 and therefore became our new main partner in the U.S. Having closed the store we began to work hard to increase the customer base together with the old sales core of Crystal and Joe and Steve Gellert, owners of WBC. In the Fall of 2012 WBC aquires its bankrupt competitor “Cheeseworks”. This is an important step for the west coast market since Cheeseworks had a platform in San Francisco.
The nation’s top restaurants have been a target for Quality Cheese from the beginning, besides Manhattan hot spots Thomas Keller’s “French Laundry” in Napa or “Charlie Trotter’s” in Chicago were early customers, too. When acclaimed Swiss chef Daniel Humm moved from San Francisco’s Campton Place Hotel to become the executive chef at Eleven Madison Park in Manhattan cheese from our portfolio were served in what quickly became the “to go place” in NYC. We are even more proud of the fact that at the NoMad Hotel – which Humm opened in 2012 – on the menu are our cheeses exclusively.
The newest San Pellegrino List rates Daniel Humm as number 5 in the world.
With the newest studies and dairy researches proofing more and more the health aspect of high quality cheeses and dairy products and replacing old myths and misconceptions (see Health page) we have focussed on cheese as functional food.
This lead us to the idea to give our customers more insight in the world of transhumance when farmers move their animals up to the Alps where the purest and highest quality of milk produces what new researches say is “the perfect food”. Therefore we connected with people who still do the transhumance and linked with them over the summer. Customers could decide which Alp meadow to “adopt”. They were updated during the summer months about the proceedings up there in high altitude. The response exceeded our expectations by far, and more and more the farmers enjoyed the collaboration, too. They are proud that their hard work is recognized thousand of miles away.
2014: The Winner is… The Red Witch
Our partner World’s Best Cheeses entered the Red Witch (Rote Hexe in German) for the Sofi Awards at the NASFT Fancy Food Show in New York City’s Javits Center (6/29-7/1/14). On April 8 we were informed that the cheese had won at least the silver award as one of six finalists. The finalists averaged a total of 17.39 pts for the 5 categories “Quality”, “Innovation”, “Packaging”, “Ingredient Profile” and “Pricing”. The Red Witch scored 20.49 pts and was announced as the winner on Monday, June 30, during the awards ceremony.
The Red Witch is made by Christian Oberli at the Rislen Dairy in Rossrueti/SG in North Eastern Switzerland and promoted by the “Bodensee-Kaese AG”. We had visited the dairy on our summer trip in 2013, shortly after the dairy had been approved by the FDA who had sent 3 inspectors for 3 days to evaluate the facility. The Red Witch was originally created for the time of “Fasnacht” (Carneval) in February/March as a cheese that goes well with a glass of wine. It’s catching red rind and label are also well suited for Halloween. Then again, who wants to eat such a cheese only on special occasions?
2015: Caroline’s new tasks: Mifroma USA and Sbrinz Ambassador
The new year brings an exciting start. As of January 1, 2015, Caroline is hired by Mifroma USA to help develop a specialty line for the Swiss cheese giant. And after Quality Cheese joined forces with the Swiss Society of Alpine Economy to support products manufactured in the Alps, Caroline also gets involved with the Sbrinz AOC and is named “Sbrinz Ambassador for the US”. The collaboration targets to increase the reputation and sales of the Sbrinz, also called the “Grandfather of Cheeses”.
June 2015: Mifroma Premium
At the NASFT show at the Javits Center in NYC the Mifroma Premium line is officially introduced to the trade by Mifroma USA. The line consists of a “Tour of Switzerland” program that contains 14 cheeses from different Swiss regions as well as the second edition of the “Adopt-an-Alp” program which supports transhumance and delivers some of the most delicious and healthy cheeses. The products for both programs have been selected by Caroline who is the manager in charge for the Premium line.
December 2015: Changes at InterCheese
The first week of December 2015 was an important date for our Swiss partner InterCheese AG. Daniel Daetwyler, co-owner and -founder, left the company which remains in the sole ownership of his former companion, Peter Häfeli. Daniel Daetwyler had always been the contact person for Quality Cheese and has supported our small company over all those years. His tasks are now in the hands of Leonhard Wey, Engineer HTL in dairy science and formerly of Emmi, who is also part of the Executive Board.
January 2017: Immense interest in Adopt-an-Alp®
Created in 2013 by Caroline Hostettler the Adopt-an-Alp program will reach new dimensions in 2017. Even though transhumance and summer are still a few months away, we have preorders for around 70 tons of high quality, healthy alpage cheeses from the Switzerland. To see more about Adopt-an-Alp® click here.