Founder of Scharffen Berger chocolate and Scharffenberger Cellars; CEO of Hodo Soy Beanery in Oakland.
The food: Laura Chenel's chèvre. I was at a San Francisco restaurant in the late 1980's and bit into this and thought, What a beautiful French cheese. Then it turned out to be made in Sonoma County, and I thought, Oh my god, we really are able to make cheese that's as good as the French stuff.
How it changed me: At the time, I was at an impasse in my sparkling winemaking business in California's Anderson Valley. Trying the chèvre made me realize that the magic isn't held by one geography. It can be replicated. I spent more time in France and ended up changing my pressing technology. A year later, Scharffenberger Cellars won a sparkling wine award.