For many of us who have grown up in the Mt. Diablo School District the Cheese Zombie brings back nostalgic childhood memories of a warm, buttery, cheese-filled bread roll. But, most of the alumni have no idea of how the Cheese Zombie came to be. A story lost long ago. But how long ago? I bet most would be surprised to learn it was over 50 years ago.
Now the recipe itself has been in the district for longer than that. The way we've come to know and love the Cheese Zombie started in 1963 with two Women named Decla Phillips and Helen Beloc.
Decla and Helen worked as bakers for Mt. Diablo High School. Every morning school bakers would prepare 144 pounds of dough. They would roll the dough out into large sheets and let it rest, which would allow the dough to relax thus making it easier to stretch and fit the baking pans. A layer of American cheese was put over the dough and then the layer of cheese was covered with another layer of dough.
Finally, a tool was used to crimp the edges together to prevent the cheese from bubbling out of the sides while baking. This process was very time consuming and labor intensive for a brunch item that had to be ready for consumption by hungry students at 9:30 AM.
With a little creativity and ingenuity, Decla and Helen created the Cheese Zombie we know today. Although they were never recognized for their re-creation of the Cheese Zombie, their method was soon adopted by all of the Mt. Diablo District Schools. Even schools in Napa and States as far away as Idaho and Texas started making them. That's another story.
Today the Zombie served at school is not what it once was, the method is the same but due to new guidelines the recipe now has to include oats and wheat. There is one place where you can go that still offers that old school zombie served just the way you remember it.
Patty's Original Cheese Zombies is a family owned Bakery in Concord CA. It opened October 26, 2013 and is a real "blast from the past." Though they offer creative Zombies such as pizza, BBQ chicken, ham/cheese/jalapeno, pastrami and various breakfeast items, the original cheese zombie has the MDUSD alumni running to their door. The little shop is located in Dana Plaza shopping center on Concord Blvd. at Landana and was opened by Patricia "Patty" May and her son Robert.
Patty has worked for the Mt. Diablo School District for over 15 Years, Six as a Bakers Trainer. Most of the time spent at Clayton Valley High before it became a Charter School. She has always had a passion for baking, even as a child. At age eleven she started baking under the tutelage of her mother and grandmother. After high school she felt herself gravitating toward the food service industry but marriage and children put that on hold. Fast forward almost twenty years and the youngest of three sons was off to school, she applied and was hired by the School District Food Services Division and so began her career with the Cheese Zombie.
Robert, her eldest son, always knew his mother's passion was to bake. He has watched her work very hard over the years and take great pride in everything she bakes. Robert thought of a time when he was in the third grade and his friend tried to sneak a zombie out of the cafeteria and got caught. His friends explanation was his mom wanted to recreate the recipe at home. Simple as it sounds, It is not that easy to do. The challenge is trying to keep the cheese inside the roll. Thus the idea of Patty's Original Cheese Zombies was born.
FRESH BAKED COOKIES
Patty's baking is both an art and a science. Baking and love are the same - a question of freshness, and that all the ingredients, even the most bitter, turn out delicious.
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