Cheese Professional Exam, First in America

The American Cheese Society will hold its 29th conference in Raleigh next week and it promises to be a milestone conference. The first certification exam will be offered to 150 people in the cheese industry August 1st. The conference will include the annual cheese judging competition (with a record number of entries – over 1,700 cheeses) highlighted by the awards ceremony Friday afternoon. The keynote speaker at the conference will be Temple Grandin, and cheese experts from around the world will speak at various sessions, including one I will moderate entitled “Cheese, a Near-Perfect Food.”

For all the many exciting parts of this conference, the stand-out for many attendees will be the certification exam, its raison d’être summed up by this mission statement:

“The mission of the Cheese Professional Certification project of the ACS is to support artisan cheesemaking by developing a Certification Program and by fostering cheese education.”

The idea to create this certification was conceived nearly a decade ago by Laurie Greenberg and Kathy Guidi at an ACS conference in Louisville.

The non-profit organization was founded by Professor Kosikowski to cater to the interests and needs of small scale cheese makers and others interested in cheese. It seemed logical that a certification for cheese handlers (everyone involved in the path, from the producers to the end-consumers) would serve the cheese makers and the entire industry very well, all the way through to the consumers. When registration for the first exam was opened late last year it did not take long for the 150-seat allotment to fill; it happened faster than many expected.

There are people already registered to take the exam the next time it is offered in 2013. This shows that there is vital interest in this certification. Many other industries have certification programs: chefs, sommeliers, health professionals, and many others. With the rising popularity and connoisseurship of cheese, it is high-time that cheese receives a similar focus.

It has taken this many years for our little volunteer group to assemble this certification program, longer than we expected. As it turned out, developing a credible certification is a serious and demanding enterprise. I don’t know if we would have been able to bring this certification effort to fruition if we had not enjoyed the dedicated leadership of our committee chair – Susan Sturman.

The ACS-endorsed Certified Cheese Professionals will, we believe, raise the standards for the industry, and raise awareness and appreciation for cheese.

Max McCalman

Spread the curd!
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