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Posts Filed Under The ‘American Cheese Society’ Category

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

Calling all Fromagers!

photo 2 e1384293166957 Calling all Fromagers!

The American Cheese Society is accepting applications for its third Certified Cheese Professional exam but you had better apply soon because the application deadline is coming up. That exam will be administered at their annual conference in Sacramento next summer.

Before you get too excited about becoming a CCP let me caution you that there are some eligibility requirements that must be met. This is not a certification for everyone, as great a cheese lover as you may be. In some ways however it is for everyone, at least everyone who has been in the cheese business and still is. In other words, the test is broad-based – it is not only about cheese making.

There are many facets to the wide world of cheese, so if you have been in the business for a while you have probably had at least a little exposure to other areas outside your day-to-day tasks. This is precisely why the certification is so broad. A CCP should have knowledge of other domains within the cheese world, for if she does she will have a better understanding of her product, inside and out.

This is a fundamental goal of the certification: to ensure that cheese is better understood, better cared for, more accurately described, better transported and packaged, more safely handled, more successfully marketed, and that those who work in the industry are more knowledgeable about the new challenges cheese will be facing in the near-future with the full implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act. Better understanding of all these points will help serve the cheese industry well.

This is not an exam for which you can simply pick up a book, read it through, retain all that you read, then pass the exam. Not even my Mastering Cheese will give you everything you need to know, not even close. No one book will be the one study guide you will need to pass. Hands-on experience counts toward eligibility, both paid and unpaid: work at dairies, creameries and retailers; as well as attending cheese classes and the ACS conferences; writing about cheese; etc.

Many people have applied to take the exam, paid the $35.00 application fee, then fail to take the process seriously. It is a tough exam, very thorough, 150 multiple choice questions, with three hours to take it, yet it is not overly difficult. Just don’t expect to be spoon-fed the entire content of the exam. It is up to the individual to prepare herself for the test. Many applicants have formed study groups and have reported that the process was satisfying and enjoyable.

By the way, once you become certified this does not make you an ACS CCP permanently. You will need to re-certify after three years. Not too difficult to do, so long as you maintain regular involvement in the industry.

Just make sure that you have your eligibility requirements first, then sign up, start studying, and then we’ll see you in Sacramento!

- Max McCalman

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

ACS CCP™ Second Exam Exit Survey

ACS CCP logo Final e1378319056183 ACS CCP™ Second Exam Exit Survey

The second exam for the American Cheese Society’s Certified Cheese Professionals was administered July 31st in Madison. 172 applicants sat for the exam this year. As of this writing our Subject Matter Experts team is determining the passing score for the exam. Many test-takers have asked why it takes so long to know whether or not they passed. The short answer to that question is simply not that short. Our SME team wants to make sure the exam is tough enough but not overly difficult. This takes careful analysis of each and every question of the 150 on the exam. How did each question fare? What was the highest score and what was the lowest? What was the median score and what was the mean?

If one question fared poorly (as in less than half answered the question correctly) then is the question flawed in some way, or is there more than one defensible answer? We also put the overall performance on the exam into some historical context by comparing how the exam-takers did this year compared to the first year.

Analyzing how each question fares is not only dependent upon how many people answered the question correctly but also dependent on the consensus among the SME’s. Was the answer to a particular question something that the CCP™ should be able to answer correctly, and if so, what percentage of the test-takers would get it right?

Tomorrow the persons that passed the exam should be receiving their notifications that they are now ACS CCP’s. Based on our post-exam analysis it looks like we will have many more added to the 121 who passed last year. This is great! We expect to welcome even more CCP’s after the third exam at the 2014 conference in Sacramento.

A big “Thank You” to the team of Subject Matter Experts who volunteered many hours to this important endeavor, and to Jerry Rosen and Michelle de los Santos at Knapp Associates, and to our own Jane Bauer, as well as all the many people who have lent their support over the past decade. A tremendous amount of work went into this process. I know it seems like it has taken a long time to get the results but to maintain the standards I believe it is worth the wait. This certification is too important for the entire cheese industry.

- Max McCalman
ACS CCP™ Committee Chair

Monday, April 29th, 2013

Give Cheese a Little Respect

We anticipate a room full of applicants at this year’s American Cheese Society’s Conference, almost 200 cheese peeps who will be taking the broad-based exam, each one hoping to become an ACS Certified Cheese Professional. You have to be more than merely a cheese “lover” to sit for the exam; you must show work experience in the cheese industry. The application process is closed for this year’s exam; the ACS is now accepting applications for the 2014 exam. Again, the exam is broad-based; no one who took the first exam last year got all the answers correct. Cool thing about cheese: there are so many facets to it. This certification is intended to support the artisan cheese industry by promoting education and recognizing the professional skills required to properly care for cheese. We believe the Certification effort is the best thing that ever happened to the American Cheese Society. It should go a long way to getting cheese some respect.

- Max McCalman

Monday, April 15th, 2013

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Work This Morning

Maxsmellingcheese 230x300 A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Work This Morning

On my subway ride into work this morning I overheard a pre-teen kid ask his dad who cut the cheese.

Whenever I hear the word “cheese,” or whenever I see it referenced in print, I tune in.

On hearing this question, and then hearing it again a couple more times, it reminded me of what my daughter may have answered years ago when classmates would ask her what her dad did for a living: “He cuts the cheese.”

Snickers all around.

Besides the association with its misinformed association with daunting aroma and poor food choices, cheese suffers from its association with poverty, as though it is no more than a poor man’s steak.

I recall another comment recently: “Or we could just have cheese.”

Precisely: why not?

The “C” word is heard more frequently than ever. I suppose “bad” publicity is better than none at all. The excitement is building; we are poised to see a capacity crowd taking the second American Cheese Society’s Certified Cheese Professional™ exam in Madison this summer.

In my current duties I may not cut the cheese at the break-neck pace the way I use to at Picholine years ago, yet I eat at least as much as I ever did, if not more.

Max McCalman

Monday, February 11th, 2013

We Need More Certified Cheese Professionals!

max teaching 300x196 We Need More Certified Cheese Professionals!

A friend told me about a recent cheese shop visit when the cheesemonger told her that the crystals in an aged Parmigiano Reggiano were salt. Alors! Not that there is no salt in Parm but this does not make the cheese sound especially desirable, and more importantly, this is inaccurate information. Had the retailer provided the correct information (that those are tyrosine amino acid crystals) the cheese would have been far more attractive to the would-be buyer.

I like to drop in unannounced at cheese shops from time to time, just to hear what cheese people are saying. Actually, it is a little disturbing, especially when these people try to give recommendations regarding nutritive values and the safety of cheese. I’m sure they mean well. They are often excited to pontificate about their cheese knowledge. Fortunately, cheese tends to bring out the humility in people, especially once you’ve been in the industry long enough to discover how amazingly complex this food group is.

Yet I am concerned. Cheese has suffered quite enough: through mishandling, sloppy packaging, temperature abuses, too little or too much ventilation, abandonment for weeks in hostile storage conditions, left exposed to hungry pests, left on one side for weeks on end to the point that they develop “soggy bottom,” or outright physical abuse.

I welcome the enthusiasm but get the information correct, please. You never know when a customer may be better informed about a product than you are. There are so many facets to cheese that it is impossible to have a full knowledge of the entire lactic universe. We would expect that one would want to know how to convey accurate information. Or if the answer is unknown, that one would admit it, maybe come back to the topic later in the day and study up.

Then there are the “perfect-pairing” suggestions. There are some reliable principles of pairing cheeses with wines, or other beverages. These food and beverage pairing principles can be applied but they should not be stated as dogma. Classic pairings exist, such as Roquefort and Sauternes. On the “pairing” point, it is best to recognize that this is a little subjective.

We expect that the Certified Cheese Professional™ will help the entire industry. American and European cheesemakers are embracing the endeavor, and are applauding our efforts. Some of us are Cheese Educators, so how do we earn that title? As Chairman of the American Cheese Society’s Certified Cheese Professional Committee, I may not be able to take the exam ever. That’s okay though: I believe I may be “grandfathered” in.

I want as many applicants as possible to pass the next exam July 31st at the ACS conference in Madison, which is why in our Master Series we teach everything we believe one should need to know to be a good cheesemonger, whether or not the topics are on the exam itself. It’s the right thing to do.

Again, we need more Certified Cheese Professionals!

- Max McCalman