Our recent Master Series brought together the talents of several members of the Artisanal team, each member offering their expertise on different topics. We used to offer the series over the course of six weeks, one long weeknight per week. This format did not work well for out-of-towners so we consolidated the series into three days. Even that was problematic for some people: getting away from work for three days and paying for an extra hotel night in the city. So we consolidated the series into two longer days: Sunday and Monday. This has worked well for most people, although many students have said they would have enjoyed studying cheese several more days with us.
Actual cheese mastery certainly requires more than twenty hours, but with a little background coming in to our series, one can expect to become more masterful. This reminds me of a conversation I had with my editor: she asked me if I would like to write a book entitled Mastering Cheese. I asked her how long I could take to write the book, and how many words could I have. Neither the 15 months nor the 300,00 words were sufficient. Her patience allowed me an extra 3 months to write 450,000 words, 64,000 of which she let me leave in the final manuscript.
I have always maintained that the best way to learn about cheese is to put it in your mouth. Kind of like a picture says a thousand words. Alas, there is only so much you can learn about cheese reading a book about it. Hands-on experience is invaluable. This is one reason that the Cheese Professionals certification effort endorsed by the American Cheese Society has an eligibility requirement. Work experience and academic training can be combined to meet the requirement to sit for the exam.
The twenty hours that a student spends with us in our Master Series can go a long way to help meet the eligibility requirements, more than the twenty hours alone. The series’ syllabus covers many areas, from the history of cheese, to basic cheese making, to pairing cheese with wine, storage and presentation, the nutritional values and safety concerns, all the way to cheese “business.” The series is geared to the professional, either in the retail or restaurant setting. Some people have a keen interest in cheese; call them cheese “enthusiasts” considering a change in careers. No other professional cohort has followed the cheese trail more than attorneys.
As people are preparing to take the first exam this August, several people have come in for our Master Series. Some people are already in the cheese business in one way or another. They take our Master Series to gain knowledge they can apply in their jobs. The networking opportunities usually lead to long-standing professional relationships.
One of the students in our last series was an established cheese educator and author, Ms. Jody Farnham. We also had Ms. Jane Bauer, the American Cheese Society’s Education and Outreach Manager; and Ms. Nora Weiser, the Society’s Executive Director. Needless to say, these students, combined with all the others from across North America made for a great group. This may sound like we had a large class. Actually, we have always kept the enrollments low, to give greater individual focus and interaction. As always, we also learned more teaching the series.
By the way, as of last year, the American Cheese Society includes the profession of Cheese Educator in the members’ jobs categories.