Why did I want to study and take the American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professional™ exam? I wanted a structured setting for learning from cheese professionals the basics to successfully educate customers and beginning mongers about cheese.
I wanted the facts; not the myths.
After participating in a thirteen-week study group led by Bill Stephenson, I took the exam to “test” my knowledge with the goal being to proudly wear the ACS CCP™ logo. To tell others that I had attained a professional level of knowledge regarding cheese. That I knew, for example, that the weeping from blue cheeses was excess whey and not butterfat… (…and no, not everyone who has the job title of “Cheese Specialist” knows that…)
I was curious why other ACS CCPs™ wanted to become Certified Cheese Professionals™. Here are answers from a few of the CCP™s participating in my 2015 Cheese Professionals Q&A Project. (Click on each name to check out their bios.)
Andy Fitzgerrell ACS CCP™: I liked the idea of having some sort of tangible title that gave true affirmation of my enjoyment of cheese. Having the title of CCP™ gives us a title that actually means something. It’s something that a customer or colleague can recognize as “oh, this person really does know what they’re talking about.” I don’t know if it’s changed my career path. I would be doing the same thing, regardless of the CCP™ title. I teach classes here in Salt Lake City. I provide feedback for local producers and purveyors. I participate in tastings and pairings events, and I participate in fundraisers where people get to learn more about food.
Dany Schutte ACS CCP™: By 2013, I had been selling cheese and learning about cheese for 15 years. I had left San Francisco and gone back home to Richmond, Virginia. I was working for an independent grocer, we had opened a second store in another state. And I had been responsible for setting the case, training the staff, etc. it was hard work and awesome as well. My GM believed in me and gave me the gentle nudge to go do it.
I felt validated. Like my passion was more tangible. I gained a little more confidence in what I knew. I gained a little more professionalism. It gave me an opportunity to have more voice to what I love in the local media and with local talent, chefs, brewers, wine sellers. And because of that voice Southern Season sought me out. And I took the chance for growth.
Erin Clancy, ACS CCP™: I wanted to become a CCP™ to push myself to learn more and to have the opportunity to become part of a small group of people in North America that actually had become CCP™s. As the number of CCP™s is growing I feel excited to be a part of the group. There have only been 3 tests given and knowing that myself, and many fellow cheesemongers that I consider to be friends, are part of about 400 or so people who have passed the test is amazing. Since then, I still work at Whole Foods, but now I am a Specialty Department Team Leader at the newest store in Berkeley. It’s pretty cool, and there is a cut to order case, which is great. I missed cutting cheese to order.
Besides that, I was the official Cheesemonger at the 1st Berkeley Cider Fest, I participated in the two Cheesemonger Invitational on the West Coast, I ran the 2014 cheese sale at the ACS Conference, and I worked Cheese Lands at the Outside Lands concert in San Francisco. All pretty cool cheese events!
Judy Creighton ACS CCP™: After over 30 years of retail experience, it was a chance to test my knowledge in my chosen career as a Cheesemonger. It gave me the opportunity to acknowledge what I knew and learn some more in preparing for the test. I feel more validated as a Cheesemonger through becoming a CCP™, especially in the wine making community where I work.
Julia Powers ACS CCP™: The CCP™ designation was for me and for me only. Having joined the American Cheese Society on my own shortly after my cheese epiphany, I was intrigued with the notion of a society standing behind its members and supporting the membership in a continuing education mode – monger, maker, or whomever. I wanted to be in the first round – the control group if you will. To succeed in passing the certification was a nice feather in the cap and I am overjoyed that there have been so many to follow doing the same thing. Has it changed my path in any way? Of course – any yearning for more information and to test yourself on that knowledge is key to keeping your brain moving. It is not a one-stop-shop however, and that knowledge needs to be tended to on a daily basis. Yearn to learn always. (Editor’s note: Julia’s Bio includes a great video on cheese plating.)
Louis Risoli ACS CCP™: Having participated on the ACS committees that formulated the Body of Knowledge and the CCP™ exam, I had a strong desire to see the process through to the end by taking the exam. I am delighted that the ACS set the bar so high and that the test is a meaningful indicator of a high level of skill and knowledge. Having more or less self-defined my job as a fromager 30 years ago and acquiring a lot of my knowledge in a somewhat haphazard manner, I think it is a real sign of the maturity of the American cheese world that we can organize and pass on this knowledge in a purposeful way.
Matt Caputo ACS CCP™: I wanted to prove to myself that I could pass the test. Once I did, it was great to get deeper involved with the board that handles vetting of the questions. Got to have several conference calls with one of my idols, Max McCalman. Historically, I have found little time to make it to trade shows and such, so the test, passing it, and doing well enough to be asked to write some questions even, helped to plug me into the community. This community is something I hope to find more time for over the years and the CCP™ really introduced me to it.
Shannon Tallman, ACS CCP™: I think for me, a bit of it was for personal validation. I knew that I knew my stuff—I had spent at least five years reading and eating my way through anything cheese related. I spent so much time at home, online, researching cheeses and their makers, so this for me was the next level of it all and the opportunity to display my knowledge. I also knew that I was extremely lucky because Whole Foods invests so much into the development of their team members (not only did I get to go to the ACS Conference in Madison, but they also sent my group of future CCP™’s to the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Dairy Research). An opportunity like that was a once in a lifetime one for me and I was not going to squander it.
Since becoming a CCP™, I’ve been lucky enough to be chosen to represent the North Atlantic Specialty Team for Whole Foods at their Tribal Gathering, which is only held every four years. I was lucky to not only work with Cathy Strange, our Global Cheese Buyer, but other WFM Specialty leadership who is as, if not more, passionate than I am regarding cheese. But, the best opportunity was spending time in Vermont with Allison Hooper and Cathy Strange, staying at Allison’s house and getting to participate in a Bonne Bouche make. It was great, because when I was done with that long day, I got the message that I had passed the CCP™ exam. It was one of my best days of my career so far.
(Editor’s note: In 2013 when studying for the exam, Shannon and I were internet “Study Buddies”; sharing and motivating each other as we studied. I couldn’t have done it without you, girl!!)
Tim Gaddis ACS CCP™; Guilde des Fromagers Garde et Jure: Regardless of your profession I think it’s important to always strive to learn more. Taking the CCP™ exam was a great way to learn more about cheese.
Trevor Thomas ACS CCP™: I wanted to become a CCP™ ever since I first heard of the ACS developing it. When the ACS finally launched it, my employer at the time, nor I could afford it. In 2013 I joined the manufacturing side of the cheese business and my boss was excited that I was up for the challenge of trying to become a CCP™. Now that I am in cheese sales, I guess I really wanted my buyers to know that I was passionate and knowledgeable about our industry.
My thanks to everyone participating in my 2015 Virtual Q&A with Cheese Professionals. I hope all of you, my loyal readers, are enjoying this as much as I am…
Interviews will continue throughout 2015… sometimes, they will be “stand-alone” and sometimes they will be presented as round-table discussions with several Cheese Professionals answering the same question. Those participating include Cheesemakers, ACS CCPs™, Cheesemongers and Cheese Professionals and Experts who contribute to this Wonderful World we call “Cheese”.
List of 2015 Cheese Professionals.
List of all Cheese Professionals Bios.
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Taking the 2015 ACS CCP™ Exam? Please see my page on Tips for Studying for the Exam.