File the title of this blog post under “Things I Never Expected to Say about Myself.” But by the end of this summer, that will (hopefully!) be an actual thing. Usually telling people that I have a “library degree” is entertaining enough—that’s a masters degree in library sciences, to be technical—but this Cheese Professional thing may actually beat that in terms of interesting personal facts.
My name is Sande Friedman, and I’m the Cheese Director for the Tria restaurant group in Philadelphia. Earlier this year, I was accepted to take the 2016 American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professionals Exam. Slightly after that acceptance, I wrote an adjective-fueled application letter to Sartori Cheese in Wisconsin, hoping that they would choose me to be the recipient of this year’s Sartori Scholarship, which covers travel, board, and test costs for the CCP exam.
This wasn’t the first time that I’d tried for this—last year I had also applied, and while I was a finalist for the scholarship, I did not end up receiving it. It was a bummer, but these things happen. (And in the spirit of good karma, belated congratulations to recipient Crystal Schroeder!)
I had some fears about looking like that crazy big-haired girl who was desperate for a scholarship to take her cheese test, despite having longevity with a company that should, in theory, be covering the costs of my test themselves. But then again, people apply for academic scholarships year after year. (Friendly reminder: Education is freakin’ expensive!) My company is small and allows me to spend a lot of money on a wide range of fun and fancy cheeses, leaving less money to spend on flying me to Des Moines for a cheese test. And—as anyone in a small business setting knows—while spending money on employee benefits such as a certification exam are beneficial in the long run, they can be a big hit at the time of purchase.
So I applied again, racking my brain for every interesting thing that I’d ever done with cheese in my years at Tria. I dug through my Instagram, and the Tria one, to make sure that every single cheese post had a #cheesemarketingisreal hashtag attached. I stared at the application for several hours, making sure it was clear, succinct, and typo-free, but also clever and captivating. I’m also pretty sure that my boyfriend came home to find me face down in a hunk of Chällerhocker, drowning my worries before I hit send on the email application. Not that I’m ashamed of that…
Whatever I did, it worked, and here we are. You’re reading this blog post, and I’m either at work talking about cheese, or practicing pronouncing different microbes and goat breeds. (Oberhasli still does not roll off the tongue as easily it should.)
What’s the point of a test like this? There are a slew of them! It’s amazing that a test for cheese knowledge exists, and at the same time OF COURSE it exists, because there’s such a rich and complex history in the world of dairy. There’s also just as much progression in the cheese world as there is history. The body of knowledge is constantly changing and growing. Animals are always giving new milk, cheesemakers are simultaneously developing new cheeses and preserving the traditions of the old, and we’re all out there talking about it all and eating as much as we can.
There’s something about a real certification from the governing body of cheese knowledge in the United States that’s… something special. And I have Sartori to thank for helping to make my certification happen.