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How I Became the Sartori Scholar and a Certified Cheese Professional


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It’s that time of year when eager cheesemongers all over the country start to ponder whether or not they are ready to take the Certified Cheese Professional exam. I remember March of 2015 fondly. I had committed to taking the CCP exam in Rhode Island, and I’d begun building a huge library of books on things like cultures, pairings, the science of making cheese, and sanitation guidelines. But what I hadn’t realized after already committing to taking the exam was the cost to sit for this test. I loved my job as a cheesemonger behind the counter, but let’s be real: jobs in the food industry don’t always allow for extras beyond covering rent, food, and transportation, and—let’s face it—a fairly big part of my budget went to cheese. Which isn’t a necessity for some people, sure. But I have spent 11 years behind a cheese counter, and I have a habit I cannot kick!

So when a coworker e-mailed me about a CCP scholarship sponsored by Sartori, I emailed an essay and promptly forgot about it. Somewhere in the recesses of my cheesy mind I figured nothing would come of it.

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Well, I was definitely mistaken.

I would soon embark on an adventure of campaigning for votes on social media, at work, through blog posts, and even in the county jail! Yes, my friends—I took a cheese tray to the jail where a family member is a correctional officer, fed the officers cheese, talked about pairing and careers in cheese, and gained a bunch of votes that night toward winning the Sartori Scholarship! The best part to this story is that my hard work paid off. I won the 2015 Sartori Scholarship and it changed my career on every level!

After going through the rigorous process of becoming a CCP (yep, I passed!), I came back to my cheese department in Wisconsin and set record sales for the holidays. Sure, I had cheese knowledge before studying for the CCP exam, but I gained insight into everything that goes into all the cheeses that come into our stores, and I couldn’t help but share some of these random facts with customers and coworkers.

I also gained a network of professional contacts and new friends throughout the whole process. Sure, some of us are competitors in the marketplace, but more importantly we are also all working to improve and keep up the standards in the cheese industry. We all learn together and help each other out. I was nervous to attend the American Cheese Society conference alone, but trust me—you are not alone at ACS! You will find someone to talk cheese with, you will find an opportunity to learn something around every corner, and you will be amazed at the way everyone helps one another succeed.

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I was recently promoted to the position of cheese buyer for the company I work for, and even though I believe I would have been a candidate without ever having taken the CCP exam, I also know that every single day since my promotion I have used some type of information that was covered in study groups or on the exam. And every single day I am grateful that I took a moment to apply for this scholarship and had the opportunity to attend the American Cheese Society Conference and take the CCP exam.

Now click here and apply for this cheesy opportunity!

Crystal Schroeder

Crystal Schroeder is what her friends and family like to call the “accidental” cheesemonger. She'd really love to say that her Master's Degree in Clinical Psychology helps every day within her chosen career, but psychology has become her hobby and cheese has become her passion. For the last ten years at Sendik's Market in Wisconsin Crystal has loved being able to share the stories behind different types of cheese. Crystal loves how when you cut open a cheese and taste it you're transported to a different place, you taste the terroir, imagine pairing possibilities, and turn them into reality. Follow her @WICheese_Diva