Plenty of foods have their own field of experts: wine has sommeliers, beer has cicerones, but cheese has long lacked a professional certification program. However, the American Cheese Society has been working to change that since 2012, when they introduced their Certified Cheese Professional Exam. Those that pass (406, to date) are nationally recognized as bonafide cheese authorities knowledgeable on both the history and process of cheesemaking, as well as business-saavy mongers experienced in nearly every job available within the cheese supply chain.
Before even gaining admittance to the exam, applicants must have completed 4,000 hours of work and/or formal education in the cheese-field; this includes cheesemaking, cheese selling, or cheese-related teaching. Once an applicant is accepted for the exam, it’s time to start studying! The exam tests applicants on things like the raw materials used in cheese, the cheese making and aging process, and cheese categories. In addition, more business-centered skills are tested, including marketing, managing inventory, and sanitation requirements. The exam is 150 multiple choice questions, and test-takers are given three hours to complete it.
Those that pass the exam undoubtedly open up their career to a slew of new professional opportunities. As the ACS explains:
The letters ACS CCP designate that an individual has acquired thorough knowledge and the level of expertise that is demanded within the cheese industry. An online directory of individuals with the ACS CCP designation is available for reference by organizations and individuals seeking employees, giving ACS CCPs and their employers a strong competitive edge.
Newly awarded CCPs can’t get too comfortable though—recertification is required every three years. Those that fail the test are invited to try again at next year’s exam, and receive a diagnostic report on their weakest areas so that they may better study for their next attempt.
So next time you’re at your local cheese shop or event, keep an out for CCPs. Find one in your area, and you can rest assured that they are well-educated in every aspect of the cheese industry.