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A Toothpick Aspires to Become a Cheese-pick

As this chance to attend the American Cheese Society’s Certified Cheese Professional Exam is being sponsored by both culture magazine and the Sartori Cheese, I immediately thought of my visit to the cheesemaker’s kitchen in Plymouth, Wisconsin. Wow! A five star experience from the chef, who prepared entrees all the way down to the cheese-picks!  Yes, those little picks sure left an impression on me. Sartori’s attention to the smallest detail is akin to what inspires me to challenge myself to learn the nuances of this profession.


Sartori’s monogrammed cheese picks hole together tasty appetizers.


My career has gone from not knowing a provolone from a gouda, to now slipping the words “girolle” and “Federal Standard of Identity” into conversations when appropriate.


A girolle, also known as a cheese curler .


When asked by customers and friends where I obtained my knowledge of cheese or if I went to a “Cheese School”, I respond that I have been very fortunate in my career.  If they only knew the ACS CCP cheesemongers I have spoken with, the authors I have read, the seminars I have attended, the family-owned store I worked for in Madison, Wisc. and the hugely supportive Hy-Vee company I now work for, and the training provided by their partners, Gourmet Foods International then they would know who the real professionals are in this industry.


Hy-Vee is an employee owned grocery chain based in Iowa.



GFI is a supplier of specialty foods.


It is the path they have paved for me to follow and one that I am grateful to have found.

So now I am off to pluck every nugget of cheese knowledge I can find in preparation for the this year’s ACS CCP exam. 

Thank you for your support.

Chris Luken

Help Chris become a Certified Cheese Professional. Vote for Chris.


Chris Luken

Chris Luken is a cheese specialist at Hy-Vee in Winona, MN. His first decade in cheese was tasting most of the 15,000-30,000 lbs. of entries into the United States and World Championship Cheese Contests (made possible by his employer purchasing the cheeses after they had been judged). He has been hired to perform informational cheese tastings in customer’s homes, for local businesses, and at public events. While travelling he seeks out local cheesemakers, their cheeses, and collecting local cheese books. He is thrilled for the opportunity to study for the ACS CCP to help him better serve his customers.

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