It was big news when Matt Caputo, Troy Peterson and Andy Fitzgerrell passed the inaugural American Cheese Society “Certified Cheese Professional” exam back in 2012. This year, the ACS folks unveiled a new certification exam at the conference in Pittsburgh – the T.A.S.T.E. exam (Technical, Aesthetic, Sensory, Taste Exam). Thirty-two people from around the continent sat for the inaugural exam. Eight of them were from Utah, and all eight passed:
Mariah Christensen, Max Christensen, Sean McKee and Matthew DeLoach of Harmons Grocery; Oliver Ford and Britton Welsh of Beehive Cheese; Sherri Allen (locally-based, international cheese socialite) and Andy Fitzgerrell.
Fun fact: Utah has more CCSE’s (certified cheese sensory evaluators) than any other state. The group studied together, twice a week, for about 4-5 months and they all brought cheeses—some of questionable quality, according to Fitzgerrell—in order to get aligned on what flavors and attributes were presented. In other words, the group ate a lot of BAD cheese.
Yes, there were some good cheeses, but the Utah group focused on the stuff that was “off” because they knew that was what a lot of the test was going to be based around. Within the specific cheese categories, candidates had to assess for up to 65 attributes – both positive and negative—in a single cheese. It was actually really fun, according to Fitzgerrell.
The good news for us uncertified cheese-lovers is that now we have all those experts on hand to help us learn.
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