The Rind Stuff

The cheese industry is stealing a page from the wine world with its new elite certification program. Are you ready for the rise of the, um, fromm?



Sommelier. Cicerone. And now, Certified Big Cheese?

Emulating the formal sommelier exam programs, the American Cheese Society is now offering an official test for cheese pros. The exam itself covers 11 different areas—–from the art of affinage (ripening) to complex federal regulations to the microbiology of curds.

While the primary goal of the program is to raise the bar among purveyors, Jane Bauer, outreach and education manager at the ACS, says she hopes certified cheese workers will one day be as common as sommeliers in restaurants, helping folks make informed decisions on which queso pairs best with their Albariño.

“My ultimate goal would be to get a cheese service category in the James Beard Awards,” says Bauer, who helped develop the exam.

Sadly, a mere love of the stuff—or knowing, say, the difference between a Brie de Meaux and a Brie de Melun—doesn’t qualify you. To even register for the three-hour exam you need at least 4,000 hours of experience as a cheese professional.

If only there were a certification for eating cheese plates in wine bars.

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