Certified Cheese Professionals: 4,000 Hours In the Trade Is Just the Start
We all know that a sommelier is a trained wine professional. And we've each encountered beer snobs - perhaps less refined, but they have an equally enviable level of specialty knowledge.
Lyssa Goldberg Whole Foods specialty team leader Crystal Poon cheesin' for the camera
While wine and spirits experts are fine and dandy, in the world of gastronomers, it's certified cheese professionals (CCPs) that rise above the rest.
Each CCP has sat for a 3-hour, 150-question multiple choice exam at an annual conference of the prestigious American Cheese Society -- covering topics like the cheese-making process, ripening, storage, categorizing, and more -- and has passed a test.
See also: Top Five Vegan Cheeses
These cheese connoisseurs come in many forms -- cheese-makers, cheese marketers, and even cheese writers. You need 4,000 documented hours of experience in the cheese profession.
That means it may take a while until I'm qualified to put my cheese knowledge to the test (by my count, I have 3,998 hours to go), but fortunately, we have a good number of these members of high society right here in our grand ol' state.
In fact, Whole Foods Market employs the largest number of CCPs in the world (147). And 24 of them are in Florida (the most of any region). Closest to home, two are at the South Beach location, and one works in Pinecrest. Ten of these Florida CCPs joined the ranks just this year -- only the second time the American Cheese Society has administered the exam.
Since October is American Cheese Month, Short Order spoke to one of Whole Foods' CCPs, Crystal Poon, who is the specialty team leader at the Whole Foods Market Pinecrest store. Poon shared with us her insider tips on becoming a true cheese expert and told us how she works with customers to provide the best cheese-buying experience.
Lyssa Goldberg Cheese, please.