Cheese Is Our Love Language
We’re serious about cheese! Our industry-leading cheese experts personally select the best cheeses in the world for our stores – from our number one best-selling Parmigiano Reggiano down to our most exclusive small-batch artisanal products, the cheeses that they bring to our cheese department are some of the most award-winning, innovative, and delicious wheels you’ll taste. Get introduced to our Certified Cheese Professionals, see how we hand-select cheeses, and meet some of our amazing cheesemakers! Read on to learn more!
Describing my feelings about cheese is like describing my feelings about music, or when the sun comes up; it’s just a part of who I am.”
Cathy Strange, Vide President of Specialty and Global Cheese Expert
On the Road with Global Cheese Expert Cathy Strange
Welcome to Uplands Dairy
Cheesemaking Gets Personal at this Small Wisconsin Farm
More Than a Monger
What It Takes to Earn the Coveted Role of Certified Cheese Professional
Let’s face it, cheese can be intimidating. Should you buy a Gruyère, a Mimolette or a clothbound, farmhouse Cheshire? What does soft-ripened even mean? How long will Brie keep, and how should you store it? Aged cheese is good thing, right? Can a cheese wrapped in spruce tree bark taste good? With all these questions and variables, it is no wonder choosing a cheese can feel impossible. C
Cheese has a storied history and a complexity as rich and deep as wine and coffee, but that does not mean selecting one has to be a challenging experience. That’s where a Certified Cheese Professional (CCP) comes in; we’ve got over 380 across our stores, making us one of the largest employers of CCPs across the country. These folks are the cheese equivalent of master wine sommeliers, and they represent the highest level of expertise in the cheese industry. Alongside our hundreds of cheesemongers, they curate the vast selections (between 250 and 1,000 cheeses per location) in our stores, and they will make your cheese-buying experience easy, fun, educational and rewarding.
So, what exactly is a Certified Cheese Professional, and what does it take to garner this illustrious title?
Getting certified is no small feat. Cheesemongers from around the country line up annually to take the Certified Cheese Professional® exam that was launched by the American Cheese Society in 2012. Most years there’s a waitlist, and to qualify for the test, contenders must first complete at least 4,000 service hours in the cheese profession.
With 150 questions that must be answered within three hours, this beast of a test isn’t for the meek. Unfortunately, the exam does not involve hours of savoring cheeses from around the world, but it does require that candidates intimately understand microbiology, ripening and coagulation, along with the intricacies of rind flora, milk composition and the economic history of cheese. It tests their skills regarding pairings, service, storage, cutting, sanitation, selling and transport. For months in advance, they study cheese-related texts and guides, memorizing cheese terminology and processes as they prepare to answer questions about everything from goat lactation schedules to cheese mites. Yes, cheese mites exist and they’re a good thing!
CCPs must renew their certification every three years, and this accolade is not just something they can boast about at cocktail parties, although we imagine it makes them enviable. They know everything there is to know about cheese, and they are trained to demystify it for you. They are passionate about it and love sharing their knowledge with customers. Think of them as your cheese mentors — guiding you as you navigate your in-store cheese journey, expand your cheese horizons, and level up your fromage game.
Unsure about what cheese you want or how much you want to purchase? They’ll let you sample a cheese and cut it to any size you like. Just ask them! Need a killer cheeseboard or a party platter? They will offer advice to help you construct your own or do the work and build one for you. Want to find the best cheese to pair with your pinot, melt on your burger, or sprinkle onto your homemade pizza? If you need to add some zing to date night, they have got your back. Some of the most divine cheeses, they will tell you, might smell like filthy socks but taste like sublime chunks of heaven.
Cheese has nuance, character, texture, history, and personality. It is one of life’s greatest pleasures, and we think that selecting it should be as enjoyable as eating it. If you are ready to smear some Camembert on a warm baguette, spread some goat cheese on ripe pears or just savor a hunk of cheddar all by yourself, look for one of the many CCPs in our stores and ask them for a recommendation that will surely make your cheese experience more magical.
For a complete list of Certified Cheese Professionals, check out cheesesociety.org. To learn more about cheese at Whole Foods Market, visit wholefoodsmarket.com.