Educating the cheesemongers

Whole Foods staffers from across the nation were in Babcock Hall last week to learn about all things cheese. Among the memorable experiences: Encircling the dairy plant with a 100-foot string of mozzarella. The three-dozen Whole Foods cheesemongers were the last of about 100 employees of the Texas-based natural foods chain who came to the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research this year for a four-day hands-on introduction to the art and science of cheese. They learned the basics of cheese making and participated in sensory sessions to learn how each cheese variety develops its distinctive body and flavor. They also took a day-long tour of several Green County cheese factories. And they learned about cheese as a cooking ingredient as staff in CDR’s application lab whipped up fondue, mascarpone and other cheesy treats.

CDR technologist Dean Sommer shows Whole Foods cheesemongers how mozzarella gets its stretch.

The goal of this and similar CDR programs is to provide retailers with expertise to help them advise their customers and to manage packaging and display to ensure maximum quality of the cheese they sell. The training prepares participants for the Certified Cheese Professional Exam, created by the American Cheese Society “to encourage improved standards of comprehensive cheese knowledge and service.”

“These programs are part of our effort to broaden our reach from pasture to plate—from the farm all the way to the ultimate consumer,” explains CRD food technologist Dean Sommer, who coordinates the program. The course is underwritten by the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.