We’re proud to announce that Heinen’s cheese monger Shannon Welsh has received the American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professional certification. To be eligible for this prestigious certification, Shannon had to take a comprehensive exam on cheese knowledge and is one of only 132 individuals in the 2013 class to receive this certification. If you see Shannon out and about in our stores, be sure to congratulate her and pick her brain on anything cheese!
First of all, congratulations! This is quite an accomplishment.
Thank you! I’m really excited and very proud!
What is this certification all about?
It’s the highest standard for cheese professionals. The CCP exam is the only one of its kind and was established by the American Cheese Society to encourage improved standards of comprehensive cheese knowledge and service. Sort of like what a sommelier is to the wine industry.
It basically means that through this exam I (and the others who have taken and passed it) have demonstrated knowledge of all things cheese. This includes knowing about different styles of cheese, knowing how to serve and pair cheeses, the best storage and handling conditions and some of the scientific composition of cheeses. Basically everything about cheese!
What did the exam encompass to become a Certified Cheese Professional?
Just a lot of advanced knowledge questions about everything cheese-related. There were also questions on some of the biochemistry of cheese (such as what makes brie different from cheddar).
This was the second year for the certification program. The exam is always offered before the annual American Cheese Society Conference. There’s a lot of studying that goes along with it, so it’s nice that it’s the first day because then you can enjoy the rest of the conference, which is always fun and a great opportunity to network with cheese experts.
How did you get involved with cheese?
My career at Heinen’s started in the marketing department. Through some of my marketing projects, I was able to travel – specifically to California with Ed Thompkins, Heinen’s wine buyer. This travel exposed me to foods, especially cheeses, that I had never been exposed to before. I really started to appreciate and get excited about gourmet cheeses. I eventually moved to our Pepper Pike location and developed their cheese department. And now I’m at the main office as Heinen’s cheese monger!
What does this certification mean for our customers and for Heinen’s?
Our cheese department is already really great. This will just make it even better. We’ve got a great mix of cheeses – the basics at a competitive price and exclusive gourmet cheeses that blow connoisseurs away. And our cheese associates are passionate about sharing their knowledge with customers.
This certification is good for Heinen’s and Heinen’s customers. We have the knowledge and the expertise to identify and bring in great world class cheeses that we think our customers will love. Because we’re experts, we can teach our customers how to use, cook with and pair cheeses.
The French and Italians are seen as the cheese experts. But America has experts in cheese, too. Our cheese department is award-winning, and we’ve gained credibility with our international cheese makers. This certification gives Heinen’s even more credibility in the cheese industry. It really lets people know that we at Heinen’s know what we’re doing when it comes to cheese and will help make us be seen as leaders. I’d like to have as many of our cheese associates that want to, take the exam. Our cheese associates are already knowledgeable, this will make them even more of an asset to Heinen’s and to our customers. It’s good to have experts in such as specialized field!