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Whole Foods Market received the most certifications of any food retailers during the first American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professional exam.
Of the 121 cheesemongers who passed the exam, 70 were from Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods’ U.S. and Canadian stores, making it the retailer with the largest number of certified cheese experts in North America. The certification marks cheesemongers' thorough understanding of and passion for cheese. The exam tests for knowledge of cheese making, ripening, storage, handling, nutrition and more. Those who pass the exam demonstrate acumen in cheese from farm to counter and are the best of the best.
"We are so proud of our cheesemongers for passing this inaugural exam, not only demonstrating their passion for their craft, but also making Whole Foods Market the leading retailer in terms of cheese expertise," said Cathy Strange, global cheese buyer for Whole Foods. "We [expect to see] excitement around cheese grow and more of our Team Members get certified in the years to come."
The Whole Foods Market cheesemongers who passed the exam represent two countries, 21 states and 68 stores. "I was honored and nervous to be a part of the first class of people to take the exam," said Eliza Brown, specialty coordinator for the Whole Foods Market North Atlantic region. "It is so important that as cheese professionals we continue to work as a group to elevate the standards and strive for further education."
The exam was held in conjunction with the 29th Annual American Cheese Society conference in Raleigh, N.C. on August 1. The certification is valid for three years and is renewable for additional three-year periods through a formal recertification process.