Should I Study Cheese?
Do you run a deli and want to stand out from the competition with a unique and artisanal cheese counter, or wish your staff were a bit more confident when it comes to upselling?
Maybe you’re a food blogger and would like to reach out to a rapidly growing market of cheese nerds; or perhaps you’re thinking of jacking in the city life and heading off to the rural idyll to set up making your own cheese for a living….
… or possibly you just love cheese so much and you’re looking to do something more fulfilling with your evenings.
If any of this sounds familiar and you now want to take that next step into cheese education, then let me guide you through the options and help you choose the course that’s right for you.
Whether your motivation to study is professional, or for fun, the Academy of Cheese is your one-stop-shop for taking that passion, knowledge and expertise to the next level. Aside from their informative and resourceful website, and a membership programme where subscribers are colloquially known as “Friends”, the Academy’s raison d’etre is their provision of cheese training courses.
What’s more, as an impartial, non-profit organisation, established to promote cheese knowledge, cheese education and careers in cheese, you can be assured there is no hidden sales agenda.
But with so many course options, and no doubt a busy life thrown in, it can be quite daunting to figure out which course to take and what format to take it in. Hopefully, this article will help you decide and get you on your road to cheese enlightenment.
Which Level Should I Study?
That is the simple part: there are four levels of certification, starting at Level One (Associate), progressing to Level Four (Master of Cheese). Each course builds upon the knowledge gained from the previous level, therefore requiring you to start at Level One before progressing to Level Two etc.
Choose the format that’s right for you: Classroom, Virtual or Self-Study
There are currently 31 accredited Training Partners globally who offer the Academy’s Level One course. Some deliver the courses face-to-face in a “classroom” setting, some virtually via zoom, and some offer both formats.
Alternatively, you can choose to Self-Study, of which there are two options – both of which offer flexible learning, taken at your own pace to suit your schedule. But more of that below.
Whichever format you choose, your study materials, access to the Academy’s online resources and end of course, 30-minute exam are all included in the course fee.
Let’s break those options down a little:
If when I say “classroom”, an image of a soul-less room, with rows of desks and a stern teacher standing in front of a whiteboard comes to mind, think again. Many of our Training Partners’ venues are enough to inspire any foodie’s creative palette…….think of an atmospheric barn attached to a creamery, or a tasting cellar hidden away at the back of a cheesemonger’s shop or a funky barge on the River Thames!
Class sizes are always small (usually no more than 10 delegates), and the Trainer is as passionate about cheese as you are; with, very often, an element of eccentricity thrown in for good measure!
Level One classroom courses usually take place over just one day, meaning you can tick that one off and move onto Level Two fairly swiftly. The course fee includes all the cheeses to taste and lunch and refreshments keep your whistle whet!
Whilst this format obviously requires you to be physically present at the Training Partner’s location, it is perhaps the most immersive and collaborative method of studying and it does mean every delegate will be tasting the same cheese.
For many prospective Academy of Cheese students, the only option available is to study online, especially if you’re not able to travel to a Training Partner’s venue. But covid lockdowns have made the art of interacting through a screen a viable, often preferable and very enjoyable, alternative.
In essence, the same course content is delivered by the same Training Partner just via online video conference (usually zoom) instead of in-person, so you could join the classes from anywhere in the world. This is, incidentally, how I completed the Level One Course – in my spare bedroom via Patrick McGuigan’s Online Cheese School.
The major differences are that the courses are usually delivered over two or three evening sessions; you choose whether to have a printed delegate pack delivered (or you can download a copy) and, more importantly, you decide if you want your Training Partner to send you the cheese for tasting or if you’d rather source your own. On a personal level, the excitement of the cheese tasting boxes arriving on my doorstep every Monday fuelled my excitement of what was to come that evening.
Patrick McGuigan is just one of our Training Partners who offer virtual courses.
The virtual course is a super-fun way to study, with the added flexibility of not having to travel. I spent three 2-hour sessions, over the course of three weeks laughing, chatting and tasting, with not a mile clocked up!
Not everyone in my “class” had the same cheeses, but that added to the diversity of the course: of the four delegates, one was from Atlanta, another was from the Netherlands, with myself and one other bringing up the UK contingent. And everyone had varied reasons for being on the course: I had just landed the job here; another ran a cheesemongers; one had just started making her own cheeses and the other just loved cheese and had been gifted the course by her husband.
Regardless of our motives, Patrick tailored his content superbly to apply to us all.
Delegate Packs are sent to all students on the virtual courses
This is the mode that, whilst requiring a modicum of self-discipline (yes, you really do have to work through all nine modules), offers the maximum amount of flexibility.
Not only can you sit and eat cheese from your desk (or bed if you like!), you choose to study at times that suit your schedule…..be it during your lunch break sat at your place of work, in the evening when the children are in bed or even on the train during your commute home.
There are two options for Self-Study: the “Online Learning Road” and the “Video On-Demand” version.
The “Online Learning Road” is a self guided workbook containing expert text, images, video and diagrams to support your study towards cheese certification
With “Video On-Demand”, your content comes in the form of bitesize pre-recorded videos, delivered via cheese expert and Academy of Cheese Director Charlie Turnbull.
Either way, once you’ve enrolled onto a Self-Study course, you are sent a Student Login, which gives you 12 months to complete your Learning Road, which consists of nine study modules, knowledge checks to make sure you’re on track, and access to the final online exam.
When deciding which course to choose, it is important to consider your budget (unless of course, your employer is kind enough to stump up the course fee). Whilst the cheapest option is, understandably, the Online Self-Study at just £135 (correct at time of going to press), you will also need to factor in going out and buying the cheeses.
Virtual courses are usually the cheaper alternative to Classroom courses, and save on travel expenses, but again, you may be required to go out and buy your own cheeses, whereas the Classroom courses do include everything in with the fee.
Best In the Business
So there it is, one course three ways; using the best in the business via our global network of passionate Cheese Training Partners, or off your own steam.
Whichever way you choose to study, just remember to sit the online exam once you’ve completed the nine modules…..it only takes 30 minutes. And once you’ve passed, we will send your industry-recognised Certificate and Pin Badge to wear with pride! Best of luck!
RACHEL HOLDING – ACADEMY OF CHEESE WRITER
Rachel loves a good cheese and wine session. Her love of all cheeses, artisanal or otherwise, has grown from her early years of working on the cheese counter at Fortnum & Mason. She has a personal mission to taste as many cheeses as possible and to encourage this passion in others.