Last month saw Clare head back to the classroom for more cheese training, a slightly daunting prospect with several dozen cheeses on the tasting menu and an exam at the end of the day!
Clare attended an Academy of Cheese Level 1 course run by the Guild of Fine Foods at their new base close to Borough Market - perfectly located for a lunch-time dash to the home of incredible cheese, Neal's Yard Dairy.
The Academy of Cheese has been set up to promote cheese knowledge and career development within the industry and wider cheese-loving public. A training programme with four levels has been developed, inspired by the Certified Cheese Professional qualification run by the American Cheese Society, and culminating in the ultimate title "Master of Cheese".
The Guild's Charlie Turnbull and Jilly Stitch led the day's training. It brought together a group of 15 cheese enthusiasts from a variety of backgrounds - delicatessen owners; cheese buyers; food and drink writers; and brewery specialists interested in pairing cheese.
The course focused on the Academy of Cheese's newly developed approach for tasting cheese. This "Cheese Make / Post-Make" (MPM) model lacks a snazzy name but it provides a very accessible, structured system for categorising cheeses according to similarities in their production. Initially cheeses are categorised by their production process: Hard, hard cooked, crumbly or soft. A cheese will have only one "Make" class. It may then have one or more "Post-make" classifications depending what happens to it after initial production (e.g. wrapping, washed rind, internal (blue) mould).
A proforma tasting sheet and flavours tree helped guide the group through a whirlwind tour of British and European cheeses across the MPM model. Initial enthusiasm for eating and note-taking dwindled as the number of cheeses climbed through double figures!
It was great to spend time exploring the taste and texture of many of the classic cheeses that we have in the fridge at Slate including Brie de Meaux, Wensleydale and Stilton to name a few. It was also a great opportunity to discuss these cheeses with others of enormous cheese experience and learn to better articulate their flavours.
All too quickly it was time to take the end of day exam. Clare was thrilled to pass and receive her Associate of the Academy of Cheese certificate and badge!