Parmesan, Gouda, Swiss, Havarti, these are just a few types of cheeses in the long list of those available. Some cheeses are made in industrial settings, mixed in large vats with thousands of liters of creams. Others are made in small shops, purely by hand using only the best ingredients.
Every cheese has a story behind it. Some stories are written by many while others by only a few. The individuals who write these stories are cheese makers by creating endless varieties of cheeses
Today Food Grads is giving you the facts about Cheese Makers and giving you the insight to know if this tasty career is for you!
Cheese makers produce cheese!
Cheese makers are:
professionals who work to develop and create cheese and related cheese products. Typical tasks that cheese makers carry out in their daily jobs include ordering and purchasing milk, supervising the cheese making process, performing quality tests like pH, wrapping/packaging cheeses and inspecting the aging process of cheese.
These professionals can be employed in large manufacturing factories where tons of cheese are produced. Cheese made at this scale is typically meant for large consumer markets such a pizzerias and restaurants. Alternatively, a cheese maker could work in smaller family run store or plant. Generally, smaller shops produce small batch artisanal cheeses because the processing is longer and more intense.
Cheese makers can have a wide range of roles depending on the size of the company. In a smaller one they could take on the duties of quality assurance, customer service and even R&D. In a larger on the might be a focuses production working specifically on one type of cheese.
There are typically three levels of Cheese Makers
Artisanal cheese makers have different levels of seniority, depending on their experience. These levels are as follows:
- Assistant/Apprentice- Apprentices just starting out will learn all the technical knowledge surrounding cheese. As an apprentice you work in production conducting all the associated tasks involved in cheese making. These tasks include monitoring and sanitizing cheese vats, measuring ingredients, documentation of the cheese making process, packaging cheese and removing cheese from vats.
- Head Cheese Makers– Head cheese makers over see cheese production and makes sure that everything goes smoothly. This includes making sure all the ingredients are ready for production, coming up with solutions when problems arise and ensuring that the aging process goes well. It is common for them to perform hiring duties and training new staff members.
- Owners- Owners of a cheese company have the highest up in seniority. At this point one knows almost everything there is to know about their stores cheese and can easily distinguish if everything is up to standards. It is more common for someone to start their own company and become and owner than it is to work their way up the ranks.
There is no standardized path for cheese makers
According to a survey by the American Cheese Society most cheese professionals are self-taught or gained technical knowledge from on-the-job training. That means if you can get your foot through the door as apprentice you are well on your way to becoming a full-fledged cheese maker. Some professionals are born into families which have been making cheese for several years.
Having a food science degree or a diploma relating to cheese making will help you obtain a job in larger industrial scale companies. However, many workers enter the industry with a basic high school degree. Having experience in food production will be helpful but is not a necessity. If you are interested in becoming a cheese maker, it is suggested you contact your local county farm or cheese counter. Understanding the differences between cheeses is a great start for your cheese making journey.
Cheese makers practically live in rubber boots and overalls
Places which produce cheese are often humid and wet. Cheese makers practically live in white coats, rubber boots and a hair nets because it helps to ensure food safety and quality. The nature of the job is wet and messy as cheese makers transfer milk to different vats and work with their hands to move curds to cheese molds. Additionally, the job is highly repetitive as many of the same cheese are produced every day so make sure your comfortable getting wet!
A cheese maker can become certified
In the United States, the American Cheese Association are always looking for eager cheese lovers to join their association. Cheese makers are not required to become certified, but many feel it is an essential to prove their knowledge of food.
If you are a well-experience cheese maker who wants to become certified than you can. The ACS provides cheese professionals with the chance to become fully certified based on an individual’s comprehensive cheese knowledge and service. The exam is a maximum of 3 hours and participants are required to answer 150 multiple choice questions which include questions about general cheese knowledge, GMPs and core competencies. A Canadian certification equivalent does not appear to be present in Canada currently.
Cheese makers depend on their palate
Every batch of cheese is slightly different even if the same practices are carried out every single time. Small variances occur in a cow’s diet which ultimately affect the quality and taste of its milk.
A trained cheese maker has a high attention for detail can figure out cheese production problems simply by taste. Their superior palates can tell when a cheese has aged correctly and is ready for super market shelves. Some cheese makers milk their own animals just to acquire the perfect tasting milk!
7. Cheese makers sometimes take care of animals
It is not uncommon for producers of specialty cheese stores to raise their own sheep, goats and cows. Many claim that this leads to superior quality cheese as the milk can be used at its freshest. Taking the ingredients directly from the sources allows the cheese maker to have total control of the cheese making process. This is the perfect job for someone who loves cheese and the chance to work with animals
8. Cheese makers need a certain set of skills
As with any occupation there are certain sets of skills which will aid you better than others. For a cheese maker these skills include:
Keen power of observation- Cheese makers need to be in tune with the cheeses they are making. Cheeses need to be inspected frequently to ensure the ripening process happens correctly. Minor differences can alert to a problem so correction can be made quickly during the process. It is important to be able to tell minor differences between cheeses and what they mean.
Ability to stand for long periods of time- Much of a cheese makers job takes place on their feet. Makers need to be comfortable with bending, twisting, turning and other associated actions. They clean, set up cheese form and transfer cheese curds curds from vats.
Ability to operate machinery- Cheese today is typically produced in large vats while milk is transported through pipes through out a plant. Typically curds need to be cut and this is usually performed by mechanical wires. Therefore, to develop these processes the cheese maker needs to be comfortable working with machinery. They need to be able to closely monitor operation equipment and make sure everything is moving correctly.
Author: Veronica Hislop – Veronica is a Chemistry student studying at Ryerson University and loves looking at the science in the kitchen. She is currently on a path to find her place in the food manufacturing industry. When Veronica is taking a break from her food endeavours you will find her at home reading a great novel and playing with her cats.
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