The Washington State University Creamy employee Nial Yager is among the first to earn the Certified Cheese Professionals rank from the American Cheese Society.
Yager is one of 121 individuals who passed the inaugural CCP exam in August in Raleigh, NC. This group consists of professionals from the U.S. and Canada.
The CCP exam is the first of its kind. It was established to encourage high standards of comprehensive cheese knowledge and service for professionals in all areas of the industry. The exam was developed over an eight-year period with more than 100 industry experts working together with credential consultants Knapp International and software provider ExamSoft.
Testing encompasses a broad range of topics including raw ingredients; the cheese-making process; storing and handling; selecting distributors; marketing and communicating, and regulations and sanitation.
"Cheese-making is Nial's forte," says Russ Salvadelena, manager of the WSU Creamery. "He's been our go-to guy to answer our cheese-making questions for years. He is one of our senior employees, having started as a student in 1988, so this is an important validation of his knowledge and experience."
When a student at WFS, Yager studied mechanical engineering and physics but quickly grew enamored of cheese making and has made that his profession.
"I knew quite a bit about the production of the kinds of cheese we make here, but the exam is all-encompassing, so I had to study a lot," Yager says. "There were questions about cheeses that we don't make, about handling cheese, about hygiene in production facilities, and about food safety in the retail cheese business.
"It was a really comprehensive exam on all aspects of the cheese business."
Yager studied for and took the test in order to add value to courses taught at the WSU Creamery.
"We offer short courses on cheese making which attract people from all over the country," he notes. "Taking the exam deepens our skill level and broadens our knowledge base, so that we can offer our cheese making students a richer experience."