“Each Master candidate must participate in the program’s quality assurance component of plant and product inspection,” Smukowski says. “This program, the only one in the U.S., enhances the quality image of what is already the nation’s premier cheesemaking state and the unparalleled standards of Wisconsin cheesemaking.”
The purpose of the Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker Program is three-fold: provide a formal sequence of courses that leads to the title of Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker; add value to cheese because it was made by a “Master Cheesemaker,” like those of European tradition; and equip Wisconsin cheesemakers with the knowledge and skills to be competitive in the marketplace both nationally and internationally.
“It takes two years and eight months from the time cheesemakers are accepted into the program until they graduate,” Smukowski points out. “One can complete the program for two different cheeses at a time. If a person wants Master Cheesemaker status for additional types of cheeses, they must pursue that individually, according to the same basic requirements of the program.”
The first class of Master Cheesemakers graduated in 1997, and about 70 graduates are active Master Cheesemakers today, Smukowski says. “More than half of those hold Master Cheesemaker status for more than one type of cheese,” she notes.