The Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker program, the nation’s only advanced training course of its kind for veteran cheesemakers, has graduated one new and two returning Master Cheesemakers.
With the 2012 graduates, Wisconsin now has 52 Masters working in the state. Together, they hold Masters’ certification for a total of 35 cheese varieties and represent 31 companies.
The state’s newest Master Cheesemaker, who will be formally certified at an April ceremony during the International Cheese Technology Expo in Milwaukee, is Gerard Knaus, a fourth-generation cheesemaker at Weyauwega Star Dairy in Weyauwega. He has earned certification as a Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker in the production of Parmesan and Feta.
Joining Knaus in the 2012 Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker graduating class are two long-time Masters who returned to the program to earn certification for additional cheese varieties. They are:
- Tom Jenny of Carr Valley Cheese in Mauston, who now adds Fontina and Gouda to the cheeses for which he’s certified as a Master. A member of the program’s very first graduating class, Jenny earned certification in 1997 for Swiss cheese.
- Scott Erickson of Bass Lake Cheese Factory in Somerset, who adds Juustolepia to the cheeses for which he’s certified as a Master. Erickson previously graduated the program in 1998, 2001 and 2004 and holds Master’s certification for Cheddar, Colby, Monterey Jack, Muenster and Chevre, in addition to Juustolepia. Erickson is the first cheesemaker to attain Master’s certification in this variety.
“A lot of experience, artistry and advanced study go into the making of a Master Cheesemaker. Successfully completing the program is something that all the graduates can take great pride in,” says James Robson, CEO at the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (WMMB), one of the Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker program’s founding partners. “Each graduating class contributes to the advancement of quality, consistency and innovation within their own companies and also, by sharing their knowledge and helping to train other cheesemakers, within the industry at large through this one of a kind program.”
The Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker program is the most formalized, advanced training program in the nation. Patterned after European programs, it is administered by the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research and funded by Wisconsin dairy producers, through WMMB. Applicants to the program must be active, licensed Wisconsin cheesemakers with at least 10 years of experience. Cheesemakers can earn certification in up to two cheese varieties each time they enroll in the three-year program and must have been making those varieties as a licensed cheesemaker for a minimum of five years prior to entering the program. Once certified, they’re entitled to use the distinctive Master’s Mark on their product labels and in other marketing materials.