Academy of Cheese is ready for launch
The long-mooted Academy of Cheese initiative looks set to come to fruition in the next six months after securing financial backing, agreeing a structure and hiring a project manager.
After months of planning and working with the National Skills Academy, a volunteer group of founding patrons – including representatives from the Guild of Fine Food, Paxton & Whitfield and wholesaler Harvey & Brockless, as well as cheesemaker Mary Quicke – has decided that the Academy will function like an examining board rather than a teaching body.
While the Academy has been set up for cheese and food professionals, courses will also be open to members of the public.
The group, which has now appointed cheesemaker and consultant Paul Thomas as project manager, is currently seeking training partners to deliver courses covering a variety of topics, from retailing and tasting cheese through to making and grading it.
“We’re like an examining board,” said deli owner Charlie Turnbull, who is also a founding member of the Academy. “We set the examinations, we set the curriculum and the ‘schools’ themselves then decide exactly how they’re going to teach to that and it’s up to them to make sure their students achieve the requisite standards.”
While there is still lots of work to be done, Turnbull told FFD that a Level 1 basic accreditation would be in place and examinable by March 2017, with the Guild able to deliver it as the Academy’s first training partner.
The curriculum for Level 2, which Turnbull said most cheese professionals could handle easily, is also being developed. He added that Level 3 would be pitched at “experts”, and that Level 4 would be an unknown until people had passed the other three.
The list of patrons for the program cover a broad spectrum from multiple retail and large suppliers through to smaller shops and cheese producers.
“This is about getting all the boats to rise,” said Turnbull when asked about the involvement of larger businesses in the scheme. “It’s about raising knowledge in our industry and consciousness among the public so we can get to the point where cheese has got the same credibility as wine.”
Wholesalers Bradbury’s and Harvey & Brockless are on board as is marketing company Monkhouse Food & Drink and the Guild of Fine Food.
Fine cheese retailers Paxton & Whitfield and Turnbulls Deli are both sponsors along with Tesco.
Cheesemakers Cropwell Bishop, Quicke’s, Stichelton, Cornish Yarg maker Lynher Dairies and Lincolnshire Poacher are sponsoring, as are larger producers Bridgehead Foods and Wyke Farms.