One Week Until Academie Opus Caseus Training
This post is part of a series from my two week-long training courses with the Academie Opus Caseus. You can find the rest of these posts by searching for the tag academie-opus-caseus.
In less than one week, I’ll be at the main caves of the Mons family cheese business beginning what will be two weeks of professional training. I’ve been looking forward to this for months now, and it’s nearly here.
I’ve come to believe something very important about myself. One is that I can achieve virtually anything I want if I work hard enough at it. My inner skeptic used to gnaw at me when it came to trying something new. And even if I got past my doubts, I often lacked the discipline required to get where I wanted to go. Things don’t always happen quickly given the needs of family and subsistence, but some planning and a little bit of graft has taken me a long way.
Week 1: The Essential Foundations
While i’ve managed to eat a lot of cheese and meet a lot of people over these past two years, I know how I learn. I tend to learn in leaps and bounds when I gain a solid framework of understanding. That this will include five days of live, hands-on instruction from experts who have trained hundreds of people like me is, in a word, awesome. I’m feeling very fortunate about this.
The five days blends both theory and practice, tasting and retailing. Topics include:
- Fabrication, from animal to final product
- Sensory evaluation & vocabulary development
- Sourcing cheese & recognizing quality across the supply chain
- Retail preparation: from merchandising to sales skills and business practices
- Hygiene & regulations, traceability, and risk preventio
Naturally there will be cheese tastings, and we’re staying in a small village not far from the Mons caves in St-Haon-le-Châtel but it won’t all be fun and games. There will be both homework and tests. I’m excited too about the fact that the class is taught in French with English translation available, thereby allowing me to improve my vocabulary in both languages.
For more information on the Foundations class, visit the Academie Opus Caseus site.
Week 2: Affinage
With a week of fundamentals under my belt I will plunge into what is effectively my first science class in nearly 30 years. Affinage is about the biochemistry of cheese and how milk, microorganisms, and environmental conditions conspire to create (or destroy) beautiful cheese. When I first read about the class over a year ago I wasn’t sure whether I’d pursue it. Yet since then, it’s become exceedingly clear to me that, all things being equal (ingredients especially), the aging process separates the good from the great. You can’t not know something about affinage if you want to speak seriously about cheese.
For more information on the Affinage class, visit the Academie Opus Caseus site.
...and then what?
I’ve continued to read books on cheese (and naturally eat it!) as a way of preparing myself for the training, but the more interesting question will be what next? I expect that by the end of the two weeks I’ll know whether I want to pursue this “cheese thing” further. If I do (and I expect I will), then it’s on to some live experience in the form of a stage, or internship, in one or more of Paris’ many cheese stores. From there, who knows. At some point I’ll have to figure out where in the supply chain I want to be. What’s sure, though, is that if I want to do it, I’ll figure out how.
The photo above is of Laurent Mons from the Mons Formation site in French.