by Leslie Uhl, ACS CCP
I remember walking up the stairs, a giant 40-lb bag of study materials over my shoulder as if I’d have the time or the stomach to do any last-minute brain buffering. They hand me a slip of paper and I write my information down in general declaration of, “I AM HERE TO SIT THIS EXAM”, then I walk down to the coatroom to check my bags, phone, and any other belongings before entering The Room. Nervous energy wafts through the halls like the smell of something burning in the oven – enough to put you on edge, and enough to force me outside one last time for a few final breaths of fresh air. Then, The Room—a giant conference arena outfitted with hundreds of tables and chairs, all facing the front where a single podium lords over the test-takers-to-be. Chairs are spaced far enough apart, to guard against peek-ers, and I sit quietly in my front row seat staring at the laptop that would determine my fate as a Certified Cheese Professional.
I don’t remember much after that. So many questions, so many answers to choose from, and in my head that day it all meant “so many things that I could possibly fail at.” Di Bruno Bros. started sending cheesemongers to take the CCP exam, hosted by the American Cheese Society at their yearly conference, back in 2013, when our inaugural group of 5 mongers all passed the test and set the bar so high for the following monger groups to come. In 2014, there were 3 of us, and again, we all passed. This year we’ve made it a pattern, and for the third year in a row we’re so proud to say that we’re at a 100% pass rate.
Pictured: Ann, Malachy, Leslie (our author), & Tommy.
Our fearless (or maybe slightly fearful, as I definitely was) exam takers this year fortunately gave us no cause for alarm. First, the incomparable Ann C., who broke the pattern of male cheesemongers at our original 9th Street location and then conquered the world from behind the counter. With a background in cooking, Ann is a graduate of Cornell University and you cannot talk to her without learning something. Info-philic in every way, she’s a powerhouse of brilliance who has traveled the world of cheese both literally and figuratively.
Second, Malachy E., who holds the title of Renaissance Man within these walls. A family fellow with a beautiful almost-two-year-old daughter, a lovely wife and home in Germantown, Malachy has been working behind our counters for about 3 years now. He’s the kind of guy that might not say a lot, but when he speaks it’s always a good idea to listen. There’s a jolly Irishman tucked in his chuckle, and he’s a homebrewer of epic beer and a brilliant illustrator and artist in the spare time that he magically inserts into his busy schedule. Also, fun fact – he came to DB from making cheese on a local farm, but before that he was in journalism! What CAN’T he do?!
Finally, Tommy A., who’s been a member of the DB family since before I can remember! His grandfather worked in our Italian Market location back in the day, and I remember sitting down with Tommy when I first started and getting a tidal wave of information on charcuterie from a serious master. He’s from Havertown, PA, but seems like he’s grown up and lived in South Philadelphia his whole life, and when you talk to Tommy, you really feel like a kindred spirit. He’s always got a warm smile on his face, and I’ve never seen him nervous about anything, ever. Not even this exam.
I’m speaking for everyone at Di Bruno Bros. when I extend a hearty congratulations to these three exam masters. They now join the ranks of almost 600 Certified Cheese Professionals in the nation who understand the months of study, the sleepless nights wondering if you’ve passed or failed, and that simple, indescribable jolt of nerves when you walk into The Room to sit the exam. I’m proud to be a part of this group, and to Ann, Malachy, and Tommy I’d like to say that we never had any doubts.