In the state of Wisconsin, there are more than 1,200 licensed cheesemakers but less than 80 hold the distinguished title of “Master Cheesemaker.” Baker Cheese is proud to have a newly accredited Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker® at the helm of its cheesemaking process.
Meet Baker Cheese Master Cheesemaker, Jeff LeBeau and learn more about what it takes to become a Master Cheesemaker in Wisconsin below.
Meet Jeff LeBeau: Baker Cheese Master Cheesemaker
From the small town in Upper Michigan, Jeff LeBeau knew from a young age that cheese was his passion. In fact, he began working at a local cheese plant when he was in high school. He pursued other career opportunities for a few years but was drawn back to cheesemaking in Vermont and Wisconsin. He started in sanitation, but with motivation, talent, and growing knowledge, Jeff moved to cheesemaking and found his true calling.
“The Master Cheesemaker program was a challenge, but one that has allowed me to hone in on my skills and enhance my knowledge of cheesemaking,” said Jeff LeBeau, Cheese Operations Manager at Baker Cheese. “Cheesemaking is my passion, and completing this program allows me to help other cheesemakers develop their craft and ensure we always deliver the best possible products to our customers.”
Jeff is currently the Cheese Operations Manager at Baker Cheese and a Master of mozzarella.
What is a Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker?
A Master Cheesemaker is an individual who has shown leadership, knowledge and extensive skills in the art of cheesemaking. The Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker Program was established as an advanced education program designed specifically for experienced cheesemakers. The program is made possible through joint sponsorship with the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research, UW-Extension, and the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.
According to the CDR, the purpose of the Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker Program focuses on three important elements:
- To provide a formal sequence of educational courses which allow individuals to earn the title of Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker.
- To add value to specific cheese varieties that were crafted by a “Master Cheesemaker.”
- To equip Wisconsin cheesemakers with the skills and knowledge to be competitive in the national and international marketplace.
Certification as a Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker is based on a chosen natural cheese variety. Upon acceptance into the program, each cheesemaker has the option of being certified for two cheese varieties at one time.
What is Required for Admittance into the Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker Program?
To become a Master Cheesemaker, there are several qualifying factors considered before your admittance into the program is granted.
To be admitted to the program, you must meet the following criteria:
- 10+ Years of Experience. Cheesemakers must be currently making cheese in a Wisconsin plant and have at least 10 years of experience as a licensed cheesemaker.
- Cheesemaking Knowledge Oral Exam. Cheesemakers are given an oral exam where they are questioned to determine if they have enough base cheesemaking knowledge to be successful in the program.
- Quality and Safety Review. Each candidate must participate in a quality assurance review component, which includes a plant and product inspection.
How Do You Become A Master Cheesemaker?
For accepted candidates, program completion includes the following elements:
- Educational Courses. Cheesemakers are challenged in courses that focus on cheese technology, the science behind the cheesemaking process, food safety, applied chemistry, business, marketing and more.
- Annual Cheese Evaluations. Program participants must submit cheese samples on three different occasions for evaluation. A designated committee will evaluate the cheese for quality and consistency and will test the cheese to analyze the manufacturing process and ingredients.
- Final Written Exam. Upon completion of the training courses, participants must pass a closed-book written exam that can take up to 40 hours to complete.
Once the course work and inspections are completed, and after a successful written exam, program candidates become Wisconsin Master Cheesemakers.
What is the "Master Mark"?
One of the key distinguishing factors of the Master Cheesemaker Program is the “Master’s Mark®.”
The Master’s Mark is an exclusive benefit for Wisconsin Master Cheesemakers. It distinguishes the cheese from others because it means the cheese was crafted by an individual who has truly mastered the craft of cheesemaking. To use the mark, a certified Master Cheesemaker must supervise the cheesemaking process in a Wisconsin plant that participates in a quality assurance program.
All Baker Cheese products now hold the Master’s Mark of distinction.
Learn more about Baker Cheese’s unique cheese varieties now!
Baker Cheese is a fourth generation, family-owned, string cheese manufacturer located in St. Cloud, Wisconsin. Through generations of innovation, we have maintained the key elements to create exceptional, award-winning natural string cheese.
If you are interested in purchasing Baker Cheese products, visit our Cheese Store page, or contact us to learn about our private label opportunities and learn more about the benefits of being a part of the Baker Cheese family, where quality is our family tradition.