Food, ZingLife

The Creamery’s Tessie Ives-Wilson Is Officially a World-Class Cheese Professional

Tessie Ives-Wilson

Tessie at work in the Creamery production space

There are currently only 740 Certified Cheese Professionals in the world, and our very own Tessie Ives-Wilson is one of them! That’s right—Tessie, the retail manager at Zingerman’s Creamery, recently took and passed the very grueling exam that the American Cheese Society offers once a year. The three-hour test includes 150 multiple choice questions about everything from the cheesemaking process to wine pairing. It’s serious business!

The ACS launched the exam in 2012 to push higher standards in both knowledge and service in the cheese industry. “It sounded really cool!” says Tessie, adding that she spent seven months studying. Although there are 150 questions on the actual test, there are about 1,500 questions that all candidates have to prepare for.

Tessie has been with Zingerman’s for a decade. She got her start with Mail Order back in 2006, and a couple of years later, she transferred to the Deli. There, she delved into the meat program, teaching hand-sliced ham program for years, but she also began thinking about a future in cheese.

“That’s when I finally realized that cheese was one of those things I could do for a living, and not just because I like cheese,” she explains. “I mean, who doesn’t like cheese?”

This realization led her to the Creamery, where Tessie decided to concentrate on what she calls, “the full range of what cheesemaking and cheesemongering is.” Taking the exam was a natural part of that process and her progress.

“For me, it was that I’ve been doing this for ten years—am I as good as I think I am? It’s that next level of personal development and professional development,” Tessie explains.

While taking the test was tough, equally nail-biting was waiting for the results, which took five long weeks. She was at a nail salon when she finally found out. “I may have scared my manicurist,” she says with a laugh. “I just randomly checked my email. I was like, ‘Oh my god! I passed! I passed! Ah!'”

Tessie couldn’t wait to tell her family and everyone at Zingerman’s the good news. And while she’s excited about the perks of the certification, Tessie is also proud of the prestige the certification brings to the Creamery.

“It just lends a little more weight to what we’re doing,” says Tessie. “We know that the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses has fantastic cheesemongers, but this is kind of that example to the world. It’s that level of professional certification that says you’ve really invested the time and energy in knowing your craft.”

If you’ve never seen Tessie in action, now’s the time! Come to one of our Creamery events. She’ll be hosting Beer & Cheese 101 on September 29 and Wine and Cheese 101 on October 13.