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    Regional Food Academy supports the International Cheese Awards

    Posted 28 July 2011

    ...there is a real need in the UK for a high -level cheese grading qualification. I thought the obvious place to do this was with the Regional Food Academy."

    Bruce MacDonald

    The Regional Food Academy at Harper Adams University College made its first official visit to the International Cheese Awards, Nantwich, this week. 

    Academy Manager Martin Anderson explained: “We are here to sponsor two awards at the Nantwich Cheese Show. We are sponsoring the prize for the Best Novice category, with the background of teaching students about cheese making, and are also here as trophy sponsor for the best Shropshire Blue as well. Being based in Shropshire, I think it’s important that we look after our regional food.”

    Martin was manning the RFA trade stand, promoting its recently launched cheese grading course.  

    “This is the first course in the Northern Hemisphere that is accredited in cheese grading,” Martin said: “Students can work towards a University College Foundation Certificate in Cheese Grading, starting with the first module in September.” 

    Martin was joined by course teacher Bruce MacDonald, who operates, a service to the cheese industry providing not just cheese grading, but all aspects of cheese grader training. Bruce was one of the judges at the Nantwich awards, beside a host of cheese experts and a few celebrities, including Alex James, originally of Blur fame, and Chef James Martin.

    Bruce explained: “I went self-employed last November and subsequently realised that there is a real need in the UK for a high -level cheese grading qualification. I thought the obvious place to do this was with the Regional Food Academy so I approached them in February; we had our first meeting in March and were able to launch the project at great speed, with a large amount of work from the RFA. They’ve done really well to get us this far. 

    “The course is all about the finer details of how to be a cheese grader. We start with basic sensory evaluation and threshold screening to make sure we can taste and understand and verbalise all the attributes of the cheese. We move on to looking at body, texture, aroma, flavour and the individual characteristics of many, many different types of cheese. 

    “We also look at the more advanced stages: electronic ways of recording date, quality systems and even how to be a cheese judge at something like the Nantwich Show.” Anyone interested in the course should visit the RFA website

    The Nantwich show was also a chance for the RFA team to connect with some of the individuals and companies they have assisted in the past, or hope to support in the future.

    Martin added: “We are sharing a trade stand today with The Little Cheesery, owned by called MCE engineering. When we originally started the regional food academy, we were looking to try to source cheese making equipment, and this was incredibly difficult in the UK se we approached MCE, a stainless steel design company in order to try to be able to make some equipment for ourselves. By working with us they were able to get better acquainted with what’s required when manufacturing cheese making equipment, and they built all the equipment the RFA now uses. 

    “Now, they have expanded what they do and have a portable unit – The Little Cheesery - that can be taken to farmers and help them to develop, in a low risk way, into cheese makers themselves.”

    Kevin McLean, from MCE, said: “We make equipment for food manufacturing in general, and are focusing of dairy at the minute, working with both big companies and small farmers. This sort of product is aimed at the smaller producers. It is a totally enclosed unit: you can just go in there and make cheese. It lets people get going without planning, gain consent, buildings etc to worry about. This is ready to run.”

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