Adoption of cheese is rising with a growing number of specialty cheeses now locally available. The need for training and access to best adapt the range of cheeses in order to meet the diverse needs of consumers, retailers, foodservice operators and food and beverage manufacturers is also mounting.
Year two of the USA Cheese Specialist™ Certification Program has kickstarted at the International Centre for Culinary Arts (ICCA) in Dubai. The rigorous program consists of three progressive certification levels- Associate, Intermediate and Advanced. Upon completion of 36 hours of class, hands-on and final test, the chefs will receive the designation of USA Cheese Specialist™ along with a ceremonial Guild double-handed knife as well as patches and pins to proudly display the accomplishment on their chef coats.
Graduation from the program comes with a certificate of accomplishment and being added to an exclusive community where they can draw from each other’s expertise. The chefs will be inducted into the global USA Cheese Specialist™ community supported by the USA Cheese Guild™. The USA Cheese Guild™ is a center of excellence for cheese knowledge and education managed by the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) and is comprised of industry experts.
Chef Antonio El Khoury has been appointed as the director of culinary programs for the USA Cheese Guild™ in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Chef Antonio will be co-teaching the upcoming courses at ICCA with culinary consultant Mark Todd. As a trainer, well-versed in a variety of international cuisines including regional delicacies, Chef Antonio is a part of USDEC’s in-region team to support the regional culinary community. From a family of food specialists, Antonio is adapting U.S. Cheese within French, Mediterranean and Arab cuisines, developing comfort food, classic recipes and high-end gastronomic fare.
The program fosters a growing network of cheese professionals across cuisines within the MENA region. With greater synergies between the local culinary community and U.S. dairy community we want to be able to drive cheese appreciation and develop related specialisms within the food and beverage sector. This is further to working with both student and established chefs to best harness their creativity with the cheeses.
“U.S. cheeses are award-winning a tremendous mix of tradition and innovation, from farm to plate and our team is on hand to support these chefs in how to best adapt them. Through the Guild we aim to provide these students support from the U.S. cheese community throughout their careers,” said Angélique Hollister, executive director, USA Cheese Guild.
“As cheese continues to grow in global popularity, the response that we received for the USA Cheese Specialist Certification Program at ICCA Dubai during the first year from the industry was overwhelming. Encouraged by the outcome, we now look forward to the second edition, to continue the journey of enhancing knowledge, learning, and understanding of cheese”, Sunjeh Raja, Director & CEO, ICCA Dubai.
The inaugural class in 2018 composed of 40 young chefs from 13 hotel properties in the UAE with students coming from nine different countries (India, Indonesia, South Africa, Syria, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Italy and the Philippines).
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