Big Cheese: Sarasota's Certified Cheese Connoisseur
Being a cheese connoisseur is like any other art form, and David Warren Curran is a man with no shortage of creativity.
The Sarasota Whole Foods Market employee recently passed the über-sophisticated exam to become an American Cheese Society (ACS) Certified Cheese Professional (CCP), joining an elite group of 406 experts with comprehensive cheese knowledge; 42 of these pros are from Florida and only four (including Curran) are based in Sarasota.
This designation allows Curran to be a cheese industry retail professional and educator, which has been one of his longtime cultural ambitions. Before Whole Foods, Curran completed five years of service in the Navy, and then worked in fine dining while studying toward an education degree and simultaneously touring with a band.
“My favorite cheese at the time was the American cheese slice wrapped in plastic,” jokes Curran, who currently plays drums in the Sarasota-based band MeteorEYES. “I became more interested in cheese when I started working in the specialty department at Whole Foods in 2007. After a few months, I became the cheese buyer for the store and, eventually, a manager. Whole Foods nurtured my education in all things cheese- and service-related. I learned so much over the years and it was my responsibility to share.”
Curran realized that teaching behind a cheese counter in a grocery store—rather than a podium in a public school—was a more appealing setting for him.
“I had found my classroom. Our customers became my students,” he says.
So he wanted to take the position to the next level. To qualify for the ACS exam, Curran prepared an essay for his leadership group at Whole Foods and was unanimously chosen. He hit the books and participated in two-hour conference calls each week for eight months. He attended a weeklong course at the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research, and visited cheesemaking facilities and dairy farms throughout the state. Then, he traveled to Sacramento, California, for the CCP exam and the annual ACS conference.
“I was rubbing elbows with all the famous American cheesemakers, like Allison Hooper from Vermont Creamery and Mateo Kehler from Jasper Hill,” Curran says.
A whole month after taking the exam, Curran was notified that he passed, which became a point of great pride.
“Does it mean I know everything about cheese? No. I wish,” Curran says. “Hopefully, though, when customers come into Whole Foods, they will have the confidence that I will be able to expertly field most of their cheese-related inquiries. Ultimately, for Whole Foods, it’s an investment. For me, it’s another great opportunity to teach.”
Whole Foods Market: 1451 First St, Sarasota, 941-316-4700; wholefoodsmarket.com