WSU Creamery employee proves passion for cheese with special certification

PULLMAN, WA - Cheese is taken very seriously at the WSU Creamery. After all, they are known for producing gold. Cougar Gold, that is.

"We make eight different cheeses," said WSU Creamery Manager Russ Salvadalena. "Cougar Gold is the most popular one. That's about 80%of our sales."

The creamery raised the gold standard even higher when they sent Buyer/Planner Nial Yager all the way to Raleigh, North Carolina to complete an American Cheese Society certification.

"I've made a lot of different kinds of cheese," said Yager. "So I have quite a bit of cheese knowledge, actual production and handling, so I thought that the test would be no big deal."

To Yager's surprise, the certification was not that easy. The test required a lot of studying because it covered everything from the earliest stages of production to the pricing of cheese on the shelves.

"The truth is, when we went to our cheese maker and asked if he wanted to take it, he said 'No,' he didn't want to take it," said Yager. "So I was apparently the brave one that was ready to handle it."

This is the first year that the American Cheese Society has offered this certification, and Yager is one of only about 120 people across the nation to pass the test and become a Certified Cheese Professional. It's a title that benefits the university as a whole.

"Our university trains a lot of cheese makers," said Salvadalena. "And so to have somebody with that certification on our staff now, that kind of legitimizes us as a good, quality teacher."

The certification proves that Yager knows how to do his job, and 24 years of employment proves that he loves his job as well.

"Everyday is something new, everyday is something fun," said Yager. "It's just a great job."