Carmen Asteinza asked herself recently, “If not now, when?”
The Newburyport, Mass., resident, whose career in marketing and communications spans over two decades, has long been enthusiastic about cheese. But over the past few years, she’s decided to take her passion to the next level.
Last summer, she completed UVM’s Artisan Cheese & Sensory Fundamentals Professional Certificate. The four-week online cheese certificate is designed for aspiring cheesemakers, restaurant staff, and food systems professionals.
“The course is a wonderful opportunity for anyone looking to hone in on transitioning to a career in cheese,” she says. “It gives you a chance to focus on artisan cheese and gives you the knowledge of the sensory experience, which is really what cheese is all about.”
Asteinza’s curiosity about cheese and specialty foods began on a high school exchange trip to Nantes, France. After graduating from Middlebury College, she lived in Madrid, Spain, and traveled around Europe, visiting specialty shops, tasting new cheeses, and refining her palate along the way.
After returning to the United States, she got married, raised children, and started a career in corporate marketing. Asteinza’s work also allowed her to work with food companies, which only intensified her love for cheese.
But the turning point came in 2019 when her former husband passed away unexpectedly.
“I had already begun the process of changing my life up,” she says. “But I asked myself, ‘If I had all the time and money in the world, what would I do, was I doing it, and how could I best serve others with my unique talent?’ I wanted to do to something meaningful, live passionately to experience and know true joy, not just occasionally, but all the time. If not now, when?”
Focusing on a New Career
She enrolled in food, health and wellness, and cooking classes, including a cheesemaking course in Boston. She also became a member of the American Cheese Society and plans on taking the Certified Cheese Professional® Exam in 2022.
Over the summer, Asteinza joined Whole Foods in Portsmouth, N.H., in the specialty department, which offers unique cheeses, wine, beer and specialty products. On the job, she answers questions about cheese, offers samples to customers, and helps shoppers plan the ultimate cheese plate.
“I’ve discovered that when you’re curious, the learning never stops. And learning doesn’t end with a degree; it’s just the beginning,” she says. “I’m glad I went through my midlife crisis because it awakened me to the fact that life doesn’t need to be monotonous and burdensome. It is about now. You can choose to be passionate and discover new things about yourself every day.”
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