The growth of the food industry and people's interest in it has everything trending towards super-niche-- including culinary certifications. Consider yourself a beer authority? Prove it by becoming a Master Cicerone. Want to know just about all there is to know about urban gardening? There's a Master Urban Gardening program for that. Interested in judging barbecue competitions? You have to get certified first. Here are eight unique culinary certifications and specialty programs worth seeking out if you want to do more than just call yourself an expert.
1. Cicerone Certification Program. The beer world's equivalent to a sommelier, the Cicerone Certification program has only been in place since 2008. Founded by Chicago's Craft Beer Institute, the three-level program tests individuals on their ability to sell and serve beer. For more information, check out contributor and Civilization of Beer founder Samuel Merritt's testimonial about preparing for the Master Cicerone TM exam.
2. Roaster's Guild Certification. The Specialty Coffee Association of America offers a variety of specialty certifications, but perhaps one of the more unique is this one for aspiring roasters. Divided into three levels (Apprentice, Journeyman, Master), classes include "Introduction to Cupping" and "Profile Roasting."
3. Level I Sake Specialist Certification. For the above-and-beyond sake enthusiast is this certification course and test. Organized by sake expert John Gauntner, the three-day program costs a steep $775, but covers all the lessons, materials, tasting, and the exam.
4. Master Urban Gardener Program. The urban gardening craze has literally gone through the roof. The Boston Natural Areas Network offers "an intensive eight-session 'master gardener model' program" that includes everything from soil science to community garden design.
5. Certified Competition Barbecue Judge. You may think you know your 'cue, but until you've passed a certification exam, you're not fit to judge. The Kansas City Barbecue Society offers a class for around $80 that covers everything from theory to hands-on judging. Eat barbecue and get certified? Sounds win-win.
6. Certified Professional Ice Carver. At the Academy of Ice Carving and Design in Fresno, aspiring ice and food carvers can choose from several certification programs. The Certified Professional Ice Carver Program is geared towards professional ice carvers and can be completed in a weekend. It addresses basic techniques as well as topics like "tricking out tools" and "trouble-free ice beverage luges."
7. The Raw Culinary Arts Professional Chef Certification. The Living Light Culinary Art Institute in California offers this extensive certification program for raw foods chefs. The nearly year-long class has several prerequisites and requires the completion of a 250-day internship.
8. U.S. Bartender's Guild Master Accreditation Exam. What's so unique about a master mixology program? Consider that this one, initiated in 2009, consists of three phases, takes about two years to complete, and culminates in a written thesis. Costing $900 for non-guild members and $300 for members, this is a class that takes dedication to the glass to the next level.