Our Experts

Kim Martin

March 29, 2023  |   by Cameron Ito

It’s the year 2000 and following her classes at Seattle Central College’s Culinary Academy, Kim Martin heads in for the night shift in the prepared foods department at the Admiral Metropolitan Market. Her interest in culinary arts led her here, and her growing passion for cheese is about to ignite. Over the next 22 years, Kim’s knowledge and expertise grew, leading her to become one of the most decorated cheese experts in the company. Her credentials in the cheese industry are impressive, including numerous industry certifications and her recent nomination and inclusion in the Washington State Cheesemakers Association. She oversees the in-store cheese department experience at all Metropolitan Market locations and helps to teach and apply standards with a smile on her face.

kim martin slicing deli meat

Starting Out

Kim’s culinary career started when she worked behind the prepared foods counter. After only six months, her attraction to the cheese department grew as she talked to the teams behind the cheese case and learned about different types of cheese. Kim realized that “cheese is a lifetime of learning,” and she was ready to accept the challenge. During her tenure in the store (and even after), she built and maintained relationships with regular guests who come into shop, many of whom she considers friends “and, in a way, family.” Kim reflects on the interactions, “It’s been exciting to watch these kids grow up. I remember giving their parents a piece of parmesan for them to chew on when they were small, and now those kids are in college!”

Becoming a Subject Matter Expert

Kim’s formal education continued in 2011 when she attended the Cheese School of San Francisco (yes, cheese school is a thing), and she eventually completed the American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professional (CCP) program. You may have heard of or seen “CCP” in cheese departments but may not truly understand what this means. With required hours in the cheese industry, the CCP test encompasses everything about cheese (think wine sommelier, but for cheese). To prepare for the exam, Kim worked with local cheesemakers, volunteering to learn the processes and hard work that goes into making cheese, and she had study groups with experts in the industry. In 2016, she passed the CCP test with flying colors.

kim martin cutting parmesan
kim martin in the cheese shop

Taking It to the Next Level

Fast forward two years. The American Cheese Society offered a new, even more rigorous, exam to become a Certified Cheese Sensory Evaluator (CCSE). With her previous experience preparing for the CCP test, Kim went back to the study groups and back to local cheesemakers. She also worked with store teams blind tasting cheeses, putting together perfect pairings, and discussing flavor attributes that come from how a cheese is made (as well as the flavor enhancements that sometimes result, interestingly, from defects). Among the first class to take this exam, Kim was certified as one of the fewer than 40 experts in the country with this level of expertise. As if that weren’t enough, Kim recently expanded her learning and expertise by officially becoming certified as an Olive Oil Sommelier, where she took classes and tasted close to 100 olive oils in London!

Next Up

Invited by nomination only, Kim is now serving as a board member on the Washington State Cheesemakers Association as an expert on cheese education.
While cheese is the passion, it’s the people that keep Kim motivated. She really enjoys creating relationships through helping with someone’s special event, giving recommendations for the perfect pairing, or working alongside the Metropolitan Market team to enhance the in-store experience. Given her history, it’s no surprise that Kim’s career goals are to take on more ownership and management of the buying side of Metropolitan Market’s cheese selection, to establish and develop partner relationships, and to provide continued training to the team.

kim martin in the cheese shop

Share the Passion for Cheese?

For those interested in pursuing a career in cheese, Kim advises visiting a local cheese counter and talking to the knowledgeable people behind it. “People behind the cheese counter are there because they love it, and they’re knowledgeable and want to share it with you. You can feel how happy they are.”

My Met Market