UW-Madison Will Pay You Money to Taste Cheese

Here’s what you need to know about the job description and how to apply.

If you’ve ever wanted a side hustle that is mostly sitting, eating and talking, and makes your friends jealous, and if 15 bucks an hour is enough, the UW-Madison has a gig for you.

If you beat out at least 150 other applicants, you could be a descriptive sensory panelist

The job description: Taste cheese, pizza and other dairy products (but not ice cream) for three hours at a time, up to three times a week.

We say taste because, according to expert food sampler Brandon Prochaska, if you full-on eat, well …

“You don’t want to swallow it, if you do you’ll be sick at the end of the day,” says Prochaska, sensory coordinator at UW-Madison’s Center for Dairy Research. “We use spit cups. Sometimes people have a little bit of a gross factor, ‘Why would you do that?’ But after we go through a day of evaluating, they’ll be like, ‘I get it, I get it.’”


Nominations are open for the 2024 Unity Awards! 

Know an individual or group committed to bridging divides in our community? Nominate them for a Unity Award by Oct. 31.

It’s part of the center’s research routine. Panelists are taught how to describe what they taste: Is the pizza adhesive or cohesive? Which cheese is more stretchy, or more firm? 

“It’s a very specific skill set,” insists Prochaska, who was a food science major at UW and has served as a cheddar judge for the Collegiate Dairy Products Evaluation Contest. “You’re describing every attribute that that product has and you’re also assigning an intensity to it.”

The posting lists six responsibilities, starting with this one, which is described as 20 percent of the job:

“Responsible for describing a range of food products in terms of appearance, texture, aroma, and flavor. Recognize and learn these attributes and evaluate them accurately and reliably using the prescribed scales and scale references.”

Competition for what will be a handful of panelist jobs grew after a tweet about the posting, which lists a June 21 application deadline. The tweet has received 1.5 million views.

“It’s kind of the center of my universe right now,” says Prochaska, grateful the extra attention will likely lead to a strong panel.

Applicants will interview by phone, then in-person. The panel should be in place by early September.

One down side is the parking scarcity on campus. But there’s another upside: after all of that tasting and spitting, it’d be easy to find dessert.

The work is done at Babcock Hall — where they make and sell ice cream.



Milwaukee journalist Tom Kertscher was a 35-year newspaper reporter, finishing that career at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Now a national freelance writer, he is a contributing writer for PolitiFact, a sports reporter for The Associated Press and a contributor to other media. His reporting on Steven Avery was featured in "Making a Murderer." Kertscher is the author of sports books on Brett Favre and Al McGuire. Follow him on Twitter at @KertscherNews and on LinkedIn.