The Great Hall
ACF Invitation to Comment The Great Hall: ACF Invitation to Comment
By Ladycake (Ladycake) on Friday, February 04, 2005 - 06:10 pm: Edit

> I thought some of you might be intersted in this since I have read some pretty critical things about culinary schools here recently. No offense taken, I just thought you might be willing to share your suggestions on alternatives.


>Date: Wed, 2 Feb 2005 16:14:17 EST
>Dear Colleagues,
>The following message is being forwarded, via snail mail, to our region's
>chapter presidents and slightly more than one hundred western region Certified
>Culinary Educators (C,C.E.'s). It is simply a means to explore how we may help
>many of our cooks and bakers who are not enrolled in formal education programs
>improve their respective skills, entusiasm, and personal growth.
>"Dear Colleague,
>My name is Harry Brockwell, and I am a candidate for the ACF Western Region
>Vice President this year. As an industry chef I possess a good background in
>supporting formal culinary education by having served 10+ years statewide for
>the California Community Colleges, and completing 11 site visits for ACF's post
>secondary Accreditation efforts.
>I seek your advice and guidance on what should be done to establish
>professional development efforts for those who are in our industry, yet prohibited from
>attending regular schooling, by a variety of reasons.
>I am eager to share your contribution during the soon to be held ACF Western
>Region conference, so please respond as early as possible, with you
>identification to: HARRY BROCKWELL@AOL.COM"
>As has been requested from those who will receive this via postal facilities
>I am asking that you too contribute your thoughts and suggestions.
>Thank you in advance for anything you may offer.
>Best regards,
>Harry Brockwell

By Foodpump (Foodpump) on Friday, February 04, 2005 - 11:20 pm: Edit

"... seek your advice and guidance on what should be done to establish
>professional development efforts for those who are in our industry, yet prohibited from
>attending regular schooling, by a variety of reasons."

Lets not even start with curriculum right now, lets start with how to ENFORCE the chosen curriculum. For example, a restaurant owner in Florida hires a credited "Chef" who just moved, say, from Montana. This Chef should be able to perform regular tasks, say, a Hollandaise, a sauteed dish, and a chicken noodle soup from scratch, and there should be very little variance from what the Florida owner expects. This is not to say that the Montana Chef has no imagination, it's just that basics are basics, and that everybody in the country performs the basics in pretty much the same way.

You could use the European model, where the federal gov't takes an active interest in all trades and sets out standards and examinations for trade qualifications. How the student learns the material is only secondary to the cohesiveness of the industry standard. A student with so many hours in accredited kitchens could learn material via correspondace course and have a six week "hands on" course with local accredited profesionals, and then, a few months later writes his exams and, most importantly, COOKS FOR THE EXAMINERS using the standard curriculum material. Or he/she could enter in an apprenticeship in an accredited establishment, and learn the course material in a school, say, one day a week, or a two week block every few months, and then take the same exam and practical cooking test.

Key words are industry standard and cohesiveness, or it'll just be the same old "never hire a chef from "X" state/city/cooking school because they can't cook worth beans..."

By Andapanda (Andapanda) on Saturday, February 05, 2005 - 02:27 pm: Edit


Great topic! I had been a member of ACF for a few years. I have also let my membership lapse because I did not think that it was worth paying ACF's ever increasing dues for a magazine with little information other than "who's who" in recent awards banquets, competitions, etc. I concur with Chefspike's opinion(posted on another thread) that ACF was primarily interested in only collecting their membership dues. I admit that I am not certified by ACF, yet I think that I can cook as well if not better than many culinary school graduates, apprentices, and working cooks. I have worked with ACF CECs, some of which were extremely talented and professional, while others were merely seeking a paycheck. I will not go as far as Chefspike in calling them "losers," but some ACF members were merely seeking paychecks, while others were very talented chefs. The same phenomenon can be witnessed at every school, workplace, club chapter, etc.

As for alternatives to the ACF, I only know of the following:

Chaines des Rotisseurs U.S.A.:

International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP):

I admit my ignorance of the aforementioned organizations because I have never attended any of their meetings. I have talked with other chefs and cooks who were also dissatisfied with ACF's politics, apparent indecisiveness in determining certification criteria(which seemed to change almost monthly), seemingly lack of interest in educating junior members, etc., and lament about lack of alternative trade guilds to join. Perhaps someone on this forum who is a member of the aforementioned organizations(or any other cooking trade guilds in the U.S.A., if any) would post their comments.


Great post! Perhaps we Americans should emulate the European apprenticeship system and standards. Unfortunately, Americans would rather believe the marketing hype of culinary arts schools, attend them, and come out with little or no practical knowledge, or technical skills, lack work ethics, but have enormous egos, and bad attitudes. I am not generalizing about all culinary arts school graduates. There are exceptions, such as the regular posters on this forum. I am only referring to the 90% of culinary arts students, including the ones who attend community colleges as well, who will unlikely be in the cooking trade 5 years after graduation. I have read an estimation that 70% of culinary school graduates have left the cooking trade 2 years after graduation and 90%--5 years after graduation, therefore, only 10% of all culinary arts graduates are still in the trade after 5 years.
I will refrain from complaining about having to tolerate 20-year old "know-it-alls" (or 'spoiled brats' as I refer to them) daily in class! I look forward to graduation and returning to the "real world" to work as a professional cook again. I clash with my classmates because they cook or bake by the "school method(even if they are working as cooks or bakers because they are still inexperienced)" knowing only "textbook knowledge," whereas, I cook or bake using practical knowledge including "shortcuts" which they do not know.
I am currently working two jobs, one at a restaurant with a Swedish chef, and the other, at a supermarket(I cook chickens, slice and bag, meats, cheeses, and occasionally chocolates). Foodpump, I envy you. I wish that I could have served an apprenticeship in Switzerland! Nonetheless, I have worked under a Swiss chef at a Marriott hotel while I was a Hotel Management, Restaurant Management, and Culinary Arts student.
Culinary arts education has come a long way in the U.S.A. in the past 20, or 30 years, but it still has a long way to go to be comparable with the European system.

By Cheftim (Cheftim) on Sunday, February 06, 2005 - 05:40 pm: Edit

I have a long history of being an ACF critic. I also have a long history of service to local ACF chapters. So don't think I am an apologist for what is wrong with the ACF.

Well really the ACF Certification is better than the "European" system. The so called "European" system is a Hodge Podge with different requirements in different countries.

For example to become a Master Chef in England your required to take a once a week course for two years. That's it. In Germany the title "Meister Chef" is a hold over from the guilds.

At least with ACF Certification one can see the required experience and level of schooling, at a minimum one, needed for any level of certification. The requirements are posted at for any one to view. They have never been a secret and in the last ten years or so only recently have any changes been made.

But here is the problem as I see it.

Certification favors the bureaucrats. Those that do well in a structured school environment. Those are good at filling in forms and the minutia needed to certify. Some of the vary reasons many of us entered this field in the first place, prevent us from even considering certification.

Skill in the kitchen is irrelevant. The new testing and competition requirements have little to do with the reality of a professional kitchen. With these new requirements certification favors the technocrats even more.

It's my cynical opinion that these newest changes to certification are stealth ways of strengthening even further the strangle hold CCE's have on the ACF and filling ACF coffers.

This, death grip, the CCE's have on the ACF is the biggest detriment to the ACF. The ACF is used as a recruiting tool for the myriad culinary schools that have in so many other ways have diluted the field. Culinary students are urged to join the ACF with the suggestion it is a fast track to that coveted six figure position. When nothing happens in six months they bolt, but are soon replaced with another crop of chef want-to-bes.

I know there are many very experienced chefs teaching. But also there are so many that were never very long in a professional kitchen that use the ACF as a cloak granting them instant professional success.

Well it's easy to take pot shots. What Chef Brockwell asked for was suggestions.

Here are some of mine:
Get rid of the competition requirements. Test Challenges for the 30 classroom hour requirements for the Sanitation, Management and Nutrition classes. Establish Peer Review Boards. Stream line the Experience Verification process.

In addition:
Just as the ACF does not allow Nutrition professionals to vote, don't allow CCE's to vote. Currently Junior members have a half vote, they should not have any vote in the running of the ACF.

By Foodpump (Foodpump) on Monday, February 07, 2005 - 01:07 am: Edit

"Well really the ACF Certification is better than the "European" system. The so called "European" system is a Hodge Podge with different requirements in different countries."

Yup, totally agree with you. EACH COUNTRY, but each country has it's own criteria for what they determine as a cook. Problem is, that in N. America any schmuck can call himself a cook or chef, but in Europe he's gotta have the paperwork to prove it. Not saying that paperwork is any subsitute for for real experience. N. America doesn't have a standard for a cook, what's a cook in Calgary or Atlanta doesn't mean a cook in New York or Honalulu

"Meister Chef" in Germany means that you must first complete a 3 year cook's apprenticeship before embarking on the Meister Chef certifiction process. Similarily, in Switzerland the term "Eidgenossiche Diplomierte Küchenchef" means that after the three year apprenticeship, you must first work in 4 or 5 star establishments for a minimum of 4 years, then pass a course to enable you to legally train apprentices, and THEN take a 2 year course ending in a one week series of tests, with 60% of final marks going to a two day cooking test. The Swiss pride themselves with the fact that 50% of those entering the "Eidgenossische Diplomierte" don't pass. Those that do are a "Chef", and not a "Cook".

It is the standards that make a trade reputable. Can you imagine hiring a journeyman electrician from Ohio and asking him to wire a house in N.Y state, and having him say "In Ohio we could wire a house with twist ties and old vacuum cleaner cords, but jeezus, in N.Y. state we gotta go out and buy all new wiring"? A gas fitter who tells you it's alright to run your Garland range without thermo-couplers? Nope. Same wiring code applies for all of U.S. Same gasfitters code too. Why? Lives and property are at stake. Insurance Co.'s and nasty plotting Lawyers could sue for shoddy workmanship and not adhering to codes. Why not the same criteria for Cooks? A good or bad cook could ruin someone's health or make an enjoyable dining experience. Cooking is a trade, like an electrican or plumber, but we have no standards to follow, no codes to adhere to, and if we pay $6,000 for a course in the Grace L. Fergusan Cooking School, we can call ourselves a "Chef" and do what ever we please.

A cook has got to know how to cook. There are 14 methods for food preparation (braising steaming, poaching, etc,) and a cook should know each one. "Saute" shouldn't mean throwing a chicken breast in a cold pan, turning on the heat, drizzle a little oil over the meat, and then watching the poor thing sputter in it's own juices... Poached eggs shouldn't be boiled so violently that the water goes over the sautoir and splashes and extinguishes the gas flame... Examinations for cooks should base at least 50% of the marks on COOKING, with the remaining marks on product knowledge, hygiene and preparation skills.
O.K. I'd better stop now. I've got sweaty palms and shallow breathing now, but I take this kind of thing seriously.

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Tuesday, February 08, 2005 - 02:04 pm: Edit

Tim, I agree with much of what you say. I never belonged to the ACF until I started teaching and it behooved me to get certified. I also agreed the ACF was a collection agency until recently.
I did not know or still do not know that the ACF is so strongly held by CCE's....are they????
I agree that some type of curriculum guidelines should be established, this Pro Start thing some restaurant associations are peddling is a joke. It's a strong arm sell of books and curriculum, I have not seen it but many teachers like it and just as many dislike it.
I strongly agree that kids should work in an establishment before thery spend thousands of dollars on an education. On the other hand high end schools are selling these kids a false bill of goods and they come out of there two years later, 40-50K in the hole and all they know how to do is to open packages!
Additionally now the CIA is coming out with this new Pro certification suppposedly in conjunction with the ACF, all I see is more $$$$ to be spent by the members and more $$$$$ made by the associations and schools!!!!!!
ENOUGH!!!!! about a little "real" benefit for the membership!!!!!!!
Look at the costs incurred by the Olympic teams from 15 years ago to today, it's ridiculous!!!!!!
.....and who gets on those teams?????....
Who the heck started this anyway?????

By Foodpump (Foodpump) on Tuesday, February 08, 2005 - 08:49 pm: Edit

Lets see now, H.Brockwell wants " your advice and guidance on what should be done to establish
>professional development efforts for those who are in our industry, yet prohibited from
>attending regular schooling, by a variety of reasons." Cheftim--and many others,in Canada too--are disapointed in the professional bodies and their attempts at certification. Chefmanny sees too many private schools making money and little else.

After studying the ACF website, I came to two conclusions. One, that Canada doesn't have anything that organized, and two, the founations for the hospitality industry are very shaky in the ACF point of view.
The foundation for our industry is the little guy, the cook. According to the ACF the "Culinarian", has very little criteria to meet. For the written exam, 70 out of 100 questions must be answered correctly in an hour. For the practical, a little julienne, chopped parsley, mirepoix, and bone out a chicken or two. Still am unsure if any practical experience is required for a "Culinarian" before his exams. From this benchmark the Culinarian can go on to bigger and better things. I'm not trying to make fun of anybody or anything, but this whole thing shocks me.

In the European model (yeah, wince and shudder, here we go again) most of the emphasis is placed on the lowly cook's apprentice. Very few hoops to jump through AFTER the apprenticeship, but a hell of alot more then julienne and mirepoix chopping to get through the apprenticeship. So why pick on the lowly apprentice? Because from this pool of apprentice cooks who've been through the meatgrinder, come all the future Chefs, Cooking instructors, F & B mngrs, future restaurant owners, and entrepaneurs. Kinda like an Army bootcamp. Everybody has to go through it, then the officers and pilots are creamed off. Odds are in the favour that these cooks will make GOOD future chefs, future cooking instructors, future F & B mngrs, future restaurant owners, and future entrepaneurs. Yes some never complete an apprenticeship, and go on to different trades, but no one can bluff their way through a 3 year apprenticship. There is only two certifications to earn, that of a cook, and that of a "Master Chef". The ACF has many stages, and many ways to achieve the positions for Cooking instructor or Chef. Those who slip through the loopholes and train the future cooks compound the whole problem.

So what to do? Heavy weight is needed to get one, and only one benchmark for a Chef. Nationwide. Many schools can offer the course, but in the end a Chef has got to earn his benchmark and not hide behind loopholes and various professional bodies.

By Foodfanatic (Foodfanatic) on Wednesday, February 09, 2005 - 02:01 am: Edit

why not do a apprentice system similar to the one in switzerland with exact rules and guidelines and after the 3 years have test.

what would you rather prefer spending $30000- $50000 for culinare school and then after you done you dont know the difference between a bechamel and hollandaise , or do 3 year apprentice with the exact guideline and rules,where you learn all the nesseties and spend maybe $1000.

i would probably take anyday a apprentice against a univesity culinare grad,at least i would know what his culinary base is.

what do think about that ?

that would give more people a chance of education which otherwise could not afford to go to culinarie school.

i would be great if we would have just one system which according that the young chefs would be educated.
well as for the teachers in switzerland one who likes to teach needs to have the masters degree.

and it is not true that in switzerland are just two titles to earn.

and like foodpump said it is very hard to bluff yourself trough the apprentice.

there is a cooking school here in town besides the normal culinarie acadameys where you go trough school for 3 months or so and after that they call tham self chefs. what a joke!

all the best foodfanatic

By Santamuerte (Santamuerte) on Wednesday, February 09, 2005 - 02:42 am: Edit

maybe it would be good if there were two types of certification, one for chefs, and a separate one for cooks, ending in something like "master of cuisine," say. it would be all about practical skills and technique, knowledge of food, etc, not management. and ideally, it would be very, very hard to pass.

why? because i've worked for chefs who know, and care, very little about food and cooking, yet they were excellent kitchen managers. we're talking about two different skill sets.

acf certification is useful as it is -- if absurdly overpriced -- because a restaurant has got to know that a candidate has at least a reasonable chance of handling the kitchen. i mean, maybe his current employer submits a glowing recommendation because he can't wait to see the back of him. it's expensive to find out the hard way that he doesn't have the basic skills.

of course, acf's cmc, cec, ccc, etc., status doesn't prove that a candidate is a good cook, or even a competent one. but you can probably count on him to manage a kitchen competently, and profitably, so long as he's got some real-world experience.

but i would like to see a well-managed cert program that deals with cooking skill and knowledge too. personally, i could never run a kitchen, and i would never pass the upper acf tests. (in fact, since i don't supervise x many people, i wouldn't even be permitted to try.) but why not have a separate certification track for people like me? i'm just really into food; i don't have "leadership qualities," or "people skills." i don't *want* to run a kitchen. i would be a disaster as a chef, but i wouldn't mind having some certificate/title that recognizes what i do and ranks me among my peers. assuming the testing would be very rigorous, it would mean something.

this way, gifted cooks might begin to earn the money they deserve, without having to become chefs. right now, the chef track is the primary route to good pay. but that track is not for me, or, i'll bet, a lot of people like me. so, if there were a second, cuisine-oriented track for certification, people could demonstrate their abilities openly, and get the credit (and with luck the pay) that they deserve. it's a shame that the industry has no established system for dealing with such people.

the acf cert program probably works as intended (although, not being a member, this is an assumption on my part). and while it has obvious weaknesses, and is too much 'for profit,' i think it would make more sense to extend it with a separate culinary track than change it. most employers are looking for the exact qualifications that it tests for. they don't care about food: they care that customers are happy, that the kitchen runs smoothly, that the place makes money, that no one steals or comes in late, and that no one gets sick from eating there. if they can do that with wretched food, most are happy to.

often, food is the last thing a restaurant worries about, so it only makes sense that it should be the last thing the acf worries about. however, in a small percentage of restaurants, the food comes first, and they're always looking for cooks with real talent. it would be good if there were a *meaningful* certification scheme that would help an employer ballpark a candidate's talent, skill and knowledge.

so, while i agree that there should be consistent national standards, i also think that there should be two distinct tracks: kitchen management, and cooking. let's admit that people who are good at one are only occasionally good at the other, and stop making 'great chef' a synonym for 'brilliant cook.' i've worked with chefs who couldn't scramble an egg properly, but who could see three, four moves ahead, and who kept the kitchen flowing beautifully. so long as they don't imagine that they can cook, i'm delighted to work with them.

extend that further, and you might agree that it would make sense for culinary schools to track students in a similar manner: cooks and chefs. pretending that they're the same is counterproductive, and at times even cruel.

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Wednesday, February 09, 2005 - 06:15 am: Edit

If you can afford the dues, you may be qualified!!!!....sounds like a Jeff Foxworthy bit!!!!!

By Santamuerte (Santamuerte) on Wednesday, February 09, 2005 - 06:46 am: Edit

hey, don't be such a cynic. it just so happens that i'm about to embark on an exciting new career as an artist, with chicks throwing themselves at me, after drawing a cartoon dog on an 'art test' that came in the mail ;-)

By Cheftim (Cheftim) on Wednesday, February 09, 2005 - 07:17 am: Edit

check out
Certified Culinary Administrator (CCA)

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Wednesday, February 09, 2005 - 08:43 am: Edit

My co-worker just did that test at the national ACF convention in Orlando.
Another fund raising test, it's very tricky how they word the choice of answers also.

By Santamuerte (Santamuerte) on Wednesday, February 09, 2005 - 08:58 am: Edit

which test? the cca, or the cartoon dog?

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Wednesday, February 09, 2005 - 09:10 am: Edit

CCA, he failed the cartoon test, so he has to keep cooking!!!!! groupies for him!!!

By Santamuerte (Santamuerte) on Wednesday, February 09, 2005 - 09:41 am: Edit

well, they don't let just anyone become an artist these days, you know. i'm sure he'll pass the other test, assuming his check doesn't bounce. he can run a cheeeesecake factory, and no doubt get more trons than ashton kutcher.

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Wednesday, February 09, 2005 - 11:45 am: Edit

'ya think????

By Chefspike (Chefspike) on Wednesday, February 09, 2005 - 12:32 pm: Edit

there should also be a separet test, for Pastry cooks and Pastry chefs.
with different levels.
with food sanitation.
and the test should have some % for how much you keep on the shelfs (read that,.. money)
and how much you recycle into new products
and maintance of machines in the shop, and how to clean them.
and how to be organized, (what to do first to last)

and chicks throwing themselves at you is overated.
and if a fat chick does it, its going to hurt.

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Wednesday, February 09, 2005 - 12:40 pm: Edit

......aaahhhhhh, they do!
.......and yes, they do hurt!!!!!!

By Chefspike (Chefspike) on Wednesday, February 09, 2005 - 07:33 pm: Edit

they should also adopt something that says no foreign chef will be hired for a position before an American chef.
which is something that should have been started back in the 50's when we had a overwhelming influx of foreign chefs into this country.
even at a rate of 50% not staying in the biz, we still have more grads than jobs, and that is something that the schools should address.
they are always bragging about the hiring rate of students from that school(which I believe is inflated). Instead of a 1-2 year program maybe they should be forced to make it at least a 1/2 a year longer.
they could expand the program and the students would be better educated when they recieve the "White Hat" of accomplishment.
maybe this way the bad schools that are full of crap and just pumping out these kids would fold leaving the good schools to expand.
pure capitalism. how do you enforce this you say?, simple, common knowledge among chefs...NOT TO HIRE ANTONE FROM THAT SCHOOL. its done all the time in other areas in our biz.
have all schools reqiured to make the records of these students available to the Chef's org.'s.
any student not performing above lets say a 65% is not allowed into the Org. it would sure make hiring less of a crap shoot for Chefs.
these programs should be thought up for Chef's not students, if a student stays with the biz then he/she becomes a Chef, and the circle is complete.
The Chefs Org's should start a placement service to compete with headhunters, newspapers, ect. this way any Chef wanting to hire will know that all of the requirments have been met even before the person wanting the jobs shows up for the first interview. What a time saver!!! and the Chefs Org gets the finders fee, have the schools list upcoming grads that are looking for work(at a fee) and you ceate a money flowing circle of happiness. maybe Chefs Orgs would not have to have dues then. they would have money comin in, from two sources.
Employer and schools(that make the grade)total benifit for the hiring Chef. win,win.
all the dumbass, carpetbaggers will fall to the side and their spatulas and hats will be crumpled and bent by the stampeding herds of REAL wanna-bees.
Thank You.

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Wednesday, February 09, 2005 - 08:26 pm: Edit

We already have that, "nepotism" I think is the word.......look at the presidential administrations, they hire who raises the most funds for the candidate!!!!!!

By Andapanda (Andapanda) on Wednesday, February 09, 2005 - 09:11 pm: Edit


What does one do with people who studied cooking at home through a correspondence course? Will they demand to be recognized as "chefs" too? Yes, there really is a correspondence cooking course!


Perhaps they failed the dog drawing test. LOL.

By Chefspike (Chefspike) on Wednesday, February 09, 2005 - 10:30 pm: Edit

if you fail the dog drawing test.........
lets not go there.

By Santamuerte (Santamuerte) on Thursday, February 10, 2005 - 05:45 am: Edit

i doubt that there is a solution to this problem. all kinds of schools vary in curriculum quality and academic rigor.

wherever the diploma is from, or even whether or not there is a diploma, you're still stuck. it comes down to your gut instinct about a candidate. question them extensively. pose some common problems and ask how they'd avoid/solve them. ask how they prepare various dishes. do they show an understanding of the technical problems unique to the dish and its ingredients and show some imagination in addressing them, or do they just recite a ghastly bulk recipe that they memorized in culinary school?

and above all, do they have an honest sense of respect for:
1. the food
2. the diner
if they have, they'll do well, even totally green. but that kind of respect cannot be taught. you either have it or you don't.

i was watching a foodtv special a couple of years ago set at johnson and wales. in one scene, this oaf calling himself a chef (he had the toque to prove it) told 2 students to make a paella. he had them put all this seafood on top of it while it baked for 30 minutes. this clown had no understanding of the individual properties of the ingredients, and obviously no respect for food or diners. "just slap it in the oven, kids; your customers are idiots, and too spineless to complain."

that was the message of this particular lesson, enacted at what i've heard is a comparatively good school. no wonder there are so many chefs who can't cook.

my sense, as a non-alumnus of cooking school, is that culinary programs emphasize running a kitchen above food knowledge and cooking techniques. but this is like becoming a painter when you can't draw. instead, it would be better if they trained proven cooks to become chefs.

so here's my ideal solution: cooking should start as a high-school 'tech track' curriculum. the best they've got now is home-ec courses for girls who don't expect to have to work. but suppose there was a food and cooking track, just like the automotive and machinist tracks, in high schools?

you'd get apprentices with some background knowledge and practical skill. let them work for several years, every station, before they could apply to "chef school" -- at about the time they would naturally be ready to take over a kitchen. that's the right time to take them out of the galley for some advanced training in the management aspects of the job.

ideally, admission would require an audition, and a thorough, and difficult, written test.

the advantages are:
1. only those who enjoy the work will stick with it long enough to qualify. those who are just looking for a fast-track to the title "chef" will wash out.
2. the graduate will be better able to manage and instruct cooks, since he's already proven himself to be one (hardly a given, these days).
3. the certificate or degree would be meaningful, since the chef necessarily has adequate kitchen experience and knowledge of foods and cookling techniques. ideally, he wouldn't have been accepted without them.
4. the schools could stop cram-teaching pathetic cooking and focus on their strengths: the administrative and management aspects of the job.
5. guys like me would spend less time ridiculing their bosses, and more time working ;-)

so that's an ideal situation from my pov. i think it makes sense, and if it were adopted, it would address a lot of the frustrations you chefs have been expressing.

unfortunately, it will never happen. schools are businesses, and so long as they get their tuition income, it's not a problem if half their graduates wash out in a year. they quote placement stats, not long-term stats. "we place 80% of our graduates; never mind that only 20% still have food-related jobs five years later...."

this brings me back to my original rant about acf certs. while i have no trouble believing that it's a scam, i have to say that if it were run well, were truly rigorous, and was tracked separately for cooking and kitchen administration, it could be valuable.

clearly, the schools are not going to play nice. it's a free market, and they're responsible to their shareholders. but a rigorous, meaningful certification scheme (perhaps like ase certs in the automotive world? is that for real?), would go a long way towards distinguishing the pros from the poseurs.

maybe the acf is too debauched to be the primary certification body. but there needs to be one. a real one. you can't trust the schools; there has got to be an independent body that issues *credible* certs.

of course, in a free market, any such body will be susceptible to corruption by industry lobbyists. i hate to think it, but maybe this is an area where the federal government should issue minimum qualifications for each level of certification.

government chef-bureaucrats...hmm... on second thoughts, there really is no solution to this problem.


By Foodpump (Foodpump) on Thursday, February 10, 2005 - 09:21 am: Edit

Santameurte: Amen. Applause please. This is exactly what I've been whining about on this thread and others, like the "What is a Chef" thread. National standard. Big heavyweight to enforce it like the Fed. gov't. Private schools and colleges could still teach, but not on their terms.

And maybe, just maybe, in ten or so years from now wonderfull things would happen. You could tell a new employee to make a vegetable soup and the guy would actually saute the vegetables first, starting with the onions, instead of throwing stuff in a pot with a lump of bouillon paste and walking away. Employees would last longer, and not whine and bitch that the waiters are making more money, so why should I put up with this crap? Restaurants would last longer too, and would be better managed.

The only hard part is to get the ball rolling, get the heavy weight to enforce. Remember back in the '70's with un-leaded gas? The big 3 faught tooth and nail to keep leaded gas. Why? Because it was cheaper to get a bunch of %^&&* lawyers to fight in court than it was to design and retool a new engine. As a matter of fact they did the same thing when seat belt laws came in a few years earlier...

By Ladycake (Ladycake) on Thursday, February 10, 2005 - 08:38 pm: Edit

I guess I hit paydirt with this one, hey guys?

I wanted to let you all know my experience about the new regs on certification. I have just finished my CEC certification and I flunked the practical the first time.

We had a hot shot certified chef from the Cul Olympics come to test, with two others from our local. I failed basically because I had some sanitation problems (beverage container brought in by a helpful "student" observer that I did not remove from the counter and my food portions were to large.

The regs said 4 ounces, I used 1 four ounce chicken breast and was failed because the 4 ounces was to include all protein (lobster, salmon, and chicken in three different courses.) The second time I took the test, I used the identical menu, cut the protein into 1 ouce per course and passed / no problem.

The same judges, and the hot shot from LA said "This chicken portion is too small." To which I responded, "It is exactly what you told me to use last time." She just laughed, but it was frustrating for me. The size was 1 ounce! How many times is a customer going to be happy with ONE ounce of chicken as a dinner entree portion? She said in LA it was expected.??? At any rate we were supposed to be using competition standards.

This was not what the instructions to the testing said, but it was what our judge wanted. Like any grading situation, you have to skew the results to the judge. The prosident of the ACF is known as changing his mind and the rules as the wind blows. Coincidintally, fewer and fewer people are taking the test. In the central valley (California) we only have 17 CEC's and three of them work in the school with me.

This is a problem with the changes, but anytime something like this changes, there are going to be wrinkles to work out. We asked for more explicit instructions and got them for our test, now they have changed again.

As far as the school issue goes, at our school, the students spend 2.44 days in the kitchen (cooking for our on site restaurant and themselves) for every day they are in the classroom. In the end, they take a test each week, plus a two major cooking finals (cooking and baking) before they can graduate. There are written tests and practical tests (in my bakeshop the practical final takes two weeks - 20 projects) plus a final project, and the written final.) They also have written finals in the classrooms. I say finals because they have a final for each component.

We do try to give them a well rounded education, but there are students who do well on paper and can't cook their way out of a paper bag. If they attend every day and don't fail a test, they can theoretically, still pass. (Example: I just graded a student's final project at 53% and his cumulative final grade in my class is a 77.96, which is .04 below a "C" grade. He has gotten very good grades in the book sections of the courses and is passing. Nothing I can do about it, but he did not make one edible item while in my class. I am holding out for failing him but the other chefs don't agree because he does well on paper.... What to do?) I think that attitude is everything. That student would ask a question, and walk away while I was answering, do what he wanted anyway, and when the project failed he would blame anything but himself. Would you hire him? I wouldn't and told him so, explaining the reason but he thinks he is beyond everybody and will get by. Hmmmm

Anyway, there is only so much I can do. On the other hand, whoever said we were overrun with graduates, our program just got our accreditation so that students can apply for federal $$$ (gues what guys, there are some strings). In the process we had to shut down the baking program because the accreditation bureau says our area could not absorb the number of graduates we would produce. The only baking and pastry I teach now is in the Chef and F+B programs. (Don't feel bad for me, I have converted three Chef majors to baking and have placed one with our local Master Pastry Chef for a 2 year apprenticeship - yes it is still done.)

Oh, by the way, Spike, the pastry chef and attending degrees is a separate certification with the ACF.

Anyway, I am finding the input here interesting and hope we can get the info back to Mr Brockwell. Thanks guys.

By Santamuerte (Santamuerte) on Friday, February 11, 2005 - 12:01 am: Edit

ladycake, it seems there's training for chefs, but not enough training for the *judges*. they should develop and finalize a consistent set of criteria, and weight each one clearly. and judges should be trained by the acf specifically to evaluate the exam, maybe in a weekend course or something. i certainly wouldn't fail someone for the wrong portion size if the exam didn't specify whether the amount was per dish or per menu. i'd fail the knucklehead who wrote the exam materials, because that's who screwed up. you shouldn't have to wonder how to interpret "4 oz" when the heat is on.

i take it you passed in the end? congrats then.

your student is a classic: a budding food service pro with no interest in food. i'd fail him rather than inflict him on kitchens for an embarrassing series of failures until he finally washes out. if he can't cut it in the school kitchen, where there are people who are paid to help him, what chance has he got in the real world? no one will help a guy who doesn't want to learn.

this is the problem when education becomes a commercial product. the kid is paying real money, putting in real time, and he naturally, and *rightly*, expects a return on that investment.

unfortunately, he's going to start work thinking he's already paid his dues. (and he has, only they're the wrong dues, although he doesn't know that yet.)

he will quickly become bitter, and he will spread that bitterness wherever he goes, stumbling from job to job, until it dawns on him that this isn't the career for him. meanwhile, all the people he will have worked for, and alongside, will say, "these culinary schools are a scam. they send us slacker know-it-alls who can't boil water."

fail him; you'll be doing him a favor; you'll be doing all the people who would otherwise have to work with him and cover for him a favor; and, in the long run, you'll be doing your school a favor.

By Santamuerte (Santamuerte) on Friday, February 11, 2005 - 01:55 am: Edit

just a quick follow-up to one of foodpump's earlier posts in this thread about the acf certified culinarian (cc) "program". students are expected to perform the incredibly difficult task of making chicken stock (white or brown is not specified).

quote: "taste will not weigh high in the grade unless overly seasoned with salt, pepper or other seasoning, in which case a negative score could result."

wtf? it's ok for food to taste bad? if you enact the performance to our satisfaction, but produce something lame, we forgive you? if you *look* like a cook, we support you?

this sort of thinking is exactly what's wrong with the industry overall.

By Ladycake (Ladycake) on Friday, February 11, 2005 - 07:11 pm: Edit

I agree with you about my student, and i am not the only instructor who has told him this. He chooses to disbelieve us. Oh, well. I cannot fail him from the school, only from my class - did that!

The ACF culinarian criteria not involving taste I believe has to do with the time element. The applicant only has three hours to complete the practical.

Thanks, I should be getting the certification as soon as all of my papers get back from past employers.

By George (George) on Friday, February 11, 2005 - 07:19 pm: Edit

FYI Harry Brockwell is a colleague from when I was involved with the ACF at the national level several years ago.

He requested permission to post some of his education questions here and is looking forward to all of your inputs.

He should be posting later today or over the weekend.

All the Best,


By Santamuerte (Santamuerte) on Friday, February 11, 2005 - 10:41 pm: Edit

LC: you can make chicken stock that will bring on foodgasms in 35 mins, not counting prep and water heating. overall, say about 60-70 mins for white, 90-110 mins for brown. unlike red-meat stocks, chicken stock is at its peak 30-40 mins after it reaches the simmer.

best of all, the meat isn't destroyed and can be used for chickie salad, with a few splashes of stock to return the flavor you carefully sucked out of it.

By Ladycake (Ladycake) on Tuesday, February 22, 2005 - 05:46 pm: Edit

Guys, I just got back from the ACF regionals. My two favorite classes were Ray Duey on Fruit & Vegetable Sculpting, and Pulled Sugar Demonstration by Loan Co. I really enjoyed them both and was amazed. Do any of you know them? My school is going to try to get them both to come do demos for the students. This was my first ACF conference and I had a ball (in fact I won the $500 door prize at the Trade Show part.) Friday night I spent the evening in Ray Duey's hotel room with four other chefs doing fruit carving 'till 11:30 - what a hoot!!!

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Monday, February 28, 2005 - 12:57 pm: Edit

Ah, the old "fruit carving" excuse Cherie huh?????

By Cheftim (Cheftim) on Saturday, June 11, 2005 - 03:23 pm: Edit

For those of you that haven't already heard, Harry Brockwell has been elected the ACF Western Regional Vice-President.

Harry has been an out spoken critic of the ACF establishment for as long as I have known him, almost twenty years now. To reiterate a comment by George, "From the loyal opposition to part of the machine. Should be interesting."

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Saturday, June 11, 2005 - 09:12 pm: Edit

This is definitely a good thing, as long as he doesn't sell out!
The ACF can be so much more!!!!!

By Ladycake (Ladycake) on Wednesday, June 15, 2005 - 07:21 pm: Edit

Yes, it can and we are hoping for the best!

Manny, shame straight on you, I just saw the fruit carving comment HAHAHAHA

By Ilpro (Ilpro) on Sunday, July 10, 2005 - 03:04 am: Edit

You should all take the CEC practical exam and report back as to how you did. Charles

By Chefspike (Chefspike) on Sunday, July 10, 2005 - 11:47 am: Edit

I agree. 100 %.

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Sunday, July 10, 2005 - 11:52 am: Edit

"You should all take the CEC practical exam and report back as to how you did. Charles"
What makes you think some people here have or have not taken the test????.....if we all take the test would you work with one of the old time German Chefs for a number of years and let us know how you do????

By Ilpro (Ilpro) on Sunday, July 10, 2005 - 02:43 pm: Edit


I would be honored to work with an old time German Chef for a day and report back. I am confident it would not take anyone "a number of years" to complete an ACF practical exam.

In fact we learn so much from diversity. I have always thought trading my chefs and cooks for a day with another qualified establishment could prove rewarding.



By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Sunday, July 10, 2005 - 05:44 pm: Edit

What do you call diversity????
I still don't understand why the "all should take the CEC practical exam" comment though?????
Is that implying some here don't deserve the "Chef" title????
I was one of the first to take the CCA and practical exam at the Orlando national convention just as a dry run, I did well in both, so it's not like I'm whining because I can't pass it but, why should anyone who passed previous requirements be forced to fulfill the new requirements?????

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Sunday, July 10, 2005 - 05:53 pm: Edit

WOW????..what the hell is that???? answer????
Feel free to post here!

By Cheftim (Cheftim) on Sunday, July 10, 2005 - 06:49 pm: Edit

What's wrong Manny? Hung over?

By Chefgibz0 (Chefgibz0) on Sunday, July 10, 2005 - 07:31 pm: Edit

What is the CCA??....I know of the written test....then there is the practical for CC, CSC, CCC, CEC, CMC, CWPC, CPC............just wondering Manny.......and water....drink lots of water. It helps with the hang over.

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Sunday, July 10, 2005 - 08:39 pm: Edit

Thanks guys, I'm not hung over though, I am still drinking!!!!
CCA is a new certification they have now...Certified Culinary Administrator, fairly new.
I have water in the fridge for tomorrow AM though.....I just spent a week working in my new house...that sucks, no pay, 14-16 hour days...I can't wait to get back to "paying" job tomorrow!!!!

By Ilpro (Ilpro) on Sunday, July 10, 2005 - 10:20 pm: Edit


Sorry about that. I was unable to log on from where I was at and just sent you an email with the word "wow". I should know better.


By Chefspike (Chefspike) on Monday, July 11, 2005 - 01:13 am: Edit

"Is that implying some here don't deserve the "Chef" title????"

Hey Manny, I don't mean to step on your toes here but you and I have been saying that exact same thing here for years. Remember all the people that came and went 'cause we questioned their education and certification and didn't think it met the standards.
Isen't that what he's saying now?
Yes, yes I know, it's been said before, this Chef is just another one who may feel the same as you.
Hows the new house !?...Can you bike to work? 14-16 hours ain't noth'in. pussy. LOL!
Are you any closer to the beach?
Did you break the wagon moving?

By Ilpro (Ilpro) on Monday, July 11, 2005 - 03:38 am: Edit

Its all cool. I didnt mean any harm with my comment. Just seen all the talk about ACF. I wish I had more time to help at the National level but ya know it is volunteer and were all just doin what we can. The organization needs improvement but its what we have for now. Unfortunatley everything seems to be small steps. At least we have a practical exam now. Just have to keep makin it better.


By George (George) on Monday, July 11, 2005 - 01:30 pm: Edit

FYI Ilpro- Charles Rivers (I think he used to have a different user name) was a very regular poster here from way way back (1999) that has found us again.

This is a difficult medium to get your message across and the meaning of typed words are very easy to misinterpret.


By Chefoncall (Chefoncall) on Tuesday, July 12, 2005 - 01:51 am: Edit

My fellow americans,

Wait... Ok. To add to this lonely hierarchy prospectus. No. I have done apprenticeships my whole career as well as school.

Haute apprentice was tough. Very demanding and I enjoyed the most. However, it can be accomplished. By the third month I was fluent in plating a recipes. The most physical demanding apprenticeship I did lasted four years from Switzerland. I also went 9 months in the ACF's Chapter VP here in NC.

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