Each semester when I start teaching a new group of culinary students at Frederick Community Colleges Culinary Arts and Hospitality Institute, a student will always ask what do the letters CEC, CCE behind my name mean?

So I begin to explain that these are more than mere letters on my jacket; along the lines of a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or Registered Dietitian (RD) they represent professional certifications that I have earned by demonstrating a combination of culinary work experience, specialized training in management and education, as well as passing a certification level test administered by the American Culinary Federation (ACF).

A BRIEF HISTORY OF CHEF CERTIFICATION IN AMERICA

For centuries, European Guilds have bestowed the title of Master Chef on their most worthy Culinarian. However it wasnt until 1973 that the American Culinary Federation (ACF), the largest and the oldest professional organization of Chefs in the United States, established certification for cooks and chefs in America.

Three years later in 1976 the ACF successfully launched their campaign to elevate the Cook status from a domestic occupation to include a Professional Chef status in the U.S. Department of Labor's Dictionary of Official Titles. Then around 1981 the ACF established the Master Chef certification program as a means of encouraging chefs to strive for excellence and to improve the image of American chefs around the world.

Today, the ACF is the only professional organization registered with the U.S. Department of labor to provide culinary certifications in America, thereby guaranteeing that every cook or chef bearing its trademarked titles has the education and experience to meet the most-diverse demands of the modern foodservice industry.

Now more than 14,000 certifications have been awarded by the ACF at 14 different levels ranging from Certified Culinarian to the prestigious Certified Master Chef credential. At present there are only 71 Certified Master Chefs and 2,281 Certified Executive Chefs in the United States.

Here are a few names of Maryland Chefs that have earned professional certifications from the American Culinary Federation: Jan Bandula, CMPC, Baltimore International College, Baltimore; Todd Reynolds CEC, Fountain Head Country Club, Hagerstown; Brian Chester CEC, Hillendale Country Club, Phoenix; Timothy Grandinetti CEC, The Grille at the Washingtonian Center, Gaithersburg; Rudy Speckamp CMC, Rudys' 2900 Restaurant, Finksburg; Carole Brosso CEC, Patrick's Restaurant & Irish Pub, Cockeysville; and Joachim Buchner CMC, Chevy Chase Club, Chevy Chase.

LEVELS OF ACF CERTIFICATION

One would hope that an individual using the title Chef in a professional context would possess at least minimal culinary education, skills and/or experience. However, in reality, little can be inferred by the mere possession of the generic titles Chef and Executive Chef. Many times, a person can assume one of these titles because of the duties performed or the job position held.

While the generic titles mentioned above arent associated with a specific level of knowledge and skills, the American Culinary Federation (ACF) has established criteria for several levels of certification as follows:

  • Certified Culinarian (CC): An entry level Culinarian professional within a commercial foodservice operation or one who has graduated an accredited culinary program.
  • Certified Sous Chef (CSC): A chef who supervises a shift or station(s) in a foodservice operation. A CSC must supervise a minimum of two full-time people in the preparation of food. Job titles that qualify for this designation include sous chef, banquet chef, garde manger, first cook, a.m. sous chef and p.m. sous chef.
  • Certified Chef de Cuisine (CCC): A chef who is the supervisor in charge of food production in a foodservice operation. This could be a single unit of a multi-unit operation or a free-standing operation. A CCC must supervise a minimum of three full-time people in food production.
  • Certified Executive Chef (CEC): A chef who is the department head usually responsible for all culinary units in a restaurant, hotel, club, hospital or foodservice establishment, or the owner of a foodservice operation. A CEC must supervise a minimum of five full-time employees and pass a practical exam in front of peers.
  • Certified Master Chef (CMC): The consummate chef. A CMC possesses the highest degree of professional culinary knowledge, skill and mastery of cooking techniques. A separate application is required, in addition to successfully completing an eight-day testing process judged by peers. Certification as a CEC or CEPC is a prerequisite.
  • Certified Pastry Culinarian (CPC): An entry level culinary professional within a pastry foodservice operation.
  • Certified Working Pastry Chef (CWPC): A Pastry Culinarian responsible for a pastry section or a shift within a foodservice operation, with considerable responsibility for preparation and production.
  • Certified Executive Pastry Chef (CEPC): A pastry chef who is a department head, usually responsible to the executive chef of a food operation or to the management of a pastry specialty firm.
  • Certified Master Pastry Chef (CMPC): The consummate pastry chef. A CMPC possesses the highest degree of professional culinary knowledge, skill and mastery of cooking techniques as they apply to pastry. A separate application is required, in addition to successfully completing a 10-day testing process judged by peers. Certification as a CEC or CEPC is a prerequisite.
  • Certified Culinary Administrator (CCA): This is an executive-level chef who is responsible for the administrative functions of running a professional foodservice operation. This culinary professional must demonstrate proficiency in culinary knowledge, human resources, operational management and business planning skills. A CCA must supervise the equivalent of at least 10 full-time employees.
  • Certified Secondary Culinary Educator (CSCE): An advanced-degree culinary professional who is working as an educator in an accredited secondary or vocational institution. A CSCE is responsible for the development, implementation, administration, evaluation and maintenance of a culinary arts or foodservice management curriculum.
  • Certified Culinary Educator (CCE): An advanced-degree culinary professional who is working as an educator in an accredited post-secondary institution or military training facility. A CCE is responsible for the development, implementation, administration, evaluation and maintenance of a culinary arts or foodservice management curriculum. In addition, a CCE must possess superior culinary experience equivalent to a CCC or CWPC.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT CERTIFICATION

  • Q. How do I get certified?

A. Certification is based on a certain amount of education and experience, which needs to be documented, including study in Sanitation, Nutrition, and Supervisory Management. At the end of the process, two tests are required: a written exam and a practical exam.

  • Q. What level should I apply for?

A. You should apply for the level that meets your education and experience. You do not have to begin with the basic level (Certified Culinarian). For example, Certified Sous Chef requires an Associates Degree or its equivalency in continuing education, plus three years in a line level position (post graduation) or five years in any professional cooking positions.

  • Q. I have been a chef for 5 years, but I have never received a degree from a school. Do I need to go back to school in order to get certified?

A. No. The only required course work necessary is a 30-hour course in Sanitation, Nutrition, and Supervisory Management. Other education may be documented through professional development.

  • Q. How many Continuing Education Hours (CEHs) do I need?

A. For certification renewal, which is required every five years, you must have at least 80 hours of Continuing Education which must include eight hours each on the subjects of Sanitation, Nutrition, and Supervisory Management.

  • Q. Where can I earn CEHs?

A. This fall 2008 FCCs continuing education division will be offering several online hospitality education courses for CEHs. However, CEHs may be earned through any formal educational institution, national training company, and professional development activities.

  • Q. How do I document work experience?

A. You need an official letter (on company letterhead) from your current employer stating your position and dates of employment. Past experience can be documented by a similar letter or a letter of reference. If you are self-employed, you may submit a business license or tax documents.

  • Q. Can I apply for more than one level of certification?
    A.
    Yes, as long as you meet the mandatory requirements for each level.

For more information about ACF certifications visit: www.acfchefs.org or contact Jon Kimbrough, CEC, CCE at jkimbrough@frederick.edu

About Chef Kimbrough ...

Chef Jon Kimbrough is the program manager for FCC's Culinary Arts & Hospitality Institute.

He is a certified executive chef with about 17 years of teaching experience and came to FCC from a position as executive sous chef at the Marriott Hotel and Conference Center in Bethesda.

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