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Culinary School v ACF Certification

Poll Results: Better to go to local culinary school, or begin quest for ACF certification without it?

This is a multiple choice poll
  • 0% of voters (0)
    local culinary school only, don't worry about ACF
  • 0% of voters (0)
    use work opportunities and ACF certification to reach culinary goals (postpone culinary school)
  • 0% of voters (0)
    gain work experience while saving to eventually attend CIA, LCB, other big culinary school (no local school OR ACF)
  • 0% of voters (0)
    Use local culinary school as a vehicle to obtain ACF certification; not worth doing ACF without culinary school
  • 0% of voters (0)
    Either would get me pretty much where I want to go
  • 0% of voters (0)
    Sabs, you are totally missing the point, and I have a better idea (see comments)
 
post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

Hey guys. I'm registered to begin culinary school in the fall at the local university. It seems like a solid, but very introductory, program. It is an Associates program with quarter-long classes for intro and advanced cooking and baking, as well as other typical culinary classes. Point it, they don't make me choose hot side or bakery, but the trade-off is it is less in-depth. It seems like it would be a good foundation. 

 

As I am leaving a four-year institution, with student loans following me, I am concerned about the price and the time commitment of full-time culinary school. I am currently working full-time as the food expert at a specialty grocer in the region. 

 

I'm wondering:  would ACF certification be a legitimate alternative to full-time culinary school?  I qualify as a Culinarian at this point, and am on my way to Professional Culinarian. Is it a do-able program on-your-own style?  I'm not asking y'all to choose for me, I am just looking for some input as to the professional and resume' helpfulness of the ACF certification program vs. a local university culinary school. End goal: comprensive chef, CEC or PCEC level, minimum. Possibly focusing on consumer education or some other ingredient-focused position encouraging and cultivating the love and knowledge of food preparation to the general public, or some portion thereof. I want to make people smile, and empower them to improve their lives through culinary experiences. 

I would prefer to build a strong resume, and be able to pay the bills and provide for a family, in the meantime. Thus, the education inquiry. 

 

Aspiring Chef Sabs

post #2 of 7

Good luck with that. The culinary field does not pay well, unless you find yourself in a very fine dining situation or management.

ACF is not recognized as a viable alternative to a culinary degree and does not guarentee anything.

 

There are places that only hire ACF people but they do that as a marketing tool for their restaurant...

ie;  "we have American Culinary Federation affiliated cooks so you know your food is prepared with the highest of standards."

 

This MIGHT be true but not necessarily.

post #3 of 7

 You've said you left a four year university but we have no idea if that means you have a degree. If you already have a degree the only reason to go to culinary school would be to learn to cook. Hopefully, most of your basic credits would transfer to what ever school you choose. Verify credit transfers before committing to a program. Any accredited culinary program should finish with ACF certification.

 Every one qualifies for certification as long as you join the ACF and meet the criteria for each level of certification. However, if you want to reach CEC the ACF does place a high point value on education.

In short you can do it with out a degree but it's far harder, takes longer and most make less $$ taking this path.

If you want to get hired by many corporations @ the levels you suggested you will need a degree.

 

Dave

I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
Reply
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
Reply
post #4 of 7
Thread Starter 

Thanks, Dave, that's the information I was looking for. My four-year degree has nothing to do with food, and so I have planned to go to culinary school.  As I mentioned, life circumstances/budget will make attending school full time difficult, and I am trying to collect as much information as possible about other options/variations on the opinions. 

 

Sabs

post #5 of 7

A lot of people misunderstand what the ACF is about.  It is about professionalism and involvement in the culinary community.  The ACF also provides guidance for curriculum related matters and oversees its own culinary competition system.  The ACF certification system can be seen as a career enrichment and continuing education program designed for chefs who aspire to higher levels.  It's not easy.  The biggest factor is time.  You have to have a minimum number of verified years working in the industry to become CEC, the reward after CEC is you get to try take the CMC if you dare.

 

Many chefs who have ACF certification work in hotels and country clubs.  There may be a quite a few in stand alone restaurants as well but in my former chapter that's where a majority of them were.  They are members of their local chapters and they attend local chapter meetings where, in general, a lot of cooking happens.  ;)  Some choose to follow the path of competition and do quite well without certifications.  You might like the look of medals hanging around your neck.  :)

 

What it is not is a school.  You will learn a lot by fraternizing with ACF chefs and in my experience the knowledge flowed freely within our circle of chefs.  And as an added bonus you get a magazine. 

 

But the real fun is at conventions.  If you've never been to an ACF convention I'd save up some money and try to go.  Imagine four days of cooking classes, demos, competitions, banquets every night, and just fooling around with friends you see once a year.

post #6 of 7
Quote:
Originally Posted by kuan View Post

A lot of people misunderstand what the ACF is about.  It is about professionalism and involvement in the culinary community.  The ACF also provides guidance for curriculum related matters and oversees its own culinary competition system.  The ACF certification system can be seen as a career enrichment and continuing education program designed for chefs who aspire to higher levels.  It's not easy.  The biggest factor is time.  You have to have a minimum number of verified years working in the industry to become CEC, the reward after CEC is you get to try take the CMC if you dare.

 

Many chefs who have ACF certification work in hotels and country clubs.  There may be a quite a few in stand alone restaurants as well but in my former chapter that's where a majority of them were.  They are members of their local chapters and they attend local chapter meetings where, in general, a lot of cooking happens.  ;)  Some choose to follow the path of competition and do quite well without certifications.  You might like the look of medals hanging around your neck.  :)

 

What it is not is a school.  You will learn a lot by fraternizing with ACF chefs and in my experience the knowledge flowed freely within our circle of chefs.  And as an added bonus you get a magazine. 

 

But the real fun is at conventions.  If you've never been to an ACF convention I'd save up some money and try to go.  Imagine four days of cooking classes, demos, competitions, banquets every night, and just fooling around with friends you see once a year.

While I agree with some of the points you make, much of what you said depends upon the individual chapters making it so.

Finding those chapters in your area, where the Chefs network can be a hit or miss thing.

post #7 of 7

The ACF does get involved with competition but after participating for years on a National level and in Chapters in multiple states the I'd say the majority of ACF members never enter a competition for medals. Competition is a very small segment of what the ACF does but an important one.  I agree with Kuan that both CC's and Hotels are dominated by ACF certified staff but Hotels really put the emphasis on that. This shouldn't be much of a surprise as these segments represent a lot of choice jobs, and every employer wants the cream of the crop. Certification and a degree are pieces to a puzzle.

Adding to what Kuan said you need more than just time in the industry to reach CEC,  you need a specific amount of time working as an Executive Chef to become a CEC. Points are awarded for each year of employment and get exponentially larger for each year you stay with the same employer.

 There's a lot of value in knowing the Chef's around you when you participate in Chapter meetings. Any one that's ever been shorted by a vendor before a big party, screwed up an order with a supplier or had Hotel sales drop a bomb on your desk about a banquet that you knew nothing about yesterday will understand that.

Friends made in the ACF often last a lifetime. IMO every one in this field should be involved with the ACF.

 

Dave

I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
Reply
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
Reply
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