Read your post, the responses, and your responses back. You've got your head screwed on correctly, with the proper amount of bolts, and I appreciate and enjoy your posts.
Here's how I see things:
My driver's license is a certification. It certifies that I know the rules of the road. It is not a substitute for experience, however. If I wanted to drive a vehicle for a company, they would most likely demand a clean driver's record before they hire me. If I had "0" driving experience and a clean record, and the other guy 5 years experience with two parking tickets, the employer would most likely choose the other guy.
The certifications are good stuff. It tells everyone you are serious about your career, and are not someone on sit around and wait for things to happen, you make them happen.
When you go to the hotels and larger employers you will deal firstly with H.R. Their job is to "pigeon hole" you (see what area you would fit in best) and quantify you. They like to use certifications to do this. Your boss, the Chef likes to use experience to quantify you.
So you need both, the certifications and the experience.
Hope this makes sense.