What do you think about the ACF

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Hi Brian13 and welcome to Cheftalk.
The ACF (American Culinary Federation) is a tool that you can utilize to gain more knowledge.
It is also a way of meeting other cooks and Chefs that you can befriend and perhaps learn from.
You can take courses that pit you against a set of rules and expectations and not against each other.
I admire what they do. I belonged to a chapter years ago.
I would wish that our government would recognize the ACF as a certification process to becoming a Chef, but they don't.
There are restaurants that accept only certified Chefs.
Be aware though that it is costly to belong to a chapter, and the more involved the chapter is, the more you can learn.
 

pete

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I have never belonged to the ACF, but have known many members and been involved in some of their events. You will hear a lot of things about the ACF, both good and bad. Chefross listed a number of the good things. They are a great way to network, some places (mostly hotels and corporate gigs) require certifications (letters after your name), you can get involved in competitions that help your hone your craft. A few of the downsides; it is expensive, IMHO, many of their competitions highlight styles of cooking that are way outdated any longer (although it still helps reinforce techniques), some chapters seem more interested in your dues than anything else, it can have the feel of an "old boys" club with members looking down their noses at the unwashed masses of chefs that don't belong. Much of what you will experience will depend on the individual chapter, and the types of members it attracts.
 
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Little bit about me. I’m a ACF Certified Sous Chef (CSC) and just got my Certified Chef De Cuisine (CCC) and now working on my Certified Executive Chef (CEC). I’m also instructor/proctors level of ServSafe. I have been Executive chef of golf clubs and a hotel with over 15 year in this field. I was asking this question because I wanted to see why Chef’s have a problem with the ACF.
 
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Little bit about me. I’m a ACF Certified Sous Chef (CSC) and just got my Certified Chef De Cuisine (CCC) and now working on my Certified Executive Chef (CEC). I’m also instructor/proctors level of ServSafe. I have been Executive chef of golf clubs and a hotel with over 15 year in this field. I was asking this question because I wanted to see why Chef’s have a problem with the ACF.


I did not respond negatively so as to be fair, but Pete is right. Even in my small chapter there was the "old boys club" and I was amused as the "Old Boys" weren't old enough to shave yet (ha ha)
For me, to attend a monthly meeting was a 4 1/2 hour trip there and back the next day.
The chapter did one large gig a year. The did have seminars, and tried to get all involved.
The cost and time were simply too much.
I had been to ACF dinners in Chicago when I lived there. Much older Chefs with huge chips on their shoulders with attitude to match.

Brian13....IMHO the ACF represents a set of rules and regulations that seem at odds with veteran Chefs and cooks.
Let me ask you please, when you are in your element, do you run your kitchen by ACF standards? Are you allowed to?
I've worked with and for ACF certified cooks and or Chefs. I'm never impressed.
The whole idea of certification must be paired with a highly motivated and organized Chef in order to run an efficient kitchen, otherwise, all that one has is a certification title on a piece of paper that no one recognizes.
I'll step down now....
 
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Ditto Chefross...... I have been a member and was certified and you get out of it what you put in. However I could no longer justify the expense to my employer, nor did I want to take on the expense personally. Also from a development standpoint, I have worked in both healthcare and country clubs and I was more impressed with the programs offered from the Association of Nutrition and Food Service Professionals and the Club Managers Association.
 

kuan

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I've been a member and for me the experience was great. My former chapter, IL022 is now gone but I had fun times. Our big dinner was the culinary education scholarship even where we served 700 people an eight course meal. Most of it was the thrill of pulling it off. Nowhere could you get such quality with so many people and so many courses.

And ice carvings. :) Those were always fun.
 
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Hi Brian13,

There is good and bad in everything. My ACF experiences have been mostly bad, but the organization is mostly good.

Because I was promoted out of the kitchen and into management and logistics, without ever opening a book or studying, I scored an 82 on the written portion of the Certified Executive Chef (CEC) exam. I was curious how I would test from a cold start, never setting foot in a kitchen for three years. I couldn't believe it! It was really depressing that it was that easy. So sad... The hands on portion was not much of a challenge either given the test parameters. Just sad... At the time I thought passing the CEC exam would qualify someone as a line cook, maybe.

Makes me think about a parallel with the CIA in Hyde park. Some graduates would leave me in the dust and some graduates I would fire as incompetent. So does that make the CIA good or bad? It's neither! There are CECs that would make me look like a beginner and there are CECs that would, and have, gotten fired for incompetence.

If someone wants a James Beard award I think they should join ACF...
 
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The majority of food service professionals are, in my anecdotal estimation, line cooks and the like working in chain restaurants or small family-ops for $10-15/hr. While I admire the ACF's mission and goals, I think they're only representative of a very small segment of the food industry and seem a little out of touch with reality.
 
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I'm responding to this thread in the hope that someone in the upper echelon of the ACF will read this entire thread, for whatever good that may do.
I want to like the ACF. The essential idea is great in theory and has tremendous potential. The bylaws, as I remember them, lay out a nice foundation for the mission of the ACF. The by laws should, theoretically, provide guidance for the operation of individual chapters. Some chapters are organized and operate well, following the bylaws and operating in the best intentions of the mission statement. They provide all the benefits the other posters mentioned and enjoy a large active membership. I had the pleasure of being a member of one of these chapters many years ago.
Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Membership everywhere is now expensive to start with (remember the low industry pay we all complain about) and certification costs only add to the expense. The local chapter in my area also held monthly meetings in various member restaurants where dinner was served for $20-$30 each month, essentially doubling the cost of membership before providing any benefit. This, in combination with failure to follow the spirit of the bylaws, poor management and the devolving of the membership in to an old boys club means that as far as I know the local chapter has completely lost it's relevancy and has all but dissolved.
I believe what is needed is a more equitable distribution of the revenue generated by membership dues and better, active oversight by the National organization to insure the bylaws and spirit of the ACF are being followed.
Under the current arrangement, none of the money generated by membership dues remains with the local chapter. As few places large enough to host a meeting will do so for free, this necessitates fundraising simply to have a place to hold meetings and finance the necessary administrative functions of operating the chapter. These basic operating expenses are part of the essential creation, existence and growth of a chapter and should be funded through the membership dues. Any more money each chapter can generate on it's own beyond basic expenses to further the mission of the ACF can be up to the initiative of the chapter.
Once a chapter been started, there should be an initial in-person visit by a National or Regional ACF representative to provide guidance and oversight on the administration of the chapter and to insure the chapter understands and will be following the spirit of the bylaws and promoting the mission of the organization. The National rep should re-visit at least twice a year or more to keep the chapter on track.
The ACF is in essence a franchise organization. But much like a foodservice franchise the fiscal and operational needs of the overall operation need to be equitably distributed and closely guided. Any brand name food service corporation operates this way as a matter of course. The ACF is set up like a franchise but doesn't seem to recognize the inherent needs of such an organizational structure.
The ACF has great potential to change the industry for the better but unless they change and act accordingly, they are doomed to irrelevancy.
 
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Great thoughts chefwriter.

As I recall, I was not a "chapter" member but a national one.
I sat in on many a meeting to know that there was a small portion of local membership dues that did go to the chapter, but as you mentioned most went to national.

The meetings need not include a meal right?
So that saves money.
Meeting at a restaurant that may or may not have meeting space is another issue. The meeting takes away tables that would generate revenue.

Supporting socializing the dues so they can be doled out to the chapters? Not wise IMO.
That could open the door to malfeasance and corruption.
 

kuan

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We had no problem fundraising in our chapter. Those $20 dinners always sold 40-60 people with raw product donated.
 
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I've done a fair amount of reading about the ACF, but being a Canuck in Canada, have never been to a meeting.

That being said, I'm a firm believer in the saying "take care of the pennies, and the dollars will look after themselves". What I mean is the the ACF is all about chefs, but in order to be a chef, you need to be a cook first.

Going through a traditional cook's apprenticeship in Switzerland, I experienced a huge amount of emphasis placed on the training of cooks: what they should know, what they should be capable of after their 3 yr apprenticeship ended.

What good is a Chef's certification if there is no benchmark or qualification for a cook?
 
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I think you're tilting at windmills a bit, foodpump. I realize your intentions are good but I don't think you'll ever see success trying to graft the European model onto a US system that is set up and organized in a fundamentally different way.
 
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Fair enough, but the question remains, what constitutes a cook in the U.S.?
In Canada it's the red seal qualification, in Europe the apprenticeship boards set the qualification, same for Australia and N.Z. .
 
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Fair enough, but the question remains, what constitutes a cook in the U.S.?
In Canada it's the red seal qualification, in Europe the apprenticeship boards set the qualification, same for Australia and N.Z. .

That's the dilemma. There is no official standard and who's a cook and who's a chef is essentially a matter of opinion. Despite being heavily regulated in terms of health regs & business licenses, it's essentially an unregulated industry in terms of qualifications for employees. In Tennessee, the only real qualification is that someone must be in the building at all times who is ServSafe certified, but that could theoretically be a busboy if they took the class and years back when I worked at Wal-Mart all employees were given ServSafe certificates.
 

pete

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Fair enough, but the question remains, what constitutes a cook in the U.S.?
In Canada it's the red seal qualification, in Europe the apprenticeship boards set the qualification, same for Australia and N.Z. .
Showing my ignorance of our northern neighbors, but a question. I've heard that cooks go through the red seal qualification, but is that mandatory? Meaning do all cooks, and bakers, have to go through it? Including those that work, at fast food joints, dive diners, small bars that serve a limited menu?

Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Membership everywhere is now expensive to start with (remember the low industry pay we all complain about) and certification costs only add to the expense. The local chapter in my area also held monthly meetings in various member restaurants where dinner was served for $20-$30 each month, essentially doubling the cost of membership before providing any benefit. This, in combination with failure to follow the spirit of the bylaws, poor management and the devolving of the membership in to an old boys club means that as far as I know the local chapter has completely lost it's relevancy and has all but dissolved.
I believe what is needed is a more equitable distribution of the revenue generated by membership dues

Under the current arrangement, none of the money generated by membership dues remains with the local chapter. As few places large enough to host a meeting will do so for free, this necessitates fundraising simply to have a place to hold meetings and finance the necessary administrative functions of operating the chapter. These basic operating expenses are part of the essential creation, existence and growth of a chapter and should be funded through the membership dues. Any more money each chapter can generate on it's own beyond basic expenses to further the mission of the ACF can be up to the initiative of the chapter.
This is not uncommon practice with national "clubs" that have local chapters. I belong to one of my town's Kiwanis groups. Between National and District dues we pay just over $100 a year in dues. None of this goes to my club. Now, there are some clubs that tack on additional dues to cover some of the club's expenses, but that is up to each, individual club to decide if they want to do this. On top of this, most Kiwanis (and service clubs) hold their meetings at restaurants and so individuals have to pay for their own meals. The way we do it, is the club pays up front, and then we get billed quarterly along with our dues, which we also pay quarterly. Of course, meal costs are much lower than ACF meal costs, but these groups usually meet more regularly than the ACF. I am sure that many ACF chapters run the same way with some just charging their members for dues due to the national organization and others adding to that to include a club "fee."
 
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The meetings need not include a meal right?
So that saves money.
Meeting at a restaurant that may or may not have meeting space is another issue. The meeting takes away tables that would generate revenue.
Actually, this is exactly the issue. Meetings are typically held at a member's restaurant, taking tables away from revenue, hence the inclusion of the meal and resultant cost, simply to hold a meeting. While this may be a problem with just the chapter in my area, I doubt it is and it illustrates the need for better sharing of membership dues to enable the financing of a meeting place. A meeting should be about chapter concerns related to execution of the bylaws, chapter activities, etc. Meeting locations are the responsibility of chapter leadership but financing them should not be the focus of chapter fundraising efforts.
Supporting socializing the dues so they can be doled out to the chapters? Not wise IMO.
That could open the door to malfeasance and corruption.
This is one area where the franchise model can be most effective. While there may be many questions as to how this system would be implemented for a group like the ACF, in the end the National organization sets up the structure for running a chapter, including financial accountability and oversight, with a predetermined set of best practices and organizational outlines, just like a commercial franchise, with regional and district support. Just like a franchisee, who ever wants to start a chapter would only be able to do so after agreeing to the guidelines and stipulations provided in order to receive National recognition and support. Guidance is also provided for such things as how to run a meeting, what the bylaws look like in actual practice, what the potential activities of the chapter should be, etc. Just as in a franchise, regional support sticks around long enough at first to insure everything is set up correctly and then keeps in touch, returning every so often to inspect the overall operation to insure things are running smoothly. Checks and balances can be thought out ahead of time.
What good is a Chef's certification if there is no benchmark or qualification for a cook?
This is exactly what the bylaws of the ACF are intended to support and the essential purpose of the certification process. And sorry Phaedrus but Foodpump is quite correct.
The US system was set up to try and mimic the European model, or at least it was in the beginning, to enable the development of universal standards for cooks and chefs that would be understood, adopted and expected by the entire foodservice industry in the US.
Unfortunately, lacking the franchise structure means that broad implementation becomes impossible as each chapter is left to fend for itself. The ACF does well in larger schools like CIA and JWU with a captive audience and potential membership base where the ACF leadership isn't far away. Any further from the national leadership and the lack of oversight and accountability weakens any impact the ACF might have had. Potential members (the cooks we all work with) see price tag of membership and recognize that for that much of their hard earned dollars they get a lack of cohesiveness, ill defined, badly articulated purpose and disorganization. The worst to me is the "good ol' boy" mentality that comes about, the exact opposite of the professional inclusiveness the ACF is supposed to champion. Members become too concerned with how many awards they can hand out to each other and forget why they are there in the first place.
Perhaps most important, the certification process should result in individuals who can actually cook in real world situations, performing with the ability the certificate they have suggests. What is different about the Canadian and European models that makes them work and why doesn't the ACF work in the same way?
As a teenager in the seventies before I had any restaurant experience, I remember reading a newspaper article relating that the ACF had successfully lobbied Congress to change the Government designation of a Chef from Domestic to Professional. Unfortunately they don't seem to have continued the effort needed to actually make it one. Since reading that article, my direct experience with Chapter membership has been watching everyone argue over who gets an award.
As a friend of mine says, "There are (ACF) Master Chefs and famous Chefs but there are no famous Master Chefs. That says a lot to me about the certification process.
 
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Hi Pete,

No, it's not mandatory for cooks to get their red seal.

That being said, many employers are looking for that (red seal) when hiring, and it(red seal) usually will enable you to earn more than the cook without it.

The cooking schools use the red seal to base their curriculum on too, and most schools insist on their instructors to have the red seal.

If you want to climb up the Chef ladder, the red seal becomes almost mandatory, and many hotels won't hire an exec Chef without a red seal, nor will they allow their lower ranks to be trained by someone without the red seal.

This is pretty much the same in Europe, with the exception that a workplace MUST have at least 50% of its employees having completed an apprenticeship before it can take on and train newbie apprentices. It's the 4"T" rule: Trained trainers training the trainees
 

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