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Master Chef - A Career Overview

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In ordinary conversation the term “master chef” is often used casually, and applied to anyone who is a notably good cook. What many people do not realize is that the term is also a professional classification, like a Certified Public Accountant or Registered Nurse. To be a Certified Master Chef (CMC) is the highest qualification in the American professional culinary world.

The certification to become a CMC is provided by the American Culinary Federation (ACF), the largest and most prestigious organization dedicated to professional chefs in the United States. The goal of the ACF is to promote the professional image of American chefs worldwide through education and certification programs for chefs of all levels. The AFC certification program was established in 1981 to further that goal and improve the quality of professional competency throughout the industry, and ACF chef certification is the only kind currently recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor.

The Certified Master Chef level is the highest and most demanding of all the ACF’s certification levels. CMC certification is granted only after the candidate has passed an intensive 10-day practical test of culinary skills and knowledge. The practical test covers food safety and sanitation, organization skills such as work flow, timing of service and follow-up, proper utilization of all ingredients, etc., cooking skills and culinary techniques, and taste and presentation skills.

Becoming certified is important because it provides documentation and proof of your skills and gives you a competitive advantage when job-hunting. There is a growing trend among many restaurants, chains, hotels, and other culinary service providers to hire only certified chefs, and many employers offer incentives and financial assistance to encourage their employees to advance professionally through certification.

A passion for food is the most important characteristic for any aspiring chef, but being a chef is a complex job that includes not only cooking, but also managing kitchen staff and a business. As a result, for most people the path to becoming a CMC begins with a culinary arts degree. The best starting point for aspiring chefs is generally an associate's or bachelor's degree in the culinary arts from a community college, 4-year college, or culinary institute. These degrees generally combine cooking courses with classes in business and personnel management, nutrition, and other subjects designed to improve not only your culinary talents, but also your business acumen and management skills, traits just as important to your future success as a true Master Chef.

Liz Smith writes about culinary schools for culinary-school-finder.com

About the Author

Liz Smith is Editor-in-Chief of Trouve Publishing.

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