Hari Pulapaka, Ph.D., CEC®

Why do you want to become an ACF Certified Master Chef®?

The ACF-CMC certification represents the pinnacle of professional culinary achievement in North America. I am compelled to put myself though the rigor and dedication to be part of this highly respected organization so that I can use its influence to help in any way I can to make the world a better place through the medium of food. I am honored to have this opportunity.

What are the reasons you chose to pursue ACF certification in your career?

1. Respecting tradition and knowledge.
2. Upholding rigor and standards.
3. Inspiring others around me to dream big.

When is it the right time in a chef’s career to take the ACF Certified Master Chef exam?

It is important to respect time-honored traditions and techniques. It is also important to develop and mature as a cook. To understand how to respect ingredients and what it takes to grow food makes for a better cook and that is invaluable. When an individual places the importance of food in our society in a sphere that’s beyond what’s on our plates, they are headed in a more meaningful direction. I’m not sure when a right time is, but I wouldn’t have dreamed to undertake this journey without the unequivocal support of my professional and personal community.

Where do you see yourself professionally in 10 years?

In 10 years I will still be cooking thoughtfully and passionately, one plate at a time. In addition, I expect to have the opportunity to mentor young cooks to fully leverage their potential, not just in the culinary field, but in the field of life. I want to be a liaison between practice and theory, because they are both invaluable.

How do you prepare both mentally and physically for the exam?

Practice, practice, practice. Stay humble. Expect the worst, but train and focus on being your best.

Follow Chef Pulapaka on his journey:

Facebook: Hari Pulapaka and Cress Restaurant
Twitter: @haripulapaka and @cressrestaurant
Instagram:  @haripulapaka and @cressrestaurant


Hari Pulapaka, Ph.D., CEC®, is executive chef and co-owner of Cress Restaurant in DeLand, Florida, and a tenured associate professor of mathematics at Stetson University in DeLand. Pulapaka has organized and hosted several James Beard Foundation Chefs Boot Camps for food advocacy; is a four-time semifinalist for the James Beard Award Best Chef: South; is instrumental in starting a food studies program at Stetson University; and has lobbied on Capitol Hill for the 2010 Child Nutrition Act to keep school lunches healthy. Pulapaka supports local farmers through his farm-to-table restaurant, maintaining an active food waste repurposing program.