U.S.A.’s Chef of the Year Competition

On the road to become U.S.A.’s Chef of the Year™, there are no shortcuts. Candidates must have strong resumes, extremely high standards and possess a high degree of culinary skill. Hours are spent practicing and perfecting knife cuts, techniques, plating and presentation.

In this year’s competition held live on the trade show floor, Tuesday, July 11, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., at Cook. Craft. Create. ACF National Convention & Show, competitors will have 60 minutes to create, cook and display four plates that best utilize the main ingredients of oysters, quail and hanger steak. Each ingredient must be used in at least two courses, or a combination of both. A panel of distinguished chefs will serve as both kitchen and tasting judges. Scoring criteria will be based on mise en place, cooking skills and culinary techniques, and taste.

In 2016, Patrick Mitchell, CEC, AAC, executive chef, Ben E. Keith Foods claimed the national title. He is a member of Texas Chefs Association. Below are photos of Mitchell’s dishes that earned him the title.



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In 1963, ACF created the Chef of the Year Award to acknowledge Walter Roth, AAC, for his tireless efforts to promote and elevate the profession. The award has grown in prestige, and today is the highest honor annually bestowed by ACF.

The U.S.A.’s Chef of the Year™ award recognizes an outstanding culinarian who works and cooks in a full-service dining facility. This person has demonstrated the highest standard of culinary skills, advanced the cuisine of America and given back to the profession through the development of students and apprentices.

The American Culinary Federation is pleased to present the 2017 competitors who seek to become U.S.A.’s Chef of the Year.

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Christopher Johnson, Central Region Chef of the Year

Christopher Johnson is the owner/executive chef of The Meeting House in Rochester, Michigan. During the Central/Western Region culinary salon, Johnson earned a silver medal and the highest overall score. Johnson’s winning dish featured pan roasted lamb loin, pistachio and herb lamb sausage, prosciutto, hedgehog mushrooms, roasted onion and green beans. He is a member of ACF Michigan Chefs de Cuisine Association.



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“I can’t even put into words what an honor it is to have competed and earned this title. I am going to prepare with everything I have for the national competition. I’m going to give it my all to represent my chapter, state and region to the best of my ability. So many people have helped me along the way, from my family, co-workers and business partner to mentors, my chapter president and all the folks from downtown Rochester. Looking forward, I would love to compete on an international level. Cooking on this level is different and exhilarating in so many different ways.” — Christopher Johnson

Michael Pillarella, CEC, Northeast Region Chef of the Year

Chef Michael Pillarella, CEC, is executive chef at the Wianno Club in Osterville, Massachusetts. He earned a gold medal and the highest overall score during the Northeast Region culinary salon held at the Culinary Institute of New York at at Monroe College, New Rochelle, New York.

Pillarella’s  winning dish featured pistachio crusted lamb loin, braised veal cheek croquette, parsnip purée, rosemary and mushroom bread pudding, roasted carrots, eggplant and golden raisin relish, and natural lamb jus lié. He is a member of ACF Rhode Island Chapter.



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“There are so many incredible chefs in the Northeast region, and I am honored to be representing them. This is a validation of the tremendous time and effort that was put into this competition not only by myself but by my culinary team. Their support has been unwavering and motivates me every day. The level of support from my wife and family has been second to none and has allowed me to focus on my career while ensuring family balance. Chefs George O’Palenick, CEC, CCE, AAC, and Michael Beriau, CEC, AAC, have provided remarkable guidance and been fantastic mentors throughout my career. I want to continue to drive the culinary program at the Wianno Club as well as educate as many young culinarians as possible.” — Micahel Pillarella, CEC

Drew Garms, Southeast Region Chef of the Year

Drew Garms is executive chef at The Everglades Club in Palm Beach, Florida. Garms earned a gold medal and the highest overall score during the Southeast Region culinary salon held at Johnson & Wales University, Charlotte, North Carolina.

Garms’ winning dish featured wood roasted lamb loin, crispy lamb sweetbread, parmesan polenta, warm caponata, sautéed broccoli rabe, roasted carrots and natural lamb jus. He is a member of ACF Palm Beach County Chefs Association.



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“Competing for the title of ACF Southeast Region Chef of the Year was an amazing experience. I cherish the opportunity to continue to train and practice for the national competition in Orlando. Winning competitions is great, but the pursuit of knowledge that comes with it is the true reward. I want to thank the many great chefs who have helped guide and train me along the way to this award: Peter Timmins, CMC, Richard Rosendale, CMC, and Russell Scott, CMC, are just a few of the outstanding chefs who are responsible for my continued success.” — Drew Garms

Angus McIntosh Jr., CEC, Western Region Chef of the Year

Angus McIntosh, Jr., CEC, is chef de partie at The French Laundry in Yountville, California. McIntosh earned a silver medal and the highest overall score during the Central/Western Region culinary salon held at Joliet Junior College, Joliet, Illinois.

McIntosh’s winning dish featured herb roasted Elysian Fields Farm lamb, lamb liver mousse, creamed garden scallion, Nantes carrots, toasted walnut puree and natural jus. He is a member of ACF Akron-Canton Area Cooks & Chefs Association.



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“Winning this honor to compete for Chef of the Year is the culmination of years of training and aspirations. It is a way to honor my alma mater, The Culinary Institute of America, and the apprentice program at The Greenbrier. I look forward to being able to excel as part of The French Laundry family. But if my experience has taught me anything, its that no day should pass without learning something new, or applying some principle in order to continue to push the boundaries of innovation and excellence.” — Angus McIntosh Jr., CEC

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To see the national competitions, register for Cook. Craft. Create. You can choose between a full registration or get a day pass. ACF will be live-streaming all the competition action right from the competition floor. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for all the latest updates!

Want to do cool stuff like this? Find a chapter near you! There are 150 ACF chapters across the U.S. that hold monthly meetings to provide you with personal and professional development.

Visit our website to learn more: www.acfchefs.org.

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