ACF Names Three Certified Master Chefs

After an exciting display of culinary expertise, Gerald Ford, CMC, Joseph Leonardi, CMC, and Shawn Loving, CMC, were named to the prestigious group of culinarians known as Certified Master Chefs® (CMCs®) by the American Culinary Federation (ACF). The ACF Certified Master Chef designation is the highest level of professional certification that a chef can receive in the United States. The 2017 exam took place Sept. 30-Oct. 7 at Schoolcraft College in Livonia, Michigan.

CMCs with Stafford

“The American Culinary Federation is proud to honor our 2017 class of Certified Master Chefs,” said ACF National President Stafford DeCambra, CEC, CCE, CCA, AAC. “The skill, creativity and discipline called for by the exam are considerable, and the experience gained is invaluable to the chefs themselves and to the culinarians they mentor. We are inspired by their commitment to the culinary arts and congratulate them on an extraordinary achievement.”

The newly certified chefs traveled from across the U.S. to test their culinary mettle.

Gerald Ford, CMC, winner of the Les Amis d’Escoffier competition in 2010 and former executive chef of Château Robert in Montgaillard, France, is executive sous chef at The Everglades Club in Palm Beach, Florida.

“The ACF Certified Master Chef exam was by far the single hardest, most intensely demanding thing I have ever done. Regardless of how much preparation I put in prior to the exam, every day I cooked I became a better chef. The entire process will forever impact my career and the way I learn. I encourage the future leaders of the industry to embrace the process and put in the work. Take the test.”

Joseph Leonardi, CMC, captain of the silver medal-winning 2012 ACF Culinary Team USA and 2009 U.S.A.’s Chef of the Year, is director of culinary operations at The Country Club in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.

“A lot of time, dedication and sacrifice went into the CMC exam and it all paid off. I’m delighted that I proved to myself that I’m able to do it. I had to be sure I was prepared mentally and needed to believe in myself. I felt confident in my skills and ability because chefs train every day. At the end of the day, it’s just cooking at the highest level.”

Shawn Loving, CMC, is culinary arts department chair at Schoolcraft College. A seasoned culinary competitor, he also served as executive chef for the U.S. men’s and women’s Olympic basketball teams in Beijing and Rio de Janeiro.

“For me, the CMC exam was primarily a test of perseverance by staying connected with my inner self to combat self-doubt. Ultimately, my goal was to give my all to make every meal as if it was my last opportunity to present to the jury. The CMC certification means that I have a responsibility to continue on my quest to be a forever student and culinary professional. My desire to effect the future generations in the most positive and impactful way will guide my future.”

The path to the CMC title requires immense dedication to the craft of cooking and calls upon the candidates to demonstrate their abilities across a broad range of styles and techniques. During the progressive, eight-day practical exam, chefs are tested on healthy cooking, buffet catering, classical cuisine, freestyle cooking, global cuisine, baking and pastry, Continental and Northern European cuisines and “market basket,” a mystery basket of ingredients from which they must prepare a five-course meal.

Chefs are evaluated and assessed by current CMCs and earn points based on kitchen skills, presentation and taste, as well as on the leadership they demonstrate in working with a student apprentice each day. Candidates are required to maintain a 75-point average in order to continue.

Chefs Ford, Leonardi and Loving received their certifications after successfully completing nearly 90 hours of culinary demonstration throughout exam. With the addition of these chefs, there are now 68 current CMCs in the United States.

“The ACF Certified Master Chef designation is a journey of culinary excellence,” said Ron DeSantis, CMC, AAC, MBA, and CMC exam evaluator. “Regardless of the outcome of the exam, each chef becomes a better and stronger culinarian. Having been part of the ACF CMC exam for more than 25 years, I am proud that the chefs of our nation have the outstanding craftsmanship required of this level of certification.”

CMC and CMPC are the culmination of the progressive ACF credentials that enable foodservice professionals to certify their skill, knowledge and expertise at each stage of their careers.

CMCExam Graphic


More information on the 2017 exam and the new Certified Master Chefs can be found at For day-by-day photos of the exam, visit ACF’s Flickr page.

For video highlights, visit the ACF CMC TV page on our website. To see the live stream from day eight of the competition, visit the ACF YouTube page.

2 thoughts on “ACF Names Three Certified Master Chefs

  1. Congratulations to our hard working colleagues, the CMC is well deserved. Question: Why doe one participant wear plastic gloves when boning meat? It is not necessary because the meat will be cooked and potentially dangerous.

    • Hi,
      It is not necessary to wear gloves when working with meat. However, many times the chef wear gloves for personal protection or personal reasons. The chef might have cuts on their hands or does not like the moisture of the meat or cold temperatures. An example: When I fabricate and produce sausages, I do not like to get meat into the side of my nails so I wear gloves. If my hands have any bacteria, gloves will prevent spreading it to the meat. I think it comes down to personal preferences.
      Great question

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