Interview with Apprentice Coordinator Jerry Marcellus, MS, CCE, HAAC

Jerry Marcellus, MS, CCE, HAAC, is the apprentice coordinator at Johnson County Community College (JCCC) in Overland, Kansas, one of American Culinary Federation’s legacy apprenticeship programs that dates back to 1977.

Food preparation is a key focus of the JCCC apprenticeship program, but apprentices also receive a solid background in management, with courses in supervisory management, hospitality accounting, menu planning, purchasing, beverage control and advanced hospitality management. The chef apprenticeship program at JCCC is sponsored by the American Culinary Federation, the Greater Kansas City Chefs Association and the U.S. Department of Labor.

Chef Marcellus shares what the JCCC apprenticeship program entails, his own personal experience in the program and the advantages of the ACFEF program over other apprenticeships.

What kind of apprenticeship opportunities does the JCCC program offer?

We are a three-year, 6,000 hour chef apprenticeship program that runs out of the hospitality management program.

Who began the apprenticeship program and what year was it established?

JCCC is the largest and oldest chef apprenticeship program. Our dept of labor registration is dated 1977. Jerry Vincent started the program and was instrumental in working with American Culinary Federation and Edwin Brown.

How has the apprenticeship program at your school changed over the years?

As a graduate of the program, I can say that it hasn’t changed much in its basic makeup. Students graduate with the skills to take and pass an ACF certification practical and written exam and earn an associate degree.

Other than revisions in curriculum work, the basic essence of the program has remained unchanged. The curriculum  changes to be relevant with the times and we’ve received positive feedback from the industry because the apprentices graduate with more experience under their belt than graduates from a shorter-term culinary schools. The three-year, 6,000-hour work program is a critical and successful component of the program.

In what kinds of settings do apprentices work?

JCCC apprentices are at well-known properties throughout the region. Any venue with an ACF-qualified chef can take apprentices for 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, for three years. Apprentices also go to school full time. It is a robust program.

James Beard award-winning chefs in Kansas area take apprentices on in their kitchens. You just can’t replicate the workplace setting on campus. This is the real strength in the program that sets our students apart.

Who are the students who join the apprenticeship program?

In the Kansas City area there has been growth and elevation in the quality of the high school culinary programs. ACFEF-accredited secondary programs naturally feed into the JCCC program. We also have non-traditional students and those looking for a career change.

An awareness of the need for high-quality chefs is attracting those who have a better understanding of the industry and we have experienced an increase in enrollment this fall.

The JCCC program is a very cost-effective program for apprentices. Apprentices earn around $9 to 14 per hour, which is above the minimum wage, and many work in operations that will offer them tuition assistance or remission.

What do you feel makes an ACFEF-accredited apprenticeship different from other apprenticeships? What are the benefits of an accredited apprenticeship?

As a member of the ACF accreditation team, an ACF accreditation will assist accredited programs to improve. ACF has all eyes on the program and can make recommendations for ways that a program can improve and evolve. ACF gives credibility and validity to apprenticeship programs with recommended competencies and a solid support structure.

How does the apprenticeship program prepare apprentices for ACF certification and why is this important?

We prepare our students for culinary management and and equip them with the skills to earn their Certified Sous Chef® (CSC) certification. Our apprentices can step into an entry-level management position and are not likely to just be a line cook.

At the end of the program, the qualify to take CSC written and practical exams. This differentiates the ACFEF apprenticeship programs from other apprenticeships as they must meet standardized criteria. It’s not something that is awarded at end of the program.

For more information on ACFEF apprenticeship programs, fill out the contact form below and someone from the ACF national office will be in touch. Can’t wait? Call us today at (904) 484-0217 or visit our website at