The Future is Bright for ACF Apprentices

Brian Duffett is enrolled in a 4,000-hour apprenticeship program through Jefferson StateDSC6588-450x300 Community College’s Hospitality/Culinary Management Department. In June, Duffett competed against 26 competitors in the National SkillsUSA Culinary Competition to earn a gold medal and $50,000 scholarship to Culinary Institute of America.

Duffett shares his apprenticeship experience and his next steps. Share this post on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to help others learn more about the value of culinary apprenticeships.

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Cooks Need to Give A Lot to Get A Lot

By Paul Sorgule, MS, AAC

Lately I have read numerous comments that pertain to cooks’ disappointment and disillusionment with their work conditions, quality of life and compensation for their work. While I fully understand their situation and empathize with them, I feel that it is important to demonstrate that light exists at the end of the tunnel and to point to a strategy to use in setting a course for success.

“If you want a lot from life, you’ve got to give a lot.” – Charlie Trotter

Few would deny the level of professional success that Chef Charlie Trotter enjoyed. He was tough on his staff and even tougher on himself, and as a result his restaurant was deemed the best in the land for quite some time and enjoyed a 25-year run until he decided it was time to move on. Success (however you measure it) does not come easy–there is work to be done, but if a person sets a course, builds a strategy based on long-term goals, and sticks to that strategy, then all things are possible.

Whether a cook is starting out in a kitchen after earning a culinary arts degree or working his or her way through the school of hard knocks, there are definitive steps and clear realities that must prevail. Sacrificing long-term success for short-term benefits, needs or desires is rarely a good formula for the future. As hard as it might be, if a cook is serious about a career in the kitchen, these 11 lessons can help you achieve long-term success:


It takes time to reach your goals. Nothing takes the place of experience and kitchen experience is a requirement before you rise to the level of sous chef or chef. You must realize that even if you have a culinary degree and you follow all of these lessons religiously, it may take eight or more years before that first chef position is yours. Be realistic with your timeline and diligent with the process.


Cooks who stick to their career timeline constantly look to learn something new. They view every task as an opportunity to build their brand and enhance their opportunities for added responsibility. Career cooks view every day as a new chance to improve and grow.


“Why is it imperative that I caramelize onions for French Onion Soup?” “Is it really necessary to brown marrow bones before starting a veal stock?” “Is it really important to temper milk before adding it to a cream soup?” “Why do meats become tougher before they tenderize during the process of braising?” “Why is it important to clarify butter before using as a fat for sauté?” “Why should I bother to temper a block of ice in the cooler before attempting to carve it?” “Is there a legitimate reason for checking food temperatures throughout the process of preparation?”

When you have a question it is your responsibility to find the answer. Chefs are expected to have the answers and the only way that this is possible is if they take responsibility for learning “why” as much as “how.”


There is no excuse for anything short of excellence with every task. Dicing a carrot into a brunoise–make it perfect. Clarifying a consommé–it should be clear and free of particulates. Piping whipped potatoes on plates for 100–make sure they all face the same direction, have the same appearance and maintain their texture and temperature. Washing dishes when the dishwasher calls out–be the best dishwasher that the restaurant has ever seen even if it is not your assigned job. Always give your best.


You may be a cook today, but if your goal is to become a chef then you must be hungry for other skills beyond the range. Ask to help the chef with inventory, do research on new menu items or see if you can attend one of the restaurant’s marketing meetings. Learn how the chef costs out recipes and determines selling prices and show your interest in learning about the restaurant’s financial performance and how the indicators are built. Offer to research and develop a topic for inclusion in a kitchen staff meeting. Opportunities come to those who show a sincere interest in growing.


Chefs may occasionally grumble about requests and directives, but they know it is imperative to find a way to say yes to management and guests. Occasionally, the answer may be a guarded “no,” but only after giving due consideration to the importance of the request and the kitchen’s ability to deliver. Start saying “yes” today.


Cooks get paid for the hours that they invest on the job, but those who have their eyes on the future know there are things to do when not on the clock. Reading about industry-related topics, researching regional competitions, tasting new foods at quality restaurants, studying cookbooks and becoming involved in professional organizations like the American Culinary Federation, are all important in meeting or even shortening that timeline to the position of chef.


Competition in the kitchen can be healthy but in some cases it can be poisonous. The only real competition that a successful cook should take part in is competing with oneself. Raise the bar and make sure that every day you improve on the day before. Push yourself rather than wait for someone else to do the job for you.


Look at your work, every bit of your work, and ask “Is this the best that I can do?”  If the answer is “no,” then find ways to get better. If the answer is “yes,” then know that you are not being truthful with yourself.

“You have to be critical of what you do every day–to analyze it and be willing to push it further.” -Charlie Trotter


Find out what you believe in, then put your stakes in the ground. What is your philosophy in relation to food and cooking, management and working with your team? Build this as your brand and know what you are unwilling to give up along the way. There may be times to compromise, but there may also be beliefs that are far too important to put aside. This will help you determine where to work and who to work for. This is your reputation.


Good chefs are not full of themselves. They know how hard it is to rise to the position, they appreciate those who helped them along the way and they know that their role is to support and encourage those who now work with and for them. Their ego never gets in the way of doing a great job and doing what is right. Know that if you want the carrot of a great career then you must be strong, but humble, and anxious to give back.

Harvest America Ventures, LLC

Paul Sorgule has been a chef and educator for more than four decades holding positions as hotel executive chef, food and beverage director, faculty member, dean of culinary arts and provost at a prominent culinary college. Sorgule is president of Harvest America Ventures, a restaurant and culinary school consulting and training company he formed in 2012. He blogs about culinary issues and finding that work/life balance at



Secrets to a Successful Job Search

By Thomas G. Ciapi CEC®, CCE®, CCA®, AAC

In a world where chefs are becoming celebrities and jobs are limited, culinary professionals must find new ways to compete for jobs and market themselves to potential employers.

What are employers looking for in candidates? Scintillating food and dynamic plating? Diligence and hard work? Either way, jobs are a precious commodity, and employers are often looking for demonstration of superior culinary skill, knowledge of culinary principles and dedication to the culinary industry.

Put yourself in the shoes of the employer. When two chef candidates have similar resumes, job experience and the interview goes well for both, what is that employer looking to see? How do you show that you will be an asset to their kitchen? Your ACF certifications can help you to differentiate yourself and stand out from the pack.

Here are a few tips to keep in your toque:

  • Network with chefs, both personally and online–local ACF chapters are useful in this endeavor.
  • Display your ACF certification on your resume, jacket, business card and social media sites, and be ready to talk about what that certification means. You have been educated in nutrition, sanitation and supervision, your work experience has been verified, and you have gone through rigorous testing to prove that you have the skills and knowledge to work in a professional kitchen.
  • Show professionalism.  Keep in mind that employers are looking to sustain an image or a brand, and will be looking to you to uphold it.  Wear professional clothing, edit your resume for grammatical errors and speak professionally.
  • Monitor your social media to exhibit your best qualities, particularly on sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.  Some employers are now using social media in the candidate screening process to verify that the candidate will be the right fit.
  • Volunteer and/or mentor culinarians in your local areas.  You can gain experience, network and demonstrate that you are compassionate and hard-working.
  • Learn new culinary skills.  Every small bit of education adds to your arsenal and projects you to the top of the resume stack. For example, skills such as ice or fruit carving might add flair to a restaurant setting, while wine courses might be seen by the employer as a way to improve the restaurant’s profile.  Keep up with culinary trends and updated sanitation requirements, which can also be applied toward your re-certification.
  • Be patient.  It takes time to build a professional reputation, resume and brand, but it is possible.

The job search can be daunting, but for chefs who are willing to stay diligent, the right job will become more attainable. By taking control of your image and marketing yourself as the most qualified, hard-working and valuable candidate, the more likely you will be to land the job you want.

Hungry for more? Read Roll with the Punches for Chef Ciapi’s networking tips.

Chef CiapiThomas Ciapi, CEC, CCE, CCA, AAC, was born in Queens, New York, and raised on Long Island as the son of Italian decedents, where his love for cooking was developed early in life.  Chef Ciapi first completed an apprenticeship program from the American Culinary Federation in 1984 from Houston, Texas, becoming a certified cook, and throughout the course of his career earned other certifications before becoming a certified culinary educator and certified executive chef.  His experience includes private clubs, resorts and hotels, teaching, and he is a published cookbook author. To learn more about Chef Ciapi and his journey, visit his website.