One of the best ways to set yourself apart as you finish culinary school and enter the competitive job market is to become certified through the American Culinary Federation (ACF). In addition to certifying culinary schools that adhere to a standard core of ethics and education, the ACF also provides documentation for those professionals who adhere to the same.
There are a total of 14 different designations offered by the ACF, each of which is unique to the certifying body and trademarked as such. They include:
- Certified Culinarian (CC), for entry-level commercial food preparation
- Certified Sous Chef (CSC), for experienced sous chefs
- Certified Chef de Cuisine (CCC), for managing chefs at restaurants and within the industry
- Certified Executive Chef (CEC), for executive-level culinary professionals
- Certified Master Chef (CMC), the highest degree of chef certification through the ACF
- Personal Certified Chef (PCC), a personal chef with at least 3 years experience
- Personal Certified Executive Chef (PCEC), similar to the PCC, but with advanced skills
- Certified Pastry Culinarian (CPC), for entry-level bakery work
- Certified Working Pastry Chef (CWPC), for baking professionals with some experience
- Certified Executive Pastry Chef (CEPC), for managing pastry professionals
- Certified Master Pastry Chef (CMPC), the highest degree of pastry chef certification
- Certified Culinary Administrator (CCA), for executive-level chefs focusing on business management
- Certified Secondary Culinary Educator (CSCE), for advanced-degree professionals who meet a standard in administration and education
- Certified Culinary Educator (CCE), another advanced-degree position with a focus on education
In order to qualify and become part of the ACF’s lineup of certified professionals, culinary students and working chefs must go through a series of steps. These include:
- Determining Eligibility, which involves completing the mandatory culinary education (at a recognized culinary school), taking appropriate continuing education courses, and demonstrating work experience.
- Applying to the ACF, which includes providing copies of the necessary paperwork and tax documents proving job experience. This step includes paying a non-refundable $50 fee. Your eligibility will be reviewed after this step.
- Taking the Certification Exams, which includes two tests, including a written and practical skills exam, which must take place at key locations around the United States.
- Filling Out the Final Application, which occurs after you have passed both exams. This step is followed by the final approval and certification.
Each of the 14 certifications has their own requirements, many of which are more strict than others. If you are interested in learning more, please visit the ACF website.
It is important to note that while these certifications can be a boost to your culinary career, they are not required, and there are many other certifying bodies you can explore, as well.