ACF Chef Bouakhanh Greene, CEC, executive chef at the University of Michigan’s M Dining, had been aware of the ACF for quite some time, but had never taken the plunge to participate in any events until her employer gave her the opportunity to attend the national convention this year in 2023. The experience opened her eyes about the impact of the ACF, and she shared her first impressions with us.
Q: What did you learn about the ACF when you attended the conference?
A: I honestly didn’t know how big the ACF is. Going to this conference has opened my eyes to a lot of stuff that the ACF does. I brag about going to the conference all the time now as it has opened my eyes up to networking with other chefs, seeing the competitions, meeting the vendors at those expos, taking the classes that were offered — it was all excellent. And of course, visiting New Orleans — it’s such a wonderful place and I met a lot of great people when I was there and even met more coming back from it. I’m still in touch with some of those people.
Q: Was there anything about the experience that surprised you most?
A: A presenter talked about mentoring and explained that to mentor other chefs who are new, it’s 50-50 as far as which chefs that love to do that. I’m one of them. I love to mentor young chefs and teach them. Then there are the chefs who don’t do that. They’re kind of stuck in their ways and say what’s theirs is theirs. I’ve learned to not get stuck in your bubble and to go with the trends, which there are a lot of, because we have to get with the times. Also, I enjoyed learning about the philanthropy, helping other communities and helping chefs — not just helping in their workspace but helping outside in their communities. That’s what I brought back too because that’s something I want to do. In talking to those chefs and how they did it was amazing.
Q: What would you tell anyone considering going to the conference next year?
A: I would encourage you to go at least once because you’re going to make the connections. You’re going to meet new people, you’re going to see what’s new in the industry. You’re going to see what new things other chefs are doing to improve their workplace, their food, their dining experience, the customer experience, and work-life balance. There’s so much information you can use to help you to be a better chef or a better person.