Meet ACF Chef Samuel Spencer: Mentor to Young Chefs

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What is your current position? What is your specialty in culinary arts/what is your focus?

I am the Culinary Director at Guided Discoveries and Chapter President of ACF Metro Mobile Chefs and Cooks Association. I specialize in savory, classical French cuisine, soups, stocks, and sauces.

From the classroom to the culinary lab to the industry, I love to educate and mentor the next generation of chefs.

What highlights have you encountered along your career journey?

I’m proud to have been awarded the 2019 ACF Presidential Medallion, 2018 Inductee of Les Amis d’Escoffier Society of Chicago, 2016 Hilton Curio Spirit Award, and more. As outreach, I serve as church hospitality leader and participated in fundraisers for the American Heart Association and March of Dimes. One of my highlights last year was to revive the ACF Metro Mobile as a way to give back to Bishop State Community College students and the community like the former chapter officers (my mentors) did for me.

What is one piece of advice you would give to others who are just starting out in the culinary industry?

Culinary students and professionals: make sure you embrace the American Culinary Federation. It’s valuable and is one of the best things you can do to increase your professionalism.

Take the time and listen along the way. Take in all the advice and get a true understanding.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the industry you’re entering. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. The mistakes make you a better Culinary and Hospitality professional. Be relentless and don’t limit yourself.
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The industry is broad beyond your imagination of career and opportunities. The question you will regret is the question you never ask.

Why did you want to become a Chef?

My grandmother, Fannie Mae Sykes, gave me the passion to become a Chef.

Growing up in the house with my grandmother, I can remember every time I saw her enter the kitchen and get over the stove. I would grab a chair or milk crate and watch her create years of memories and family recipes.

What is the most exciting or rewarding aspect of your work?

Many memories along the way.

1. Being able to walk in my mentors’ footsteps.

2. As an alumni of Bishop State Community College, being able to share my knowledge and passion of the industry with culinary students.

3. Being honored to cook for the late great baseball legend, Hank Aaron.

What have you gained by being an ACF member?

I’ve gained the professional knowledge and understanding of a Chef.

It so easy to say, “I am a chef.” But in all honestly, it takes many years to become a professional chef.
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Cooking is one aspect of being a chef; but as we all know, there are many facets to a professional chef.

What did you learn from your first culinary catastrophe?

In his own words, the late Chef Herman L. Packer, CEC, CCE, AAC (one of my mentors), told me, “Listen, read, and get an understanding. Then, we can talk.”

What’s the strangest or most interesting meal you have ever prepared?

The most interesting meal was the opportunity to prepare a four-course gourmet meal for the 2019 Alabama Kidney Association Fundraiser Awards Dinner.

I had to take off the Chef Hat and put on the Dietary Chef Hat, creating a dietary-restricted meal for people with renal complications. Thinking back to culinary school, I was well prepared to handle the task.

What is your signature dish?

Crispy French toast with braised short ribs, caramelized onions, and Sauce Robert.

What are your favorite spring pastimes?

Growing up in Mobile, Alabama, enjoying the beautiful sun, and watching my great aunt baking her signature jelly cakes and preparing fig preserve– these are some of my favorite spring pastimes.

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