By Kenya McCullum
ACF Chef Xiomara Mora-Rivera didn’t know about ACF until ACF President Rene Marquis, CEC, CCE, CCA, AAC, came to visit a class she was attending at the Art Institute of Tampa. When Chef Marquis extended an invitation to the class to attend an awards ceremony, she jumped at the chance — and she’s been devoted to the federation ever since.
When Chef Mora Rivera soon after became a student member of the Tampa Bay chapter in 2018, she was all in. She volunteered and even joined the board of directors as the student chapter president. She was also able to win a scholarship through the ACF in 2019 and was subsequently named Student Chef of the Year.
Today, after earning a master’s degree in hospitality and tourism management from the University of Central Florida and working as the executive sous chef at Florida Polytechnic University, Chef Mora Rivera’s love for the ACF is still strong. As the recently named president of the Young Chefs Club, she plans to share the love and raise awareness about ACF. We caught up with her to find out about her plans.
Q: What would you like to accomplish as president of the ACF Young Chefs Club?
A: A lot of students don’t know about the ACF, so my goal is to not just highlight myself, but highlight students like me who have done great things in the ACF. I feel like if we can tell people, ‘Hey, you can get a scholarship. There are chapters all over the nation that may be able to push you towards your dream.’ But students have to be aware that the ACF exists.
Q: Why do you think students aren’t as aware of the ACF as they could be?
A: There’s just not enough information going to colleges that the ACF not only offers scholarships, but networking opportunities. A lot of chapters are struggling with the student sector, and a lot of them do not have student members, or if they do, it’s only one or two. I feel like if we actually went out in the community to promote the ACF a little bit more, we could reach these students.
Q: What do you enjoy about being part of the ACF?
A: I love that we’ve all become a family. It starts off where you go to these meetings and don’t necessarily know anyone, but then as you start to converse, volunteer your time and spend time with other chefs, you see that they’re very knowledgeable and all they want to do is just pass that knowledge down. If you’re receptive as a student and you’re looking for that type of knowledge, the ACF is definitely a place you can get it.
Q: For any students reading this, why would you say they should become involved in the Young Chefs Club?
A: I think they should get involved to get a more diverse experience when it comes to networking. Oftentimes when you’re in college, you don’t have these resources that the ACF can give, and by going to the national conventions and volunteering, you have an opportunity that can open up doors for your career. If it wasn’t for me joining the ACF, I wouldn’t have met chefs like Gaston Meredith, who invited me to do the Super Bowl with him, or I wouldn’t have met Florida Dairy, which basically hired me to do Taste! Central Florida for them. It’s being able to go to these places and having an open mind to opportunities that enhance your career.