Meet the ACF’s 2019 Chef of the Year candidates


We’re counting down the weeks until ACF National Convention: Orlando with an in-depth introduction to each of our award candidates. Next up: the chefs competing for Chef of the Year! Visit to see the full schedule.

Not registered yet? Call us at (800) 624-9458 to speak with an events team member now. Onsite registration will also be available.

If you can’t make it this year, we’ll have coverage of all the competitions streaming live on Facebook, and don’t forget to register for Conference On-Demand to see recorded sessions of all our Main Stage speakers!

• The USA’s Chef of the Year competition is sponsored
by Centerline Brackets • 

West: Reilly Meehan, CEC


Growing up in Santa Cruz, CA — a city defined by its serene beaches, lush redwoods, and close proximity to one of the richest agricultural areas in California — Reilly Meehan, CEC always knew he had a place in the world of food. At an early age, he became enamored with cooking and found himself working summers in the kitchen of his father’s brewery, where long days and busy dinners became the norm. When he wasn’t picking up shifts at the pub, he was down the street picking blackberries in neighbors’ yards, or learning to make mole and fresh tortillas from his beloved family friends next door.

Despite his enrollment at one of the most highly acclaimed high schools for higher education placement, Meehan chose to pursue a career in the culinary arts and forgo the path that was set before him. In 2008, Meehan deferred his admission to a four-year university and instead competed in a scholarship competition, winning second place and a large scholarship to attend The Professional Culinary Institute in Campbell, CA. It was there that he met his mentor and good friend Randy Torres, who opened Meehan’s eyes to the world of culinary competition. With the guidance of Torres, Meehan became the first-ever American — and youngest person ever — to win the Chaine Des Rotisseurs Young Chefs Competition in Istanbul, Turkey in 2011, and continued to train for the 2012 Culinary Olympics with Team USA.

After achieving a gold medal in the hot food category and a silver in the cold food category at the 2012 IKA, Meehan moved to San Francisco, CA, where he quickly worked his way up the ranks at the Ritz-Carlton’s fine dining restaurant. On his days off, Meehan would practice for any competition he could find, and placed second in the 2014 Hans Bueschkens Young Chefs Challenge in Stavanger, Norway.

Upon returning from Norway, Meehan left the Ritz-Carlton to open up what came to be a successful bespoke doughnut pop-up in San Francisco. Eventually, he realized he missed the rush of a large kitchen and joined the culinary team at The Bohemian Club, working closely with Robert Mancuso, CMC, as a sous chef for nearly a year before being appointed to the role of Executive Sous Chef.

Meehan currently works at the Bohemian Club where he works closely with Chef Mancuso to provide exquisite service to the members of the club while mentoring young cooks and training for the CMC exam, which he hopes to attain in the near future.

Central: Scott Scheible, CEC


Scott Scheible took his position as Executive Chef of the Bogey Club in Clayton, Missouri in 2009 and enjoys the daily challenges of meeting and exceeding the members’ expectations.

Scheible never settles and is constantly aiming for perfection of his craft. He finds it important to give back to his staff with both knowledge and training, encouraging them to also strive for excellence with his exceptionally high standards.

Scheible also enjoys lending a hand to assist in the growth of young chefs within the profession. He helped to coach the St. Louis Student Culinary Hot Food Team to win the ACF National Championship in 2017. Scheible acknowledges that in helping he has received more than he has given. “Coaching the Hot Food Team has helped me grow so much as a Chef from raising my knowledge of food to learning the importance of Team Work. We constantly are in the pursuit of excellence and work extremely hard to be better cooks and chefs,” he says. Scheible has continued to give back by accepting the team manager position for both the St. Louis Student Culinary Team and the Knowledge Bowl Team for the St. Louis Chapter of ACF Chefs de Cuisine Association for 2018.

Admittedly, Scheible enjoys competition and has accumulated many medals over his career. He has been awarded Gold Medals in Mystery Basket Competitions, single man ACF Sanctioned Competitions and two man ACF Sanctioned Competitions. In 2005 competed on the St. Louis Student Hot Food Team and was named Team Captain.

Scheible began his culinary career at a young age as a line cook at The American Bounty Restaurant in Washington, Missouri. From there he went to work at Boone Valley Golf Club where he worked with James Beard Award-winning Chef Brian Menzel. After two years at Boone Valley Golf Club, Scheible took a job at University Club working under Chef Paul Kampff, then following him to St. Albans Country Club, a recognized Platinum Club of America. From there he went on to St. Louis Country Club where he worked as an Executive Sous Chef for Kampff.

Scheible has volunteered at many Chef de Cuisine events including Great Circle, various American Academy of Chefs dinners, Oktoberfest, Mardi Gras and other dinner events. He has been a member of the American Culinary Federation since 2004.

Chef Scott believes in hard work, determination, sharing what has been taught to him and always giving it your best.

Military: Chief Petty Officer Frida Karani

Karani, Frida

Chief Petty Officer Frida Karani was born and raised in Mombasa, Kenya, East Africa. Where she earned a Diploma in Culinary Arts from Kenya Utalii College in 2002 and went on to work for different five star hotels and restaurants in Kenya. She later joined the Hyatt Regency Dubai, U.A.E. as saucier from 2004-2006.

Karani moved to the United States as an exchange student working for Wyndham Orlando Resort. In 2009, she entered a culinary internship with JW Marriott Grand Lakes in Orlando, FL. Her stellar work with the JW Marriott Grand Lakes turned into a full-time position as saucier in 2009; all while attending culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu in Orlando, FL, where she graduated summa cum laude. Karani is currently pursuing a double major in Tourism Management and Human Resource Management from Strayer University.

Karani enlisted in the U.S. Navy in January of 2010 and completed recruit training in April of 2010 at Recruit Training Command Great Lakes, Illinois. Her follow-on training was conducted at Culinary Specialist “A” School in Great Lakes, Illinois, from which she graduated with the Accelerated Advancement Program Award for exceptional performance.

Soon after she reported to her first command, the USS Forrest Sherman, DDG98, home ported in Norfolk, VA. In June 2010 she completed two three-month deployments in support for Exercise Joint Warrior and a nine-month deployment in support for Operation Active Endeavor and was advanced to Second Class Petty Officer.

Ashore, Karani transferred to the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and is currently the Enlisted Aide to the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. While stationed on the Joint Staff, Karani was named Enlisted Aide of the year, 2016 and 2017, and Armed Forces Chef of the Year, winning the title after competing at the 41st Annual Culinary Training Competition at Fort Lee, VA in 2016. She also was the Joint Staff Sailor of the year 2016.

Karani is also a winner of the Food Network TV show “Chopped,” where she proudly represented the Armed Forces.

Her personal awards include: Joint Service Commendation Medal (two awards), Joint Service Achievement Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (four awards) Joint Meritorious Unit award, Navy “E” Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal (two awards), National Defense Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal. Karani is authorized to wear the Joint Chiefs of Staff badge.

Northeast: Frank Costantino, Ed.D, CEC, CCE, CCA, AAC


Frank C. Costantino, Ed.D., CEC, CCE, CCA, AAC, is the Dean for the Culinary Institute of New York at Monroe College and founding Executive Chef for the critically acclaimed “Dining Lab” at Monroe College.

Prior to taking this position, he was the executive chef/owner of Harvest at Greenwood Lake, a fine dining restaurant in Orange County, NY. He sold the restaurant to return to culinary education, which he considers his calling.

He began his training at New York City College of Technology, earning both AAS and BT degrees from the hospitality management department. He earned his MS in hospitality management from Rochester Institute of Technology an Ed.S. in curriculum and instruction from the University of Sarasota, and finally, his doctorate in Teaching and Learning from Argosy University.

After working several years in the industry at restaurants including La Caravelle, Windows on the World and Quatorze, where Costantino earned two stars from the New York Times as executive chef of the restaurant, he completed 14 years of service as associate professor and Director of Culinary Education at New York City College of Technology. From there, he moved on to The Art Institute of New York City as a senior lead instructor, where he spent three years just prior to leaving to open Harvest.

Costantino coached the Art Institute’s junior hot food team to the 2006 New York State Junior Hot Food Championship. He currently serves as coach to the Monroe College team, whose students have won over 700 ACF medals in the eight years he coached at The Culinary Institute of New York at Monroe College.

Costantino is certified by the American Culinary Federation as a culinary educator (CCE), executive chef (CEC), culinary administrator (CCA) and an approved ACF judge. He was the ACF Big Apple Chapter Chef of the year in 2004 and Culinary Educator of the year in 2006. He was named the ACF Long Island Chapter Chef of the Year for 2014.

After watching Chef Steve Jilleba win in 2001, Costantino vowed to do the same, and won the ACF National Championship in Las Vegas, Nevada in 2002. He was the captain of the New York Culinary Olympic Team and won a bronze medal at the 2004 Olympics in Erfurt, Germany. He won a WACS gold medal en route to the international hot food championship in Massa, Italy in 2005, and a WACS cold food gold in the same competition the following year. Costantino has won over 60 ACF medals in competition, including 18 gold medals.

Costantino is a fellow of the American Academy of Chefs. He lives in Warwick, New York, where I own a small farm, raising heirloom and specialty fruits and vegetables grown organically and bio-dynamically, as well as a flock of egg-laying hens, with help from his wife and three sons. Our farming business was originally started to support our farm to table restaurant Harvest but now supplies the Dining Lab restaurant as well as their own table.

In addition, Costantino is a musician, a certified master gardener and holds a certificate in Consumer Horticulture from Rutger’s University specializing in herbs in the perennial garden and vegetable farming.

Southeast: Charles Figueroa, CEC

Head Shot

Originally from Port Chester, NY, Charlie Figueroa, CEC started cooking at the Westchester Country Club at age 16 for Edward G Leonard, CMC, and decided to pursue a career in the culinary industry.

Figueroa graduated from Johnson and Wales University Rhode Island in 2010. He then worked his way up at the Westchester Country Club to become a chef de cuisine. He would later go on to work for Richard Rosendale, CMC, at the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, WV. In 2013, he relocated to Palm Desert, CA to work at the Vintage Club where he ran the Palm Court Restaurant and helped cultivate team members of Culinary Youth Team USA. He then turned his attention to going back to the east coast. Figueroa landed at Farmington Country Club working for Michael Matarazzo, CEC where he was promoted to executive sous chef in 2014.

Figueroa is a strong advocate of team building, training, and employee retention. Classically trained in French Cuisine he believes in modern techniques and gathering inspiration from around the world. Chef Figueroa believes in utilizing the best available ingredients to create dishes that are always new and innovative.

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