How this pilot landed a career as a chef

Cooking is intelligence having fun…

Or, in the native language of Chef John Pereira, CEC, “cocinar es una manera inteligente de divertirse.”

In his native Colombia, Pereira worked as a pilot, but his passion has always been in the culinary arts. When the opportunity arose to move to America and pursue his passion, he was excited to make the transition to a new culture and career.

Pereira is a prime example of how a culinary career can take you anywhere in the world. Despite the language and cultural barriers, Pereira took the techniques and skills he learned from The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and applied his newly gained culinary knowledge directly into the hospital industry. He showcased his education and experience through customer service and guest satisfaction as the executive chef of Memorial Hospital Pembroke, Pembroke Pines, Florida.

When asked what he wanted most from his career, Pereira responded, “I want to become a CEC.”  It was his ultimate career goal to earn his culinary certification because he knew ACF certification would enhance his culinary career and provide more career opportunities. Pereira first completed the pre-approval process and then passed his written exam. Following this process allowed him to focus on his final step, the practical exam.

On Friday, February 12, 2016, several chefs prepared to complete their final practical exams for Certified Executive Chef (CEC®) certification at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Miami, Miramar, Florida. Pereira took his time in drafting a menu, honing his knife skills, and perfecting his mise en place and time management.  After four hours of intense food preparation and cooking, Pereira presented 12 dishes to the certification evaluators for critique and tasting, comprising an appetizer, salad, and main course.

One of the 12 dishes Pereira presented to the certification evaluators.
One of the 12 dishes Pereira presented to the certification evaluators.

After patiently waiting for his examination results, Pereira was informed that he passed the practical exam for the CEC® designation. Certification evaluators were impressed that every movement had a purpose and plan to ultimately meet the criteria.

For anyone looking to apply for the CEC® certification, Pereira advises to have passion, drive, and commitment in your cuisine and menu.  “Without these characteristics, you will not be successful in completing the certification requirements,” he says.

With his newly acquired certification, Pereira was given an opportunity to be a chef instructor at Le Cordon Bleu Miami.

“Teaching at Le Cordon Bleu is a dream come true,” says Pereira. “It is an amazing opportunity to pass on culinary knowledge to the future chefs of the hospitality industry.”

Pursuing an education in America is a big deal, especially coming from a different country. It was beyond rewarding for Pereira and is a vital part of any chef’s career to build their educational and professional development. Pereira is hoping that his two-year certification journey will inspire other chefs, especially in the Latin community, to overcome any obstacles and follow their culinary passion to become certified, as it will open up even more opportunity and success in the hospitality industry.