How to align ACF certification with your career goals


hen starting out in any culinary career, the excitement of the industry keeps us going day in and day out.

After a few years of working, though, many cooks ask themselves, now what? Working the line after culinary school and other types of training are fun, but after a while, it’s easy to wonder about ways to advance one’s career.

ACF certification provides a great opportunity to align with your career goals while continuing to learn and grow in the industry. Most cooks can qualify for an advanced certification after just a few years of working in the industry, or after five years with no formal education. All it takes is a desire to improve yourself and advance your career.


It All Starts with Skills

The ACF’s Certified Sous Chef (CSC) certification is the perfect stepping stone for cooks to develop themselves in the culinary field and stand out from the competition in the job market.

The CSC credential ensures that you have a strong understanding of classic culinary techniques, culinary safety and sanitation, nutrition and supervisory knowledge. By seeking this certification, cooks can improve their skill sets and begin the journey to obtaining the Certified Master Chef (CMC) credential, the highest level of certification offered by the ACF.

Once an initial CSC application is completed, a candidate is eligible to sit for the exam.

The ACF recommends passing the written exam first, as this helps candidates remember the classics in preparation for the practical part of the exam. If it’s been a while since you’ve opened a culinary book, now is the time to get a refresher.

During this time, also consider honing the skills necessary for passing the practical exam.

If you work a grill station, work on cooking steaks to the perfect, medium rare temperature. Continue to practice perfect diamond marks and uncover ways to enhance and develop flavors. Concentrate on the timing of letting a steak rest before it’s served so you can incorporate these skills when the time for the practical exam arrives.


Embrace Repetition

Within a few months of working in the industry, the importance of repetition may become very apparent in your day-to-day tasks. This constant repetition can come as a surprise for many new cooks, but the time is now to improve every movement.

Good knife skills, in particular, are an integral component in all practical exams, including the CSC one. Continue to improve when that pallet of carrots presents itself for dicing. Focusing on improving knife skills and speed can make the mundane tasks more approachable and even fun.

Speed, organization and flavor development are secondary skills that might not be used every day on the line. However, there are creative ways to practice some of these skills while incorporating the art of repetition.

Volunteer to cook the staff meal and prepare poached fish with rice pilaf and artichokes. This simple dish will cover the skills necessary for the CSC practical exam while offering the team a more composed employee meal.

Gather any feedback on flavor, presentation and technique. Then, cook the dish a few more times until you have mastered it perfectly. This will better your chances of mastering the CSC practical exam.

You can also ask the chef to run a flatfish special on the menu, or develop a recipe and present it as an option. Don’t forget to include the cost and suggest uses for trim. This exercise will help you demonstrate not only your initiative, but also your understanding of food costs and how to develop profitable menu items.

Then, if the chef decides to run your dish, you will have the ability to not only practice flatfish fabrication, but also to build your resume.


Requirements for the CSC Certification

Five years minimum work experience as an entry level culinarian. Experience must be within the past 10 years.

Candidates with an associate’s degree in culinary arts require three years of experience as an entry-level culinarian, or the successful completion of an ACFEF Apprenticeship program.

Minimum Education and Continuing Education Hours:
High school diploma/GED plus 50 hours of continuing education. If you do not have a high school diploma/GED, 150 hours are required.


Financing ACF Certification

The cost of certification (up to $500) may seem overwhelming for new culinarians looking to enhance their careers.

When just starting out in the industry, it may be difficult to justify the expense when you’re barely making enough money to get by, but the long-term benefits for career advancement easily outweigh the expense. Let’s take a look at how one might handle the expense of certification.

By joining the ACF, you can expand your networks and enjoy discounts on continuing education. National membership for a culinarian is around $100 a year, and with this membership, the cost for the CSC exam is reduced to $245.

By committing to the process and budgeting $50 a paycheck (assuming a paycheck comes twice a month), within five months you will have enough money to pay for your exam and earn your credentials. Finding creative ways to budget for your future is a skill that will last a lifetime. By joining the ACF, you can also open doors to scholarships and grant opportunities as well, which can further help offset the cost of certifications.

When looking to advance your career or even personal skill sets, ACF Certification can provide the path and the direction necessary to stay on track. With a few years of experience and some extra dedicated time, study and finances, you can begin the journey towards the top. Power your passion with ACF Certification and achieve the highest standards of excellence for culinary arts in the country.

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