The road to becoming a Personal Certified Executive Chef


Chef Leah Schuler, PCEC, is one of only a handful of chefs who has received the Personal Certified Executive Chef certification. We recently talked with Chef Schuler about her journey to certification, which she completed in summer 2017.


How did you begin your career?
My Culinary career began as the owner/operator of my own small catering business.  I finally got to a point where I was wanting more for my career and didn’t want to be defined as just a caterer. I was always interested in Health and Nutrition for my entire adult life, so also wanted to expand on that aspect. I wondered what successful working Chefs were doing.  I then closed my business and enrolled in the Culinary Institute at USC.

What made you decide to get your certification?
[At USC] I met a couple of Certified Executive Chef Instructors that were in different aspects of the Industry. I was also working for a Catering Company day and night to make ends meet while attending school. I received my Culinary of Arts Certification, but felt as if that was not nearly enough for me. I was capable of achieving more than that. It was brought to my attention that there was a certification through ACF that was for someone with my type of experience. I immediately got my application in to ACF and began the process of studying for my exam. Simultaneously, I started working for a large foodservice distributor as a produce specialist.

What was the process like? What was your biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge in getting my certification was working long hours, being required to travel and yet keeping my focus on my goal. Within a few months I completed both my written exam and practical. Along the way I have attended conferences that have helped me to network and build a support system. I am now in the healthcare industry as a chef and am studying for my Certified Dietary Manager exam.

What has ACF Certification done for you since attained your PCEC last summer?
Being ACF certified opens doors with companies that understand what the certification means: dedication, determination, drive and focus. Many doors have opened for me, but I’m not finished. I look forward to the many opportunities out there for me because of my affiliation with ACF.