After successfully completing the written exam required to become a Certified Executive Chef through the American Culinary Federation (ACF), it was time to move on to the practical exam.

With the practical exam scheduled three weeks after I took the written, I knew I had to start practicing. In the weeks leading up to the written exam, I often thought about what I would make for the practical portion. I guess it was my way of calming the nerves of the written exam by thinking about the cooking part. Cooking had always been a way for me to help clear my head and put me at ease. While maintaining the guidelines, I came up with a menu. Through practice, I tweaked my menu probably ten times, always trying to make it simpler for me to execute. I utilized some of the cuts in the actual cooking process. By cutting my braised vegetables into large dice, I could present them on the plate as a vegetable component and a large dice, killing two birds with one stone.

When the day arrived for me to take the trip down to Indianapolis, I was feeling confident. I had a timeline that I would tape to my workstation and follow to ensure I was working efficiently. When I arrived, the lead proctor informed me that the two other proctors should be arriving shortly. I asked how many people were going to be testing that day in the kitchen. With a grin on his face, he replied “just you.” My stomach began to knot, three judges would just be standing there for three hours to record and monitor my every move. As I began to set my station up, my nerves were starting to get to me but I had to clear my head and be confident. I had put in the work and had a good game plan, I just needed to stick to it. After a short meet and greet with the proctors and some Q & A, the lead proctor said my time started at 9 am, and my service window opened up at 12 pm. It was time to prove that I had what it takes to be a Certified Executive Chef.