First things first Chef Fan’s I want to apologize for how old the topic of this post is, and secondly, no I did not take the Certified Executive Chef Exam yet. I am an active member in the American Culinary Federation and have been since I started at NECI, I am not as active as I would like and sadly have not been to any of the big conventions that the ACF holds yearly, but I do vote for representation of my local district and participate in online discussions on sites like Linked-In. I did have an opportunity to do something that was very cool and a great eye opener for me as to what the exams are actually like. This was a great thing for me to see because I myself want to be a Certified Master Chef later in my own life, so when NECI held a CEC exam for a regional chef I was all for volunteering my time to be his commis on the exam itself.
Sadly I could not find any videos about what the CEC exam is like but for an idea check out this video about just how hard the CMC exam is like. The Chef’s are fairly easy to pick out and so are the commis helping them. While the CEC exam isn’t anywhere near as hard as the CMC exam the chef is still under a ton of stress and pressure to put his best work out on the table to be tasted by the judges.
Speaking of the judges in this exam the chef testing had 5 of them watching every single move he made and judging him on everything from not only how the food tasted, looked, and how it was presented, but also how he set up his station, his cleanliness, and sanitation. My job for the whole test was to get the chef what ever he needed and also to run the food when it came time for his service window to open. It was a very long 8 hours and I know that I was under a level of pressure to not mess him up or get in his way while at the same time trying to help him out a much as I was allowed to. When I wasn’t running around helping the chef out I was able to talk to the judges and “pick their brain” about how he was doing overall and how they would have done it themselves. I was also able to take pictures!!! Here are the ones that I am allowed to show, because I was asked not to show any of the judges or the Chef taking the exam they are somewhat limited but I think you will get the idea.
I am starting out with this picture because I want to point out a few things first. This is before the exam started and I am just showing his organization and the judges in the background. Everything that you see he provided for the test as this is one of the requirements of the test itself. The next picture on the right side here is important because not only do they judge him on everything that I talked about before they also measure the amount of compost and trash he generates in the test itself. Think about that for a moment because it is part of what managing a kitchen and a restaurant is all about. the more trash and food waste that you create the more money you are costing your restaurant. The picture on the left shows a part of one judge, and I don’t know about you all but having 5 others hovering around me and watching everything I did is nerve-racking in and of itself let alone knowing that they are grading my every move.
While yes I do have more pictures of the exam as I said before I do not have permission to post them because of the request made by the judges and the chef taking the exam. Being a commis for the exam I was able to sit in on the judging and listen to the critiques that the judges made on the dishes the chef put out. He had to come prepared with a menu for each judge that said what he was making for that day, and one of the things he was judged on was the language he used on that menu. I know that part of a chef’s job is to write and create menus that represent the food that they are making and putting out for the guest, but one of the judges actually took points off because he used a wrong word to describe one of his dishes.
When all was said and done and the judges had compiled the scores from each of them the chef ended up passing the exam. I could see the relief and relaxation wash over him. I was proud of him because I know that I could not have passed the exam at this point in time. I would love the chance to help out with more exams if and when they are held in the future as the more of them I see now the better off I will be when I take the exam myself. Until next time Chef Fan’s!