How to Become a Master Chef

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While the words, “master chef,” get bandied about in endless loops of television cooking programs, the term actually refers to an accreditation achieved through taking the Certified Master Chef (CMC) examination, offered through the American Culinary Foundation. The test is designed for professional chefs with serious training and experience, though even this is no guarantee of success. In October 2010, 12 candidates entered the CMC exam with only five chefs receiving certification. “They may be good chefs and cooks, but until they earn that title, they aren’t master chefs,” said CMC Edward Leonard, quoted on the American Culinary Federation (ACF) websites.

Look at the qualification guidelines to take the Master Chef examination. Stated on the American Culinary Foundation website, this list will inform whether you have the qualifications to apply. These include certification as an ACF-Certified Executive Chef or Culinary Educator.

Secure funding. As of 2010, initial cost for the exam was $3800, not including transportation, housing and meal costs or the application fee. A deposit will be required along with your application.

Fill out the application and submit along with a letter of intent to take the exam, certification credentials, letters of recommendation, a letter of support from your current job and an up-to-date resume.

Study the manual given to the candidates prior to the exam. The test requires skills evaluation in eight different segments of cooking including Buffet Catering, Global Cuisine and Baking and Pastry. The manual describes the elements and activities for each segment, giving candidates an opportunity to prepare.

Practice elementary skills such as braising, stock preparation and knife work. Chef Dieter Doppelfeld, a past judge of the CMC exam, says, “Failure is usually that of basic cooking principles.”

Get mentally and physically prepared for the challenge. Chef Richard Rosendale, who successfully completed the 2010 exam said, "The schedule was very intense. I had to be able to deal with fatigue and budgeting my time. The first several days, I slept about three hours a night.”

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About the Author

Nikki Jardin began freelance writing in 2009 and focuses on food and travel articles. She has been a professional cook and caterer for more than 20 years. She holds a degree in environmental science from Humboldt State University.

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