The most recent stop on my annual series of educational and refresher tours was the American Culinary Federation’s annual conference, which was held this year at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort in Orlando. This is quite in the middle of everything — Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and every creative ride imaginable.
One could only see it as torture for the over 1,000 chefs present, as you were right in the middle of the action but because of a packed conference schedule, which included over 50 workshops and seminars over the five-day period, it was impossible to fit in any of the much-talked-about Disney activities.
So intense was this conference that even from registration which commenced early the Sunday morning, there were workshops underway, bearing in mind this was not even the official start of the event, which got underway at 7 a.m. on the Monday. Of course, I had to attend this opening workshop as it was all about one of my pet topics, accreditation.
It was a workshop entitled Keeping Pace with the Changing Face of Accreditation. If you were following my articles, you must have realized by now that I am all for seeing Barbadian chefs accredited, as this is the only way they will become recognized as true professionals in this field. Now, we are not speaking here about our Barbadian standard where once you can don a checkered pants and chef jacket and even go as far as wearing the most misunderstood chef’s tote (hat) and given projects to undertake by people who hardly understand the industry, that you are considered a top chef.
This standard, by the way, I was forced to explain when called upon as a Barbadian chef in the workshop to enlighten them about our culinary industry in Barbados. Just imagine having to stand in front of a group of approximately 150 accredited chefs, ranging from mostly certified culinary educators and including certified culinarians, through certified sous chefs, certified chefs de cuisine and certified executive chefs and having to explain what is happening as far as culinary education is concerned in your region.
This workshop, however, was most important to me as one of my missions at this year’s conference was to pursue the intention of having our school, Caribbean Cuisine Culinary Institute, which is already accredited by the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Council, also accredited by the American Culinary Federation (ACF), for once you have achieved any of these ACF accreditations, you have much greater options and opportunities when it comes to employment in some of the world’s best restaurants and access to employment with some of the world’s leading chefs. Just one of the many benefits of being affiliated with an organization such as this!
This workshop, Keeping Pace with the Changing Face of Accreditation, conducted by the American Culinary Federation Education Foundation (ACFEF), demonstrated just how serious the ACF is about accreditation and certification, because, as was pointed out during the workshop, some institutions were losing their accreditation because they were not keeping abreast of the standards required to hold on to their accreditation status. It is indeed a challenge to gain such accreditation and it requires many things to be put in place, a great deal of testing, as well as a process which takes 12–18 months.
What is also very important and which would prove to be our biggest hurdle is that all the instructors must be accredited by the ACF and must have reached a certain standard, so you can immediately see where the challenge would be for us in Barbados. It, however, is a work in progress and we are confident that within the not too distant future, our local aspirants would have a facility available where they can gain such accreditation without having to spend the huge and sometimes prohibitive amounts of money which is the reality that presently accompanies such aspirations.
All of this requires a paradigm shift, because at this juncture, accreditation is not yet seen as important in this field. This could be as a result of how we have developed or have been introduced to the industry. Yes, we do have the Barbados Hospitality Institute which offers culinary programmes, but although this covers areas of culinary, it does not in any way accredit you as a chef. That accreditation requires a whole other process.
All of this and much more were revealed and elaborated on in that first four-hour workshop. Such is the power and knowledge that can be achieved in the global classroom, of which we spoke in a previous article. It also emphasizes why it is important to attend conferences such as these to retain and enhance your focus.
Next week, we’ll talk a bit more about all of the other wonderful things that took place at the annual Cook. Craft. Create. ACF National Convention and Show.
(Peter Edey is a Certified Executive Chef with the American Culinary Federation, a graduate of l’École Ritz Escoffier, Paris and a Certified Caribbean Hospitality Trainer.