Northern Michigan University Executive Chef Alden MacDonald recently became a Certified Executive Chef through the American Culinary Federation, a high honor and ranking reserved for an elite group of chefs nationwide.
“It's a big deal,” said MacDonald. “Getting my CEC has been a goal of mine since I started working in this industry. So for 12 or 13 years, I've been working toward this. And this is a very culminating career goal for a lot of chefs to get the certification.”
MacDonald has completed the necessary education and work experience qualifications and passed both the written and practical examinations. These exams tested her competency in safety and sanitation, organization, craftsmanship and finished product skills. The written exam consists of 90 questions and covers everything from management techniques to cooking knowledge. Her practical exam consisted of preparing three different dishes in three hours with a 15-minute plating time for the judges.
“You have to know how to run a business. They ask you questions about inventory parts, stocks, baking percentages, so from business to cooking,” said MacDonald. “They have a market basket, like from Chopped. It's a list of predetermined ingredients that you can see ahead of time. Then there are certain requirements during the practical exam like you have to have so many classical cuts, a minimum of four cooking techniques, and create two sauces using two different methods of cooking sauces.”
Her certification is proof of a skillset she has already achieved and assures clients that an executive chef is producing the highest quality of products.
“I hope it helps inspire the team I work with to pursue further professional development because you never stop learning as a chef. It's very important for them to see that even their executive chef is constantly striving to learn more, do more and be educated, and we should be lifelong learners. It also gives them confidence in knowing their leader is at a certain skill set and taking steps to demonstrate that.”
MacDonald said she plans to sign up for further training.