Mastering the Art of Cooking:
My Journey to Certified Master Chef® (CMC)®
Keith Ferris, The Culinary Institute of America
My journey began when I was a student at
The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park,
N. Y., from 1988 to 1990. I observed some of
the members of 1988 ACF Culinary Team
USA crafting their artful presentations as they
practiced for the Internationale Kochkunst
Ausstellung in Frankfurt, Germany. Peering
through the glass, my roommate, Daniel
Dumont, CMC, and I witnessed certified
master chefs at their best. That was the
experience that ignited our culinary journey.
After graduation, Dan and I were fortunate to
work for David Kellaway, CMC, at the highly
acclaimed Salish Lodge in Snoqualmie, Wash.
At that point in our careers, we were determined
to secure a spot on 1996 ACF Culinary Team
USA. After countless hours of competing in hot
food and cold food arenas, we conquered
the tryout process and made the team.
The National Culinary Review | January 2011
Becoming a certified master chef had always
been a goal of mine, but the timing had to be
right. It was 2006 when I finally committed
wholeheartedly to pursuing the designation.
I started the application process, but had to
wait for the next exam date to be released.
In May 2009, a few other candidates and I
attended an assessment session in Cincinnati,
which was intended to measure our skill and
solidify our future path. CMCs were on hand
to demonstrate correct techniques, critique
participants and offer advice in preparation for
the next exam. This turned out to be one of
the most significant cooking experiences of
my career—a chance to cook for CMCs. I left
Cincinnati with my head held high and a new
vigor that helped with my final preparations.
By this point, I had secured a team of CMCs
as advisors and coaches for the exam, which
provided the continued support that would,
ultimately, lead to my success. I believe it’s
an extremely important part of the process
to be able to share your recipe development
with individuals who have been successful
at achieving the designation. My practice
schedule began at least a year out and
continued up to the day I departed for
My experience during the exam was
unparalleled to anything I had done before.
There were many peaks and valleys, the
peaks being extremely high and the valleys
extremely low. However, as I embarked on
the final stages of the process, there were
some pivotal moments. I felt as though I hit my
stride on Day 5, and actually relaxed a bit and
started to enjoy the experience. Baking and
Pastry was a great day for me. With overall
scores in the upper 90s, I was pleased with
my performance. My philosophy for baking
and pastry was simple: Develop your own
stellar program, taking advantage of the fact
that there is no mystery basket. This was
my chance to increase my average score.
Global and Northern European were equally
enjoyable, but extra practice was necessary to
feel comfortable with those styles of cuisine.
The execution of the finer points involved in
great cuisine, kitchen organization, butchery,
knife skills, menu development, product
utilization, cooking methodology, sanitation,
and refined presentation with integrity and
intent are, ultimately, the focus. Mastering
these aspects will result in delicious food
that will eventually lead to success.
Looking back, words truly cannot describe
the task I have just accomplished. The
overall success of the certified master
chef exam is a true testament to one’s
perseverance and dedication to the craft. I
am delighted to be in such great company.
In closing, I must say that I could not
have accomplished this task without the
extraordinary support of my wife Nadine,
who deserves her own pin for the most
caring, patient and loving wife in the world.
Robert Mancuso is executive chef at The
Country Club, Chestnut Hill, Mass.
• Brian Beland, CMC, executive chef,
Country Club of Detroit, Grosse Pointe
• Daniel Dumont, CMC, corporate
chef, Ocean Properties Ltd. Hotels
and Resorts, Portsmouth, N.H.
• Richard Rosendale, CMC, executive
chef, The Greenbrier, White Sulphur
• Brian Sode, CMC, executive chef,
The Bear’s Club, Jupiter, Fla.
CongRatulationS to ManCuSo
anD the following 2010 CMCS: