Different Paths to ACF Certification
Many enter the culinary industry for the
simple reason that they love cooking and
the excitement and camaraderie of the
kitchen. In a recent interview, Timothy
Prefontaine, CEC, executive chef at The Fort
Worth Club, Fort Worth, Texas, talked about his
certification journey and the influences that
shaped his career.
state and national levels. After those first few
competitions, I knew I wanted to compete
more, and I made it one of my future goals.
What does ACF certification mean
I made ACF certification one of my personal
goals early on in my career. Certification
has been a great way to measure what I
have learned and has given me greater self-confidence. Initially, I certified as a Certified
Culinarian®, and then upgraded to Certified
Sous Chef™. I continued to grow and
upgraded my certification again, and currently
I am a Certified Executive Chef®. Certification
not only demonstrates proven skills, but shows
employers that a chef is continually advancing
his or her skills and knowledge.
To pursue my goals, I decided I needed to
find a chef and an environment where I could
hone my skills as well as learn new ones. I
was put in touch with Charles Carroll, CEC,
AAC. He offered me a starting position as
a cook, so I packed my car and drove to
Houston. Six years later, I can say without
hesitation that it was an opportunity of a
lifetime. After that, I realized I finally had what
it took to be an executive chef.
National Team USA. Probably the greatest
thing about being on Team USA is the
relationships with teammates and coaches.
I have learned so much from these chefs,
and I look forward to working with them
over the next two years as we get ready for
the 2012 IKA.
How did your certification journey begin?
While in high school, I spent four years
working in a busy local restaurant. After
high school, I was accepted in the ACF
apprenticeship program at The Balsams
Grand Resort, Dixville Notch, N.H. I spent
three intense years working all aspects of
the kitchen, from butchering to bakeshop.
I completed six internships at other resorts
and restaurants around country and in the
Caribbean. As an apprentice, I had the good
fortune to study under Phil Learned, CEC,
AAC, HOF, and Stephen James, CMB.
Their influence and my apprenticeship
experience gave me a solid foundation on
which to build my career and my goals. While
at The Balsams, we had several in-house
competitions among the apprentices. We
then put together a team and competed at
Who has inspired you?
I had the basics instilled in me from the
beginning, such as organization, quality, proper
cooking methods and cleanliness. I have been
fortunate in my career to have trained under
some truly talented certified chefs. With Chef
Carroll, I was able to practice all the basics I
had learned and take them to a new level. I am
truly thankful to other chefs, including Hans
Schadler, CEC, AAC, Dean Moore, Edward
Leonard, CMC, WGMC, AAC, and Steven
Jilleba, CMC, CCE, AAC, who have inspired
me and helped me build the foundation from
which I am building my career.
Describe your certification journey?
I made some tough decisions along the
way, never taking the easy road, but I was
determined to set myself up for success.
When I moved to Houston, I started taking
my career more seriously. I was starting
at the bottom, and there was nowhere to
go but up. I wanted it more than anyone
else, and if I was patient, I knew I would
get more opportunities. My mantra was to
always work harder than the person next to
me at whatever position I was in, strive to
be better than my teacher and soak up as
much as possible. I was always striving to be
recognized as a great chef.
The National Culinary Review | March 2011
Was there a pivotal point in your career?
My life changed when I was selected for
ACF Culinary Regional Team USA in 2006.
This opportunity opened up a whole new
world of friendships, knowledge and life
experiences. When I heard about the team
tryouts, I thought I would give it a shot. I made
the team, and since then my experiences
have included the American Culinary Classic
in 2007, the Internationale Kochkunst
Ausstellung (IKA) in 2008 and recently,
the Villeroy & Boch Culinary World Cup in
Luxembourg as a member of ACF Culinary
Certification advice for others?
Certification tests your culinary skill and
knowledge and promotes continuing
education. I would encourage others to
be practical, write down measurable goals
and read them daily. There is a lot to learn,
but no matter what, give 110% and prove
to yourself that anything
is possible. Not only is
personally, but employers
look favorably on certified
chefs who keep up-to-date on the industry. It’s
been a great journey.