Like many young people looking for work at an early age, I found the hospitality industry. I was from a large
family, and a need for spending money led me to a dishwashing job at a pancake house when I was 12 years old.
Little did I know that this would be the start—though modest—of a career as a certified chef.
I learned the front of the house and prep skills, and finally earned a spot on the cooking line. It wasn’t a
fancy restaurant, but it was extremely busy. As I went through high school and college, I worked in a number of
restaurants, but, like many, thought it was just until I found that other career. After graduate school, I worked
for a few years away from the kitchen, but then I returned to catering and, eventually, became director of
foodservice for a large conference center.
My boss encouraged me to become a certified chef, and that started my ACF journey. I joined ACF St.
Augustine Chapter in 1984 and embraced the path to certification, never dreaming that it would lead to a
successful career. I got my first culinary teaching job, and then, after taking a position in Baltimore, helped to
create a culinary school in Falls Church, Virginia. These career opportunities came along because of my ACF
certifications as a chef and a culinary educator.
After a few years as dean of the school in Falls Church, I returned to teaching in St. Augustine, where I
became director of the Southeast Institute of Culinary Arts. As director of education, I collaborated with the Navy
and the U.S. Department of Defense to provide culinary education for cooks on submarines, surface ships and
shore facilities that would lead to ACF certification. This work has taken me to countries and places I could not
My curriculum development experience helped me to work with several school districts to start high school
culinary programs. Other agencies asked for help, and together we developed culinary training programs for
the homeless, the prison system and recovering drug addicts. This work also brought me into partnership with
the University of Florida and work in agriculture. After six years of value-added product development for the
university’s projects and grants, I became a member of the faculty.
In addition to my faculty position, I continue to build programs and conduct seminars for the military. I
also administer two culinary programs for Stewart-Marchman-Act Behavioral Healthcare, at a prison in Daytona
Beach (Reality House) and Project WARM (Women Assisting Recovering Mothers). We strongly encourage ACF
certification for our clients in these programs and provide them with mandatory educational requirements. At
Reality House, 17 inmates have achieved initial certification, and to my knowledge, this is the only program
helping inmates become certified while incarcerated. On leaving prison, these certified culinarians (CC®) have
been placed in jobs.
I am also statewide coordinator for culinary education for the Florida Farm to School Program, which helps
change what children in school systems are served for school meals. I also teach food preservation classes and
seminars for 4-H, and develop curriculum to provide agricultural education for a number of groups.
What does my future hold? Every day is a gift, and I am always looking for the next opportunity to cook,
teach and lead others to certification. My culinary career would not have happened without ACF certification and
the doors it has opened, and I strive to share this path with others.
My career also would not have been possible without the mentoring and help of many ACF chefs. Walter
Achatz, CEC®, Michael Carter, CCC®, CCE®, Dan Lundberg, CCC®, CCE®, Lou Oaks, Michael Ty, CEC®, AAC®,
Kathy Wiseman, CEC®, John Wright, CEC®, CEPC®, CCE®, AAC®, and others have challenged me, pushed me and
encouraged me throughout my career. Without my ACF mentors, I would not have gotten this far.
From a dishwasher at age 12 to a chef still having fun, this is what ACF certification has done for me.
certification demonstrated proof of learning
of learning . . . . . . . . . . . by DaviD bearl, CCC®, cce®, aac®
DAviD Be ARL iS AN ASSOCiA Te, ReGiONAL AND LOCAL FOOD Sy S Te MS eDUCA TiON, AND CHe F, FAMiLy NU TRi TiON PROGRAM, iNS Ti TU Te OF FOOD AND
AGRiCULTURAL SCieNCeS ex TeNSiON, UNiveRSi Ty OF FLORiDA, GAiNeSviLLe. He iS A MeMBeR OF ACF S T. AUGUS TiNe CHAP TeR.
are you workforce
As shown by David Bearl’s story,
it takes a combination of self-determination and inquisitiveness
to achieve success in the culinary
industry. Trained culinarians are
becoming an even more valuable
commodity in today’s workplace as
employers attempt to keep pace with
the ever-evolving marketplace and
meet society’s needs. What career
path are you on? Where are you
headed? Who can help you achieve
your goals and aspirations? Who can
redirect you, should it be required?
Where do you want to work?
Employers are looking for the David
Bearls of the world who understand
the importance of certification
and know how to lead and mentor.
Here’s what you can do to get
started on your certification journey:
•;Evaluate your education,
experience and skills, and
determine what level of
certification best capitalizes on
your educational background and
•;Proactively target and create
career pathways. Engage
and shadow leaders who are
performing job functions in the
environment you hope to be in
one day. Ask questions about
career opportunities and explore
them with an open mind.
•;Share your knowledge and
expertise. Be a role model.
Discuss best practices and
•;Help support staff, colleagues,
coworkers and students explore
career opportunities available
to them, and encourage them
to explore career pathways they
never dreamed possible.