President’s message by Stafford DeCambra, CEC, CCE, CCA, AAC
Aloha, friends! The 2018 Winter
Olympics in South Korea last month got
me thinking about competition in general
and culinary competition in particular.
Competitors of all kinds and in various
disciplines have this in common: first,
a will to win, followed by a recognition
of what a privilege it is to be in the
competition arena. They are dedicated,
passionate and enormously skillful.
Competitors are tenacious, performing
the same tasks over and over again in
the pursuit of perfection. Finally, and
perhaps most importantly, they have
an overwhelming desire to produce the
performance of a lifetime.
I have competed for much of my
culinary career, and although I shared that
hunger to win, I discovered that the most
valuable prize was an education. I think
every competitor agrees that the judges’
critiques, where you learn your strong
and weak points and, most importantly,
how you can improve, is priceless. Judges
are seasoned industry professionals who
volunteer their time to help the next
generations of culinarians perfect their
craft—what an incredible gift.
Although some think that you must
be at a certain stage in your career to start
competing—established in a good position
with a high skill level and enough time,
flexibility and funds—that simply isn’t
true. I’ve heard countless stories from
those who ended up representing ACF
or the U.S. in international competition
who began competing because of an
instructor’s encouragement while still
in school. Yes, it means juggling school
work, practices and, often, a job, but
think of the rewards. The success of any
team or individual competitor depends on
instructors, coaches and advisors, so if you
are one, please know that you are playing
a vital part in someone’s life.
There are many opportunities to
compete within ACF—just look at
the competitions taking place this
month and next listed on the website.
Our chapters are heavily involved
in competition and chapter members
willingly volunteer their time. Older
members remember the people who
helped them get started, and younger
ones know they are investing in the
future. Competition judges take the task
seriously, knowing that their careful
critiques will help competitors improve
their skills. As a judge, I have found
extreme satisfaction in helping the next
generation of competitors succeed.
ACF regional culinary salons have
been taking place since January, and we
honored the Northeast and Southeast
winners for Chef of the Year, Pastry Chef
of the Year, Student Chef of the Year and
Student Team National Championship
at Chef Connect: Charlotte in February.
We’ll honor Central and Western winners
at Chef Connect: Newport Beach later this
month. The winners of all four regions
will compete for national awards at Cook.
Craft.Create. ACF National Convention
& Show in July in New Orleans. Win
or lose, all the competitors deserve our
admiration for the time and effort they
expend in preparation. And I guarantee
they’ll agree it was worth the effort.
Also this month, March 8-16,
branches of the U.S. military compete
in the 43rd Annual Joint Culinary
Training Exercise at Fort Lee, Virginia.
And, members of the 2020 ACF
Culinary Team USA national team
are hard at work practicing for the
Internationale Kochkunst Ausstellung
(IKA) in Stuttgart, Germany, Feb. 14-
19, 2020 (note change of venue and
date). I’ve been fortunate to compete
at the IKA many times, and I look
forward to witnessing ACF Culinary
Team USA do so in Stuttgart. To see
teams and individuals competing on the
international stage is awe-inspiring, and
we should be proud to have these chefs
representing our craft and our industry.
They are dedicated, disciplined to the
extreme, driven and persevere even
in the face of setbacks. They learned
many of those attributes from their ACF
colleagues—teachers, coaches, mentors,
advisors and competition judges.
I enjoy judging culinary competitions
and feel privileged to be asked to do so.
It’s humbling to see competitors give
their all as they pursue perfection. They
have endured time away from loved ones,
sleep deprivation and many lonely hours
in the kitchen—not to mention spending
their own money—to reach their goals.
They are to be admired, wherever they
are on the competition journey.
Please join your colleagues at Chef
Connect: Newport Beach, March 18-20,
and Cook.Craft.Create. ACF National
Convention & Show, July 15-19, in New
Orleans, to enjoy the competitions. See
you there. Aloha!
in Pursuit of Perfection
CON TAC T S TAFFORD DECAMBRA A T SDECAMBRA@ACFCHEFS.NET