PROUD ACF MEMBER ON A QUEST FOR CEC®
BY JASON ZIOBROWSKI, CEC®
Who knew that in 1991 I would
attend Suffolk County Community
College’s Eastern campus in
Riverhead, N. Y., and fall in love
with the stainless steel kitchen
environment? I was infatuated with the
sights, sounds and smells of creating
dishes for others’ enjoyment. As a
student, I was aware of the American
Culinary Federation (ACF), but I
didn’t have an interest in it or see
great value in joining at that time.
I soon transferred my membership and
joined the Charlotte chapter, which has a
rich history and robust membership. The
meetings were inspirational, and they
opened my eyes to Charlotte’s culinary
landscape. I always looked forward to
attending the second-Monday-of-the-month meetings around town.
Fast forward to 2003. Armed with an
associate degree in hotel and restaurant
management and a bachelor’s degree
in culinary arts, I began working
for Schwan’s Food Service, Inc.,
headquartered in Marshall, Minn. It was
there that culinary director Annette Hinton
promoted ACF membership and the value
of belonging to the organization. Soon
after, an ACF chapter was established in
rural southwest Minnesota, and I proudly
served as the chapter’s first vice president.
In late 2007, I received a phone call
from a chef friend who had presented
the educational component at one
of the Minnesota chapter meetings.
Michael Holleman remembered me
from years past and offered me a job
with Indian Harvest as corporate chef
for the East Coast. At the 2009 ACF
National Convention in Orlando, Fla.,
I attended the certification session,
which outlined the newly revised
Certified Executive Chef® (CEC®)
written exam. Chef Mike prodded me
to go for my CEC®.
I passed the practical portion of my
CEC® certification Oct. 12, 2009. The
practical rocked; the written not so much.
I despise written tests, always have
always will. So I continued to study and
made another attempt, with no success.
Honestly, I would rather do the practical
blindfolded with one hand tied behind
my back than take the written exam. But
I was determined not to give up. With
my nose to the grindstone, I studied more
and registered for the exam—again. This
time, I was successful.
My quest for certification not only
helped me to define who I am as a
chef, it has given me the opportunity
to network with and learn from chefs,
farmers, students and purveyors all
across the country. These relationships
and experiences will remain with me as
I continue to grow in my career as an
ACF Certified Executive Chef®.
The process of building our community
of chefs, cooks, students, hospitality
individuals and local purveyors was
amazing. We were a family that met
once a month. We worked together and
celebrated each other’s individuality.
Our meetings were enlightening, and
they empowered each of us to excel
and do what we do best: cook, teach
and gab about food.
JASON ZIOBROWSKI, CEC®, LIVES IN CHARLO T TE, N. C. HE IS EAS TERN REGION CORPORATE CHEF FOR INDIAN HARVES T, BEMIDJI, MINN.
Aug. 25, 2009, I learned the results of my
CEC® written exam. A passing score was
300; mine was 267. I had failed.
In 2006, my wife landed a job in
Charlotte, N.C. Relocated and jobless,
I reached out to ACF Inc. Charlotte
Chapter. I networked with members
such as Douglas Allen, who offered
his time, showed me around and even
lined up a few interviews for me.
This was the beginning of my whirlwind
quest for certification. My friends and
peers in the Charlotte chapter encouraged
me, reminding me that certification
would help me grow as a chef and
distinguish me as a professionally trained
chef in the industry. Taking their advice,
I was spurred on, cracking open old
college textbooks and studying for the
practical exam and that dreaded written
exam. At one of my practice sessions, a
colleague, Christopher Dwyer, CEC®,
CCA®, AAC, chewed me out for having
a complicated menu. “There are way too
many ingredients and components,” he
said. I quickly learned that less is more.