When you think of the world of culinary arts and cooking, the word "chef" likely comes to mind. Most people outside of professional kitchens probably imagine that all chefs have the same credentials, and it's only their experience that sets them apart. However, there are tiers to being a culinary professional, and being a certified executive chef is one of the higher ranks.

What Is the American Culinary Federation?

Europe has a long tradition of certifying chefs. They have given the title Master Chef to the very best in the field for centuries. However, the United States has a far shorter tradition of naming and certifying chefs. It was not until 1973 that the ACF, or American Culinary Federation began to offer the opportunity for cooks and chefs in the United States to become certified.

In 1976, being a cook was leveraged from being considered a "domestic occupation" to a professional career. In 1981, the class of Master Chef was established in the U.S. in an attempt to encourage chefs to strive for quality while also helping to raise the images of chefs in the United States, which was not a nation known for its cuisine.

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Today the ACF is still the only organization in the United States that provides certification for professional chefs and culinary professionals. This certification proves that the holder of the certification is qualified with education and experience to meet the needs of professional kitchens and professional food service venues.

What Is a Certified Executive Chef?

A Certified Executive Chef is one of the highest ranks that a culinary professional can attain. In accordance with the American Culinary Federation, the levels of chef certification begin with the lowest level of certification, the CC or Certified Culinarian. This certification indicates that an individual is an entry-level culinary professional within a food service operation.

The next level of certification is the CSC Certified Sous Chef. This designation means that the individual who holds the certification supervises a particular station and has at least two individuals working under him. The next level up from Certified Sous Chef is the CCC, or, Certified Chef de Cuisine. This level of certification indicates that the individual who holds the certificate has jurisdiction over the entire production of food in the kitchen and supervises at least three people.

Next is the CEC the Certified Executive Chef who is usually responsible for overseeing any food service properties or an individual restaurant. After this certification, the only additional certification in this line is the CMC or Certified Master Chef.

Why Become a Certified Executive Chef?

There are a number of reasons why an executive chef might want to become certified. First of all, they desire to have documentation of their education, work experience and mastery of a skill. Second, having a certification can make you more attractive to potential employers.

If you have a lot of work experience, and you have the education necessary to earn a certification, passing the required tests immediately shows potential employers that you have met the necessary qualifications to deserve the position. Certification is also a way to ensure that you are always in compliance with any possible workplace regulations.

What Does Executive Chef Certification Require?

In addition to showing and proving that you have completed the requisite experience and education necessary to be named a Certified Executive Chef, the certification requires the completion of a 30-hour course in sanitation, nutrition and supervisory management.

This course is offered to students who then need to pass an exam before receiving their certification. For employers who are hiring new staff, the certification takes the guesswork out of helping to figure out what kind of experience a culinary professional has had.

About the Author

Ashley Friedman is a freelance writer with experience writing about education for a variety of organizations and educational institutions as well as online media sites. She has written for Pearson Education, The University of Miami, The New York City Teaching Fellows, New Visions for Public Schools, and a number of independent secondary schools. She lives in Los Angeles.