Why Certification Matters?
With thousands of chefs competing in the job market, it is essential to prove your culinary competency. Certification through the American Culinary Federation demonstrates skill, knowledge and professionalism to the food service industry. ACF’s Professional Certification Program: learn the difference between an assessment-based certificate program, certificates of attendance, and a professional certification programs. Resource provided by ICE
What ACF certification means to an employer
- Your skills and culinary expertise have reached a set benchmark
- You are well versed in culinary nutrition and food safety and sanitation
- You understand the responsibilities of culinary supervisory management
- You recognize the importance of high standards for food preparation
- You take charge of your professional development and career
Did you know that certified executive chefs (CEC) earn more than the average professional chef? Use our salary calculator to predict your potential annual salary with a CEC certification. Find out how much you could be earning.
Understanding the Certification Process
Initial Pre-Approval Application
Submit application and documentation of requirements to ACF for approval by:
E-mail (preferred): firstname.lastname@example.org
Fax: (904) 940-0742
Mail to: American Culinary Federation, Inc.
180 Center Place Way
St. Augustine, FL 32095
Once the candidate’s application is approved he or she will be eligible to take the written and practical exams. Only after approval may a candidate register for the written or practical exam.
The purpose of the certification examinations is to assess and objectively measure the knowledge and skills of a candidate to determine if they meet ACF standards.
Important notice: The ACF certification written exams are now available through the ACF Online Learning Center and can no longer be scheduled with PSI. The CFC/CFPC exams will continue to be scheduled through NOCTI.
Once the applicant has been pre-approved for ACF certification, they will need to identify a proctor and submit the proctor form.
Please contact the ACF certification team at email@example.com if you need help finding a proctor. Examples of proctors include: school administrator, HR manager, ACF chapter officer, local librarian.
The ACF certification team will send the proctor additional forms to complete. Once verified, the proctor will receive the PIN to release the exam and the applicant can schedule a time and location with the proctor to take the exam.
The applicant can re-test after 14 days should he or she not pass the first time.
The proctor must be a “disinterested third party” with no direct family relationship to the applicant.
- Confirm the applicant’s identity by using a photo identification such as a driver’s license.
- Ensure the applicant does not receive any outside assistance while taking the exam. This includes course materials, help from other persons, prepared notes, and access to other websites. Cell phones must be checked and turned completely off. The student may use a non-programmable calculator.
- Remain in the presence of the applicant from the time the applicant starts the exam to the time he or she finishes, or until the end of the maximum time allowed for the test, whichever comes first.
There are no location requirements, however, the applicant will need to have access to:
- High-speed internet connection
- Internet browser, Chrome recommended
- Desktop, laptop or tablet PC recommended, available on mobile device
Accessing the ACF Online Learning Center
The applicant can access the ACF Online Learning Center at www.acfchefs.org/OLC.
ACF members must log in to their ACF account to access the Online Learning Center. Nonmembers will need to create an ACF online account first. This online account does not include benefits associated with ACF membership.
The exam will be accessible from the home screen or in the Learning Center.
When the candidate is ready to take the exam, they should select the option to start the course. The proctor will be asked to enter the PIN. Then the candidate can start the exam. Candidates will be notified immediately of their scores.
ACF Certification Team
Complete the form
For Special Accommodations, you must complete the Request for Special Accommodations Form and submit with appropriate documentation. Please allow 45 days for review and approval. Submission does not constitute approval.
Recommended Study Materials
The ACF Education Foundation offers certification training courses and practice certification exams on eCulinary. Courses contain study materials in all major subjects related to the ACF certification exams, including sanitation, nutrition, and supervisory management.
The following books are suggested in preparation for the written and practical exams:
- Culinary Fundamentals, ACF: Prentice Hall BUY
- Baking Fundamentals, ACF: Prentice Hall BUY
- Supervision in the Hospitality Industry: Applied Human Resources, 5th Ed., Miller, Walker, Drummond: John Wiley & Sons BUY
- Nutrition for Foodservice and Culinary Professionals, 6th Ed., Drummond, Brefere: John Wiley & Sons BUY
- Food Safety Fundamentals: Essentials of Food Safety & Sanitation, McSwane, Rue, Linton, Williams: Prentice Hall BUY
- The Professional Pastry Chef: Fundamentals of Baking Pastry, 4th Ed., Friberg: John Wiley & Sons BUY
- Escoffier: The Complete Guide to the Art of Modern Cookery, John Wiley & Sons BUY
All levels of ACF certification require candidates to be tested for practical skill proficiency. The CC practical exam is two and half hours and can be taken at any ACF approved test site. A score of 75% or higher is required to pass. Practical exam scores are valid for one year.
- To help you prepare for the Practical Exam, review the Practical Exam Candidate Manual.
Upon successful completion of the written and practical exams, the candidate should submit final application along with appropriate documentation: written and practical exam passing forms and remaining certification fee. Make sure all back-up documentation, copies only (no originals) are included.
Certified Culinarian® (CC®): An entry level culinarian within a commercial foodservice operation responsible for preparing and cooking sauces, cold food, fish, soups and stocks, meats, vegetables, eggs and other food items.
Certified Sous Chef® (CSC®): A chef who supervises a shift or station(s) in a foodservice operation. Equivalent job titles are sous chef, banquet chef, garde manger, first cook, a.m. sous chef and p.m. sous chef.
Certified Chef de Cuisine® (CCC®): A chef who is the supervisor in charge of food production in a foodservice operation. This could be a single unit of a multi-unit operation or a free-standing operation. He or she is in essence the chef of the operation with the final decision-making power as it relates to culinary operations.
Certified Executive Chef® (CEC®): A chef who is the department head usually responsible for all culinary units in a restaurant, hotel, club, hospital or foodservice establishment. In addition to culinary responsibilities, other duties include budget preparation, payroll, maintenance, controlling food costs and maintaining financial and inventory records.
Certified Master Chef® (CMC®): The consummate chef. A CMC® possesses the highest degree of professional culinary knowledge, skill and mastery of cooking techniques. A separate application is required, in addition to successfully completing an eight-day testing process judged by peers. Certification as a CEC® or CEPC® is a prerequisite.
Personal Cooking Professionals
Personal Certified Chef™ (PCC™): A chef who is engaged in the preparation, cooking and serving of foods on a “cook-for-hire” basis. Must also have knowledge of menu planning, marketing, financial management and operational decision making. Has at least three years of cooking experience and one full year of Personal Chef experience.
Personal Certified Executive Chef™ (PCEC™): An advanced chef who is engaged in the preparation, cooking and serving of foods on a “cook-for-hire” basis. Must also have knowledge of menu planning, marketing, financial management and operational decision making. Has at least three years of Personal Chef experience.
Baking and Pastry Professionals
Certified Pastry Culinarian® (CPC®): An entry level culinarian within a pastry foodservice operation responsible for the preparation and production of pies, cookies, cakes, breads, rolls, desserts or other baked goods.
Certified Working Pastry Chef® (CWPC®): A pastry chef who supervises a pastry section or a shift within a foodservice operation and has considerable responsibility for preparation and production of all pastry items.
Certified Executive Pastry Chef® (CEPC®): A pastry chef who is a department head, usually responsible to the executive chef of a food operation or to the management of a pastry specialty firm. A CEPC® has supervisory responsibility as well as administrative duties.
Certified Master Pastry Chef® (CMPC®): A CMPC® possesses the highest degree of professional knowledge, skill and mastery of cooking techniques as they apply to baking and pastry. A separate application is required, in addition to successfully completing an 8-day testing process judged by peers. Certification as a CEC® or CEPC® is a prerequisite.
Certified Culinary Administrator® (CCA®): This is an executive-level chef who is responsible for the administrative functions of running a professional foodservice operation. This culinary professional must demonstrate proficiency in culinary knowledge, human resources, operational management and business planning skills.
Certified Secondary Culinary Educator® (CSCE®): An advanced-degree culinary professional who is working as an educator at an accredited secondary or vocational institution. A CSCE® is responsible for the development, implementation, administration, evaluation and maintenance of a culinary arts or foodservice management curriculum. In addition, a CSCE® demonstrates the culinary competencies of a CCC® or CWPC® during a Practical Exam.
Certified Culinary Educator® (CCE®): An advanced-degree culinary professional, with industry experience, who is working as an educator in an accredited postsecondary institution or military training facility. A CCE® is responsible for the development, implementation, administration, evaluation and maintenance of a culinary arts or foodservice management curriculum. In addition, a CCE® demonstrates the culinary competencies of a CCC® or CWPC® during a Practical Exam.
ACF Certification Approval Process
The ACF certification process is as easy as 1, 2, 3 and 4 using a two-step application process.
Step 1: Determine Eligibility
Eligibility is based on a chef’s work experience and educational background. Review the certification levels available and the specific requirements.
Documentation of Education
- A candidate can take a variety of educational paths to meet the education requirement. Hours earned for mandatory courses and/or refreshers can be counted towards hours required for continuing education (CEHs).
Completion of Mandatory Education Courses.
- Candidates should provide documentation of three 30-hour courses—one in Nutrition, one in Food Safety and Sanitation, and one in Supervisory Management. (ServSafe must be a documented 30-hour course to fulfill the mandatory requirement.)
- If these courses were taken more than five years ago, an 8-hour refresher course is required in each topic. These courses are available through ACF approved providers or any academic institution. (ServSafe 8- or 16-hour courses are only counted as a refresher.)
Documentation of Work History.
- A candidate’s eligible work history is limited to the past 10 years.
Step 2: Complete the Initial Application
Complete the initial application and include all the necessary documentation.
- Educational documents may be copies of diplomas, transcripts, certificates of completion (including date and hours), etc.
- Experience documentation may be employment documentation forms or letters from past or present employers on company letterhead. If not available, copies of tax records or W-2 stating time frame of work are acceptable in conjunction with validated letters from former culinary peers attesting to your employment, job title, duties and number of employees managed.
- Mandatory education course certificates and/or transcripts should be included in application. These should include course title, completion date and number of hours earned.
- Certificates of completion for 30-hour courses and refreshers if applicable:
- Food Safety and Sanitation
- Culinary Supervisory Management
- Certificates of completion for 30-hour courses and refreshers if applicable:
Submit application and documentation of completed requirements to ACF for pre-approval. Make sure everything is attached, copies only (no originals), and your payment information is included. Applications can be faxed, scanned or mailed.
Initial Pre-Approval Fee and Final Application Fee
Candidates interested in obtaining certification will pay a $50.00 non refundable pre-approval application fee, submitted with the initial application. This fee is credited to the certification fee depending on member and non-member rate. The remaining funds are due at time of final application.
ACF Will Notify Candidates of Eligibility
The ACF Certification Department will review applications and documentation (i.e., dates of completion, work history and mandatory course work). You will be notified initial application is in review and again upon approval. Once the candidate’s initial application has been approved he or she will be eligible to take the written and practical exams. Testing documentation will be needed for final certification approval. Only after pre-approval may a candidate register for the written or practical exam.
Step 3: Certification Examinations
There are two exams required for certification.
- The written exam tests culinary knowledge.
- The practical exam evaluates skill and culinary proficiency.
Step 4: Final Application
Upon successful completion of the written and practical exams, the candidate should submit final application along with appropriate documentation: written and practical exam passing forms and remaining certification fee. Make sure copies of all back-up documentation, (no originals) are included.
Reminder: Mandatory education courses must be current at time of final application; if not, a refresher course may be required before certification is finalized and approved (i.e., Nutrition, Sanitation and Safety, and Supervisory Management).
Final Approval and Official Announcement of Certification
The ACF Certification Department will review final application, exam documentation and will notify candidates of approval (please allow 2–3 weeks for processing). You will be notified by email that final application is in review. Once certification is approved your certificate and certification letter will be mailed.
For more information, call us at (800) 624-9458 or contact us here.
For certification resources, applications or handbooks.