The Certified Master Chef status is the highest and most demanding level of certification offered by the American Culinary Federation.
A Certified Master Chef, often referred to as a “CMC,” is a level of certification offered by the American Culinary Federation (ACF). CMC designation is the highest level of certification a chef can achieve.
In order to earn CMC designation, qualifying chefs will have already earned their CEC (Certified Executive Chef) or CEPC (Certified Executive Pastry Chef) credentials, in addition to successfully completing an eight-day practical exam.
To qualify as a candidate for the CMC exam, CECs and CEPCs will have completed mandatory course requirements. Course requirements consist of 30-hours each of the following: wine, human resources management, advanced sanitation, and cost control management courses.
As part of the application process, qualified candidates must provide a letter of financial support as well as a letter of support from a current CMC. A letter of financial support will show secured funding to cover expenses including the application fee, exam fees, travel and housing costs, and an estimated cost of food for the exam; currently estimated costs total $6,000.00.
Club chefs may receive financial support from their clubs to pursue CMC certification. Many clubs will invest in the certification process for their chefs which in turn creates a powerful marketing tool for the club to attract and maintain healthy membership levels.
The CMC exam tests eight different competencies. Candidates will perform each day’s competencies under the watchful eyes of current CMC evaluators as they score and judge each candidate’s performance. In order to continue on to the next day of testing, candidates must score a required minimum for each day’s competency.
The eight competencies tested include healthy cooking, buffet catering part I and part II (testing a mastery of garde manger skills), classical cuisine, and freestyle cuisine which allows candidates to showcase their own culinary style. Additionally, global cuisine will test the candidate’s ability to cook the chosen global entrees selected by the lead evaluator for the exam. The last three competencies include baking and pastry followed by the European and market basket final exam.
Qualified candidates will typically spend anywhere between 2-5 years training and perfecting their skills to take the exam, Club chefs interested in taking the exam have the opportunity to train on the job. Most club culinary programs include a vast array of cuisine, from fine dining to casual pub fare to theme nights in which global fare is featured. Club chefs are able to incorporate the skills specific to the exam competencies in their normal day to day operations.
Said to be the most rigorous exams a chef can endure, the CMC exam tests mental, emotional and physical endurance and immerses chefs in an extremely stressful environment while displaying the highest level of professionalism and skill. Currently, only 72 chefs have successfully passed the CMC exam with 67 currently certified in the United States.