The foodservice industry is served by a plethora of associations, which cover virtually every aspect of the business. In recent years, many of these groups have been challenged by the sputtering economy, but so far have weathered the storm. At a time when operators and suppliers need innovative ideas more than ever, these powerhouse organizations are making a difference.
American Culinary Federation (ACF)
Since its 1929 inception, the American Culinary Federation, a professional organization for chefs and cooks, has been promoting the image of American chefs worldwide by educating culinarians at all levels.
ACF is the largest professional chefs organization in North America and boasts upward of 20,000 members in more than 225 chapters in four regions across the United States. In addition to chefs and cooks, members include culinary educators, culinary students, foodservice representatives and food enthusiasts.
The organization, which offers culinary competitions, U.S. government-approved
certification, a national apprenticeship program, regional and national events as well as publications, helps to foster the growth of professional chefs in the foodservice industry.
Bert Cutino, co-owner and COO of the Sardine Factory in Monterey, Calif., has been a member since 1972 and also was the chairman of the organization’s honor society, the American Academy of Chefs, for four years.
“What has been great about the organization is that I didn’t go to a culinary school, but I felt it was important to learn the back of the house as well as the front of the house. Because of the ACF, I was able to go through an apprentice program that lasted three years,” Cutino says.
“Everything I learned over the years at the conferences I have been able to bring back to the restaurants, whether it’s nutrition, sanitation, gluten-free, or so many other topics. We have educational classes from the apprentice level to the master chef level. It is really rewarding, and it has helped my career tremendously.”
Christopher Tanner, who is a culinary instructor at Schenectady County Community College and also president of the American Culinary Federation Capital District-Central New York, agrees.
“Certification has opened many doors to jobs I have achieved, including my current position,” Tanner says.
“Mentors are always incredibly important in one's career, and many of my mentors came directly from my years of interaction with the ACF with a multitude of some of the best chefs in the country. How can one not take advantage of that situation?”
Membership costs range from $80 for a student to $270 a year for an associate member. Other categories of membership include allied member ($200), enthusiast ($125), junior culinarian ($65), professional ($230), and culinarian ($100).
ACF is also home to ACF Culinary Team USA, the official representative in major international culinary competitions, and to the Chef & Child Foundation, which was started in 1989 to promote proper nutrition in children and combat childhood obesity.