Stafford DeCambra

By Stafford DeCambra, CEC, CCE, CCA, AAC

This is an exciting time for ACF because we are shaping the future of our organization. I ask for your support as the board of directors continues to execute the mission and ensure that we remain relevant for today’s professionals and for the next generation.

First and foremost, we must continue to retain our core members and serve those who have worked hard to make ACF the industry leader. Then we need to recognize that today’s workforce is far different than it was in 1929 when ACF began—just look at the teams working in your kitchens. We need to welcome everyone from every background. Diversity, inclusion and equality will make ACF a stronger organization.

Recruitment needs to be an ongoing priority to grow our numbers. I challenge each of you to ask your colleagues and professional contacts to join ACF. The No. 1 reason individuals cite for not joining is, “Nobody asked me.” Well, it’s up to us to do the asking—our future depends on it.

In addition, we need to improve the value of ACF membership by providing those benefits that are most important to you. In a recent membership survey, 69% of respondents rated the overall value of membership as good or excellent. But we continually want to improve. We are making changes to existing programs based on member input. As we plan for the future, we are using your comments to direct the development of new programs and initiatives.

We are actively recruiting 18- to 25-year-olds to expand the Young Chefs Club, a virtual community to share experiences and ideas and offer encouragement in educational and career pursuits. Please encourage young chefs. Invite them to your chapter meetings, and tell them about the Young Chefs Club so they can connect with their peers. Hire these young people in your organizations, teach them and help pay their dues. Invite them to attend ACF events with you. Be a mentor. I’m excited, because these young people will challenge our thinking and teach us new skills.

We need to focus on communicating with key target audiences beyond our membership—culinary professionals, industry operators and employers—as well as strengthening our partnerships with educational institutions. We continue to work closely with the U.S. Department of Labor to establish and update culinary apprenticeship standards. And I’m pleased to announce that Hershey Entertainment & Resorts, Hershey, Pennsylvania, is our newest apprenticeship partner.

ACF recently held a Certified Master Chef® exam at Schoolcraft College, Livonia, Michigan. Congratulations to the three chefs who earned this highest level of professional certification: Gerald Ford, CMC®, Joseph Leonardi, CMC®, and Shawn Loving, CMC®. I would like to congratulate all 10 candidates who took the exam. In addition to the three new CMCs, two candidates, Kevin Storm and Arnaud Berthelier, will retest sections of the exam in early 2018. ACF Michigan Chefs de Cuisine Association played a pivotal role in making the exam a success, along with the ACF Certification Commission and students and staff at Schoolcraft College. I look forward to developments underway in the CMC® exam process and the certification ladder as the commission works to keep it relevant to today’s market.

Our 2018 regional conferences, ChefConnect: Charlotte and ChefConnect: Newport Beach, will be held Feb. 25-27 and March 18-20, respectively. Cook. Craft. Create. ACF National Convention & Show takes place July 15-19 in New Orleans. Don’t miss this opportunity to network with your peers, industry leaders, suppliers and employers. We’re offering flexible options for registration and meals to better meet members’ needs.

Many of you continue to be involved in community outreach efforts, including the recent Childhood Nutrition Day when chapters and individuals held events. Eighteen grants were awarded to ACF chefs and chapters, and events served more than 2,800 students in 13 states and Guam. And you have helped your fellow members, as well as schools and students, affected by hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria and Nate in the Central and Southeast regions. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all who are struggling to recover from such devastating losses. I’m grateful that we’ve been able to help through the ACFEF Disaster Relief Fund.

The board of directors and national office staff are currently drafting a strategic plan to provide a blueprint and action plan for the future. Our regional vice presidents are our grassroots ambassadors. They are available to provide strategic counsel and support for chapters to help build membership, as well as to provide guidance for programs and activities.

The board of directors will continue to demonstrate “The Standard of Excellence” in everything we do to serve you. My goal is to create an open and honest environment where we can have candid conversations and share our input to make ACF better. I look forward to speaking with each of you and building the future of ACF together. As you know, my personal pledge and commitment is to leave things better than I found them.

Mele Kalikimaka me ka Hau'oli Makahiki Hou. Happy holidays—be safe, stay strong and stay healthy. And remember to live, love and share aloha.

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