ACF Culinary Team USA

Stafford DeCambra

By Stafford DeCambra, CEC, CCE, CCA, AAC

Right now, ACF Culinary Team USA is beginning its final preparations to compete in the Internationale Kochkunst Ausstellung (IKA), the oldest, largest and most diverse international culinary arts competition in the world. On February 14-19, chefs from around the world will arrive in Stuttgart, Germany with all eyes on them.

They are ready. They have practiced these recipes dozens - hundreds - of times. Their hands are steady. Their minds are focused. And they will create something monumental.

Stepping into that kitchen will be one of the most important moments of these chefs’ lives. It will also be one of the most intimidating. I know because I’ve been there.

Throughout my career, I competed whenever I could. I always had the support of the ACF behind me. My fellow members encouraged me, taught me what they knew and cheered for me - from behind the glass and from afar. I continue to see that level of enthusiasm now as I travel the world as a culinary competition judge.

Decades ago, groups of ACF chefs would travel together to cheer on our team at IKA. I hope to see you there, waving an American flag in the crowd. If you can’t make it, I hope you’ll be watching ACF’s social media and blog feeds to keep up with the latest. Share the news of the men and women of ACF Culinary Team USA with your colleagues as you would of the teams who throw javelins and ride bobsleds in that "other" Olympics.

After these "Culinary Olympics" are over, the team will turn its attention to the next big competition and we must keep that enthusiasm alive. It’s my hope that, when IKA 2020 ends, we continue to support our team, as well as the broader team of the ACF. Let’s offer the same level of support to chefs who are not necessarily earning gold medals on the world stage. The line cook who is pulling a double shift to make ends meet. The chef who has mentored 30 apprentices in his or her career. The culinary educator who signs up his or her students for ACF membership and always has time to demonstrate that pan flip just once more. These culinarians are just as worthy of our devotion.

I have no doubts that ACF Culinary Team USA will represent us well in Stuttgart. I know the ohana of the ACF will also make us proud in 2020—and for years to come.

Stafford T. DeCambra, CEC, CCE, CCA, AAC
National President
American Culinary Federation

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