By Kimberly Brock Brown, CEPC, CCA, AAC
Convention, convention, convention!
We are so close to the big event in one of my favorite cities of all time. I can’t wait to reconnect with longtime friends and meet new ones, as always. The ACF national office staffers have outdone themselves yet again with an incredible lineup of speakers from New Orleans and beyond, all converging in the Big Easy to showcase their craft and share their knowledge. Many of the speakers at convention are featured in the pages of this issue. I’m also super excited for our competitions following our first-ever National Qualifier Competitions drawing out the best of the best in our industry.
This convention will be a bit bittersweet for me as it’s my last as ACF national president this term. While we will be inducting the new board during the President’s Gala on the last night of convention, I look forward to remaining engaged and on the board as immediate past president and chair of the foundation.
I’m proud of the work we’ve done over the past two years to build back our membership and revenues after a devastating global pandemic. The good news is, in the 2022 ACF Annual Report to be shared with members ahead of convention, and which will serve as the basis for my State of the ACF speech that I plan to present during the Board of Governors meeting in July, all of our numbers in every department have gone up compared to last year and even the year before. Thanks to many new property memberships, an increase in chapter compliance and a growth in both professional and junior memberships, we’re seeing membership stabilize for the first time in three years. Our social media numbers have skyrocketed, which helps us with brand awareness in the public eye. Sponsorship numbers have returned to pre-pandemic levels—and that helps us give back to you all. Still, we have work to do.
I’m most inspired by the many students and emerging professionals who have reached out to me and said that it’s been great to see a woman, person of color and pastry chef as their president—that it gives them encouragement and inspiration that in the largest organization of professional culinarians, anything is possible and that representation does truly matter. We have a ton of newer members volunteering in NOLA this year, and that shows a level of engagement that we haven’t seen in quite a few years. Now that the metaphorical glass ceiling has been broken, I hope I’m not the last woman or chef of color to serve in ACF leadership. My charge to you is to stay engaged, step up to the plate and don’t be afraid to aim for the top, where changes and improvements can be made.
In an industry where all of our voices are so needed, use your voice to keep the network, the mission, the representation alive and thriving. We’ve come a long way; let’s keep growing for the future of our federation. Ninety-four years is a legacy to be celebrated; let’s keep the progress of diversity, equity and inclusion going for the growth and betterment of our federation. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to be of service to this federation that has served me so well in my 41 years of membership!
Kimberly Brock Brown, CEPC, CCA, AAC
National President, American Culinary Federation
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