ACF Competitions 2020: New Format

In 2019, the American Culinary Federation introduced new policies and procedures for both regional and national culinary competitions. While the primary goal is to provide a rigorous process to evaluate the culinary skills of individual and team competitors, a secondary goal is to ensure that the competitions are accessible to all chefs who are qualified to compete.

In 2020, these new guidelines will ensure that the ACF national competitions are transparent, accessible, affordable and, most importantly, fair.

What are the biggest changes?

All regional competitions will take place at ACF’s National Convention on July 19 - 23, 2020, in Dallas, Texas. Each region will be assigned one day during which the competitors from that region will all compete. At the end of the day, the highest-scoring competitor from each category will be announced as regional winners. After all four regions have competed, point totals will be tallied and the competitors and teams with the highest overall score will be our national winners, announced at the President’s Gala on Thursday night.

What are the benefits of new competition format?

The ability to plan in advance to compete one time in one location is a significant benefit to competitors who must allocate time, resources and funds in order to participate. In addition, the new format creates a national platform that allows ACF members, media and the culinary community to engage with competitions in real time via social media and on-site in Dallas.

  • Cook Once, Travel Once

    One of the main goals of updating ACF competitions is to address a common concern: the costs associated with competing. With the new format, individuals and teams must only travel once and cook once — in Dallas, at the ACF National Convention. Competitors will no longer need to compete both regionally and at the nationals.

  • Plan in Advance

    Competitors will know in advance when and where they will be competing which allows for strategic planning for practices, travel and the associated time required to compete. In addition, advance planning affords competitors a better opportunity to secure funding, including from potential sponsors.

  • Same Kitchens, Same Judges

    In 2020, the ACF will showcase 10 brand new competition kitchens in Dallas at the National Convention. The kitchens are generously supplied by our national sponsor, Southbend, and will allow competing chefs to cook with state-of-the-art equipment, all of them exactly alike.

    In addition, the same judges will evaluate chefs from the Northeast, Southeast, Central and Western regions, bringing a level of consistency that is critical to fair and unbiased competitions.

  • Affordable and Accessible

    By removing the requirement to compete both regionally and nationally, the ACF is working to ensure that the competitions are accessible to all chefs, from small schools to large culinary institutions, from the corporate chef to the individual chef, from students to CMCs.

What is the same?

The Student Team State Competitions will remain the same. All state competitions must be completed by March 1. Refer to your Competition Manual for more information about Student Team State Competitions.

What does it cost to compete?

A $150 application fee per individual competitor applies. Applicants who do not advance to the national convention will be refunded $125, with $25 allocated for administrative costs.

The Student Team Intent to Compete application fee is $100 per team. This fee includes state competition application fees.

The Student Teams that advance from their state competition or as single team will submit a regional Intent to Compete application and a $1,250 application fee. This regional application is due by May 1.

All competitors are required to pay for their own travel and accommodations as well as any product that will be used in their competition.

What does my application fee include?

Individual chefs who compete will receive the following (Total value over $700):

  • One (1) Ticket to the ACF Welcome Reception
  • One (1) Education Badge and CEHs for the entire convention
  • One (1) Ticket to the President’s Gala

Student Teams will receive six of each of the above items for five competitors and one coach.

When are the applications due?

In order to compete at ACF National Convention in July, all individual competitor applications and fees must be submitted by November 1.

Student Teams will be notified by December 1 if a state competition will be required. All state competitions must be completed by March 1.

When will applicants be notified if they advance to compete?

All applications will be reviewed by a competitions and awards task force. Upon review, up to four candidates per region will be chosen to compete on designated regional days during the ACF National Convention. Task force decisions are final per terms and conditions.

Individual Competitors will be notified of their advancement by January 2020.

Why has the ACF changed the competition format?

While many longtime members of the ACF have enjoyed the past format of competitions, it became increasingly clear that a large number of potential competitors could not afford the costs associated with competition at both regional and national levels. In addition, some regions and states hosted widely-supported competitions with high caliber coaching, premium kitchen equipment and sponsors while other regions were not as fortunate. The net result has been fewer competitors, competitions that did not meet ACF standards and a diminishing of our prestigious brand.

By moving to a 4-day competition, every region will be showcased, with one full day of competition and an opportunity to take home the national award during the ACF President’s Gala. In addition, fellow ACF chefs, convention attendees, friends, family, media and the ACF’s social media following will be able to support the competitors on site, creating an event that will be of national interest and engage the culinary community beyond the ACF.