Experience the Power of Connection:  ACF Events Series 2012 ACF National Convention

Experience the Power of Connection that took place at the 2012 American Culinary Federation (ACF) National Convention in Orlando, Fla., July 14–17, with our daily updates and videos highlighting all the activities, from educational seminars and culinary competitions to the two-day trade show.

Tuesday, July 17

The 2012 ACF National Convention came to a close with a full day of seminars and demos. ACF welcomed Rick Moonen to help us launch an important chefs’ initiative, “Feed the Planet.” In the evening, all 2012 award winners were announced at the President’s Grand Ball.

Earlier in the day, attendees explored emerging flavors through an interactive session about the miracle berry and then during Flavor Forecast 2012. Later, chefs attended a variety of demos, from original chocolate candy creations by 2011 National Pastry Champion Joshua Johnson, to translating Mediterranean concepts that appeal to American palates, to trends in specialty foods. Andy Bacigalupo talked about the no-salt recipes that saved his life, which were recently featured on NBC’s The Dr. Oz Show and The Cooking Channel’s “From the Kitchens of Hidden Valley Ranch.”

ACF adopted the “Feed the Planet” declaration established by the World Association of Chefs Societies and the city of Daejeon, South Korea, and joined in the worldwide chefs’ initiative during a special afternoon session led by Rick Moonen, an early proponent of sustainability. He inspired chefs with his presentation, “How to Feed the Planet,“ in which he discussed the chef’s role and a strategy to create a more sustainable future.

Chefs continued to attend the remaining seminars and demos before the much-anticipated President’s Grand Ball. At last, the wait was finally over for anxious competitors, as convention attendees gathered for the formal dinner awards ceremony. See who took home top honors. After the ball, chefs celebrated the end of another successful national convention. Next year, ACF is heading west for the 2013 ACF National Convention at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, July 21–25, 2013.

Monday, July 16

Paul Prudhomme inspires chefs with stories from his career
Paul Prudhomme, HAAC, HHOF, inspires chefs with stories from his career.

It was another exciting day, as the convention continued with more demonstrations, an inspirational presentation by culinary legend Paul Prudhomme, HAAC, HHOF, the conclusion of the competitions and the trade show.

The day kicked off with an educational demonstration, “World Flavors and Your Menu,” which focused on Caribbean cuisine from Puerto Rico, Trinidad, Tobago and Jamaica. Later, at the second General Session, ACF National President Michael Ty, CEC, AAC, and Canadian Culinary Federation President Donald Gyurkovits accepted the challenge set by Robert Irvine in General Session I to lose 100 lbs. by 2013 ACF National Convention. Both chefs weighed in during the session, and then, Ty challenged all attendees to eat and live healthier in the coming year.

Following, chefs enjoyed a one-of-a-kind presentation by Prudhomme, as he answered impromptu questions from members of the audience and shared his personal stories. Award-winning chef and former ACF National President Keith Keogh, CEC, AAC, joined him on stage and demonstrated one of Prudhomme’s signature recipes, blackened fish.

The national competitions and trade show concluded in the afternoon. Regional finalists battled for ACF’s most prestigious title, U.S.A.’s Chef of the Year™. The competition, sponsored by Unilever Food Solutions, gave chefs just one hour to prepare, cook and present four different show plates utilizing the mystery protein, flat iron steak.

Young cooks also competed for the national ACF Student Chef of the Year title, sponsored by Custom Culinary, Inc. Competitors had 2 hours, 10 minutes, to prepare, cook and serve two portions of their two-course meal (appetizer and entree) or two desserts (one hot, one cold) utilizing select ingredients. It was a full day from start to finish!

Sunday, July 15

Cat Cora speaks with ACF-TV after her book signing about what it means to be a chef
Cat Cora speaks with ACF-TV after her book signing about what it means to be a chef.

Attendees had a variety of activities to choose from, including live cooking demos, the first day of the trade show and the start of the highly-anticipated competitions. Celebrity chef Cat Cora also made a special appearance and held a book signing.

Competitions were in full swing as regional finalists battled for top honors and national awards. The finalists for the Chef Educator of the Year Award captivated audiences with their live demonstrations, while the Student Team National Championship, sponsored by R.L. Scheiber, Inc., got under way on the trade show floor. Pastry Chef of the Year competitors also went head-to-head as they created a cold contemporary-style dessert, a hot restaurant-style dessert and a showpiece at least two feet tall representing a Hollywood theme.

Edward Adel, CEC, a culinary instructor at Johnson County Community College, Overland Park, Kan., from the Central region, took first place in the Galbani® Mozzarella Caprese Challenge, sponsored by Lactalis Foodservice and Galbani® Mozzarella. Shortly thereafter, fellow Central region member Austin Yancey, an instructor at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Chicago, won the What’s in Your Wok: A Fried Rice Competition, sponsored by Riviana Foods Inc.

Baron H. Galand Culinary Knowledge Bowl, sponsored by American Technical Publishers, was a nail biter. All teams did an incredible job, but it came down to Lake Washington Institute of Technology and Kendall College. Lake Washington pulled it out in the end, defeating the reigning champions.

The 41st Annual American Academy of Chefs (AAC) Induction Reception and Dinner took place at the new and luxurious Waldorf Astoria Orlando. Sixteen chefs were inducted into the Academy, along with six honorary members, and awards were presented. Four were inducted into the Academy’s Hall of Fame, and Cat Cora was named the Hall of Fame’s 2012 Celebrated Chef.

Saturday, July 14

Michael Ty, ACF national president, welcomes attendees at General Session I
Michael Ty, CEC, AAC, ACF national president, welcomes attendees at General Session I.

Saturday marked the first full day of the 2012 convention. Michael Ty, CEC, AAC, ACF national president, welcomed and updated attendees on the state of ACF at General Session I. The American Academy of Chefs (AAC) made a special donation of $30,000 to ACF Culinary Youth Team USA to support their efforts at Internationale Kochkunst Ausstellung (IKA) International Culinary Exhibition, known as the “culinary Olympics,” which will take place in Erfurt, Germany this October. The morning program also included the presentation of several awards, including the ACF Immediate Past President’s Award. Then, Robert Irvine took the stage and provided an entertaining demonstration on how to tackle the impossible in the first general session “Demo Impossible.” Irvine engaged the audience as he reviewed cooking techniques and reminded chefs of the importance of presentation and nutrition in every dish.

Chefs attended a range of educational seminars and demonstrations during the late morning, from vegetarian and vegan charcuterie to business tips for catering. The Chef Professionalism Award Lunch, sponsored by MINOR’S®, honored all regional winners. Donald Miller, CEC, CCE, AAC, executive chef, University of Notre Dame Food Services, Notre Dame, Ind., representing the Central region, won the national award.

During the afternoon, chefs enjoyed seminars and cooking demonstrations on topics such as the chef’s responsibility in the obesity epidemic, balancing a multicomponent dish and navigating between the extremes. That evening, ACF Culinary Team USA hosted the 2012 Foundation Fundraiser, with proceeds benefiting the teams in their journey to IKA.

Friday, July 13

Jean Yves Vendeville teaches chefs how to create showpieces
Jean Yves Vendeville, CEPC, teaches chefs how to create showpieces from sugar.

Chefs kicked off the day with the inaugural American Culinary Federation Education Foundation (ACFEF) Golf Tournament at Hawk’s Landing Golf Club to benefit ACFEF programs. Meanwhile, more than 50 chefs participated in the third annual Chefs Outreach to the Community Day at Universal Orlando Foundation Branch of the Boys & Girls Club of Central Florida. Chefs taught a hundred children and their families about nutritious foods and how to prepare healthy meals at home. Participants visited four themed stations to learn various components of nutrition: vegetables, whole grains, smoothies and container gardens. The event was truly a life-changing experience for families and the ACF chefs who participated.

Also on Friday, chefs enjoyed hands-on workshops at the Orlando World Center Marriott, where they enhanced their sugar molding skills, learned about canning and pickling, and perfected their chocolate tempering techniques.

Chefs celebrated their return to the Sunshine State in style Friday night at the Pirates of the Floribbean Icebreaker reception, hosted by ACF Central Florida Chapter, where attendees sported their pirate garb and pillaged their way through a motherload of cuisine.