2022 American Academy of Chefs Award Recipients
AAC Chair’s Medal
Each year, the Chair’s Medal is bestowed upon an Academy Fellow who has demonstrated exemplary dedication and made outstanding contributions to the culinary profession. This individual has also maintained the highest standard of ideals of the AAC and has significantly and positively worked to ensure excellence among future culinarians.
Paul J. O’Toole, CEC, AAC, is the retired Executive Chef of the Pittsburgh Field Club. He was managing partner and Executive Culinary Officer for Forewinds Hospitality Company and 1492 Hospitality Group. He has been a member of the American Culinary Federation since 1979 and was inducted into the American Academy of Chefs in 1997. Chef O’Toole was the recipient of the AAC Lawrence A. Conti, CEC, AAC, HOF, Chair’s Achievement Award in 2018, the AAC Chef Good Taste Award in 2012 and the ACF President’s Medallion in 2007, 2008 and 2014. He has been a part of the AAC Board of Directors since 2009 and has served on multiple ACF Committees. He is an active member of ACF Philadelphia Delaware Valley serving as Chairman of the Board from 2001–2006 and President in 2013.
Lawrence A. Conti, CEC, AAC, HOF, Chair’s Achievement Award
This award is given to a Fellow of the Academy who is not only dedicated to the American Academy of Chefs but also to the culinary profession. This individual must be an ACF member for a minimum of 35 years and be actively in the AAC and ACF, making the advancement of both organizations a personal priority. The person selected for this award will have achieved success in both business and culinary arts, and must have the respect of the AAC Fellows at large.
Larry Chumley, CEC, AAC, is active in training young chefs and cooks at Southern Nevada Vocational Technical Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, and the Cooperative Education Plan at Rancho High School. He is a consultant and guest speaker/instructor for Nevada Cooperative Extension at the University of Nevada, Reno. Chef Chumley has been a member of the ACF since 1975. Chef Chumley was Chef of the Year recipient in 1984. He is currently retired as owner of Mom’s Diner in Pahrump, Nevada.
Joseph Amendola Award
The Joseph Amendola Award is presented to a pastry chef or master baker. The recipient has devoted his or her career to the profession and to the mentoring of young individuals who will be future pastry chefs.
Leslie Eckert, CEPC, CCE, AAC, currently holds the position as Director of Great Lakes Culinary Institute. Chef Eckert has a BA in Culinary Management and an MBA with an emphasis in Hospitality Management. She has been an active member of the American Culinary Federation since 1992, was named ACF’s National Chef Educator of the Year in 2013 and Southeast Regional Pastry Chef of the Year in 2014 and was inducted into the American Academy of Chefs in 2015. Chef Eckert serves as a member of the ACFEF Accrediting Commission 2022–2024.
Lt. General John D. McLaughlin Award
The Lt. General John D. McLaughlin Award is presented each year to an individual of high honor, distinction and involvement in the culinary field. This award has been established in the memory of Lt. General John D. McLaughlin, who was instrumental in bringing professional recognition to the American executive chef.
Travis W. Smith, CEC, AAC, is currently serving as the Interim Executive Chef with Club Advisors on Assignment at The Club at 3 Creek, Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He attended career technology courses in culinary arts during high school and immersed himself in the ACF Culinary Apprenticeship. He finished at the top of his class in 1989 and subsequently entered the US Army the day following his ACF Apprenticeship graduation. He was instrumental on the USACAT (United States Army Culinary Arts Team) at the 1992, 1996 and 2000 Internationale Kochkunst Ausstellung, also known as the “culinary Olympics,” in Germany as well as the 1998 and 2002 World Cup in Luxembourg. Chef Smith completed his BSBA in Hospitality at Sullivan University and an Executive MBA at the University of Denver. He has been a member of the ACF since 1988 and was inducted into the AAC in 2003. Chef Smith is an active ACF competition judge since 2002.
Chef Good Taste Award
The Chef Good Taste Award is designated for culinarians who are actively involved in furthering the chef’s greatest achievement, “taste,” and upholding the traditions of the classical cuisine.
Daniel J. Varano, CEC, CCE, AAC, is currently retired after a career as executive chef in country and city clubs and 33 years as a Culinary Arts Department Head in the Connecticut State Vocational School System. He attended Manchester Community College and received his BA Degree from Central Connecticut State University. Chef Varano has been a member of the ACF since 1969 and was inducted into the American Academy of Chefs in 1986. He continues in his devotion to mentor young and aspiring students through local Educational Agricultural Farms, teaching cooking techniques with farm to table menus as he has for the past 30 years.
Sharing Culinary Traditions Award
One Academy Fellow is selected each year to receive the Sharing Culinary Traditions Award. This individual has demonstrated unwavering dedication to the education of future culinarians, thereby perpetuating the mission statement of our prestigious honor society and our profession.
Michael J. Rigberg, CEC, CCE, CCA, AAC, has been the Chef Instructor at the Art of Tampa Florida for the past 10 years. Chef Rigberg has been a member of the ACF since 1988 and was inducted into the AAC in 2014. He was the recipient of the Chapter Chef of the Year in 2011 and the President’s Medallion in 2018. Chef Rigberg has served on the AAC Board of Directors since 2015 and was elected as the Southeast Region Member of the ACF Ethics Committee for the term 2020–2024. He is an active member of ACF Tampa Bay Culinary Association serving in various chapter positions.