The next time you chow down on Cornell Dining fare, take a moment to ask yourself whether you could pass a written exam on such topics as “beef: classification and cuts” and “stocks and thickening agents” or whether you could cook a three-course meal with at least four classical vegetable cuts and an emulsified vinaigrette. Senior Executive Chef Delmar Crim and Executive Chefs Anthony Kveragas and Steve Miller of Cornell Dining recently did just that to become certified executive chefs of the American Culinary Federation (ACF).
Crim and Miller received their certification on Feb. 22, while Kveragas has had his for a couple of years.
“It’s very rewarding to see chefs embrace continued learning and see them work very hard at a difficult certification process,” said Colleen Wright-Riva, director of Cornell Dining and Retail Services.
She compared the certification to “achieving a degree from Cornell.” The qualifications are rigorous. Certified executive chefs are department heads of a food service establishment and have taken mandatory courses in food safety and sanitation, nutrition and hospitality supervision. The written and practical components of the exam are very detail-oriented and demand a wide array of specialized knowledge.
“Being certified is a learning experience in itself,” Kveragas said.
The written exam is “very broad and obscure in many ways,” and “trivia-type” questions drawn from “management science [and] time management studies done back in the ’20s … make it easy to trip or to stumble.”
The practical exam asks the chef to create a three-course meal in front of master chefs, who scrutinize “how often you change your gloves, … wash your hands, … how high the temperature is on the burner … they measure the vegetable cut to see if it’s right,” Kveragas said.
According to Kveragas, “executive chefs don’t cook as often as they used to … once you become an executive chef, [there’s] more administrative, budgeting and food costing work.”
This makes it both difficult and gratifying to pass the practical exam.
“The most rewarding part of the exam was the practical” because it made him a “crisper,” “sharper” Crim said.
Wright-Riva noted that personal satisfaction and a sense of achievement are the primary motivators for pursuing certification.
“The best incentive for the chef is to do it for themselves and to have that acknowledgment,” she said.
On the other hand, Crim emphasized the support, financial and otherwise, provided by Cornell.
“I think it’s really great to work for an organization that … supports and encourages you to improve yourself … not everyone picks up the ball and does [the certification] … you’re pushing a lot into an already busy life .. It wouldn’t have happened if I weren’t working for Cornell,” he said.
Crim said that the certification “gives [him] a sound basis” to train and supervise his staff.
“You don’t have to justify your position.” he said, explaining that executive chefs know that they are implementing standards designated by the ACF.
“When you do things the proper way, there’s less discussion,” he added.
Both Crim and Kveragas are currently gearing up for this summer’s Trillium renovation. As the head of North Star, Kveragas has been testing recipes and gathering feedback. Tonight he will have a hamburger bar where students can add their own toppings.
Kveragas also enjoys managing his diverse staff of 60 employees since it enables him to get to know people from all over the world and all walks of life.
“You learn a lot about a person through the food they make and eat,” he said. It reveals “what makes them feel good and gives them that ‘warm tummy’ feeling.”
Archived article by Heather Klein