Certification Training – Notes From the Chefs

Several chefs recently attended certification exam testing sessions in Boston and Yosemite National Park during which I helped coach them on various strategies and techniques. I’ve asked them to submit posts about their experience and we will run them over the next few weeks. Below is a post from Chef Will Cunneen, who took part in Boston.

Having now a few days to reflect, I believe that I have a better outlook on the experience as a whole as opposed to still recovering from the crush of it all. It was a challenging couple of days. As for my successful experience, I don’t know if successful is the right word. I learned a tremendous amount and came back humbled with a renewed respect for food and those that dedicate their lives to preparing it. I guess that could be considered successful. I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that a couple moments during the training session, I thought about reconsidering my career choice. But I guess that’s what you were looking for, seeing if we thought we belonged there and whether or not we would push forward or crumble. As for my opinion, goods, bads and others…here I go…

Of course I believe I needed more practice prior to the training and that’s our responsibility. Unfortunately, Garde Manager and Baking are two facets that we don’t’ do a lot of in Sportservice. I remember making a seafood terrine for the buffet at Soldier Field, it took me all day and than some…no one ate it.

I must say the “shock” treatment as you put it, was very effective in keeping our mind on task and thinking the next step but it also made us very nervous and when your body is tense I think you tend to mess up what you’re working on. Again, as chefs this is a part of everyday life and therefore we should be able to control it on our part. I like the repetition method of practice. Do it once. Completely screw it up. Do it again. Finish. Do it again. OK. Do it again. Fine Tune. I would have liked to just do baking four times in row with assistance for the 1st one and critiques throughout. Same with certain parts of garde manager. Make a consommé, en gelee, slice and glaze then make new and repeat.

I know that everyone is different, but I found the previous years graduates of the program extremely helpful. If we could compile a worksheet from past CCCs on the dos and don’ts, examples of time lines, etc. and forward them out to future candidates it would be very beneficial.

Chef Kevin Doherty coming down to show me the baking practical and what to look for was very helpful. Once you see something once, you can recreate it by yourself. If you practice yourself without seeing it the right way you may practice many, many times and come to find out what you’ve been doing is the wrong way.

Practicing was tough, with the schedules we have in opening two new stadiums, you really have to commit yourself, meaning free time is not spent at home — it’s in the kitchen. As for my own experience, I believe in the food I put out, it’s just a matter of getting from point A to point Z in the most efficient, time effective manner possible. It’s all practice.

I think having others go through the same thing you’re doing helped too and gives you a couple different perspectives on something that you might not have though of.  I’m sure I could say more but I think I overdid it already.  I hope this helps, seeing it from the candidate’s perspective.  All of us should also remember and take comfort in knowing that all those who have faced this challenge before us had to go through this same process and came out on the other side better for it.

Thank you for the time and consideration.

Will Cunnen

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