3 a.m. Rise and Shine

I have asked the chefs who recently completed their Pro Chef Level II Certification exams to share their thoughts and memories on the long process. Below are Chef Will Cunneen’s thoughts.

3:00 a.m. – Now, I am not a morning person, and being a chef, 3:00 a.m. is more often than not when you go to sleep as opposed to wake up. But, nevertheless, there is was on my alarm clock staring at me – 3:00 AM. Again.

That was the start of each day in the beautiful little town of St. Helena where the CIA has its Greystone Campus. It’s not that we needed to be up at 3:00 a.m., but it seemed to be the consensus as to when everyone was waking up.  The excitement and anxiety for what each day could mean as  we drove to the school were too much to let anyone rest for too long. His was yet another 13-hour day of cooking, exams and judgment.

One of the best things about our experiences taking the Pro Chef II Certification, I think, was that it was OUR experience.  Seven very different chefs from all across the country, all coming to this one place to prove to themselves, as well as their colleagues, that they deserved to be there, and deserved to be called “Chef”.

I’ve received so many strange looks from people when I tell them I am the chef at a sports arena; So often people ask me, “What do you make…hotdogs?” I felt I had something to prove. There are a lot of “chefs” in the world, but I would venture a guess that many of these “chefs” could not do what is requested of the PCII examination.

Seven written and four practical exams spanning four days and covering different facets of our industry: baking, nutrition, Mediterranean cuisine, and Garde Manger.  Though I had been practicing, as I’m sure the other candidates had, for months leading up to that first week in December, there were still a few times I really thought I would fail.  One of the great things about it was that it was not a competition.  We pushed each other to be sure, but everyone there wanted everyone else to do well.  Though scored individually, it felt like a team effort.  The whole experience was truly rewarding and one I won’t soon forget.  I’m sure there’s more to be said, but until you’ve done it, you just don’t know.

Thank you for the opportunity.



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