This is a great piece from Chef Kilduff who just earned his Pro Chef III certification. It is a phenomenal achievement. He was kind enough to share his thoughts on the experience and I’ve pasted them below.
Training for the PCIII was probably the hardest experience I’ve endured. It started with just a simple thought; I think I’m going to take the PCIII. Chef Doherty kept saying, “let’s book it.” So, we booked it. Through the hard season we had, there was not much time for preparation. The games kept coming and coming, the concerts still went on and boom…I got my assignments, Japan and South America. I started really reading and practicing in just one week. I crammed and crammed until I left Monday night for the Tuesday start. I had packed everything I could think I’d need. In competing I learned to rely on nobody but myself as I choose my own destiny. I think Day 1 was the toughest as it was the first time I cooked in front of the school judges. I had some really high scores that day. I had a 91 on my test and a 96 on my practical. I was on top of the world. I thought this would be a piece of cake.
Then Day 2 happened. My requisition was not in the kitchen, the requisition that I had built last week and emailed was not there. I thought, is this a test to see how I react? I politely asked, “Chef did you get my requisition?
“I did not see it in the kitchen,” he said. It’s not here! I wondered to myself, why is this happening to me, but in the tough time I pulled out my bag of tricks for Japan as it was the stuff I practiced with and I was comfortable. The chef said, “Wow you’re really prepared,” and then he apologized and got the rest of the stuff I needed. After the practical it was time for the test which was extremely difficult. I had a nice score and thought, wow, another strong day.
Day 3 was on us. At this point I was exhausted. I was reading all the study guide books at once and it was giving me a headache. Try reading four days straight. The whole exam is a one and done deal so you could be sent home for failing an exam. That kind of stress and the stress that comes from knowing you could at any point waste all your time and effort and the company’s time and money…it really hit me hard that I needed to succeed.
I lost about seven pounds during the process as I couldn’t eat lunch or snacks due to my stress and the nerves that ran through my body. On Day 3 I was given a market basket (it’s a little different from a competition market basket as you get it the night before and not 20 minutes ahead of time) and asked to write and execute a four-course menu. Oh, can’t forget the wine pairing either. This experience coupled with the written test was one of the worst sections of the process and it sent me into a tailspin. Nothing I studied for was comparable to this test. I crammed and the only time I had to study was late at night…so I did not get much sleep.
Day Four (the final day) I had a Human Resources Quick pro quo case to present and a Powerpoint with the financial info for the accountants to grade. Oh yes, I said accountants, not chefs. These guys were number people. This is just another time when you need to be on point. They put you in the situation where you are the chef of a failing restaurants with numbers that are out of place, inventories that are wrong and questions that need to be answered along with cooking and testing. You really need to start this financial project on day one or you won’t be able to prepare and pass it. If you’re unprepared, it’s likely you’ll be sent home.
It was the moment of truth when the results were delivered. I went in the room with a feeling like someone kicked me in the gut. Then I learned I had received a four-day score of 86.6. It wasn’t great but it let me know that I can hold my own.
The challenges I face were many. For starters, attempting this in the middle of the season as things were gearing up for the playoffs and parties were occurring had me feeling unready. I had thought of canceling because I had such little time to study. The main thing is you need to be an active participant in cooking daily. I felt a little cheated when I learned that many others had been spoon fed the test for the last three weeks in what’s called a submersion class for the PCIII. But, I believed in my ability to cooking and felt that I could cook circles around these guys. The biggest lesson I took from this experience is that I will never be perfect and that motivates me. I do believe when you think you’ve achieved perfection, then you no longer have a drive to learn because you are content with the status quo.
I say if you’re ready for an incredible challenge, then go for your PCIII. You are the only one who truly knows if you are ready.