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ACF “The Authority on Cooking in America”

The American Culinary Federation, Inc. (ACF), a professional, organization for chefs and cooks, was founded in 1929 in New York City by three chefs’ organizations: the Société Culinaire Philanthropique, the Vatel Club and the Chefs de Cuisine Association of America. Since our inception, little has changed in our principal goals. We are an organization based on promoting the professional image of American chefs worldwide through education of culinarians at all levels.

In 1976, ACF forever changed the culinary industry by elevating the position of the executive chef from service status to the professional category in the U.S. Department of Labor’s Dictionary of Official Titles. Since this change, the culinary industry and our organization have grown tremendously. Today, ACF is the largest professional chefs organization in North America. We are made up of more than 20,000 members who belong to more than 200 chapters in four regions across the United States.

The American Culinary Federation Education Foundation (ACFEF), ACF’s educational arm, is a nonprofit and is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service with a 501(c)(3) tax exempt status. Donations to the ACFEF are tax deductible – please consult your tax advisor for further guidance. Entities under the ACFEF include apprenticeship, programmatic accreditation, American Academy of Chefs, Chef & Child Foundation, Senior Chefs and ACF Culinary Team USA.

ACF is the culinary leader in offering educational resources, training, apprenticeship and programmatic accreditation designed to enhance professional growth for all current and future chefs and pastry chefs. In addition, ACF operates the most comprehensive certification program for chefs in the United States. ACF is home to ACF Culinary Team USA, the official representative for the United States in major international culinary competitions, and to the Chef & Child Foundation, founded in 1989 to promote proper nutrition in children and combat childhood obesity.

We offer culinary competitions, certification, a national national events, publications and much more to help foster the growth of professional chefs and the foodservice industry. If you are not part of our organization, we invite you to join us and gain access to the best culinary resources available.

A Brief History Of The ACF

By Willy Rossell, AAC
Past ACF President & TCA Honorary Member

At the beginning of the new century the Societe Culinaire Philantropique had already been in existence since 1865. Also, the Swiss who immigrated were members of the Helvetia Association and a few of them formed a chapter in New York under the auspices of Lucerne. I am a veteran of this group and to this day I continue to receive the newsletter and communications from the Societes of the Swiss Chefs.

It was not until early 1960 that the New York chapter was dissolved. In 1911 the Watel had been formed, also in New York – mostly French. In 1916 the Chef de Cuisine enrolled mostly Italians. The Germans also had a Chef Societe; it was a custom when one came to American he would seek people who spoke his native language or perhaps a relative from his homeland to help him get situated in this new, strange country.

It was not until 1920 – 1930 that other cities such as Boston, St Louis, Chicago and Seattle started their own Chef Societes, always with the purpose of helping each other.

We still have magazines dated 1925 from the Olympic Hotel and minutes of their meeting – handwritten in French! Later, Los Angeles and San Francisco California and Miami Florida. Still later, came San Diego, Anaheim, Phoenix and Denver.

In 1928, at the Sorbonne in Paris, The World Chefs’ Association was formed and it is still in existence. Most of us know that in 1928, three major New York Societes formed the American Culinary Association that we all cherish to this day. During the Depression many important hotels like the New Waldorf Astoria relocated from 34th Street to Park Avenue. The chef at the opening was Frenchman, Gabriel Lugot. Charles Scotto, our first president, opened the Hotel Ambassador and the Pierre Hotel. For the opening, Charles invited August Escoffier. At the turn of the century Scotto had been a commis in the brigade at the Savory where he and Escoffier ran that prestigious institution. The hard times of the early thirties were very difficult for everybody. It also marked the beginning of strong unions – even the hotel industry was not spared.

It was also at that time the first Chef Magazine was being published with the great chef of the Hotel Macalpin, Eduard Panchard as its editor. To this day, his editorials are still valuable and he is also a member of the Hall of Fame. In 1935, Les Amis d’ Esoffier held their first dinner at the Jensen Suite of the Waldorf with 53 friends of this famous chef attending this memorable feast. Our first president, Scotto passed away n 1937, with more than 1,000 of his admirers and colleagues attending the funeral. His widow traveled with his remains to Monte Carlo where he was buried.

Mr. Joseph Donon, another Hall of Fame recipient, owned the Chef Magazine and was secretary of the Federation until the later 1950’s. He sold the Chef Magazine to George Serra, who ran the publication until the mid-70’s, and our ACF kept in contact with all the existing chefs’ ocieties. Of course, during the war, very little happened in the chefs organizations. The Philantropique sent “care packages” to its members all over the world. Donan’s chief interests were Les Amis d’ Escoffier Societes, and later Les Dames d’ Escoffier. He also supervised the Musse d’ Escoffier in Ville Neuve Loubet outside of Nice.

A major event! Oscar of the Waldorf donated his estate to the Societe Culinaire Philantropique to establish a comfortable retirement home for needy chefs.

In 1946, Mrs. Roth opened the first culinary school under the GI Bill of Rights. Its purpose was to provide our servicemen, who were returning home from all over the globe, a chance to learn a good profession. In New Haven Connecticut our good friend and Hall of Famer, Joe Amendola, became one of the fire.st teachers.

Also, another very important event took place; the Pittsburgh chefs under the leadership of Paul Laesecke and Otto Spielbichler approached our ACF and indicated their desire to join the Federation. At that time, only the New York Societe’s chefs were members of Culinaire, the Watel, the Chefs de Cuisine, Helvetia and the International Chefs. It was only later that the Epicurean Chefs of Boston also joined our ranks. In 1950, the second ACF Congress took place in the Hawaiian Room of the Lexington Hotel. We have photos and the names of everyone present at this history-making affair.

This brings us to the 1950’s. The next convention was held in Washington D.C. The president of the Epicurean Chefs was Claude Jarrin, also a member of the Hall of Fame. Along with Pierre Berard, a very strong opinionated man, they tried to dictate to the New York chapters how they should run the Federation.

This did not please Otto Gentsch and Charles Champion (both Hall of Fame members) or Mr. Robert Audelan, president of the Chefs de Cuisine or the officers of the Watel. The New York people did not want to lose the control which they felt belonged to them only.

The next convention was held in Pittsburgh in 1963; fortunately we also have photos and minutes of that event. The president was Paul Laescke and Mr. Donon was secretary. In 1954, for the first time, the Societe Culinaire Philantropique, under the leadership of president Herman Rusch organized a team of five chefs with Charles Finance as Captain. They were to compete in Berne at the International Culinary Show, which was named Hospes. We have a very valuable cookbook from that memorable rendezvous of world chefs. Again, we are very fortunate in having not only souvenirs, but photos of our very dear friends.

Coming back for a moment to the convention, Pierre Berand became president and the most important goal of his tenure was to create an “Academy”. At this national convention in 1956, Donon bowed our gracefully and quietly by refusing to run for re-election. Also, in 1966, for the first time in the history of the American Federation, Paul Laesecke organized a culinary team to compete in Frankfort Germany. It was also in that year that the newly elected president was Eugene Ertle, Executive Chef of the United Airlines Food Service and the third past national president of the Chefs de Cuisine of Chicago. This was a significant change, as Gene launched a national membership and a continuing educational program. Additionally, his actions enhanced ACF’s use of television to bring chefs into the public’s notice. One of them, a devoted member and dear friend, was Eddie Doucette who was working for the International Grocers’ Association and became a celebrity in the Chicago culinary scene. Robert Aurelian, president of the Chefs de Cuisine of the Essex House in New York City, appeared on TV. Jack Meyer of San Francisco, one of the finest chefs to receive the Careme Medaille, urged chefs “not to hide our professional light under a bushel basket”. He was executive chef of the famous Mark Hopkins Hotel in San Francisco. Philip Haultcoeur, one of Charles Finance’s New York team members advocated: “Every local TV station should have a cooking expert.: We are all aware of Julia Child’s success and of the many chefs who contributed their talents and efforts to achieve chefs’ recognition by the public. Our own American Academy of Chefs, with its creation in 1956, contributed notably to the recognition of the chefs’ profession in our country.

Peter Berini became chairman of the newly created Academy of Chefs (the dream of Pierre Berard), in 1959 and became president of the ACF in 1960. Miami had an extremely successful convention and the Epicurean Club of Fort Lauderdale under the leadership of Klaus Ottman proposed to turn the entire national membership into chapters. Klaus “graduated” from Executive to become General Manager of the Americana Hotel in New York City.

By far, the most aggressive advocate for rapid growth and centralization was the Texas Culinary Association. In late 1958, Marcel Chabernaud, regional ACF Vice President, proposed instituting direct membership in the national organization requiring only one year kitchen experience rather than the previous five year requirement. He also advocated making Dallas Texas the permanent of the ACF,including The Culinarian, the official organ of the new ACF. He proposed to directly charge all individuals two dollars annually. “The Texas Plan” too radical for most of America’s executive chefs and The Chefs Association of Pittsburgh voiced its objection to lowering the experience requirement. They instructed their ACF governor to kill the plan.

1960 marked the beginning of the culinary societe: the American Culinary Association – American Institute of Chefs (ACA-AIC). ACF elected Orgy Anderson its president at its 1960 convention. Mr. Anderson was the first American-born president and was a fine gentleman and highly respected in the profession. He was chef at the Santa Ana Country Club in add, he was president of CCAS of Los Angeles.

Mr. Lous Midler, secretary of our organization, convened our board of directors and together with Orby they fired our first Executive Director. Mr. Winnik’s work was cut out for him; his challenge was taking on our tough competitor, ACA_AIC. Many ACF members held dual memberships in both organizations. Pierre Berard became ACA_AIC president in 1961. Two years later he became Grand Commander for the life of the Golden Toque, AIC equivalent of the AAC. Walter Wingberg, who was AAC Chairman in 1961 also switched allegiance. Anderson and Winnick worked together to cooperated with management associations. At the National Convention held at the Sheraton in Dallas, I became president of our ACF, facing a difficult challenge—there was no money, plus the problems of two chefs’ organizations in the same city.

At our first board of directors meeting in Chicago, that body decided to do away with the services of the Executive Director. At the time we had 14 chapters. During the first year of my tenure, I was fortunate to receive $25 from each of the 100 members of ACF (13 actually voluntarily sent in $50.) With those funds I sent a monthly newsletter to 1500 of our members. I was also helped by the Sheraton, which defrayed all my traveling expenses. Also, with the help of Mr. Scott and a $6,000 donation from the Stadler Foundation, I was able to form a committee of 12 prominent chefs with Charles Finance acting as chairman. With the help of Truman Wright, the well known and respected General Manager in West Virginia, and advisory committee was created, drawing a number of prestigious people into that group. Some of the members were: Max Peck, General Manager of Rice Hotel In Houston; James Taylor, Dean of Continuing Education at the University of Houston; William Connor, Director of the AHMA Educational College; H.B. Meek, Executive Director of the Council on Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Education; Henry Barbour, Director of School Restaurant and Institutional Education at Michigan State University and Robert Weems, Dean of Business Administration, University of Nevada, Reno.

All this represents the cornerstone and basic concept of our American Culinary Federation. All this along with our “on-the-job” training manual convinced us that we were on solid ground – heading for a bright and productive future.

In 1963, I was invited to the convention of the ACA-IAC, and the two associations united! This finally took place in 1967 in Oklahoma. In 1964, at the St. Louis Convention, John Bandera, President of the Chicago Chapter became our ACF President. He had cultivated a valuable relationship with the National Restaurant Association. John also hired Edward Brooks as Executive Director. In the 1960’s with the invaluable help of the Western, Hilton and Sheraton chains and Walter Roth, Executive Chef of the Century Plaza, the Culinary Apprenticeship Program was the principal objective with the United States Manpower Commission. With the help of the Connecticut Chefs the ACFEI was formed. Dr. Weems of the University of Nevada, Reno was a member of the Board of Trustees and in 1968, proposed that the ACF consider certifying its own members at the Executive Chefs level. Also, the same year, ACF merged with AIC.

Jack Sullivan, AAC, was our national president from 1967 to 1973. He is also the one who founded the Anaheim Chapter. In the early 1960’s, he was the Executive Chef of the Disney Hotel and became president of the Anaheim Chapter. I was one who approved the founding of this chapter. Jan Verdonkshot was Sullivan’s secretary and the two made a great team for the benefit of both the Chef’s Education and our general fund. At the end of their tenure we had $100,000 in the fund! Jack was grooming our friend Jan to become our next president, but due to a misfortune in his family, Jan declined. In 1968, our ACF National Team successfully competed again in Frankfort. Richard Mack was Team Captain; Ferdinand Metz was a team member for the first time. In part, as a result of that event, Richard Bosnjak became very active and participated in all federation affairs. It was also during those years that Jan Verdonkshot was chairman of the Certification Committee,ACFEI and the beginning of the course, “Candidate for Master Chef” . The candidates were required to take the course offered at AHMA. It was administrated by our ACFEI and the Culinary Institute of America.

In 1972, at the convention, President Sullivan appointed Ferdinand Metz to be “Head of the Certification Committee”, and in charge of continuing to administer to the ACFEI activities. In 1973, Amato Ferrero became our new President, Orby Anderson, Why Chefs Must be Licensed was a movement instituted by Orby Anderson, Jack Lullivan, Kenneth Wolfe, Jan Verdonkshot and myself. At the 1974 convention the first Master Chef exam was established. Jan presented eight certificates, including Lillian Haines, the first woman certified as an Executive Chef in the U. S. The program was supervised by the Culinary Institute of America, with Jacob Rosenthol, who was C.E.O. It was also at that time that ACF obtained the help of General John Mc Laughlin and the Army Quartermaster Corps. The alliance with the Army was of great value to the ACF and thereafter 14 military posts created culinary societies. It was gratifying to see how our government recognized the importance of ACF.

During the 1970’s we had three culinary teams competing in Frankfurt. Jack Sullivan was manager and Bernard Urban was the team captain. During the presidency of Amado Fefarro, the ACF Certification Committee contacted Leon Lewis, chef of DOD to ask the government to change the classification of chefs to ‘professional’. It was at this time that Louis Szathmary spearheaded a national chef’s campaign to change DOD classifications. He also seeded a ‘Washington Fund’ with $550.00 and President Ferrarro called for the convention delegates to make a pledge. Within 15 minutes ACF had $3,550. In the fund. The President also reactivated the old Advisory Committee that was responsible for drafting the Manual for Culinarians back in 1962. He also appointed General Mc Laughlin as Chairman of the Culinarians. At this time the General had been hired by Mr. L.J. Minor as C.E.O. for the Minor Corp. This of course was the great help, especially on the financial side and made our ‘Washington Fund’ into a “Headquarters Building Fund”.

In 1975, Richard Bosnjak was elected President and appointed the Head of Culinary Education, Pittsburgh Community College of the Allegheny and L.Edwin Brown as his new National Apprenticeship Coordinator. In 1976, the President strengthened the apprenticeship presence by moving Ed Brown to head the ACFEI. The President nominated Jack Braun to Chair the Apprenticeship Committee.

In 1977 our government gave a grant of $612,000 to our ACFEI. This allowed our ACFEI to catapult itself into the forefront of international trainers. The ACF created an organizational infrastructure of a full time program administration to carry out its duties under the grant. The ACFEI chairmanship became a full time position. Ed hired eight regional supervisors: Willy Stinson, Max Behr, Hohn Pijkor, Robert Nelson, Rex Saul and John Greenwalt to initiate the apprenticeship program in every ACF chapter. He trained the eight supervisors for a few months and each operated in their respective areas. Finally, by the end of 1970, the ACF had achieved its place as America’s more significant organization of culinary professionals. Additionally, by the end of 1970 we had attained our professional award organization goals and secured recognition of our stature as professionals. We point with pride to the fact that we were also financially stable, thanks to grants from Ray Marshall, our suppliers, our hotel, club and restaurant managers. The hard work of our past presidents and officers really yielded great dividends. Ed Brown provided stable leadership during his 15 years as our Executive Director, especially the demanding task of overseeing the building of our national headquarters in St. Augustine, Florida. Due credit to his wife, Edith, for supporting his activities in the academy office.

Both the Academy and the ACF are housed in the same building which was completed n 1982. We are all aware of the great success of the ACFEI with the chef certification and, of course, the program to accredit culinary schools. By enjoying the advantages of the apprenticeship grants, the ACF reinforces its regional Culinary Review. This is accomplished by the apprenticeship coordinators who were paid through the Department of Labor grants, the ACF and as a result the ACF presence is materially strengthened. In 1987-1991, during the tenure of President Jack Sullivan, he founded the Chef and Child Foundation which has enjoyed huge success. Due largely to the efforts of our employee, Beverly Stewart, Chef and Child was sponsored by Proctor & Gamble. But our major financing came from fund raising events and the generosity of our chapters and the entire industry.

The second program in our long range planning is a major one; “Horizons 2000”. I must mention our culinary team and in relations to that I will be presenting some constructive suggestions. In the future I plan to write in depth about all the culinary shows that have taken place in the past 120 years.

Yes, we chefs do indeed have a code of ethics and we serve the public in the form of excellence in food preparations, health, hygiene and aesthetics. We have organized our ACF to promote our profession that we love, to enforce standards and to secure our position and the respect of society. We are proud of the fact that we have created on-the-job training manuals for chefs, achieved recognition and respect from our employers, the federal government and the general public. All three groups have accepted chefs on that high plane and, in addition, we also became part of the management – a logical transition!

This is more or less an outline of our history. I tried without very much luck to contact our living past presidents. But, I will keep trying…and hope they can take a small amount of time from their current activities to share their valuable individual recollections with all of us.

During the last five years of our existence (1995-2000) Ed Brown retired in 1995 and was replaced as Executive Director by Don Richetti. Mr. Richetti, after about two years, was replaced in that capacity by one of our employees for a few months and Terry Pittano took over as Executive Director until 199. Thereafter, and up to the present, Walter Rhea has taken over the reins of our organization (2000).

The 21st century will reach new and brighter horizons due to the guidance and inspiration that we, the executive chefs of the USA, received from the former chefs. They instilled in us the desire to carry on their principles and “Pass the Torch” to the future generations of chefs. This is the wish of all our chapters and our academy members and all others who are interested in our noble profession; a profession that provided service, leisure and is fully rewarding.