Virginia Western Community College chefs John Schopp and Ted Polfelt, faculty members in the Al Pollard Culinary Program, recently helped administer the exam as 10 leading chefs from across the United States sought the American Culinary Federation (ACF) Certified Master Chef (CMC) title, the highest level of certification in the U.S. that a chef can receive.

The eight-day exam took place from Sept. 30 to Oct. 7 at Schoolcraft College in Livonia, Michigan, and tested candidates’ expertise, skill and creativity across multiple cuisines. Three chefs, Gerald Ford, Joseph Leonardi and Shawn Loving were awarded Certified Master Chefs titles. With the addition of these chefs, there are now 68 current CMCs in the United States.

“The CMC candidates are already some of the most accomplished chefs in the country,” said Schopp, CEC, CEPC, CCA, who is on the ACF National Certification Commission. “They are driven to demonstrate their commitment to excellence by attaining the highest professional distinction from the ACF. We commend all the individuals pursuing this extraordinary goal and congratulate these three chefs in particular.”

Schopp leads the baking and pastry program and has instructed nearly every course within Virginia Western’s culinary program. He also owns Center Stage Catering in Rocky Mount.  Polfelt, meanwhile, primarily teaches in the college’s advanced labs and shares his expertise with students as the executive chef for the Jefferson Street Management Group in Roanoke, which owns Frankie Rowland’s Steakhouse, 419 West and Corned Beef and Co.

Open enrollment for Virginia Western’s spring semester begins on Nov. 6. Students who are interested in culinary arts can learn more about the program at www.virginiawestern.edu/academics/culinaryarts.

The path to the CMC title requires immense dedication to the craft of cooking and calls upon the candidates to demonstrate their abilities across a broad range of styles and techniques. During the progressive, eight-day practical exam, chefs were tested on healthy cooking, buffet catering, classical cuisine, freestyle cooking, global cuisine, baking and pastry, Continental and Northern European cuisines and “market basket,” a mystery basket of ingredients from which they must prepare a five-course meal.

Chefs were evaluated and assessed by current CMCs and earned points based on kitchen skills, presentation and taste, as well as on the leadership they demonstrated in working with a student apprentice each day. Candidates were required to maintain a 75-point average in order to continue..