What’s cookin’ at Owens? A new Executive Chef!

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Chef Gretchen Fayerweather in the Owens Community College kitchen.

Photo by: Katie Buzdor
Chef Gretchen Fayerweather in the Owens Community College kitchen.

Can you smell what is cooking in the kitchen?  Owens associate professor Chef Gretchen Fayerweather can taste victory.

Fayerweather graduated from Johnson & Wales University where she received a master’s in teaching along with a bachelor’s in Food Service Management and an associate’s in Culinary Arts.   She has a number of awards along with being named the Maumee Valley Chefs Association’s Chef of the Year in 2012. Fayerweather has been an associate professor at Owens since 2008.

The American Culinary Federation (ACF) offers 14 different certification designations.  Chef Gretchen received Certified Executive Chef (CEC).

To receive this certificate, certain requirements must be met.  A chef must have a high school diploma with at least an associate’s degree in culinary arts and at least three years of experience as a chef de cuisine, executive sous chef or pastry chef.  The Certified Executive Chef is one of the hardest certificates to obtain before the ten day test to become a Certified Master Chef.

The written exam is comprised of 100 questions along with a practical exam.  For the practical exam, the chef must provide his or her own ingredients and make three different courses from a list of ingredients.  The three courses include an appetizer course that includes seafood, a salad course and a main course.

Fayerweather said, “I prepared my menu a month before the exam.”

ACF suggests that candidates practice the dishes ten different times.  Fayerweather said, “You must be very organized and each time I practiced, my food got different.”

The chefs are given three hours to prepare and plate the food.  Fayerweather came up with her own timeline for the preparation of her food to make sure that she was staying within the given amount of time.  “Each time I practiced, I got faster and the last practice before the exam, I was 30 seconds under the time.”  After the three hour mark, chefs are given an extra 15 minutes to present the courses to the evaluators.  The meal must include six to seven ounces of protein, four different classic vegetable cuts, four different cooking methods, two different sauces and pairing the appropriate vegetable and starch with the main course.

Fayerweather said, “You are not supposed to look at recipes when taking your practice exam.”

Four plates are made: one for the evaluators to photograph and the rest are to eat.

After the evaluators taste the food, the chefs have 30 minutes to clean up and go into another room.  Each chef is then individually evaluated and the chefs can tell the evaluators what they thought as well.

The evaluators look at organization, the way chefs are dressed and how composed and professional they are.  Sanitation is pass or fail.  If a chef touches raw chicken and does not wash his or her hands before touching raw vegetables,  the evaluators wait until the end of the exam to issue the failing mark on sanitation. Evaluators also look at the craftsmanship of the dishes and how they are presented on the plate.

This particular certification has a 65 percent pass rate for the written and practice exam.  “I am so excited that I passed. I freaking love it!” exclaimed Fayerweather

She took the exam in Columbus but testing sites are all over the United States and given all year long.

“Part of the reason why I wanted this certificate was because Owens is now a certified facility,” she said.  “The other part is a personal accomplishment and I foresee us being able to do that type of testing at our amazing site.”

“I am glad that I accomplished what I did but I would much rather be with the students.”