Chefs spend a fair chunk of their careers working toward the prestigious master chef distinction. Two instructors at Schoolcraft College appear well on their way to earning the coveted title.
Chef Drew Sayes and Chef Paul Grosz recently passed the first section of American Culinary Federation’s two-part practical exam hosted by Schoolcraft. Sayes and Grosz tested alongside a master chef candidate from Washington, D.C. The exam takes place twice a year, and there are fewer than 80 master chefs in the world.
“I think the strength of our program, the recognition Schoolcraft has within the culinary community and the facilities themselves make it well equipped to host the exam,” Sayes said.
Schoolcraft has hosted the exam several times at the American Harvest restaurant in the VisTaTech Center, most recently in 2019 and, at one time, the college had four master chefs on staff. But even though Sayes and Grosz were testing in a familiar kitchen, there was no home field advantage.
“It was convenient for travel, but that was about it,” Grosz said. I actually think they held that against us and held us to a higher standard. There is some familiarity, but we’re professionals who can cook anywhere in the world.”
The first part of the exam, taken over four days, tests candidates on their freestyle cooking, healthy cooking, global cuisine and baking skills. Sayes said the second part of the exam, slated to happen at Schoolcraft this coming fall, will require more precision and skill.
Ahead of the exam, candidates must be certified executive chefs and complete a variety of prerequisite courses.
“It was nothing like what I expected,” Sayes said. “You know, I spent a lot of time getting ready for it and practicing and studying. But, nothing can prepare you for that level of intensity. It was an amazing experience.”
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Grosz and Sayes said former Schoolcraft instructors who’ve gone through the exam served as mentors and encouraged them ahead of the big test. Their students were also able to watch the exam.
“A lot of our predecessors here are master chefs,” Sayes said. “They’ve come back to support us through the process.”
Grosz said students already expect a lot from Schoolcraft’s culinary program, and passing the second part of the practical will add to that expectation. Sayes also noted having two master chefs on staff would create plenty of networking opportunities for students.
Aspiring chefs in Schoolcraft’s program work alongside professionals like Grosz and Sayes to operate American Harvest, a full-service restaurant.
“We perform a live restaurant here that almost every class is involved in,” Grosz said.