I became a cook after watching a CMC prepare a roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, and this beautiful pan gravy and all of those things were better than anything I ever had and it was really life changing for me. That was at a point where I knew I loved cooking and realized that my passion could become my profession as well. Working to accomplish that goal has consistently provided me with some of the deepest learning experiences and the largest periods of growth throughout my career. The ACF CMC certification sets a standard and gave me a tangible path to pursue.
I started preparing for the Master Chef exam 15 years ago. Working for master chefs, apprenticing for the exam, watching an exam, interacting with master chefs, and developing really high-level habits were great ways to begin the preparation. For the last 5 months leading up to the exam, I spent 50 hours a week working on the exam. In order to put myself in the best physical condition, I exercised 6 days a week. As for the mental aspect, I meditated, listened to really hard metal, and ran myself into the ground every chance I got.
The Master Chef exam was the hardest challenge I have ever ventured into and every aspect of my ability was tested, every day. During the exam, there is no time to be anything other than what you are as a chef. Mentally, the test pushed me right to the edge. I think that the mental aspect is the hardest part to deal with. The test puts you in a position to question things you are normally confident in. Ultimately, it’s the greatest process I have ever been a part of.
I think the greatest challenge for me was looking at each day as its own day. It became necessary to move on very quickly from the day just completed, good or bad, in order to put the focus where it was most needed.
I feel that reaching for greatness is about a process, developing great habits, and then keeping to consistent action. Successful completion of the exam reinforces my belief in what I do every day and the standards I hold my team to.
Some advice to chefs who are interested in this path…
I would say that there is simply no shortcut to passing the exam, don’t waste time looking for one. Spend your time cooking properly and learning from the right people. Get criticism from chefs who have passed the exam and fail as much as you can in preparation so you don’t have to during the exam. Set the goal and stop at nothing to get it.
One of 73 Certified Master Chefs and Captain of the 2020 American National, Culinary Team USA, with stops in Michelin Starred Restaurants; The Moulin de Mougins and Eleven Madison Park, Chef Ford has established himself as a professional who is focused, driven, innovative and organized beyond obsessive.