Difficult recipes for Master chefs
Fritz Sonnenschmidt is a rarity in his trade: one of only 60 Certified Master Chefs in the world.
The vast majority of chefs who attempt the “CMC” exam fail. Not only is the 10-day test grueling, it requires years of preparation before an accredited school will accept a chef’s application to attempt it.
Interestingly, everyone seems impressed by the CMC title except Sonnenschmidt himself. The Munich native called it more a means to further his education than an assumed pass to culinary superstardom.
Oh, he’s had that, too. He’s hosted multiple televised cooking shows, authored numerous books and is a globally recognized culinary ambassador and consultant. In 2002, he capped off 50 of his 60 years (and counting) in restaurants and culinary education by retiring as culinary dean at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y.
Humble, lively and funny, the 78-year-old Sonnenschmidt—who looks nowhere close to that age—was in Louisville last week to speak at Sullivan University’s National Center for Hospitality Studies and enjoy a dinner in his honor. That afternoon I requested 30 minutes of his time and got 45. During that time, I just let the recorder run.
Everybody makes big deal about Certified Master Chef, but for every CMC, there are 100 chefs who are as good but didn’t have the time, money or ego to devote to it. I took it to prove to myself that, as an instructor, I teach the right things the right way.
But when I took it, I realized that pressure is a destroyer, that it makes people not function well. And that changed my teaching philosophy.
I try to take the pressure out of the classroom by saying to students, “You and I are equal.” That’s the first thing. The second thing I tell them is, “Mistakes are nothing to be worried about, mistakes are learning.” I put the students at ease.
I’m 78. Oh, you think I look good? (He strokes his hair.) It’s A-1 Sauce. That’s the secret. No gray!
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