OCC’s Test Kitchen

A practical for the American Culinary Federation brought several of the region’s top chefs to OCC’s outstanding Hospitality Management facilities.


Usually the kitchens in Onondaga Community College’s Hospitality Management major are filled with students, listening to and learning from the College’s outstanding faculty members. The scene was much different on Saturday, October 21. Many of the region’s top chefs had come to the kitchen to judge the work of a fellow chef who was here from Pennsylvania to do his practical. Successfully preparing a meal under the watchful eye of fellow chefs would mean a higher level of certification in the American Culinary Federation. “It’s very intense, very nerve wracking to go through,” said Chef Deb Schneider of OCC’s Hospitality management program. She went through a similar process in the spring of 2016 when she became a Certified Executive Pastry Chef.

The chef being tested on this day was attempting to achieve the level of Executive Chef. He was given a market basket and required to make a meal for four. The meal would include a salad course, a fish course and a main course utilizing chicken in two ways. Each time the chef completed a course, the food was put on plates and delivered to an area in the kitchen where the judges could take a closer look. They used their cell phones to take pictures of the food, examined it visually and tasted it. Chefs in attendance were from all over the region including the Marriott Syracuse Downtown, Colgate University, Morrisville State College, a private country club in Geneseo, Rochester, Buffalo, Mississippi and a Master Chef from Long Island.

Chef Deb Schneider

When the cooking and plating were complete, the chefs went into a room and discussed what they had seen and tasted. They were judging the chef not only on his cooking skills but also on his sanitation and organization. When they completed their grading process they called the chef in, shared his evaluation with him and told him whether he passed or failed. “When I had my evaluation it was the hardest thing to sit through,” said Schneider. “Going through the process of cooking or baking in front of others who are judging you is stressful enough.”

OCC’s outstanding facilities have made it a regular site for American Culinary Federation practicals but having the event here is always thrilling. “To meet and talk with these other chefs gives me goose bumps,” said Schneider. “We’re honored to host practicals and believe it says a lot about the facilities our students learn and work in every day.”

Learn more about the OCC hospitality management program!