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2020 Chef Challenge Judges

Chef Alex DarvishiChef Alex Darvishi
Chef Darvishi is currently the Executive Chef at the prestigious Houston Country Club in Houston, Texas where he has been employed for approximately eight years now. He has worked at several other first class restaurants, hotels and clubs around the country. Before moving to Houston, he worked at the Athletic Club of Columbus, St. Clair Country Club, La Bonne Auberge and Opryland Hotel.

In 2012 Chef Darvishi was the team manager for the gold medal winning Youth Culinary Team USA which represented the United States at the international Culinary Olympics in Erfurt, Germany. He is also the recipient of a myriad of awards including the ACF National "Chef Professionalism" Award, Academy of Chefs 'Good taste' award, and multiple gold medals in the prestigious 1988, 1992, 2000, 2004 (including a perfect score) Culinary Olympics in Germany. He was a member of the U.S. Culinary Team at the World Cup Championships in 1990 where he also won two gold medals. He has also received 30 other gold medals at both the national and state levels hot food competitions.

Chef Darvishi is a member of Chaine de Rotisseurs, James Beard Foundation, American Culinary Federation, American Academy of Chefs and Association of Culinary Professionals as well as certified executive chef and a certified international culinary judge by the World Association of Chefs (WACS).

Judge Chef HugelierChef Stafford T. Decambra CEC, CCE, CCA, WCMC, AAC
Chef Stafford T. Decambra CEC, CCE, CCA, WCMC, AAC After graduating with from The Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, N.Y., in 1978, DeCambra, CEC, CCE, CCA, WCMC, AAC worked in several foodservice capacities in Hawaii, his home state, from the Cruise Line Industry to the continental United States. He recently retired and is serving as a Global Culinary Consultant. In 2005 DeCambra was inducted into the Epicurean World Master Chefs Society and in 2013 he received his Master Chef Certification from the World Association of Chef's & Cook's Society, an honor he says is a dream come true.

He is the past National Chairman of the American Academy of Chefs, the honor society of the American Culinary Federation and currently serves the National President of the American Culinary Federation.

Chef DeCambra also served on American Culinary Federation National Culinary Team USA as the 2016 ACF National Youth Team Manager. His most recent position he served as the Corporate Executive Chef for Poarch Creek Indians where Chef DeCambra oversaw all Culinary Operations for 3 different properties to include Creek Casino-Tallapoosa, Wind Creek Casino & Hotel-Atmore and the newly built Wind Creek Casino Creek-Wetumpka generating over $40 million a year in Food revenue.

Chef Alex DarvishiChef Roland E Schaeffer, CEC, AAC, HOF
Chef Schaeffer has been a Senior Experimental Chef for Heinz U.S.A., a division of the H. J. Heinz Company for the last 22 years. He is also a Certified Executive Chef. Prior to joining Heinz in 1978, Schaeffer was Executive Chef at the Lakeview Inn and Country Club Resort in Morgantown, W. Va. He also served as chef at the Bel Air Country Club in California; Chaparral Club, Dallas, Texas; and the Sheraton Blackstone Hotel, Chicago, Illinois.

In 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996 and 2000 Chef Schaeffer competed as a member, team advisor, culinary judge and apprentice team coach of the U. S. Culinary Olympic Team, which participates in the International Culinary Competition held every four years in Germany. He received three gold medals and an honorary diploma at this most prestigious culinary competition in the world. He is a member of the American Academy of Chefs, has been Chef de Cuisine of the most leading gourmet and food societies across the United States and is an Honorary Member and Ambassador of the Chefs and Cooks Association of Pittsburgh, a chapter of ACF. In 1979, the local organization named him "Chef of the Year".

At the ACF's 1991 National Convention in Honolulu, Hawaii, Chef Schaeffer was named both Chef Professionalism Award Winner and National Chef of the Year. This is the first time one individual has garnered the federation's top two annual recognition's in a single year. In 1994, Chef Schaeffer received an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Culinary Arts from the Johnson and Wales University. In 1998, he was the recipient of the American Academy of Chefs chairman's medal and in 2000, he was inducted into the (AAC) Hall of Fame for the lifelong dedication to the advancement of the culinary profession.

Chef Roland E. SchaefferChef James McCallister, CEC, AAC
Chef James McCallister received his culinary education through an apprenticeship at Kiawah Island in conjunction with the American Culinary Federation. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the State University of New York at Buffalo and a Masters in Hotel, Restaurant, & Tourism Management from the University of South Carolina.

Chef McCallister worked at the Atlanta Hilton and Towers at Nikolais’ Roof as Saucier. He took the position of Executive Chef with Milliken at their corporate Guest House in 1986 where he remained until leaving in 2017.

Chef McCallister has competed in over 30 culinary competitions, local, regional, national, and international including the Culinary Olympics in 1996, 2000, and 2008. He was a member of the 1996 Culinary Team USA. Chef McCallister is a Certified Executive Chef, a member of the honor society of the American Academy of Chefs, and is a Certified Culinary Judge. His love of food comes from being raised in a family of great cooks.

Chef Roland E. SchaefferChef Jason D. Hall, CMC
"I thought I would be a famous drummer when I grew up. My brother Jeff and I were in local bands together for many years through high school. When it came time to go to college and find a job, I put the band on the back burner and started looking at culinary schools.

"When Jeff and I were growing up it was common to prepare some of the basic items needed for dinner. On the weekends both our parents cooked, and my mother always baked breads and sweets. Jeff and I often helped with preparing dinner so these were skills I was already comfortable and familiar with. The day I cut my long hair in exchange for a position in a professional kitchen, I still half believed I was going to be a rock star one day."

Chef Hall's culinary journey began when he received his degree from The Pennsylvania Institute of Culinary Arts, Pittsburgh, in 1995. Since then, he has worked in multiple country clubs and, with some of the best chefs in the industry, he participated in countless competitions to hone his skills. In 2012 he took the CMC exam at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. Passing and becoming the 67th Certified Master Chef in the history of the exam was, and always will be, the biggest moment in Chef Hall's life and career.

The next year, Chef Hall was selected to be a member of the exclusive ACF Culinary Team USA 2016, to represent the United States in international cooking competitions across the globe. In 2014, Team USA won third place overall at the Culinary World Cup in Luxembourg with double gold medals while obtaining the highest score out of all nations in the cold food category. In 2016 the team once again reigned supreme by winning gold medals in every category and going on to place 1st in the world in the Culinary Art Category Cold Food.

Chef Hall is currently the Vice President of Research and Culinary Development at Southbend, where they are developing a new type of unique and involved customer support that is second to none. He is President Elect at AMCO and has developed and hosts a webinar called “The CMC Pre-Plan” where he can assist CMC candidates in their path to taking the exam.

Chef Alex DarvishiChef Ferdinand Metz, CMC, AAC, HOF, HBOT
Chef Ferdinand Metz grew up in Germany where his parents owned a hotel, butcher shop and restaurant. At the age of 15, he started an apprenticeship in Baking and Pastry, followed by an apprenticeship in Cooking. Because his older brother was designated to take over the business, Ferdinand was free to pursue his culinary career in the United Sates. He worked at the Preakness Hills Country Club, at the famed Le Pavillon restaurant and the Plaza Hotel in New York City. He went on to begin a 15 year career at the H.J. Heinz Company, where he led the Research and Development effort as Senior Manager.

Ferdinand Metz was instrumental in establishing the Chefs' Apprenticeship, Certification and Master Chef's Certification program in America in the mid-70's, as he spearheaded a 20 year successful effort of leading the United Sates Culinary Olympic Team to three consecutive world championships. He also served for four years as President of the American Culinary Federation and was the first ever Certified Master Chef, who also had earned a master's degree in business administration.

As President of the Culinary Institute of America for 21 years, Ferdinand Metz saw over 30,000 students graduate, many of whom would become leaders in the culinary field. He was recognized for his contributions by having received almost every major award, including the Lifetime Achievement Award and the induction into Who Is Who in Cooking by the James Beard Foundation, the Medal of the French Republic and as one of three recipients in the United States- the Maitre D' Honneur by the Chaine des Rotisseurs. Today he leads his two consulting companies, Ferdinand Metz Culinary Innovations and Master Chefs' Institute. As President Emeritus of the Culinary Institute of America, as Past Chairman of the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation and as Past President of the World Association of Chefs, a global organization of over ten million culinarians representing 74 countries, Chef Metz enjoys a domestic and international culinary presence.

Chef Roland E. SchaefferChef Thomas Vaccaro, CEPC, CMB
Thomas Vaccaro is the Dean for Curriculum and Instruction for Baking and Pastry Arts at The Culinary Institute of America (CIA). Chef Vaccaro is responsible for developing the college's baking and pastry arts curriculum, food and quality of instruction, identifying new faculty, and fostering student development.

Chef Vaccaro is a Certified Executive Pastry Chef C.E.P.C. and a Certified Master Baker C.M.B. He was the American Culinary Federation's National Pastry Chef of the Year in 2004. He coached the U.S. Culinary Team to many gold medals in the 1996, 2000, and the 2004 Culinary Olympics in Erfurt, Germany and earned a perfect score in the pastry competition as the team's pastry chef at the 1992 Olympics.

A 1985 alumnus of the CIA, Chef Vaccaro joined the college's administration in 2005. He returned to his Alma Mater from Atlantic City, where he was executive pastry chef at the Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino. He was also executive pastry chef at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City and Trump's Taj Mahal and Tropicana Casino and Entertainment Resort in Atlantic City.

Throughout his illustrious career, Vaccaro has earned gold medals in competitions around the world, including Scotland (2001), Switzerland (1993 and 1999), Chicago (1992 and 1999), Orlando (2008, 2009, 2010), New York (1990, 1996, 1997, 2008, 2009, 2010) and London (1992). A native of Belleville, NJ, Chef Vaccaro is a member and former Vice President of the South Jersey Professional Chefs Association.


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