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First cohort of mentees in CHEFS® program achieve ProChef® certification from The Culinary Institute of America

Several emerging culinarians who graduated from the inaugural cohort of Delaware North’s CHEFS® (Culinary & Hospitality Excellence for Future Success) program successfully completed the rigorous CIA ProChef® Level 1 exam during the week of Jan. 29. The ProChef certification, a prestigious credential, is part of a three-tiered program developed by the renowned Culinary Institute of America (CIA), recognized globally as a leading institution for culinary, baking and pastry arts education.

The group traveled to the CIA’s Texas Campus in San Antonio for the two-day, hands-on practical judged by Hinnerk von Bargen, professor of culinary arts at the CIA, and George Shannon, project manager chef for CIA Consulting.

“Mise en place – or everything in its place – is a mantra for the kitchen and for life,” Shannon said. “This group illustrated the success that can be achieved through preparation, practice and organization.”

The cohort passed the written portion of the ProChef exam in fall 2023, cementing their participation in January’s practical exam, which tests fundamentals such as stock, soup, and sauce making; protein, vegetable, and starch cookery; egg cookery; salad and dressing preparation; and plating.

Delaware North has 10 newly certified ProChef I chefs, and emerging culinarian Josue Rivera Borrero earned the ProChef Baking and Pastry credential. The Space 220 pastry sous chef is one of only seven pastry chefs in the world with this designation.

“This milestone marks the true culmination of the CHEFS journey,” said Steve Eden, director of the Culinary & Hospitality Academy for Delaware North. “Their ability to take their careers to the next level wouldn’t have been possible without the camaraderie they created as the inaugural CHEFS cohort and the guidance from the executive chef mentors at their units.”

The first cohort of emerging culinarians invested countless hours in their development through the CHEFS program, which they successfully completed in June 2023. In all, the yearlong journey included hands-on mentorship, classroom learning and participation in several high-profile culinary events for Delaware North. For the past several months, they have been preparing for the ProChef Level I exam.

“We are so proud of the first CHEFS cohort and their dedication to strengthening their craft as well as the support we have received across Delaware North to ensure the development of our culinarians,” said Lou Piuggi, vice president of culinary, food and beverage for Delaware North.

“It is refreshing to see a group of rising chefs display this much enthusiasm and passion to bettering themselves in the culinary arts, displaying both personal and professional growth in the process,” Shannon said.

Below is a list of emerging culinarians who earned ProChef certifications:

Austin Persall, Tenaya at Yosemite in California
Benjamin Kaye-Smith, Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas
Crystal Dion, The Edison at Disney Springs
Felipe Figueroa, Maria & Enzo’s at Disney Springs
Jacquelyn Zehl, Tenaya at Yosemite
Jakob Sleight, Patina 250 at corporate headquarters in Buffalo
Josue Rivera Borrero, Space 220 at Walt Disney World Resort
Michael Butler, MetLife Stadium in East Brunswick, N.J.
Nanako Lugo, Morimoto Asia at Disney Springs
Renner Burgos, MetLife Stadium