Toqueland Contributor Percy Whatley Wins ACF Western Region Chef of the Year

A big congratulations to The Ahwahnee’s Percy Whatley, who nabbed the American Culinary Federation‘s Western Region Chef of the Year award last night in Reno, Nevada.

Percy Whatley (photo courtesy Delaware North Companies)

Whatley, who twice competed in the Bocuse d’Or USA, and is training hard for the Certified Master Chef (CMC) exam, began documenting his training for the CMC on Toqueland last month, and has been putting the finishing touches on the next installment of his journal for us. (He was also featured in my Huffington Post piece “The Real Top Chefs” about the largely unknown world of traditional culinary competitions.) We’ll ask him to share a little about this event in his next CMC post as well, if he has any energy left to spare.


CMC Journal: Episode 1: Tunnel Vision

Percy Whatley Takes Us Inside His Training for the Certified Master Chef Exam, The Toughest Test in Cooking

by Percy Whatley, Toqueland Contributor

[Editor’s Note: Toqueland is proud to present our first guest contributor, Percy Whatley, Executive Chef of The Ahwahnee in Yosemite National Park, California. Percy is preparing for one of the most grueling challenges a toque can attempt: the Certified Master Chef exam. The exam is notoriously difficult (just watch the embedded video below to get a sense of what he’s in for), and there is no certainty of passing (only five of twelve candidates made the grade in 2010), so, I’m especially grateful that Percy has agreed to put it out there and chronicle his CMC training for Toqueland over the next year and a half. Herewith, his first monthly installment.- Andrew]

February 2012

Greetings, residents of Toqueland.

I am writing to you from the Denver airport, on my way back to Yosemite from my first training session for the Certified Master Chef exam. This journal entry was begun in a Cleveland hotel and finished here in Colorado. I’d have done it back at my desk at The Ahwahnee, but this is an extracurricular activity and my “normal” life will swallow me up the moment I return to The Ahwahnee, so it’s now or never.

A few years ago, Kevin Doherty, chef of Boston’s TD Garden, which like the Ahwahnee is a Delaware North Companies  property, and I were nominated by Chef Roland Henin, our corporate chef and mentor, and a Certified Master Chef (CMC) himself, to be the “chosen ones” and  be supported in the venture of training and developing with the goal of passing the Certified Master Chef exam. The CMC exam takes place over eight days and 130 hours, and includes challenges in disciplines ranging from Classical Cuisine to Buffet Catering to Freestyle to Global Cuisine to Bakery and Pastry. (Read more about it here.) Only 66 people have attained the level of CMC: one is Roland himself, who famously mentored Thomas Keller; another is Richard Rosendale, who just became the US candidate to the Bocuse d’Or 2013.

We hadn’t been able to find the time to start down the CMC path in the intervening years, but not too long ago, our corporate bosses sat us down at a long and important-seeming table and explained that the time had come: They wanted us to dig in and start prepping for the CMC, the plan being that we’d tandem train, meeting up periodically to cook together and critique each other while offering moral support and, when necessary, commiseration.

Who were we to argue? Let the adventure begin!


Read More »