Ferdinand Metz, an unparalleled figure in American cuisine, spent 21 transformative years at the Culinary Institute of America, shaping the culinary landscape. From a culinary upbringing in Germany to key roles in NYC establishments, Metz’s journey reflects commitment to excellence.
Notably, he spearheaded influential programs like the Chefs’ Apprenticeship and Master Chefs’ Certification. As President of the American Culinary Federation, he achieved global impact, leading the U.S. Culinary Olympic Team to three consecutive world championships. Metz’s legacy includes over 30,000 graduated students and prestigious awards, solidifying his domestic and international culinary presence today.
We got the chance to talk to the legendary Chef Ferdinand about his latest book “From Many We Are One” and his journey in helping morph the American cuisine of today.
Chef’s Roll: Congrats on the new book “From Many We Are One.” This title is your 4th published book after 25+ years. How was your experience creating this book?
Ferdinand Metz: I was warned early on that it is much easier to write than to finally publish a book, advice I would share with any potential author. But, yes, this is my fourth book, with my previous titles all written around the various Olympic and World Cup competitions.
When thinking about this fourth book, numerous books have already been written about the rise of American chefs. However, more was needed to be written about the profound influence of education/training, especially in an increasingly sophisticated dining culture and the global recognition of American cuisine.
The Culinary Institute of America (CIA), its faculty of outstanding chefs, wine experts, and hospitality teachers, were not just bi-standers but active participants in shaping the evolution of modern American cuisine. Having lived and cooked through that period with the far-reaching platform of the CIA, I embarked on the journey.
CR: This book follows your journey throughout various periods that have morphed into what the American culinary industry is today. What period was the most rewarding to write about?
FM: Without any question, the early 70s going into the mid-80s had the most significant influence on the evolution of American cuisine and hospitality.
During this period, various events marked its influence, such as the famous Paris Wine Tasting of 1976; the emergence of California cuisine and its focus on its farm-to-table movement; the establishment of professionalization through the American Culinary Federation (ACF) apprenticeship and certification programs; American chefs winning three consecutive cooking world championships and one Bocuse d’Or competition; and the introduction of world leaders to American cuisine
CR: How has this book shaped your outlook on what’s to come in American cooking?
FM: After the hype and excitement of having discovered, debated, and accepted the notion of American Cuisine, chefs and restaurateurs have settled in by focusing on the practical aspects of running a restaurant, still being true to the tenants that shaped this new way of cooking.
United States Olympic Team 1988 //Photo Courtesy of The Metz/Wang Family Foundation
CR: You’ve had an instrumental role in establishing the Master Chef’s certification program in the mid-1970s. How have the Master Chef’s certification programs evolved over the last 45+ years?
FM: The Master Chefs certification (a 10-day examination) was a logical extension of establishing the apprenticeship and chefs certification programs as it certified chefs at the highest professional qualifications in America. Today, there are significant efforts to make the program more accessible without lowering the standards.
CR: Throughout your 60+ culinary career, what has been one of your most memorable experiences/”Off The Record” memories thus far in your career?
FM: In my twenty-one-year tenure as president of the Culinary Institute of America, teaching scores of young American chefs, many of whom would go on to become leaders in the culinary field, represented the highlight of my professional career, followed closely by the three years of cooking at what was then widely celebrated as the best restaurant in America – NYC’s Le Pavillon. Leading American teams to three World Championships and one Culinary World Cup became not only an unprecedented realization, but also a tremendous personal learning experience.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As a young cook, graduating from two apprenticeship programs (Cooking and Pastry) and released from his obligation to help run the family’s small hotel, restaurant, and butcher shop, Ferdinand Metz came to America, inspired by the dream to apply his skills and energies at the most renowned food/hospitality establishments in New York City. That journey led him to Le Pavillon, at that time widely heralded as the best restaurant in the country and the venerable Plaza Hotel, the exclusive oasis of New York City’s socialites. Honing his R&D and administrative skills at H. J. Heinz, one of America’s foremost food companies and earning an MBA from the University of Pittsburgh prepared him to take the helm at the country’s most prestigious food institutions – The Culinary Institute of America, a journey, reflecting the perfect confluence of luck meeting opportunity.
To purchase your own signed copy of “From Many We Are One” — Click Here.
The proceeds from this book will allow the Metz/Wang Family Foundation (MWFF), a 501(c)(3) charitable organization to provide financial support to culinarians, for scholarships, education, and training.