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MSU alum Brian Stephens receives culinary certification

MSU alumnus Brian Stephens recently received the ProChef II certification, which is awarded to culinary professionals by the Culinary Institute of America (CIA).  

Stephens said, “Getting certified gave me a much greater appreciation for the craft that I’ve been practicing for over 10 years.” He credits the certification with renewing his passion for cooking, presenting and learning.  

In order to receive this reputable certification, chefs are required to pass seven written tests and four practical cooking exams over a period of four days. For each practical exam, chefs are given a mystery basket of ingredients from which they must write a menu and create a predetermined number of portions under strict time constraints. Culinary experts and professors from the CIA critique the chef’s work and award a score. To pass, chefs need to score 75 percent or higher overall.  

“Every day I put my heart and soul onto a plate and every day I heard the good, the bad and the ugly about what I’d presented,” said Stephens. “The test pushed me to the limits and changed the chef I was to the chef I am.”  

Stephens began working for MSU’s catering department in 2009 after graduating from culinary school. During his first five years of working with Aramark, he held multiple roles: cook, catering chef and chef manager for residential dining. He left Aramark to pursue other opportunities which included working as the sous chef at Bluebird in Standford, becoming the head chef at Black Sheep Burritos and Brews in Huntington, W.Va., and opening a small café in Ashland. This past April, Stephens came back to MSU and began working in his current role as executive chef for MSU dining.  

Stephens credits MSU with helping him realize that there are multiple paths to success beyond the traditional route. He said, “MSU taught me to be open to critique, to have dialogue with your guests so that everyone can be happy, and that hard work can take you as far as you want to go. I wouldn’t have been able to become certified as a ProChef II had it not been for my career with MSU Dining.” 

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