Students at Eastern Kentucky University are officially getting the best of the best in regards to dining services on campus.
James Duran, executive chef with EKU’s Aramark dining services, recently earned ProChef Level III certification status from the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), which is the highest level of professional certification the institute provides.
A professional chef for the past 11 years, Duran said continuous improvement for his craft is important to him.
“It is important to continue education to stay engaged with the industry, keep on top of trends and push innovation. Certifications like ProChef help to realign your passion and allow you to view culinary arts from different perspectives,” he said.
Chefs are certified based on their experience in the kitchen as well as how to successfully manage a food service operation, according to the CIA. The application process for each ProChef level can take up to six months, with the testing process taking a week. Duran participated in three practical cooking tests, three written exams and two case study presentations. Testing took place at the CIA headquarters in Hyde Park, New York, in June.
The most recent testing saw four chefs from higher education institutions earn their ProChef III certification.
“These chefs will be responsible for taking the learnings from their hard work to improve culinary operations, provide training to their staff and deliver overall culinary and operational excellence for their students, customers and clients,” said Paolo Stefani of Aramark Collegiate Hospitality’s Central Region.
Duran’s interest in the culinary arts began as a youngster, when he found that being in the kitchen with his mother helped him bond with her and feel connected to their family heritage. The interest grew into a passion. He has been at EKU since April and has enjoyed his time here.
“I enjoy working with the varied student communities with different tastes and dietary needs that universities present,” he said. “Working with groups like this helps to push new ideas and approaches to food and food service. It is also rewarding to provide the comfort of a hot meal to students who might not otherwise have one.”