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Professional chefs prepare food that people eat without question, which reflects an almost unparalleled degree of trust from their patrons, their employers and society in general. To reinforce this extraordinary confidence and faith in professional chefs, the organizations that train and certify them have developed codes of ethics. Members must adhere to the codes as a condition of membership and certification.
Duties to Society
Codes of ethics for chefs call on members to obey regulations that promote public health and safety. The American Culinary Foundation, for example, expects chefs to provide nutritious meals and fresh ingredients; practice truth in advertising; and adhere to health and safety standards. The code extends to employment issues as well; the ethical chef treats employees honestly and fairly, and does not subject them to harassment of any sort.
Duties to the Profession
Chefs must always conduct themselves professionally in a manner that brings honor -- not disrepute -- to their profession. The code of ethics for the Atlanta branch of the American Culinary Foundation mirrors West Point's strict honor code, stating simply that members " . . .will not lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate those who do." The parent organization's code calls on chefs to support each other in their efforts to increase their knowledge and enhance their offerings.
Duties to Clients
Honesty, integrity and fair dealing must characterize a chef’s dealing with her patrons. This applies not only to serious considerations, such as accommodating food allergies, but also to preparing meals to patrons’ tastes. The United States Personal Chefs' Association, whose members primarily work for individuals and small groups, requires members to respect their patrons’ property and confidential information. Chefs must also be prepared to disclose any information a client may request about the preparation of any meal, and personal chefs should also provide clear directions for the storage and heating of any meals they’ve prepared.
Duties to Self
Because of the responsibility to deal fairly and honestly with patrons and others, an ethical chef stays abreast of developments in the food preparation and services arena. Chefs must continually learn about new preparation methods and tools, as well as new uses for ingredients. They must honestly represent their training, certifications and other qualifications, and never pass another’s work as their own.
Ethics Code Violations
Each professional chefs’ association has procedures in place to deal with ethics violations. The ACF’s procedure, for example, outlines sanctions ranging from censure to revocation of certification for code violations, depending on their severity. No law requires chefs to join or be certified by a professional organization, but those who don’t are at a competitive disadvantage when seeking employment. The restaurants, institutions and private households that hire chefs look for certifications and memberships precisely, because they indicate a commitment to the profession and adherence to high standards of ethical conduct.