Navajo Technical University Chefs
Laurencita Billiman
Chef Brian Tatsukawa poses with students, from left, Laurencita Billiman, Walter Cloud, and J.D. Kinlacheeny after each student passed their practical exam on November 8, 2014. All three students passed the written portion of the Certified Sous Chef exam on December 5, making them ACF Certified Sous Chefs.

Getting it Right the First Time: NTU Culinary Students Pass Certification

Navajo Technical University

On December 5, 2014, Navajo Technical University Culinary Arts majors J.D. Kinlacheeny, Laurencita Billiman, and Walter Cloud passed the written portion of the American Culinary Federation’s CSC certification exam to achieve the level of Certified Sous Chef (CSC).

The written exam was the final step of the certification process after each student passed the practical exam on November 8, which allotted two hours for students to fabricate and cook a flat fish and a New York strip; prepare a salad and entrée using one protein with a vegetable, starch and sauce; and cook two artichokes according to French standards. The practical exam was individually critiqued and judged by an ACF-approved evaluator and two apprentice evaluators.

“It takes a lot of stamina to do the test,” said NTU culinary instructor Brian Tatsukawa, who mentored the students during the weeks leading up to the test. “For them to pass the practical on the first try was very impressive.”

For the written exam, students had an hour and a half to complete 100 multiple choice questions that tested culinary knowledge based on: food, equipment and food products; team management; safety and sanitation; finance; and ethics. Although the guidelines for the written test allowed for three attempts to pass the exam, all three NTU chefs passed on their first attempt.

“I couldn’t ask for a better mentor and outstanding support from Chef Bob Witte and Chef Brian Tatsukawa,” Billiman said. “They believed in us and encouraged us to climb that culinary ladder. And it’s not just the instructors. The most overwhelming support I had was from my family.”

“I’m so proud and honored to have this opportunity to live my dream,” Billiman said.

CSC certification through the ACF is designed to identify and inform the public of individuals who have demonstrated a standard level of culinary competence and expertise consistent with the sous chef level. According to the ACF CSC Manual, a Certified Sous Chef is a chef who supervises a shift or station in foodservice operation and helps oversee the preparation of a menu. Career opportunities include a sous chef, banquet chef, garde manager, first cook, a.m. sous chef and p.m. sous chef.

All three students are expected to remain with NTU now that they’re certified, where they will help build the nation’s first ACF-accredited tribal college culinary arts program. Kinlacheeny will work as an undergraduate researcher and operate NTU’s Healthy Cooking and Eating in Indian Country program training food preparation staff at Bureau of Indian Eduation schools on how to prepare and present Native foods in a healthy way, while Billiman and Cloud will serve as instructional assistants under Tatsukawa.

The American Culinary Federation awarded a three-year Grant of Accreditation to NTU’s Culinary Arts program in 2012. The ACF is the world’s largest chefs association and is the only organization that accredits culinary schools throughout the world.

For more information about NTU’s ACF accredited Culinary Arts program, contact 505-786-4100 or visit

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