A collaboration between
British Culinary Federation
Culinary Association Wales
Federation of Chefs Scotland

Applied Ability Awards - Introduction

Three Steps to Understanding the Triple A

Step 1  Each candidate requires a Chef Mentor. To understand exactly how the AAA process works, read the Mentors Procedure.
Step 2 To see the skills and abilities required for AAA exams, click for:
AAA Foundation Chef Syllabus - defining "capable with supervision"
AAA Chef Syllabus - defining "accomplished without supervision"
Step 3 Once you have decide to proceed the Chef Mentor concerned should download and complete one Skills Scan & Action Plan for each candidate to enroll for either the AAA Foundation Chef Exam or the AAA Chef Exam. As instructed on the Action Plan please email a scanned copy to AAA Manager Jill Matthews. Note, on the Mentors page (menu to the left) you can watch a Scan & Plan being prepared.

FAQs on the Triple A

Who is behind it?
What is it?
What are the benefits?
How does it deliver?
Who can participate?
How does it operate?
What does the exam consist of?
How did it come about?
When are the exams?
How much does it cost?

Who is behind it? The Triple A was originally initiated by the British Food Trust under the Chairmanship of Prue Leith OBE, and was subsequently developed by chefs from the following chefs organisations: British Culinary Federation; Craft Guild of Chefs; Federation of Scottish Chefs; Masterchefs of Great Britain; Royal Academy of Culinary Arts; Welsh Culinary Association. Representatives of these organizations form the AAA National Committee, which is now the governing body for all matters applicable to the standards and delivery of Triple A exams.

What? An independent qualification for professional chefs designed and delivered by industry for industry in order to provide the national benchmarks that will define, develop and promote craft skills. Currently the Award can be achieved at two levels: the AAA Foundation Chef Certificate denotes those who have “demonstrated under test conditions the professional standard expected of a capable Kitchen & Larder Chef working under supervision”; and the AAA Chef Certificate denotes those who have demonstrated “the professional standard expected of an accomplished Kitchen & Larder Chef working without supervision”.

The AAA system is designed to:

  • make best use of existing investment in human resources by transferring skills and sharing best practice; assist succession or expansion planning;
  • improve business: better, happier, more reliable staff enhance quality, customer satisfaction and profits;
  • provide an independent, professional appraisal of in-house training that will enhance employer decision-making;
  • reduce staff turnover with less time and money spent in recruitment, well trained staff are less likely to leave;
  • pass on skills and knowledge in a way that will develop the Mentor's own capabilities; define and establish uniform, consistent chef-led standards;
  • gain competitive advantage in recruitment by offering the chefs' professional qualification;
  •  enable the employer to hire with confidence in that holders of the AAA will carry the profession's hallmark of ability.

How? By providing the direction and structure to enhance in-house training and mentoring; thereby making best use of existing resources and investment by cloning skills and sharing best practice. The AAA has been purpose-built to deliver not only trainees with demonstrable skills but also the trainers that will make them so.

Who? Anyone can enter. Most candidates will be employees who wish to have their skills certified by a recognized qualification. They might be highly skilled, but without formal qualifications, trained cooks wanting to progress their skills, or overseas workers wanting to obtain a British award. But they may also be adult returners to work needing to boost their confidence by gaining the AAA, or newly-qualified college students wanting an industry-led culinary award.

Method? Candidates will be entered by their mentor - normally their Head Chef or immediate boss in their working kitchen who will use the one-page 'skill scan' to help them identify strengths and opportunities against a common syllabus underpinned by a single body of knowledge ('Practical Cookery'). Mentor and candidate then create an action plan tailored to individual need, which is implemented in-house but culminates in the external AAA exam. Candidates not currently in work, and without a mentor, can take the exam unassisted, or could be put in touch with a local chef prepared to mentor them.

The Exam? Three components over one day: firstly, a 3.5 hour Practical (70% pass mark) with two Chef Examiners overseeing a maximum seven candidates conducting a range of tasks or, at AAA Chef level, given various recipes notified two weeks beforehand; all tasks/recipes taken from the Triple A syllabus. Secondly, a one-hour, online Knowledge Test (60% pass mark) comprising multi-choice questions from practice tests available online throughout the action plan period and covering every part of the syllabus. Thirdly, an employment and Aptitude Appraisal (70% pass mark) by way of a 20-minute interview with a third Aptitude Examiner

Background? With financial support from the Savoy Educational Trust, The Forte Foundation and Edge, the Triple A was developed over a year through consultative chefs workshops and a core working party prior to a pilot programme from September 2005 to April 2006. The pilot comprised 100 candidates in two rounds totalling 13 exams, each round preceded by workplace training with an in-house mentor; 74% of candidates passed.

Progress? With additional financial support from the Savoy Educational Trust, the Forte Foundation and Edge, the Triple A was developed through extensive piloting in England and Wales, which began in earnest in 2008. Around 70% enlisted are candidates for AAA Foundation Chef with 30% for AAA Chef; pass rates have been 62% and 60% respectively. The Triple A was formally accredited in 2012 and was then adopted as the final assessment for the Diploma in Craft Cuisine, the practical component within the new BTEC Apprenticeship in Craft Cuisine.

When? The exam schedule is designed to dovetail with in-house, preparation programmes tailored to each candidate, or group of candidates, starting with registration with the AAA office and concluding with the exams, sheduled as required throughout the year

Cost? The cost per candidate is £600, payable on registration. Employers may wish to share this fee with their candidates, with the latter making a commitment of, say, £100 recovered by the employer over 20 weeks. The cost covers all aspects of the AAA including fee-paid examiners, their selection and induction, venue costs, online servicing and support training, exams authorship, certification, quality assurance and the various aspects of administration and governance.

Acknowledgements - developing the Triple A has involved much time and many inputs…