Hari Pulapaka's quest has been cut short.
The chef and owner of Cress in DeLand traveled to Michigan last weekend to try for master chef certification from the American Culinary Federation. It's an eight-day practical exam that has the candidates -- only 10 from across the country -- cooking for a panel of judges in a variety of culinary categories.
On Monday Pulapaka posted on his Facebook page a note of congratulations to his fellow candidates who made it past day three but "Sadly, my journey, in this pursuit, ended today."
"It was obvious from Day 1 that I had not prepared well enough and my inexperience in the grand scheme showed," his post continued. "I couldn't have possibly passed this exam."
In an email message, Pulapaka, shown at left in a photo posted on the ACF Facebook page, attributed his demise to "Mostly a lack of experience in this format, perhaps some uncertainty about how to stay between the expected culinary lines." He said that he might have done better by training under the mentorship of other certified master chefs. "I never did that," he said. "My schedule doesn't permit it and I'm too isolated in DeLand." Besides operating Cress, Pulapaka is a professor of mathematics at Stetson University.
The exam, which is being conducted in Livonia Mich., continues through Oct. 7. The remaining candidates must achieve a daily score from the judging panel, comprised of master chefs, or between 75 and 100 points. They are not competing against each other, so it isn't a "last chef standing" contest. Eight of the original 10 candidates advanced to Tuesday's test.
The American Culinary Federation, which is based in St. Augustine, has only 65 certified master chefs currently in its ranks.