I am officially a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. While I wasn't a speaker at the graduation ceremony, here's what I would have said if I had been given the chance.
I came to the CIA to learn from the best, along side the best. I was not disappointed. Two years ago I set out for the strange world of Hyde Park. I met some awesome people, and learned tons of shit. I learned the basics, and on extern I learned the restaurant lifestyle, but most importantly I learned a shit ton about the kind of cook I am and the kind of cook I want to become. I worked with so many amazing people. We're all so young, but I can already say that a lot of them have amazing careers in front of them.
People like Taylor and Eli will work their asses off in kitchens for years and years until they find themselves at the top. Eli will be one of those New Orleans greats, or maybe even a ridiculously successful corporate guy like his Dad. Taylor will be one of the last of the old guard. A cook first and a chef second. He'll be fifty years old, still at the pass, jumping on the line to bail some young apprentice out of the weeds. Jon will work in lots of awesome restaurants and will "fuck shit up" every where he goes "cuz he aint no bitch, chef." All joking aside, the kid will do great things wherever he goes. Zach will use his connections to travel all over the world and learn tons of amazing shit and come back somewhere and piece it all together to do some incredible food. Jared will cook with all his fucking heart and soul, and be extremely happy and extremely successful. Nate will go back to Seattle, and be a main proponent in Pacific Northwest cuisine, (in my opinion one of the best regions in the country.)
A few people will work in the best kitchens in the world, and use their experiences to push modern cuisine to its limits. I wouldn't be surprised if there were at least a couple Michelin Star candidates among them. Jenny will be a bat shit crazy cook and kick tons of peoples asses on every line she will work. Jeff will always work ridiculously hard, and always play twenty times harder. The names could go on and on. The point I'm trying to make is that everyone will go on to do great and completely different things. I hope that everyone will live up to their potential, but some will fizzle and burn out. Some will choose a life with more financial security or more time for family, and that's okay. Do what you have to do to make yourself happy. People's goals and interests change. Life's about improvisation, and adaptation. A cook would know that better than anyone.
I'd like to take a second to thank a few people. First, the CIA chefs who have played such a large part in my education. To Chef LeRoux, who taught me to focus on the little details, because when the techniques are simple, every little step shows in the final product. I'd like to thank Chef Averbeck. He was the first person who I had ever seen almost brought to tears because of an improperly cased sausage. I'd like to thank the people at career services for helping me find L'Etoile. I'd like to thank Raimundo Gaby for making me think, dream, and actually believe I can pull something off.
The people I met here gave me something I never had before. I never had someone to talk to or relate to when it came to food or cooking. I had never had an informed discussion on the differences between heritage breeds of pigs, I had never almost gotten in a fist fight over whether or not cajun boudin was better than an LA taco, and I had never been able to sit back with a beer in hand and tell war stories from different kitchens I had worked in. Here's to you, my first friends in food. It's been a pleasure.
Whether you need a butcher, a drinking buddy, or a shoulder to lean on... You know where to find me.
Cheers, It's been real.