2019 Commencement Celebrates Community
Rick Smilow, Adrienne Cheatham and Dan Barber champion diversity, attitude and connection in graduation speeches.
White coats and paper toques flooded out of NYU Skirball Center onto Washington Square Park and beyond on Tuesday as the Institute of Culinary Education sent 2018-2019 graduates on to succeed in the culinary and hospitality industries.
The anticipation was palpable on Tuesday morning as families, friends and supporters entered the auditorium and readied phones, cameras, and yes, cut-out heads, for the student processional into our annual commencement ceremony. Culinary Arts, Pastry & Baking Arts, Restaurant & Culinary Management, and Hospitality & Hotel Management graduates filed down the aisles with their classmates, waving to instructors and deans on stage.
President and CEO Rick Smilow welcomed the audience with advice from his 24 years leading ICE. He highlighted the diversity of backgrounds in this graduating class, touching on Devon Penn surviving Hurricane Irma before enrolling, veterans Alicia and Luis Peña meeting while serving in the military overseas, and Hanan Rasheed giving a TEDx talk on her work uniting Israelis and Palestinians. Rick offered perspective on opportunity, success and teamwork, encouraging our newest alumni to dream big while celebrating the career paths of tenured graduates.
"Enjoy the journey you have begun," he concluded, wishing graduates good fortune.
Alumna speaker Adrienne Cheatham (Culinary, '07) amusingly advised the new members of the industry to not "be assholes," among wise reminders that "skill can be taught, attitude cannot," and to rise to challenges. She shared how her goals and perspective have changed throughout her career and that "the only thing that has not changed is the importance of building a strong foundation in your field." Adrienne's work with cookbooks, TV shows and pop-up dinners are a testament to her sentiment that there are many avenues outside of restaurants toward long-term goals of food industry success.
"You've chosen one of the most diverse, welcoming, dynamic and varied industries to be a part of and there is no direction that you cannot take," Adrienne said.
Dan Barber, executive chef and co-owner of Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, spoke on the experience of dining, phases of fine dining and informality among American restaurants and our culture's craving for connectivity.
"We don’t need to create a solution, we are the solution," Dan said. "Who else does this, really? What other institution encourages this kind of engagement? In a context of pleasure and delight and hedonism every single service to satisfy what we’re all hard wired to create: real community and real connection, and by the way not just with each other. Restaurants can also help satisfy our hard-wired craving for real connection with where our food is grown and how it’s grown and who’s growing it for us."
Inspired to begin your culinary career path? Schedule a tour of our New York campus.