April 29, 2013

CIA Salutes Industry Thought Leaders

Seventh Annual CIA Leadership Awards
The Seventh annual CIA Leadership Awards

At its seventh annual Leadership Awards, The Culinary Institute of America honored some of the foodservice and hospitality industry’s most forward-thinking innovators—and supported the future of food through student scholarships.

This year’s awards—known as the Augies, in honor of famed French chef Auguste Escoffier—were presented to four individuals who exemplify, in spirit and deed, the CIA’s four thought leadership pillars:

  • Professional Excellence and Innovation—Daniel Humm, executive chef, Eleven Madison Park and The NoMad Hotel, New York City
  • Health and Wellness—Clifford Pleau ’81, corporate executive chef, Seasons 52, Orlando, FL
  • World Cuisines and Cultures—Rick Bayless, chef/owner, Frontera Grill, Topolobampo, and Xoco, Chicago, IL
  • Sustainability and Food Ethics—Walter Robb, co-CEO, Whole Foods Market, Austin, TX

With the theme “Food Matters,” the event was held on April 26, 3013 at the Grand Hyatt in New York City, where the ballroom was filled with nearly 400 attendees. In his opening remarks, CIA President Dr. Tim Ryan declared, “Not only is food part of everyone’s traditions and family celebrations—it is a bridge to other cultures, it fosters understanding among the people of the world, it nourishes the body and the soul, and it inspires innovation, excellence, and creativity.”

Each honoree offered advice to CIA students, including the 30 assisting at the event and the many more back on campus who were following the event on Twitter:

  • Daniel Humm described how he finds inspiration through the music of jazz innovator Miles Davis and abstract expressionist artist Willem de Kooning. Davis pushed the envelope and charted new territory with every album, and de Kooning said, “I have to change to stay the same,” a sentiment Chef Humm has taken to heart.
  • Cliff Pleau told the audience that his vision for a restaurant like Seasons 52 began early in his career, but it took nearly 20 years to come true. He spent a lot of time practicing “culinary imagineering,” and over the years, collaboration and risk-taking became as important to his success as his commitment to helping Americans to eat more mindfully.
  • Rick Bayless took a different path on the way to earning his PhD in anthropological linguistics. Food was his passion. “With one bite of a dish,” says Chef Bayless, “and sometimes just a look at the dish, you can tell reams of things about a culture, its history, its agriculture, and its people.”
  • Walter Robb quoted author and academic Wendell Berry several times in his remarks about sustainability. He sees 100 percent transparency in the future of food, with stores and restaurants providing complete information about how food is grown, made, and transported.

Dr. Ryan noted that while each honoree was presented his Augie in the name of just one of the college’s thought-leadership pillars, they are all committed to all of the pillars. “The role of today’s chefs and food professionals is not only about flavor development and pleasing customers,” he says. “Chefs must be socially responsible citizens of the world, and it is our job and our privilege at the CIA to train them with that goal in mind.”

And in support of that objective, all proceeds from the Leadership Awards event, including more than $49,000 raised from the live auction, supported CIA student scholarships.

View CIA students and the evening’s honorees describing how “Food Matters” to them on the CIA’s YouTube Channel.

Photos from the seventh annual Leadership Awards

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