Monday, June 2, 2014

CIA's Annual Leadership Awards: The Power of Food

By Student Blogger Morgan

Every year the CIA hosts an event in New York City that honors four major leaders for their positive contributions to the food industry and simultaneously raises scholarship money for our students on all four campuses. This year's theme was 'The Power of Food', and I had the pleasure of being a student volunteer for the event. We kicked the day off with a private press conference with the four honorees and the president of the CIA, Tim Ryan.

Honorees for this year were:
  • Jean-Georges Vongerichten: chef/owner of Jean-Georges Restaurants for Professional Excellence and Innovation.
  • Hamdi Ulukaya: founder and CEO of Chobani, Inc. for Health and Wellness.
  • Masaharu Morimoto: chef/owner of Morimoto Restaurants for World Cuisines and Cultures.
  • Leo Oosterveer: CEO of Unilever Food Solutions for Sustainability and Food Ethics
President Ryan introduced each honoree who then shared their own story of how they came up in the food industry, and their prospective plans for the future. It resonated with me, personally to hear Hamdi Ulukaya speak about the importance of a quality product. He said shame on the manufacturer who makes a product that they wouldn't feed to their own children; to provide for a brighter future in any industry it is the responsibility of the leaders to consider the affect of their product on consumers. The press conference was my favorite part because the personalities of each honoree really came out, and it was clear that each of their awards was very well deserved.

After the press conference guests starting arriving for the big night we had planned. First stop- the cocktail party and silent auction.

The cocktail party was catered by the Hyatt Hotel, but each honoree also nominated an up and coming chef in the industry to create an appetizer or canape that was served. A few lucky CIA students helped these chefs prepare and serve their dishes during the cocktail party.

The main fundraiser of the event is a silent auction featuring exotic trips, packages and prizes that have been graciously donated to the CIA from all across the world. The prizes ranged from a week long trip to Cuzco, Peru and Macchu Picchu, to a state of the art CIA brand knife kit. All proceeds from the auction go directly into the student scholarship fund and provide grants and scholarships for our students to be able to afford an education at the CIA. As a thank you to all donors and attendees at the event, CIA students created this video.

The evening continued with lots of picture taking, mingling, and bidding. The silent auction ended up raising over $100,000 in scholarship funds! Besides our honorees, distinguished guests (and CIA graduates!) included Thomas Keller, Charlie Palmer, Johnny Iuzzini, and several contestants from Top Chef and Top Chef Masters.

The event concluded with the awards ceremony, speeches all four honorees, and both President Ryan and President of the board of trustees, Charlie Palmer. Dessert was served outside the ballroom while the silent auction winners claimed their prize and guests helped themselves to a "swag" bag stuffed to the brim with donated goodies. For me, it was a night of unparalleled pride in my school, awe of the amazing and talented chefs who showed up to support us, and shock of how good of a singer Chef Masaharu Morimoto is. He might have serenaded the whole crowd during his acceptance speech and let me tell you, truly, that is one talented and charismatic guy! I was honored to be a part of this event and hope that is continues to raise scholarship money for CIA students for so many years to come.

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