One of America's top young entrepreneurs returned to his alma mater September 9 to deliver the commencement address. A 1999 graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, Matthew Wadiak is co-founder and chief operating officer of Blue Apron. He is also the company's in-house chef and chief product officer. Wadiak spoke to 59 graduates at the college's New York campus.
"Challenge yourself without knowing the outcome of what your actions might bring, but take bold actions because you love the experience," he told recipients of CIA degrees in culinary arts and baking & pastry arts. "I didn't know it at the time, but I started our company 17 years ago on this day—commencement day."
The pioneering meal kit delivery company is one of the most successful business start-ups ever. Blue Apron was founded in 2012 in a small kitchen in the New York City borough of Queens. Within four years, it had grown to 3,000 employees delivering eight million meals a month.
Blue Apron rarely repeats recipes, so Wadiak is constantly testing new ideas with inventive ingredients. A rising star in the food business world, the 38-year-old Chef Wadiak has been honored—along with fellow Blue Apron co-founders Matt Salzberg and Ilia Papas—by Inc. magazine among the "coolest" young entrepreneurs in the U.S. and by Ernst & Young as Entrepreneurs of the Year.
"Attention to detail is the difference between success and failure, here and in your future careers as professionals in the food business," advised Wadiak, who has returned to the CIA in recent years to recruit graduates to work for the quickly expanding Blue Apron.