Kendall College announces that Chef Jose Garces, a 1996 graduate of the Kendall College School of Culinary Arts, Food Network Iron Chef, and James Beard Award winner, will deliver the commencement address at its 2012 graduation ceremony.

The ceremony will be held at 10 a.m. on June 24 at Chicago Symphony Center Orchestra Hall. The college will award degrees to more than 400 students in the Schools of Business, Culinary Arts, Education, and Hospitality Management.

“I’m proud to welcome Chef Garces as our 2012 commencement speaker,” says Emily Knight, president of Kendall College. “As a Kendall College alum, Jose is not only an inspiration to our students who are on the verge of beginning their professional careers, but also a testament to our outstanding faculty and staff’s commitment to preparing our students for success.”

An American chef born to Ecuadorian parents and raised in Chicago, Garces began his culinary training in the kitchen of his paternal grandmother.

After graduating from Kendall College and opening his first restaurant, Amada, in 2005, Garces blossomed, quickly earning a name for himself as an enormous talent and one of the nation’s most gifted young chefs. His eponymous Garces Group owns and operates more than a dozen restaurants in Philadelphia, Chicago, Scottsdale, Palm Springs, and Atlantic City.

In 2009, Garces won Food Network’s The Next Iron Chef, making him one of only eight in the country to hold the prestigious title of Iron Chef America; today, he appears regularly on the Food Network hit.

Garces credits his professors and colleagues at Kendall College with kick-starting his successful career.

“The discipline and structure I encountered at Kendall prepared me for the world of professional kitchens and taught me the critical skills necessary to build my career from line cook to executive chef to chef-owner,” he says.

“In fact, my senior project at Kendall was a business plan for a Spanish tapas bar and restaurant that bears striking resemblance to my first restaurant, Amada. It would be fair to say that that project was the beginning of my incredible career, and it was created right here at Kendall College.”

Since graduating, Garces has also authored a cookbook, Latin Evolution (Lake Isle Press, 2008); his second, The Latin Road Home, is set to be published this year. He also won the James Beard Foundation’s prestigious “Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic” award in 2009.

He has been featured on top TV shows and in prestigious publications that include The Today Show, NightlineThe New York Times,Travel & LeisureBon Appetit, Food & Wine, and The Wall Street Journal.

Following commencement, Garces will welcome Kendall alumni at a special “meet and greet” event at Mercat a la Planxa in Chicago, where he is executive chef, from 1-3 p.m.

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