Three campuses of The Culinary Institute of America across the U.S. bestowed associate degrees in culinary arts and baking and pastry arts on September 4. Graduates at the college’s New York campus welcomed guest speaker Justin Smillie. As that ceremony was ending, the commencement at the CIA’s Texas campus was beginning, with CIA alumnus Mark Cox delivering the keynote address. And, by late morning California time, graduates of the Greystone campus were hearing words of inspiration from Shelley Lindgren.

Smillie is partner and executive chef at Upland in New York City, named after his hometown of Upland, California. The restaurant showcases his California roots and seasonal, rustic culinary sensibilities. He was selected a New York Rising Star Chef in 2013 by and Adam Platt, restaurant critic for New York magazine, named Smillie one of his five best chefs of the year in 2012.

Cox, a 1978 CIA graduate, is executive chef and owner of the highly praised Mark’s American Cuisine in Houston. Mark’s, which Cox and his wife opened in 1997, has received numerous accolades, including being named one of the top 10 restaurants in the U.S. and one of the best restaurants in the world by the Zagat Guide.

Lindgren is co-owner and wine director of A16 in San Francisco, the restaurant that won the 2015 James Beard: Outstanding Wine Program award. She is also co-owner and wine director of SPQR in San Francisco and A16 Rockridge in Oakland, California. Wine Enthusiast nominated Lindgren as Wine Star Sommelier of the Year in 2012, and she has been named Best New Sommelier by Wine and Spirits magazine.

“You have learned, here at the CIA, the fundamental skills you will carry throughout your life, whichever path you choose,” Lindgren told graduates at the California campus in St. Helena. “But you have also learned the stamina and dedication this trade requires personally, physically, and emotionally.”

The CIA’s international campus in Singapore is holding a baccalaureate degree commencement on September 16.

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