Alex Stupak, one of Food & Wine magazine's Best New Chefs for 2013, delivered the keynote address at commencement ceremonies at The Culinary Institute of America's Hyde Park, New York, campus on Friday, September 6. Stupak is the executive chef and owner of Empellón Taqueria and Empellón Cocina in New York City.
The 2000 graduate of The Culinary Institute of America first made a name for himself as a pastry chef, before returning to the savory side of cooking three years ago with his Mexican concepts. He was named Best Pastry Chef by Boston magazine in 2003 and one of the Top Ten Pastry Chefs in America by Pastry Art & Design in 2008 and by Dessert Professional in 2009.
Stupak's advice to 61 recipients of associate degrees in culinary arts and baking and pastry arts included finding a mentor. "Look for a model of what you want to achieve one day. For me that is someone who has done something unique that not everyone can do," Stupak says, citing fellow CIA alumni Grant Achatz '94 and Ken Oringer '89 as his models. "The passion those chefs have has stayed with me through the years."
Stupak chose fine Mexican cuisine when opening his own restaurant because "Mexico and all of Latin America are the future. The world is starting to shine a spotlight on those cuisines because they are fascinating and ancient."
At age 33, he is working toward achieving his career goal of having the first ever Michelin Guide three-star Mexican restaurant. He appears well on his way, as Empellón Cocina was a finalist for the 2013 James Beard Foundation Award for Best New Restaurant in the country.