Debra Ponzek ’84 Delivers Commencement Address
Leading Connecticut Chef & Caterer Returns to Alma Mater
Hyde Park, NY – Debra Ponzek, chef/owner of Aux Délices and Aux Délices Events in
Fairfield County, CT, challenged graduates of The Culinary
Institute of America to be not only skilled professionals, but also good
colleagues and co-workers. Chef Ponzek delivered the
commencement address at the CIA’s New York campus on March
“Be a positive person and someone who inspires others,” Ponzek told 88 recipients of associate degrees in culinary arts and baking and pastry arts.
“There is no room for a big ego in a small kitchen…so be a person that people
want to be around.”
After graduating from the CIA in 1984, Chef Ponzek worked for Drew Nieporent at Montrachet, quickly rising from sous chef to
executive chef. During her seven years running the restaurant’s kitchen, Montrachet earned a trio of three-star reviews from The New York Times. In 1994, she moved
to Connecticut to open the first Aux Délices in
Greenwich. There are now three additional locations of the gourmet prepared
food shop and café, plus a catering and event planning division.
Chef Ponzek’s career accolades
include being honored as one of America’s Best New Chefs by Food & Wine magazine in 1989 and winning
the James Beard Foundation Award for Rising Star Chef in 1992.
“You carry a lot of responsibility coming from this school
and people will have a certain level of expectation for you,” Ponzek said. “But you can feel proud of what you’ve
achieved so far. The CIA has given you the best culinary education in the
country and you should feel confident and self-assured as you go forward.”
The entire graduation ceremony can be seen online.
Photo Caption and Hi-Res Image
Debra Ponzek ’84 poses with brand
new graduates of The Culinary Institute of America on March 27, 2015.
Ponzek, chef and owner of Aux Délices in Connecticut, was keynote
speaker for the day's commencement ceremony. (Photo credit: Al Nowak/CIA)
View hi-res image >
Founded in 1946, The Culinary Institute of America is an independent,
not-for-profit college offering associate degrees in culinary arts and baking
and pastry arts and bachelor's degree majors in management, culinary science,
and applied food studies, as well as certificates in culinary arts and wine and
beverage studies. As the world's premier culinary college, the CIA provides
thought leadership in the areas of health & wellness, sustainability, and
world cuisines & cultures through research and conferences. The CIA has a
network of 48,000 alumni that includes industry leaders such as Grant Achatz, Anthony Bourdain, Roy
Choi, Cat Cora, Dan Coudreaut, Steve Ells, Johnny Iuzzini, Charlie Palmer, and Roy Yamaguchi. The CIA also
offers courses for professionals and enthusiasts, as well as consulting
services in support of innovation for the foodservice and hospitality industry.
The college has campuses in New York, California, Texas, and Singapore.
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