Starr Restaurants’ Erik Battes Delivers Commencement Address

Corporate Executive Chef Challenges Graduates to Overcome Obstacles

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Jeff Levine
Communications Manager

Hyde Park, NY – Erik Battes, corporate executive chef for Philadelphia-based Starr Restaurants, told graduates of The Culinary Institute of America that they will encounter obstacles during their careers but to be successful, they must analyze and tackle those obstacles. Chef Battes was commencement speaker at his alma mater on November 25.

“Everyone has their own mountains to climb. It’s amazing how many people are resigned to live their lives without ever climbing them,” said Chef Battes. “It is not the mountains we conquer, but ourselves. You can’t get to the impossible unless you conquer the possible.” Battes was executive chef at Morimoto in New York City before being promoted to his current position earlier this year. Morimoto and Buddakan are among Starr’s 19 restaurants in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Florida, and Washington, DC.

The California native’s first job as a teenager was at Wolfgang Puck Café, where he offered to work for free. While a CIA student, Battes gained additional experience by trailing at famed restaurants such as Daniel, Le Bernardin, Aquavit, and Chanterelle. His CIA externship field experience was at Jean-Georges in NYC. After graduating in 2004, Chef Battes soon returned to work for Jean-Georges Vongerichten and, by age 24, was running the kitchen at the Michelin-starred Perry Street. He eventually went on to become executive chef at his former externship site, Jean-Georges.

Chef Battes was named to the Zagat “30-Under-30” list for New York City in 2012. Despite his achievements at a young age, he has some regrets, such as not having cooked in a restaurant serving “soulful, rustic, unstructured” dishes. “Don’t be too impatient planning for the future,” he advised the 47 associate degree recipients. “Find the beauty in our craft, where you truly feel one with your work.”

The full graduation ceremony can be seen online.

Photo Caption and Hi-Res Image

Erik Battes ’04 speaks to graduates of The Culinary Institute of America at the college's Hyde Park campus on November 25, 2014. (Photo credit: Al Nowak/CIA)
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Founded in 1946, The Culinary Institute of America is an independent, not-for-profit college offering associate and bachelor's degrees with majors in culinary arts, baking and pastry arts, culinary science, and applied food studies, as well as certificate programs 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 46,000 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 Hyde Park, NY; St. Helena, CA; San Antonio, TX; and Singapore.

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