Culinary News from The Culinary Institute of America

Gluten-Free Food Pioneer Delivers CIA Commencement Address

George Chookazian '93 Tells Graduates to Own Their Journey

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Jeff Levine
Communications Manager

Hyde Park, NY – George Chookazian, founder of the gluten-free baked goods company Foods By George, spoke to graduates at The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) on Friday, May 2. The 1993 graduate of the CIA's baking and pastry arts certificate program returned to the college's Hyde Park campus, where he advised 86 recipients of associate degrees in baking and pastry arts and culinary arts to ask themselves two key questions as they set out on their careers.

"You are about to start a journey. Own that journey," said Chookazian. "Ask yourself, 'What excites you and why? What motivates you and why?' The answers will help you develop the courage and skills from your mind and your heart to take what you learned here and extrapolate that into either an individual business or whatever company you work for."

Chookazian learned about gluten when his wife was diagnosed with celiac disease—an intolerance to gluten, the protein found in grains like wheat, rye, and barley. George, a stockbroker at the time, learned how hard it was to find foods she needed to manage the disease. He created Foods By George in River Edge, NJ to develop and market gluten-free baking mixes. Wanting to know more about baking to help him grow his new business, he enrolled at the CIA, where he was mentored by Professor Richard Coppedge, a Certified Master Baker and gluten-free baking expert. Chookazian later wrote the foreword to Chef Coppedge's Gluten-Free Baking with The Culinary Institute of America (Adams Media, 2008).

Now based in Mahwah, NJ, Foods By George produces pizza, lasagna, English muffins, brownies, crumb cake, muffins, tarts, and more—all gluten-free. His thin crust pizza was selected "Best New Food Product" at the National Products Expo East in 2005. His products are sold in supermarket chains and specialty stores on the East Coast from Maine to Florida and throughout the Midwest.

Photo Caption and Hi-Res Image

George Chookazian addresses associate degree graduates at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY on May 2, 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, and culinary science, 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, 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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