Chobani Founder Delivers Commencement Address at CIA

Hamdi Ulukaya-th

Hamdi Ulukaya Created $1 Billion Company in Just Five Years

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Jeff Levine
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Hyde Park, NY – Hamdi Ulukaya is the founder, president, and CEO of Chobani, building a $1 billion business in just five years—during a major recession. His success earned him the moniker "the Steve Jobs of yogurt" by Forbes in 2011. Mr. Ulukaya, 40, shared his business acumen and philosophy for success during the baccalaureate commencement ceremony at The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, NY on Wednesday, May 22.

"As you go through your career, if you can touch just one person's life in a positive way, then you've performed a miracle," Ulukaya advised 71 recipients of bachelor's degrees in culinary arts management and baking and pastry arts management.

"It's not about the money or fame," said Ulukaya, whose family had a dairy business in his native Turkey. "It's about the joy of the journey. Trust yourself and this journey will be the most amazing one."

His journey brought him to the U.S. in 1994 to study business and learn English. He earned his MBA from the State University of New York at Albany, then created Euphrates Feta. In 2005, Ulukaya founded New York State-based Chobani, now the top-selling Greek yogurt brand in America.

To produce the authentic strained Greek yogurt, Chobani uses more than 25 million gallons of milk a week—a great economic boost to New York State's dairy farmers. Chobani's facility in Chenango County is the biggest milk processing plant east of the Mississippi.

CIA President Dr. Tim Ryan told graduates that Mr. Ulukaya's story shows the American Dream is still within reach for those with a vision and work ethic. "America is the land of opportunity, and the food world is the industry of opportunity," said Dr. Ryan.

The commencement ceremony took place on the 67th anniversary of the founding of the college. The first classes of what would become The Culinary Institute of America were held on May 22, 1946 in New Haven, CT.

Photo Caption and Hi-Res Image

Chobani founder, president, and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya offers advice to bachelor's degree recipients during commencement ceremonies at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY on May 22, 2013. (Photo credit: CIA/Phil Mansfield)
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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 45,000 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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