Culinary News from The Culinary Institute of America

Union Square Cafe Executive Chef Speaks to CIA Graduates

Lena Ciardullo Returns to Alma Mater to Deliver Commencement Keynote

Hyde Park, NY – Lena Ciardullo, the new executive chef of Union Square Cafe, was the commencement speaker at the New York campus of The Culinary Institute of America on March 6. The 2009 CIA graduate told the newest alumni of her alma mater to always be looking towards the next step in their careers, and to use their CIA education to achieve their goals.

“Chefs must stay hungry,” Ciardullo told recipients of CIA associate degrees in Culinary Arts and Baking and Pastry Arts. “You must constantly be taking the greater challenge and challenging those around you to think in new ways as well.”

Chef Ciardullo joined Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG) following her CIA graduation, working at Maialino, Gramercy Tavern, Marta, Caffe Marchio, and Vini e Fritti. With her new position, she is just the fourth executive chef—and first female executive chef—in the 35-year history of Union Square Cafe, USHG’s flagship restaurant.

Raised in Naperville, IL, Ciardullo earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Illinois before discovering her passion for food and hospitality and enrolling at the CIA.

“The CIA taught me to think like a professional in the kitchen,” Chef Ciardullo said. “It opened doors which helped me get to where I am today. The CIA offers those distinct advantages to all of its graduates. You will walk through these doors today with a leg up as a result of the energy and the time you’ve spent here.”

Watch the entire CIA commencement ceremony online, including Lena Ciardullo’s keynote address.

Photo Caption and Hi-Res Image

Union Square Cafe Executive Chef Lena Ciardullo ’09 delivers the commencement address at the New York campus of The Culinary Institute of America on March 6, 2020. (Photo credit: CIA/Phil Mansfield)
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Media Contact:

Jeff Levine
Communications Writer

About The Culinary Institute of America:

Founded in 1946, The Culinary Institute of America is the world’s premier culinary college. Dedicated to developing leaders in foodservice and hospitality, the independent, not-for-profit CIA offers master’s, bachelor’s, and associate degrees with majors in culinary arts, baking and pastry arts, food business management, hospitality management, culinary science, and applied food studies. The college also offers executive education, certificate programs, and courses for professionals and enthusiasts. Its conferences, leadership initiatives, and consulting services have made the CIA the think tank of the food industry and its worldwide network of more than 50,000 alumni includes innovators in every area of the food world. The CIA has locations in New York, California, Texas, and Singapore.

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