outstanding alumni with aaron sanchez

4 Tips for Success from 2019 Outstanding Alumni Award Winners

Since our days as The French Culinary Institute, our school has had a long tradition of celebrating the success of our graduates. And why wouldn’t we? With more than 15,000 graduates in 90+ countries, it’s easy to find an ICC trained chef, sommelier, pastry chef, baker, cake decorator and everything in between at businesses integral to their communities.

So when we created the Outstanding Alumni Awards in 1997 to showcase the accomplishments of graduates who had gone on to excel in their field, we couldn’t have imagined the people and achievements we would be celebrating. These awards have been bestowed to some of the industry’s best and brightest—from the mind behind culinary empire Momofuku, to the creative genius crafting Milk Bar’s imaginative desserts; from the chocolatier handcrafting “storybook” bonbons recognized on Oprah’s Favorite Things, to the chef turned voice of the farm-to-table movement named one of TIME Magazine’s Most Influential People in the World. But what David Chang, Christina Tosi, Susanna Yoon and Dan Barber all share is that they received Outstanding Alumni Awards as they were rising to secure their place in the culinary landscape. Each year at our Annual Commencement Ceremony, the next wave of culinary trailblazers are recognized with an award celebrating excellence in their respective fields.

This year, Leland Clark, Vice President of Student Affairs, presented the 2019 Outstanding Alumni Awards at our Carnegie Hall Ceremony to five very deserving recipients—Scott Tacinelli of Don Angie for Excellence in Culinary Arts, Zoë Kanan of Simon and the Whale and The Studio for Excellence in Pastry Arts, Vanessa Da Silva of Ninety Acres for Outstanding Sommelier, Matt Monahan of Other Half Brewing for Excellence in Entrepreneurship and Ben Mims of The Los Angeles Times for Excellence in Media. If you haven’t heard of these alumni just yet, it’s time to remember their names!

As each recipient accepted their award, they shared advice for members of the graduating class hoping to follow in their footsteps, like setting personal goals and continuing to be curious. Read what these alumni said that has helped them in the pursuit of their culinary, pastry and wine careers. Then, check out their bio’s to learn more about their road to success!

Scott Tacinelli

scott tacinelli

Chef/ Co-Owner of Don Angie
Excellence in Culinary Arts

“Set personal goals. Don’t stop until you achieve those goals. Work as hard as you possibly can and always continue to set objectives.”

Zoë Kanan

zoe kanan

Head Baker of Simon & The Whale and The Studio
Excellence in Pastry Arts

“Treat every person that you work beside with compassion and respect, from dishwashers to owners. Kitchen work is teamwork, and support from your team is what will give you an edge. Buy and cook from cookbooks—they’re my favorite resources for inspiration, and a great way to dive into a chef’s mind. Keep your ego in check—there is room for everyone in our industry, and the best way to get to where you want to go is by championing your friends, your colleagues and yourself. Champion yourself, lean into your creative thoughts, work hard, but make sure that you get the sleep that you need. Do your best to make time for the people who make you happy in life.”

Vanessa Da Silva

vanessa da silva

Sommelier at Ninety Acres
Outstanding Sommelier

“Be curious, ask questions, and stand up for the things that you believe in—that really matters. More than anything else, try to learn something new every single day.”

Ben Mims

ben mims

Cooking Columnist for The Los Angeles Times
Excellence in Media

“When you’re just starting out, do a little bit of everything. Take every restaurant job, every catering job, anything you might not even be interested in, just do it. Only by doing everything will you find what you want to do. Once you find what you want to do, stick to that, and love what you’re doing every day.”

Looking for more inspiration as you pursue a career in the culinary & hospitality industry? Check out the advice our Commencement Keynote Speaker, Chef Aarón Sánchez, gave to our graduates and those aspiring to work in the industry here.