The 2014 awards were presented to the following alumni:

Excellence in Culinary Arts

Lars Williams
Culinary 2006
Head of Research and Development at Noma in Denmark

Born and bred in New York City, Lars grew up in the West Village and went to high school in Brooklyn before attending Wesleyan University for a degree in literature. He somehow found himself working as a set designer for commercials and music videos until he became entirely disenchanted with that business and focused on making his compulsion with cuisine a profession. Enrollment at the International Culinary Center was a springboard to New York restaurants, including Aquavit and wd-50. Europe was the next destination and he landed in the development kitchen at The Fat Duck. Feeling a lack of sun, he went off to cook in the South Pacific for a year, honing rudimentary foraging skills before moving to Denmark to work at the noted Noma, voted #1 on The World’s Top 50 Restaurants list by Restaurant Magazine for three years in a row.

Excellence in Pastry Arts

Chika Tillman
Culinary 1994
Chef/Owner of ChikaLicious and ChikaLicious Dessert Bar

A lover of French food since her childhood in Japan, Chika Tillman studied Classic Culinary Arts at the International Culinary Center at night while working as a banker on Wall Street during the day. She joined the Gramercy Tavern’s opening team in 1994, arriving on her first day to observe dinner service from the kitchen in a suit and heels. After working at restaurants such as The Ritz-Carlton and Seeger’s—at every station on the line—she went on to become Executive Pastry Chef at Restaurant Bid in 2001. Two years later, with a vision to provide a four-star dessert experience in an affordable and casual setting, she and husband Don Tillman opened ChikaLicious Dessert Bar in New York’s East Village. With no waiters, they serve their three-course prix-fix dessert menu, with wine pairings, directly to customers. In 2007, they opened ChikaLicious Dessert Club to sell desserts for takeout. ChikaLicous is now in Hong Kong, Seoul, Tokyo, Bangkok, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and the Bay Area in California.

Outstanding Professional Achievement

Rebecca Banks
Classic Culinary Arts, 2005
Wine Director, Balthazar in New York, NY

Rebecca Banks currently manages the wine programs at the Keith McNally owned Balthazar Restaurant, Schiller’s Liquor Bar, Lucky Strike and the upcoming Cherche Midi on the Bowery (co-writing the list with a colleague). She also developed the wine list and wine training program for Balthazar London (opened in February 2013 in London’s Covent Garden neighborhood). Rebecca also consults on separate beverage programs, including Chelsea’s Heath and Gallow Green Restaurant. She holds the Advanced and Diploma Certificate from the Wine and Spirits Educational Trust and has taught classes, including Fundamentals of Wine and Wine and Food Pairing at The French Culinary Institute, as well as informal classes at wine shops and private venues throughout the city. Rebecca is a regular member on the tasting panel at Wine and Spirits magazine and involved in a Brooklyn-based tasting group. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, Ben, son Jonah (3), daughter Hazel (1) and two ornery cats.

Outstanding Restaurant Management

Elizabeth Button
Restaurant Management and Classic Culinary Arts, 2007
CEO of Heirloom Hospitality Group in Asheville, NC

Elizabeth Button is a passionate advocate for culinary authenticity and sustainability. Nowhere is this more evident than in her current role at Heirloom Hospitality Group (HHG). This family-owned company that includes her daughter Chef Katie Button, son-in-law Felix Meana and husband Ted Button, owns and manages Cúrate, a nationally acclaimed Spanish restaurant in Asheville, and its vintage-themed nightclub neighbor, Nightbell. She ran the highly successful Elizabeth Button Catering before attending the International Culinary Center in 2007. HHG holds a three-star Green Restaurant certification, is a Living Wage employer, and works closely with area farmers and the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project to promote the use of locally grown meat and produce. In addition, Liz and HHG are leaders in Chefs at Welcome Table, a program that brings restaurant-quality food to area churches, providing nutritious meals to people in need.

Outstanding Entrepreneurship

Susan Povich
Classic Culinary Arts, 1993
Owner of the Red Hook Lobster Pound in Brooklyn, NY

After graduating from the International Culinary Center, Susan Povich, a Harvard-trained lawyer, opened The Cake Bar and Café to rave reviews. Ever the attorney, she quickly realized she knew nothing about running a restaurant and decided to sell, but not before she met husband and business partner Ralph Gorham. Years later, while contemplating how to develop their Red Hook storefront in the midst of the 2008 credit crisis, the couple sat down to a lunch of lobsters they got from a friend in Portland. Within a few bites, Ralph proposed they open a store selling the freshest Maine lobsters in New York City. Red Hook Lobster Pound, featuring Susan’s menu, now operates food trucks in Washington, DC, and NYC with stores in Brooklyn, Montauk and Manhattan. In 2012, Red Hook Lobster Pound suffered debilitating damage from Hurricane Sandy. Within months, they rebuilt to better sustain their low-lying environment. In 2013, they were named best food truck in America by The Daily Meal.

The 2012 awards were presented to the following alumni:


Hooni Kim
Course of study: Culinary Arts 2005
Current occupation: Chef/Owner of Danji and Hanjan in New York City

Born in Seoul, Korea, Kim grew up in New York, but when it came time to attend college, he headed west to the University of California at Berkeley, studying for a medical degree before a nagging passion for food had him drastically changing gears. Inspired to cook for a living, Kim returned to the East Coast to attend The French Culinary Institute. He followed his formal training with jobs at not one, but two Michelin® three-star restaurants; Daniel and Masa. Backed by his strong pedigree, Kim was in prime position to open Danji, which earned one Michelin® star, the first ever for a Korean chef. This year, he opened Hanjan, an updated, big-city hom¬age to the old travelers’ taverns of Korea. Kim is clearly succeeding for his homeland and hometown, one innovative dish at a time.


Kierin Baldwin
Course of study: Pastry 2005
Current occupation: Pastry Chef of The Dutch in New York City

It was in college that Brooklyn-born, Kierin Baldwin discovered a love for baking, and in her free time Baldwin began to collect cookbooks and teach herself how to make pies, cakes, and cookies. She worked for a few years in the photo industry, before she decided to pursue her culinary interests full time and study pastry arts at The French Culinary Institute. Baldwin was lucky enough to begin her new career at Café Boulud and then worked as pastry sous chef at A Voce, and Locanda Verde. After two years at the side of James Beard award-winning pastry chef, Karen DeMasco, she joined the opening team for The Dutch in SoHo as pastry chef. Baldwin focuses on seasonal, flavor-driven desserts that strike a balance between familiarity and novelty.


Mark Welker
Course of study: Bread 2007
Current occupation: Pastry Chef of NOMAD in New York City

After leaving his home in Indiana, Mark became a baking devotee at the Culinary School in Louisville, Kentucky. He was subsequently hired at Larry Forgione’s An American Place Restaurant in Saint Louis, Missouri, before moving to New York to attend The French Culinary Institute’s International Bread Baking Program. Upon graduation, Welker started working at Eleven Madison Park as a line cook, and, under Chef Daniel Humm’s tutelage, he developed a passion for fine dining. Mark was named pastry sous chef in 2009 and was an integral part of developing the restaurant’s bread and pastry program, focusing his attention on local ingredients and classic NewYork sweets. Welker now heads up a team as pastry chef at New York’s hot spot, NOMAD.


Michael Chernow
Course of study: Restaurant Management and Culinary 2008
Current occupation: Owner of The Meatball Shop in New York City

Born and raised in New York City, Michael Chernow got his start in the restaurant business at the ripe age of 13. After a series of nightclub and restaurant positions, Chernow opened Punch & Judy. He took a post behind the bar of Frank Prizanzano’s Frank on Second Avenue, where he worked for seven years, but Chernow still craved a place of his own. He decided to pursue culinary arts and restaurant management from The French Culinary Institute. Armed with education, he contacted his childhood friend, Daniel Holzman and together, the duo formulated a fast-casual meatball concept and opened the first Meatball Shop on the Lower East Side in 2011. Today, Chernow and Holzman run four Meatball Shop locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn, and on top of building a booming meatball empire, they’re building community, sourcing locally, sharing their kitchens with upstart businesses, donating their time and resources to charities, and serving victims of Hurricane Sandy.


Irene Hamburger
Course of study: Culinary 1998
Current occupation: Vice President of Blue Hill in New York

After serving as director of operations for a United States Senator and employee relations officer for an International bank, Irene turned her lifelong fascination with food and cooking into a reality and attended The French Culinary Institute. After working at the Monkey Bar, Hamburger began cooking for Dan Barber Catering, Inc. As DanBarber Catering, (and later Blue Hill), evolved, so did Hamburger’s role moving from the kitchen to special event planning, translating the restaurant’s dedication to seasonal locally grown food to corporate and special events. As a member of Blue Hill at Stone Barns and Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture’s opening team, Hamburger directed the introduction of the restaurant and farm to a local and national audience. Working with farmers, chefs and educators, she continues to promote farm-to-table issues that affect agriculture and consumers throughout the Hudson Valley.


Liz Gutman
Course of study: Pastry 2008
Current occupation: Co-Owner Liddabit Sweets in New York City

Liz Gutman originally hails from Costa Mesa, CA. At 17, she came to New York to get her BFA in acting from New York University. Alas, the life of a performer was not for her; and after spending two grueling years in the trenches at a media research company, she quit in 2007 to begin working for pastry chef, Will Goldfarb. She enrolled in The French Culinary Institute’s pastry program shortly thereafter.

Jen King
Course of study: Pastry 2008
Current occupation: Co-Owner Liddabit Sweets in New York City

Jen King is from Ann Arbor, MI, and received her Bachelor’s degree in Communications from Michigan State University. She decided to go into politics, and spent 2004-2007 working for the Democrats. After a couple exhausting campaigns, she decided to turn her passion into a job and put her 2,000+ cookbooks to good use as a culinary professional. In 2007, she moved to New York to attend The French Culinary Institute.

The two became fast friends, and were soon sharing pre-class snacks and recipe ideas on a regular basis. Realizing a shared passion for sustainably produced, fresh, superior-quality ingredients and sweets, their talk of starting a business together became a reality in early 2009. After gaining a vendor slot at the famed Brooklyn Flea Market and garnering some early publicity, Gutman and King are humbled and thrilled to be lucky enough to spend their time sharing their love of sweets with their unbelievably awesome customers. They recently finished writing The Liddabit Sweets Candy Cookbook, which was released on October 9th, 2012.

2011 Award Winners

Ed McFarland, Classic Culinary Arts ’95
Chef-owner of Ed’s Lobster Bar and Caravelli’s in New York City

Josh Skenes, Classic Culinary Arts ’01
Chef-owner of Executive chef-owner of Saison in San Francisco

Katzie Guy-Hamilton, Classic Pastry Arts ’06
Executive pastry chef of New York Central/Grand Hyatt and contestant on Top Chef: Just Desserts

Restaurant Management
Jeffrey Zurofsky, Classic Culinary Arts ’98
Partner in ‘wichcraft in New York City

Outstanding Achievement
Jessica Bride, Classic Culinary Arts ’04
Co-founder and executive director of Chefs Move! in New Orleans

2010 Award Winners

Zak Pelaccio, Classic Culinary Arts ’98
Chef-owner of Fatty Crab and Fatty ‘Cue in New York, NY

Christina Tosi, Classic Pastry Arts ’04
Pastry chef/owner of Momofuku Milk Bar in New York, NY

Roger Gural, Art of International Bread Baking ’98
Consulting baker, Francois Payard Bakery

Restaurant Management
Laura Pensiero, Classic Culinary Arts ’92
Owner, Gigi Hudson Vally in Rhinebeck, NY

Outstanding Achievement
Mark Dissin, Classic Culinary Arts ’97
Food Network, New York, NY

2009 Award Winners

Tyler Kord, Classic Culinary Arts ’02
Chef-owner of No. 7 in Brooklyn, NY

Michael Zebrowski, Classic Pastry Arts ’98
Executive pastry chef, Westin Governor Morris Hotel in Morristown, NJ

Restaurant Management
Dan Rafalin, Classic Culinary Arts ’96
Principal Partner, AvroKo Restaurant Group in New York, NY

Outstanding Achievement
Robert Bleifer, Classic Culinary Arts ’94
Executive Chef of Culinary Productions, Food Network

2008 Award Winners

David Chang, Classic Culinary Arts ’01
Chef-owner of Momofuku Restaurants in New York, NY

Marisa Croce, Classic Pastry Arts ’02
Pastry chef of The National in the Benjamin Hotel in New York, NY

Restaurant Management
Lois Freedman, Classic Culinary Arts ’87
Director of operations, Jean Georges Restaurant Group in New York, NY

Outstanding Achievement
Kate Heddings, Classic Culinary Arts ’97
Senior editor, Food & Wine magazine

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