The Prep Work: A Culinary School Graduation Speech
As one of four selected student speakers, it was quite an honor to address the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts graduating class of Fall, 2022 in Boulder, Colorado. Unfortunately, I do not have a quality video recording of my graduation speech. I still wanted to share it publicly, so here it is:
"I can’t believe we’ve made it to graduation! Time flies when you’re…crying in the walk-in. Just kidding! We cried on the way home. We’re professionals. My name is Chris Marhevka. I am a culinary arts graduate in this class. I’m so grateful to get the opportunity to speak to all of you today.
In preparing for this speech, I couldn’t help but recall a quote I learned in Chef Steven Nalls’ class by French lawyer and politician Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, who wrote “The Physiology of Taste.” He said, “Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.”
Let’s really think about that. What did we eat before we started here? Who were we when we got to this school? Think back to your first couple classes. Some of us took a solid 5 minutes to small dice a single onion. Of course, others were already years into their culinary career, cooking circles around the newbies. Some people have known all their lives that they wanted to be here, and others, like myself, made a career change after a considerable amount of time in other fields. But we all had one thing in common, a love for food. The culinary arts can be such a unifier, because it is a perfect blend of culture, art, science, history, and innovation. Food tells a story. It tells us where we’ve been and points to where we’re headed.
I mean, just take a look at who you became while you made your way through this program. We were all just a chaotic mirepoix of personality, trying our best to make successful dishes. Being 5 minutes late to plate-up. Burning things. Leaving knives in the dish pit. You know who you are. Starting recipes over and over…and over. I swear, words like “rustic” or “homestyle” started to sound like slurs. But as the courses continued and our spicy personality quirks mellowed, we deepened our connections to one another. We learned how to collaborate, showcase each others’ strengths, and lend support to classmates “in the weeds.” We embraced the true meaning of teamwork and found honor in hospitality. I truly hope you continue on that sense of community beyond the classrooms. The culinary world is beautiful and thrilling, but it can also be tough and exhausting. Taking pride in how you carry yourself inside and outside of the kitchen demonstrates leadership, maturity, kindness, and a much-needed levity that will strengthen your emotional stamina in this industry. And I promise, it will build you a network of colleagues that will champion your success.
Now, this accomplishment -The diploma; The degree; Being here. Finishing culinary school is something of which to be extremely proud. I’m sure a lot of myths were debunked during your time here. No, culinary school doesn’t make you an instant chef/owner. It doesn’t automatically catapult you to food network fame. But hopefully, you can all recognize that Escoffier has laid an invaluable foundation for your learning. By completing this program, you have been able to lean into your passions and think critically in areas of hospitality, business, marketing, artistry, and community outreach. You now have the mise en place for your professional growth. Many of you have already begun to carve out a lane for yourselves. You’ve done the prep work. You’re set up for success. We’re now at the quiet hum before service. Next comes the thrill of the show.
“Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.” Hold this idea close as you advance your careers. What you create and provide for others will say so much about you. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know many of you, students and chefs alike, by watching you work, tasting your food, and witnessing your brilliance. So go ahead, tell the world! Tell them what you eat. Tell them what you cook. Show them how it’s done. Your guests will take notice. And then they will understand who you are. I, for one, look forward to seeing what you bring to the table. I know it will be remarkable. Thank you and congratulations."
- Chris Marhevka, Graduate
Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts - Boulder Campus
November 5, 2022