Hours after receiving an honorary Ph.D. and giving the commencement speech at Johnson & Wales, the Providence, Rhode Island, university noted for its culinary program, chef David Burke was still exhilarated. “I got the notice a few months ago,” he said Thursday, “but I didn’t realize the importance of what it was until today. It’s really nice to be recognized on that level. Wow!”
“I didn’t even know the award existed for a chef,” he added. “You don’t get Ph.D’s for hospitality. That’s not in my world. I’m really touched.”
Burke has eight restaurants in New Jersey, including the NJM Top 30s 1776 by David Burke in Morristown and Red Horse by David Burke in Rumson—not to mention seven others in the U.S. and one in Saudi Arabia.
“It’s nice,” he reflected, “because there’s a lot more that we do as chefs than just cook. We’re managing people, and the not everybody is coming out of Harvard and Yale. There’s a lot of stress, close quarters, long hours, language barriers, and the intensity of the heat. People work weekends and holidays. There’s permits, boards of health; they want a kitchen to look like hospitals. A lot lands in the lap of the chef.”
Does he ever feel like stepping down?
“I’ve been at this 40 years now,” he replied. “To be able to stay passionate and also give back is important. I love the mentorship and staying true to the profession.”
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