CFIT at 50: A Legacy of Culinary Community

How do you celebrate 50 years of excellence in food education? JWU’s College of Food Innovation & Technology (CFIT) Gala at the end of September welcomed hundreds of guests to the Harborside Campus’ Culinary Arts Museum for a feast of memories and milestones. The evening also included a special recognition of the life and work of food icon Jacques Pépin '10 Hon. “What a privilege it is to be part of an institution that has furthered the discipline and craft of food for 50 years,” said CFIT Dean Jason Evans in his opening remarks.

The evening kicked off with an invited cocktail reception featuring Chef Pépin and invited guests, including Emeril Lagasse '78, '90 Hon., Lorena Garcia '00, '14 Hon., Chris Cosentino '94 with wife Tatiana Graf, Charlie Ayers '90, '14 Hon., and friends of the university.

“What a privilege it is to be part of an institution that has furthered the discipline and craft of food for 50 years.”

Starting at 6pm, JWU students and faculty (current and retired) and a group of alumni chefs showcased their skills at food stations throughout the Culinary Arts Museum. Pépin graciously signed chef jackets, books and other culinary items for students. Two auction opportunities helped fundraise for scholarships, travel, and various experiences to benefit CFIT students: an ongoing silent auction and a live auction of an original Jacques Pépin artwork.

Most of the evening’s guests — whether alums, faculty, or students —share a core connection to the university and how its education — and community — has benefited their lives. Many acknowledged how JWU’s journey has shaped the food world, tracing its roots from a business school to a significant contributor to culinary progress.


Joe Chiovera '86, who was honored with an Outstanding Achievement Award by JWU Alumni in 2019, reflected on CFIT’s ability to pivot in response to more extensive cultural changes: “When we went to school in the 1980s, it was all about culinary arts as a profession —taking it from being a worker to more of a professional.” That maturation continued as the College of Culinary Arts transformed into CFIT, bringing a greater institutional emphasis on interdisciplinary projects and sustainable practices. “To see Johnson & Wales change from an arts school to an innovation school is very important to me because you really see how [JWU is] changing with the times of society,” said Chiovera.


Daija M. Duncan '24, who will be graduating with her MAT in Culinary Education, assisted during the Gala and posted a joyous set of photos on Instagram.

Reflecting on the momentous evening, she noted: “Tonight was truly a night that will live rent-free in my head. I was privileged to be in the same room with some really awesome and talented people who have and continue to … leave a mark on the culinary industry. Never in a million years would I ever think I would be sitting at the same table having a conversation about what my plans post-graduation with people like Emeril Lagasse, Jacques Pépin and Jacques Torres,” she wrote. “Tonight, 8-year-old Daija smiled a little extra.”

“The CFIT Gala was a true celebration of our roots and future in culinary arts. This was a memorable night where JWU shined brightly.”

After the auctions concluded, Dean Evans unveiled a sculpted bronze bust of Chef Pépin created by renowned artist Zenos Frudakis and gifted to JWU by the Jacques Pépin Foundation. The sculpture’s inscription reads, “We are all equal in the eyes of the stove.” Dean Evans described the artwork as symbolic of the two organizations’ “shared mission around food education as a vehicle to personal and professional fulfillment.” Ultimately, the piece will be permanently displayed in the Cuisinart Center for Culinary Excellence (CCCE) Atrium.

Chancellor Mim Runey, LP.D., summed up the evening’s significance: “The CFIT Gala was a true celebration of our roots and future in culinary arts. We were so pleased to honor Chef Jacques Pépin, whose original artwork, chef’s coat and latest book raised funds, with the silent auction items, for student scholarships and travel.

“I want to thank everyone — Dean Jason Evans and CFIT past and present chefs and alumni, JWU Special Events, and all of the staff, faculty and students who had a role in the event,” the Chancellor noted. “In every respect, the university team demonstrated ‘We Are JWU.’ This was a memorable night where JWU shined brightly.”


JWU and the New Food Education


CFIT 50 logo under ice at the gala reception.

JWU alums serving up small bites at the CFIT 50 Gala.

Jacques Pepin '10 Hon. signing artwork at the CFIT Gala, with Lorena Garcia '00, '14 Hon.

Chef Jacques Pépin and Chancellor Mim Runey offer remarks to the assembled guests at the CFIT Gala.

CFIT Dean Jason Evans unveils the bronze portrait of Chef Jacques Pépin.