Each year The French Culinary Institute celebrates four alumni by awarding them with The FCI Outstanding Alumni Award. These prestigious awards are given in four categories: culinary, pastry, outstanding achievement, and restaurant management. The winners are determined by a nomination and voting process that is open to all FCI alumni and staff.
On December 1, The FCI hosted a reception honoring this year's Outstanding Alumni. The 2009 award winners are Tyler Kord (Outstanding Culinary Award), Michael Zebrowski (Outstanding Pastry Award), Robert Bleifer (Outstanding Achievement Award), and Dan Rafalin (Outstanding Restaurant Management Award). FCI Founder Dorothy Cann Hamilton, along with Master Chefs Alain Sailhac and André Soltner, Vice President of Student Affairs Christopher Papagni, and Associate Dean of Students Erik Murnighan, presented the winners with awards that were hand-painted by Master Chef Jacques Pépin.
Tyler Kord, Outstanding Culinary Award
Tyler Kord, the owner of No. 7 in Brooklyn, graduated from The FCI in 2002 and stayed on to work as a Sous Chef in the a la carte kitchen for Alain Sailhac and Patrick Farrel. He then went on to work for Jean-Georges Vongerichten at Perry Street, for two years, where he was Sous Chef. Serving contemporary new American cuisine in a casual setting, No. 7 was recently named one of Bon Appetit magazine’s Top Ten Best New Restaurants in America.
Michael Zebrowski, Outstanding Pastry Award
Michael Zebrowski, currently a Chef-Instructor at The FCI, was nominated for and won this award while he was still Executive Pastry Chef at The Westin Governor Morris Hotel. After graduating from The FCI in 1998, Michael worked with both David Bouley and Daniel Boulud before moving to The Pierre Hotel, where he focused on the art of producing high-end desserts for large, extravagant banquet events. He then traveled to France to intern at the three Michelin star-rated restaurant Le Jardin des Sens.
Robert Bleifer, Outstanding Achievement Award
Robert Bleifer is Executive Chef of Culinary Productions at the Food Network. After graduating from The FCI in 1994, Robert went on to work as a line cook at Park Avenue Café before taking a freelance position at the Food Network. He worked his way up to become Executive Chef and now oversees in-house food production, location production, photo shoots, vignettes, and food for more than 75 Food Network events annually.
Dan Rafalin, Outstanding Restaurant Management Award
Dan Rafalin, Principal Partner of AvroKo Restaurant Group, is a 1996 graduate of The FCI with a Master of Arts in Food Management from NYU. Prior to joining AvroKo, Dan was the financial and business analyst for the Clark Wolf Company, a food, restaurant, and hospitality consulting firm based in New York. He now oversees operations of AvroKo’s four NYC restaurants, Public, The Monday Room, Double Crown, and Madam Geneva, and has led them to great success, including a Michelin star for Public and two New York Times stars for Double Crown.
The recipients were grateful for being chosen and all expressed a shared admiration of the school, its instructors, and its students. Congratulations to all the winners!