Gabe Kennedy ’13: Charting a professional course to happiness

March 10, 2016

The Dean’s Distinguished Lecture Series (DDLS) brings prominent industry professionals to speak at SHA most Fridays during the fall semester. For 2015, students worked in groups each week to research, meet, and profile featured speakers, and then guest-blog here about the experience.

This week’s student authors are Katherine Mines ’16 and Sarah Murdoch ’16.

At 24, Gabe Kennedy ’13 is an inspiration to students trying to find their path.Mr. Gabriel Kennedy ’13 truly was a unique guest in the Dean’s Distinguished Lecture Series (DDLS) this past Friday. Since graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in 2010 and the Cornell School of Hotel Administration (SHA) in 2012, Gabe has worked as a chef in a variety of roles. From top New York City restaurants and exclusive private events to farm-to-table pop-up dinners and volunteer work in Haiti, Gabe’s mission is to inspire and connect with people through food. As the season-three champion of ABC’s The Taste, he is also a budding celebrity chef and social-media personality. However, at 24, Gabe is still just starting his career, and he was an inspiration to students who are still trying to find their path.

From the moment Gabe arrived on campus Thursday afternoon, he let his entertaining and approachable personality shine through as he interacted with students. At the roundtable discussion, he asked students to imagine what makes them the happiest, and then to think about how to bring that happiness into their daily life. The dean’s dinner on Thursday night was full of great conversation and laughter, as Gabe entertained all questions, such as what went on behind the scenes of The Taste. He expressed his gratitude to SHA for truly shaping the course of his journey, as well as to Dean Johnson for providing him with the opportunity to return to campus.

He asked students to imagine what makes them the happiest, and then to think about how to bring that happiness into their daily life.

On Friday, it was finally time for Gabe to step on stage as the youngest DDLS speaker ever. He immediately set the tone for his speech with an unprecedented request: he told all the gentlemen in the audience to take off their uncomfortable ties! At that moment, everyone knew that they were about to witness an amazing presentation.

Gabe told his life story in thorough detail, discussing how his upbringing had a huge impact on who he has become. He has done a lot in such a short time since graduation, and he argued that knowing oneself and prioritizing happiness were the keys to his success. While working at desk jobs in consulting and private equity, he realized sitting behind a desk, knowing what to expect, was not what he wantedHe admitted he is still unsure what he will be doing next and that every day is a new opportunity for him.. He left two great jobs in the pursuit of uncertainty, and it is clear that those decisions have paid off in his success today.

Winning The Taste has opened up many opportunities for Gabe. He has been busy working as the executive chef at Bon Appetite magazine, writing his own cookbook that will concentrate on medical remedies from around the globe, and developing a snack product line, plus he’s hoping to launch his own restaurant concept. However, Gabe admitted that he still is unsure what he will be doing next and that every day is a new opportunity for him.


Gabe Kennedy ’13 incorporated a pollinating-honeybee metaphor—about exploring one’s interests in life—into his DDLS presentation.

Honeybees were a major motif in Gabe’s presentation. He spoke movingly about the idea of “being a pollinator.” Similarly to honeybees exploring a garden while pollinating flowers, people should go out and try making a difference with each “flower” that they encounter. Gabe then surprised the students with his rapping skills when he sang a jazzy tune about a honey-based snack that he made for his friends. He concluded his presentation with the message “Be a pollinator, explore the garden, find your flower,” emphasizing the message to students that it is fine not knowing yet what you want to do in this life, but most importantly it should be something that makes you happy.

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