Chef David Burke awarded honorary doctorate from Johnson & Wales

First chef to be so honored in a decade for exceptional achievements

Chef David Burke, known for his creative approach to modern American cuisine, recently received an honorary doctorate in business administration, from Johnson & Wales University for his outstanding achievements in the culinary world.

The presentation was made at JWU’s Charlotte campus at its annual commencement ceremony. Burke is the first chef in a decade to be recognized with the honorary degree that is awarded every year at the JWU Charlotte ceremony.

“I have been privileged to receive a number of accolades over the years, but this honorary doctorate from Johnson & Wales is particularly special to me because education is so important, especially in the culinary arts, which the university is rightfully so well known for,” Burke said.

Testimony to his interest in education is his 2021 institution of the Chef David Burke Scholarships at Brookdale Community College’s Culinary Education Center. The scholarships, funded by Burke’s annual $10,000 donation, pay the tuition for two students every school year — one culinary arts and one hospitality management major. The scholarship recipients are also awarded invaluable hands-on experience with paid six-month internships at one of Burke’s eight New Jersey restaurants. Upon graduation, students have the option to explore long-term employment with Burke and his team at his 20 restaurants located in New Jersey, New York, North Carolina and Rhode Island.

Burke partnered with JWU Charlotte in 2020 to establish the Burke Fellows program. The program provides paid internships for recent graduates with associate or bachelor’s degrees at Burke’s Red Salt and Cloud Bar in Charlotte’s Le Meridien hotel. Hand-picked by university faculty, the graduates work as interns for three months. Then, if asked, they have the option to work another three months. After six months, there is the potential of being invited to join the David Burke Hospitality Management team at a Burke-branded restaurant. So far, eight Charlotte graduates have been named Burke Fellows, giving the chef a notable connection to the university beyond the new honorary doctorate.

In a letter confirming the presentation of the degree to Burke, the chancellor of Johnson & Wales University, Mim l. Runey, said: “On behalf of all of us at Johnson & Wales University, we are so pleased to be honoring Chef David Burke for his extraordinary achievements in the culinary world, especially his advancement of modern American cuisine, as Johnson & Wales celebrates 50 years of culinary education. JWU has enjoyed a long tradition of acknowledging distinguished individuals at our commencement ceremonies. Chef Burke’s life and career are an inspiration to our students.”

At the ceremony, after citing may of Burke’s achievements, Runey declared Burke’s mission in life “ … is to nurture and feed the body and soul — all while bringing in revenue and having fun. David Burke, for being Powered by Purpose and for leading with passion, Johnson & Wales University is proud to confer upon you the degree of Doctor of Business Administration, honoris causa.”

In addition to accepting the honorary degree, Burke gave the keynote speech at the commencement. During it, he shared some of his thoughts about what it takes to achieve success in the hospitality business.