CHARLOTTE — Celebrity chef David Burke found himself choked up when he addressed Johnson & Wales University’s graduating class in Charlotte this month.
It was a full-circle moment for Burke, who has been a pioneer in the culinary industry over the last 40 years. His was recognized with an honorary doctorate in business administration — the first chef recognized by the university with that honor in a decade.
“Normally, I brush those things aside,” Burke says. “I’ve won several culinary awards, but this is different. This is a legacy achievement award, and coming from a university like this, it means a lot.”
It also put the spotlight on his career. Burke got his start as a chef at age 18. He gained recognition as executive chef of New York City’s River Cafe. The then-26-year-old was awarded a three-star review from The New York Times and became the first American chef to win the Meilleurs Ouvriers de France Diplome d’Honneur.
By 1992, he had opened his first restaurant, the Park Avenue Café.
Burke would go on to build his own culinary empire. His hospitality group now has 17 restaurants, with more in the pipeline. He’s received multiple James Beard nominations, authored two cookbooks and been a guest on Bravo TV’s “Top Chef.”
And now, Charlotte’s culinary scene is in his sights. Burke opened Red Salt by David Burke and Cloud Bar inside Le Méridien in uptown in 2020.
He recently took over operations of Port City Club in Cornelius, which has been rebranded to Port City Club by David Burke.
Burke has plans to bring his latest concept — G.O.A.T. Pizza — to Cornelius later this year. The restaurant will occupy a 4,105-square-foot space at the Village of Oakhurst on Statesville Road.
Burke recently spoke with the Charlotte Business Journal about his commencement address and shared his take on Charlotte’s restaurant scene. Read that interview here.
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