Rising Foodie Star Speaks at Queens Connect Graduation
On June 5, the most recent graduating class of the Queens Connect Young Adult Food Sector Initiative was treated to a very special keynote speech from Black Label Donuts founder and Queens native Richard Eng. This immersive program trains and prepares out-of-school youth for successful careers in the food service and manufacturing sector. With the rising popularity of “local” restaurants and culinary experiences, from food trucks to pop-up shops and food halls, careers in the culinary arts continue to grow as the food industry thrives.
Speaking first-hand of his own meteoric rise, Eng talked to the graduating class about his path to success. This Bayside native, who switched from studying biology to gastronomy, pursued several stints with notable restaurants such as Megu but ultimately decided to start his own donut business as an attempt to conquer Grub Street’s annual Absolute Best Donuts in New York list.
Eng’s message for the students was to not focus on achieving fame and glory, but to stay true to the passion for the work. His real-talk approach highlighted the challenges, as well as the rewards, of working in the food sector and his own success story is a testament to just how sweet those rewards can be. His current pop-up shop at Nippon Cha in Bayside has consistently long lines and is a social media favorite. More recently, Black Labe Donuts made its debut on the Grub Street list at No. 6, just ahead of Greenpoint’s long-running Peter Pan Donuts & Pastry Shop. It is he only one in the Top 10 in Queens.
Eng’s insights clearly made an impression on the graduates. One of them talked about his takeaways from the presentation, including developing better kitchen skills and learning how to work in teams. The next path for the graduates is to attend the internship job fair offered through Queens Connect, with the ultimate goal of finding employment in the sector. The key skills gained, as well as networking opportunities from the initiative, will help give the students a head start in this constantly growing and competitive industry.
“We’re in this for one reason: to make people happy,” said Eng, and from the smiles and nods in the room it was clear the graduates were motivated to carve out their own paths to success.