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Kelly Fitzpatrick '04, President and Founder of Blue Park Kitchen in New York City

What was the path you took to get to where you are now?

After I graduated from Stuart, I went to the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell (The Hotel School). I studied hospitality and concentrated in Real Estate Finance. I worked for a Hotel Consulting Group (HVS) before I made the decision that I did not want to work at a desk all day. I took a leap and enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley and completed a year-long program in culinary arts. I came back to New York City and worked in several kitchens in Brooklyn for a few years. I eventually linked up with a classmate of mine from Cornell who was growing the grilled cheese brand Melt Shop. I wanted to combine my love of cooking with my business knowledge and learn how to scale a multi-unit concept. After we grew Melt Shop from 3 locations to 10 locations, I parted ways to create Blue Park Kitchen.

 

How did being at Stuart help prepare and guide you for the path you chose after graduating?

I think Stuart allowed me to have the confidence to ask questions that others might feel stupid asking. I had the confidence that I was reasonably smart so no question was too dumb to ask in a group.

 

What advice might you give to current students? 

Do your best to always be kind. And professionally: Find what you are good at and do that.

 

How has attending an all-girls school impacted your career, day-to-day life, and your current self?

I have always been able to form close relationships with other women in my life. I have a very close group of girl friends from college and I imagine that my time at Stuart helped shape those relationships. I really value my tribe of strong women.

 

What is your favorite Stuart memory?

My favorite memories from Stuart revolve mostly around field hockey and sports in general. I was very involved in the athletic programs and loved participating in field hockey, ice hockey (RIP!), and lacrosse. We were very good at field hockey during my years there so there are countless memories of big games and big goals. The bonds that come from early morning ice hockey practice are unique in a way that only the girls involved would understand.

 

How do you see Stuart having shaped your leadership skills?

My experience being on sports teams from an early age influenced how I communicate with people I work with and my ability to find my place in professional group settings. I am able to read people well and more easily identify my role in groups. I also believe that good leadership has a lot to do with knowing what you stand for, articulating a clear vision, and leading with kindness. These are all techniques and values practiced at Stuart.

 

What were your favorite classes offered at Stuart?

Spanish was my favorite subject. But if Señora Solomon or Señora Guerrero taught Quantum Mechanics that would have probably been my favorite class.

 

How did Stuart shape you both individually and academically? 

Stuart helped me find what I was good at. Oftentimes people talk about following your dreams and the search for some form of enlightenment through work. While I do think people should find a profession that brings them joy, I believe that we only find true satisfaction when there is a combination of joy and actual success. Don't follow a dream professionally if you've worked hard, exhausted all options, and discover you are just not good at it.

 

This year’s slogan is “Nothing Stops a Stuart Girl.” Stuart girls and women are unstoppable in pursuing their goals. How has your time at Stuart made you unstoppable? 

When I was in 9th grade, Mrs. Bruvik sat us down in the gym and had us write down 3 goals on a piece of paper. One of my goals was to become the Princeton Packet Field Hockey Player of the Year. I barely knew what that meant but I knew I had to have it. For the next 4 years, every single run I went on and every extra training I did was so that I could achieve that goal. I visualized my photo in the newspaper and practiced what I would say to the reporter. I imagined how much space my award and interview would take up on the physical page. When I would go on runs in the rain and snow I would visualize my feature article. After putting in serious training over the course of my four years of high school, I received a phone call my senior year to tell me I did it: I had been awarded Princeton Packet Player of the Year. Ever since that experience, I knew that if I set clear goals, envisioned my future, and put in real hard work, I could achieve literally anything. I used this tactic leading up to the opening of my first restaurant and continue to manifest my future every single day.