Important and Influential People Who Shaped the Hudson Valley (1972-2012)
Meet the people who helped shaped the Hudson Valley for the past 40 years Featuring: Former Governor George Pataki, singer-songwriter Pete Seeger, Scenic Hudson’s Franny Reese, the Bardavon’s Chris Silva
(page 2 of 4)
Photograph by Jennifer May
In 1994, the area surrounding the 1869 Bardavon Opera House in Poughkeepsie was a crime-ridden scene; the waterfront was undeveloped, the Main Mall section was closed to traffic, and the Walkway Over the Hudson was just an old railroad trestle. But 1994 was also the year Chris Silva became involved with the opera house — which happens to be New York State’s longest-running theater — and it soon became a major part of the city’s revitalization. Currently the executive director, Silva assisted in renovating this 143-year-old theater and brought a whole new level of arts, entertainment, and culture to Poughkeepsie; in the time he’s been there, Bardavon visitors have increased from 50,000 patrons annually to 120,000. With those wheels in motion, Silva set out to rescue other ailing theaters. In 2006, the Bardavon took over the Ulster Performing Arts Center in Kingston; Silva currently is working with the nonprofit group Safe Harbors on the Hudson to bring top performers to Newburgh’s renewed Ritz Theater.
At the age of 26, Jason West shot from a small-town mayor to a national figure when he announced his intentions to solemnize same-sex marriages in New Paltz. On February 27, 2004 he followed through. Defying New York State law, he presided over the unions of 25 same-sex couples in the Village Hall parking lot, grabbing attention from the media, supporters, and critics. His bold actions brought on criminal charges, injunctions, and, ultimately, a defeat at the next election in 2007. Undeterred, he was reelected in May of 2011, just before the state legalized same-sex marriage on June 24.
For the past 11 years, Ryan has been president of the Culinary Institute of America. His association with the esteemed cooking school began 35 years ago, when he himself graduated from the college. In 1982, he returned to his alma mater to assist in developing and running the American Bounty Restaurant, which specialized in the (then) groundbreaking idea that American regional food could be part of the fine-dining experience. The first alumnus and faculty member of the school to rise through the ranks to become its leader, Ryan — considered a pioneer in the American cuisine movement — has catapulted the CIA to international acclaim by redesigning educational programs, adding research facilities, partnering with other institutions (including Harvard and Cornell), and opening more campuses (San Antonio, Texas in October and Singapore in December of 2010). Under his direction, the college started the world’s first bachelor’s degree program in culinary arts management; began a baking and pastry arts management program; and developed award-winning videos and television shows. But more importantly, Ryan, who has received countless honors and awards from virtually every major food industry organization, has not only transformed the CIA, but helped to make the Hudson Valley one of the hottest foodie destinations in the country.
The Valley’s own celebrity chef, Kelly is renowned for his role in bringing fine dining to our area. His four restaurants — Xaviar’s at Piermont, Restaurant X and Bully Boy Bar, the Freelance Café and Wine Bar, and X2O — have gained accolades from critics like Wine Spectator and the New York Times. A Yonkers native, the self-taught chef studied business administration at Marist College before opening his first culinary venture, Xaviar’s at Garrison, at the age of 23. Always inventive, his menus enhance an overall lovely dining experience at all four venues. Of course, nothing less can come from the man who defeated super-chef Bobby Flay on Iron Chef America in 2007.