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Michael Kaphan ’15

Michael Kaphan

Alumni Spotlight: Michael Kaphan

Class of ‘15
Co-owner of Purdy’s Farmer & the Fish restaurant

Restauranteur Michael Kaphan not only knows how to prepare food, he knows how to grow it.

The “restaurant bug” bit Michael Kaphan early: At just 15 he began bussing tables and doing kitchen prep at places in his Staten Island neighborhood. And he kept working in restaurants as the years went by, including the two he spent at SUNY Albany.

“I majored in history there,” Michael says, “which I know seems odd. But even during those two years, I was still cooking. And when I finished at Albany, I was off to culinary school.”
“What’s outstanding about SUNY Cobleskill is that you can immediately put what you’ve learned to work."
He subsequently worked in several New York City restaurants – until, at the age of 32, he simply stopped. “I’d had enough,” he says. “I was burning out.” Without any concrete plans for the immediate future, he decided to travel, eventually visiting such far-off places as Africa, India and Australia.
Upon returning to the U.S. six months later, Michael decided to study the production and business aspects of agriculture, and he enrolled at SUNY Cobleskill. But the old yen returned, and even in the midst of his part-time college work, he and a friend founded Purdy’s Farmer & the Fish, a restaurant in Westchester County, N.Y., which has received critical acclaim from the likes of the New York Times ever since opening in 2012.

At this year’s Alumni Awards Dinner, Michael was named 2015’s Outstanding Student. And looking back now he observes: “What’s outstanding about SUNY Cobleskill is that you can immediately put what you’ve learned to work. I would walk out of class straight into a field and start applying what I’d just been taught. There’s absolutely no substitute for that kind of education.”