And we’re off! Today was the start to my six-month experience in ICE’s Culinary Arts Program in New York City. Fourteen of my classmates and I arrived at Kitchen 601 in the early morning hours, tugging and tying as we got accustomed to our new wardrobes – checkered pants, chef whites and a commis hat.
We spent the first part of the morning in orientation, familiarizing ourselves with program details and with one another. Our class is truly a melting pot with new culinary students coming from California to Florida, Mexico to Italy. Our backgrounds also range the spectrum from 10-plus years spent behind the burners to rookies just stepping into a commercial kitchen for the first time (myself falling in the later half of the scale).
Chef Instructor Ted Siegel, our chef instructor for Module 1, greeted us with a stack of print-outs geared at familiarizing us with measurements and the history of cooking. “Not to sound jaded,” he said, “But I’ve pretty much seen it all when it comes to restaurants and catering.” A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Chef Ted has worked in the culinary profession for almost 40 years with time spent at Chez Panisse, Washington Square Hotel and Orso Restaurant.
We spent the second half of class setting up our knife kits and learning about arguably the most important and well known French phrase in cooking: Mise en place. Mise en place is defined as having everything, both ingredients and equipment, in its rightful place at the right time. The 4-hour class ended with a look ahead at the rest of the week and a heads-up that knife skills begin on Wednesday. We’ve been guaranteed that the next six months of culinary school will fly by, but right now I’m just trying to hang on to every minute of the excitement.