Whether it’s aiding victims in the wake of Hurricane Sandy or supporting the day-to-day efforts of City Harvest, ICE has long been committed to contributing to the larger New York Community. But there are causes further afield that are also near and dear to our hearts, perhaps none so much as Streets International. Founded by former Culinary Management instructor Neal Bermas, this unique non-profit culinary training program teaches impoverished young Vietnamese men and women the life and professional skills they need to be employed in a 5-star culinary or hospitality setting.
This week, we were thrilled to welcome Neal and Streets alumni Le Thi Thuy and Nguyen Than Linh to our teaching kitchens, where they engaged in a cultural culinary exchange with our chef instructors and students. In the morning, Le and Nguyen joined Chef Lorrie Reynoso’s Culinary Arts class, tackling an eight recipe lesson on the regional cuisines of Northwest Italy.
Over four hours they learned to prepare wild boar ragu, fresh hand-cut pappardelle, and braised shrimp-stuffed calamari. From there, they moved on to giant veal chops stuffed with Fontina cheese, which were then breaded, pan-fried and finished in the oven with white truffle butter. Finishing off the rich menu, the students prepared a creamy gorgonzola risotto and sfogliata di radicchi (a Ligurian tart bursting with radicchio, spinach, raisins, oil cured olives and anchovies in puff pastry). Needless to say, these flavors were a far cry from the street food of Vietnam. The class concluded, as it always does at ICE, with a communal tasting and critique of the day’s work.
In the afternoon, the tables turned, as ICE students attended a cooking demo where they learned to make traditional Vietnamese rice pancakes (Bánh xèo) and winter melon soup. As Neal explained, Streets International is more than a school, it is also one of the most popular restaurants in Hoi An, Vietnam, seated at the heart of a blossoming tourism industry. In addition to culinary and hospitality skills, students are trained in English language and “life skills”, a foundation for communal living and working with others. At the end of their 18-month program, 100% of Streets students find work in 5-star establishments, as there are more jobs for highly trained locals than Streets can teach on an annual basis.
From the look of Le and Nguyen, two of Streets’ most talented graduates, you would never know the hardship and poverty in which they were raised. They now lead tours of Vietnamese markets for curious tourists and help manage the Streets Restaurant and Cafe. Next Wednesday, May 1st, the two will present traditional dishes at the annual Streets International NYC Benefit, which will also feature more than a dozen local chefs, such as Floyd Cardoz and Kenny Callaghan. Buy your tickets here: http://bit.ly/Zz9XEV.