By Carly DeFilippo
Think you could launch a successful business on a $300 budget? That’s just what ICE Pastry & Baking Arts alum Julian Plyter did, selling his whimsical ice cream sandwiches at the Hester Street Fair before opening a storefront for his beloved Melt Bakery on the Lower East Side. From sustainable, locally sourced ingredients to an innovative business strategy, there are more than a few ingredients fueling Julian’s ice cream dreams. We caught up with this entrepreneurial alum to learn more about his professional path.
What was your career path prior to enrolling at ICE?
I was working as an arts administrator for a major NYC orchestra for just over eight years. As a career changer, what really attracted me to ICE was the solid curriculum combined with the flexibility of scheduling options!
How did your ICE externship influence your future in pastry?
I was fortunate enough to land an externship under Michael Laiskonis (now ICE’s creative director) at Le Bernardin. It was one of the most meaningful things to happen thus far in my career. Not only was I able to work under and learn from an extraordinarily talented chef, but also working in a place where such thought and care go into every detail really informed my own ethos about creating food—and about running a business. In terms of the industry advantages, having something like that on your résumé…there’s nothing like it!
What have been some of your other formative professional experiences?
After Le Bernardin, I landed my first job as a cook at the Lever House restaurant under Dan Silverman and found a great mentor in Rachel Binder. Throughout the two years I was there, I learned the department and the flow of the kitchen in general, and I had risen to the rank of pastry sous chef when LH closed. From there, I did a very short stint at Veritas, which I decided wasn’t for me, and I did some part-time work at Lure Fishbar, which I loved (and still do!). Then I was offered the pastry chef spot on the opening team at Crosby Street Hotel, which was an awesome experience. It’s a huge property so getting it up and running was a great challenge and very educational. But, by then, I was ready to start my own business, so I left Crosby to launch Melt Bakery in 2010.
Are there any accomplishments of which you are particularly proud?
I’m extremely proud of Melt and our team here. I started with $300, and we now have 35 employees and as many as nine locations open simultaneously on a busy weekend.
Briefly describe a day in your current working life.
It’s nonstop, amazing and I wouldn’t have it any other way! It starts with reconciling sales, keeping everyone on track and supervising the kitchen and on-site sales teams. At the same time, I’m always working on growth and sales opportunities—it’s tough but it’s a dream!
What might people be surprised to learn about your job?
I rarely get to cook anymore, and I do miss it— especially the rhythm and the energy.
Where would you like to see yourself in the future?
I am deeply interested in sustainable agriculture, food sourcing and pursuing a project that would allow me to test some theories and ideas I have about how to improve food systems in the United States!
Ready to follow in Julian’s footsteps? Learn more about ICE’s professional program in Pastry & Baking Arts.