By Carly DeFilippo
When ICE Vice President of Education Richard Simpson took on the duty of overseeing the build-out of ICE’s new, 74,000 square foot facility at Brookfield Place, he knew he was undertaking a project whose scope was unprecedented in New York City. With 12 teaching kitchens extending across a single floor of an A-class office building, the project required the manpower and logistics of opening 12 restaurants simultaneously—plus the complications of coordinating construction with prestigious neighbors Equinox and Saks Fifth Avenue.
While the average New York City restaurant kitchen might be built for efficiency and maximizing dining room space, the teaching kitchens at ICE have an entirely different set of requirements. At ICE, multiple gas, electric and French top ranges are distributed throughout each culinary kitchen, providing students with a diversity of equipment rarely seen on a single restaurant’s hot line. On the pastry side, our expansive kitchens mimic the high-volume production spaces of wholesale bakeries with oversized mixers, steam-injection deck ovens and professional sheeters.
Beyond the obvious difference in size, ICE’s kitchens are also working two or three times as hard as the average restaurant kitchen, making reliability and availability of service primary factors in equipment selection. For ICE’s recreational teaching kitchens, this can be a high bar to meet. “In a month, we use equipment more than an ambitious cook could use in two years of home cooking,” says Richard. “We needed a partner who could train our in-house staff to do necessary repairs, which is why we’ve maintained a longstanding relationship with BlueStar as the official range of ICE’s School of Recreational Cooking. In our professional kitchens, we’ve been very pleased with industrial-grade ranges from Southbend, and the showpiece of our culinary kitchens: a custom Jade island range.”
Beyond the ovens and stovetops, ICE’s new facility boasts an impressive range of specialty equipment, including a tandoor, plancha, vertical rotisserie, six small batch machines for bean-to-bar chocolate production…and a 3,000-pound hearth oven. Outfitted by American brands Wood Stone and Cacao Cucina, our Culinary Technology and Chocolate Labs are truly triumphs of organizational engineering and commitment to innovation in culinary education.
“A fascinating thing for everyone to realize is the sheer amount of ductwork in the school,” adds Richard. “The engineers nicknamed the project ‘the Swiss watch’ because of the incredible complexity of multiple layers of ductwork throughout our ceiling. For one thing, consider how loud the average professional kitchen is—we’ve added remote compressors into all our kitchens to remove the constant hum of the refrigerator. And then consider airflow: there are 50,000 cubic feet of air per minute moving through the space. We needed to install two school bus-sized air cleaning units to filter that air before letting it head back out into the world!”
Outside the kitchens, ICE’s hydroponic garden brought its own set of environmental challenges. If you grow a large number of plants in a closed room, eventually they run out of carbon dioxide. “We interviewed at least five consultants for this project, and the technology is so new that it was constantly evolving over the course of the garden’s design. In the end, we worked with Boswyck Farms to design the hydroponic irrigation system and installed a custom HVAC system to exchange carbon dioxide for oxygen. Ultimately, we’re looking at growing up to 30 different crops in the garden at any time.”
Richard has customized the student experience down to the very last detail. “One of the most innovative decisions we made was to create self-contained student workspaces. We applied the kitchen concept of mise en place to our equipment—at each of the metal tables in the kitchens, there are specific compartments for bowls, pots, pans, rolling pins, you name it. Just as prepping all the garnishes and ingredients before service helps chefs work faster, having the right tools at your fingertips is a game-changer.”
Since the opening of the new facility in 2015, ICE has played host to master classes for the New York City Wine & Food Festival, the Dessert Professional Top 10 Chocolatier Awards, film shoots for Epicurious and much, much more. “In addition to training the next generation of chefs, our kitchens are prepared to perform a diverse array of tasks, from a film set for the media to a test kitchen for professional chefs,” explains Richard. “We’re incredibly proud to be a resource for the city’s culinary community—and with a 20-year lease, we know we’re going to be around for a very, very long time.”
To learn more about ICE’s Brookfield Place facility, click here.