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When we hear about ICE alumni being recognized for their accomplishments in the food and hospitality industry, we feel like parents of an Olympic gymnast who just nailed a perfect landing — thrilled. With the announcement of the James Beard Award nominees, we’re both thrilled and proud of the ICE alumni who made the list — plus we’re rooting for them to take gold when the winners are announced this April (Media) and May (Restaurants and Chefs). We’re pleased to share the following ICE graduates who were nominated for the 2017 James Beard Awards:

James Beard Award Medallion

Media Awards

American Cooking

Deep Run Roots: Stories and Recipes from My Corner of the South
Author: Vivian Howard
 (Little, Brown and Company) — Culinary Arts, 2003

Video Webcast, Fixed Location and/or Instructional

Kitchen Conundrums with Thomas Joseph
Airs on: marthastewart.com and YouTube
Producer: Greta Anthony
 — Pastry Arts, 1995

Restaurant and Chef Awards

Best Chef: New York City (Five Boroughs)

Missy Robbins — Culinary Arts, 1995
Lilia –
 Brooklyn, NY

Best Chef: Northwest (AK, ID, MT, OR, WA, WY)

Rachel Yang — Culinary Arts, 2001
Joule — Seattle, WA

 

We’re also proud of alumni who worked closely with this year’s nominees, including:

Outstanding Chef

Gabrielle Hamilton
Prune
 Restaurant — New York, NY (Ashley Merriman (Culinary Arts, 2004) is co-chef)

Best Chef: West (CA, HI, NV)

Jeremy Fox
Rustic Canyon Wine Bar and Seasonal Kitchen — 
Santa Monica, CA (Zoe Nathan (Culinary Arts, 2001) is co-owner)


By Caitlin Raux

On a recent Thursday, I had a late morning phone chat with Aaron Fusco (Culinary Arts ’10), sommelier at Daniel. At 31 years old, he’s relatively young to be holding a top rank in the wine program of one of New York City’s most eminent restaurants. Just a couple minutes into our conversation, however, his affable yet polished nature came through. Together with Aaron’s passion for fine dining, it makes sense that he should be managing the expectations of (and schmoozing with) some of the most demanding customers in the industry.

Sommelier Aaron Fusco

Aaron was kind enough to offer us a sneak peak into a day in the life of a sommelier at Daniel, and to answer some hard-hitting wine questions, like whether the best sparklers come from France and if screw-top wines really merit their bad rap.

Was food a big part of your family life growing up?

Somewhat. My grandma was a really good cook and we all really enjoyed dinners at her house, though I wasn’t involved in the cooking very much. It wasn’t until after college, when I had time to focus on other things, that I realized I loved cooking. I just enjoyed it — the productivity and the tactile experience of cooking. I started watching Jacques Pepin programs and it went from there.

What did you do before ICE?

I studied economics at McGill University. Then I took a year in between graduating and starting the program.

That’s quite a change, economics to culinary arts.

I was spending summers working in a law firm, getting a feel for the 9-5 corporate life. That was motivation to do something a bit more fulfilling.

Tell me about your decision to enroll at ICE.

I was doing a lot of cooking at home and I wanted to make a transition into the industry. I considered other schools but I thought it would be crazy to enroll in a two-year program. Then I started looking at ICE and a couple other schools and decided on ICE. The main difference was the externship — I thought the externship was a better way to get good experience.

Were there any instructors or modules at ICE that stood out to you?

Yes. Chef Chris Gesualdi was by far the strongest teacher that I had. He had the real experience in terms of working in the best New York restaurants and was very interested in studying advanced techniques. This was a period when molecular gastronomy was a little more en vogue than it is now. I did a lot of recipe testing and extra-curricular work with Chef Chris, which was great.

Was that your first exposure to modern gastronomy and fine dining?

Absolutely. I was very naïve when I started the program. I didn’t know too much about the New York restaurant scene or the leading chefs outside of the celebrity chefs. Chef Chris helped open my eyes to Alinea and WD~50, which were the big places at the time. He was someone who had been in the industry so long but was still invigorated by what was around him.

How did training as a chef translate into working in wine?

I did my externship at Picholine, which was a two-Michelin star restaurant at the time. I continued to work with the chef after my externship and followed him to a couple of different restaurants. After about 15 months, I decided to make the transition to front of house. From there, it took another two years until I discovered wine and really got into it at Daniel.

What was your first job at Daniel?

I began in July 2012 as a busboy and within a year I was promoted to assistant captain. That’s when I started getting into wine. I was working for just under two years before I became a part-time sommelier.

Going from the kitchen to front of house as a busboy is a substantial change. Did you know you wanted to eventually be a sommelier when you began?

I first worked at Tocqueville — they helped me make the transition from back of house to front of house. I spent 9 months there, getting the hang of things, and then I made my way to Daniel. I had the mindset of I want to work in the best place possible. I figured that the learning curve would be higher.

What’s a day in the life like as a sommelier at Daniel?

I arrive at work at 3pm. I say hi to the management team and let them know I’m there. Then I do a little bit of set up in the dining room. I go downstairs to the wine cellar, say hello to my boss, take a look at the reservations for the evening and make a game plan for service itself. Then we usually have a handful of deliveries to put away — wines that need to be checked in and sorted in the wine cellar. Some evenings, we put some wines aside for private events and do restocking. Then we have lunch, a meeting and service. Service entails speaking with guests, opening bottles and keeping an eye on the tables I’m responsible for. At the end of the evening there’s usually restocking to do in the large cellar and smaller fridges upstairs; I say “smaller,” but there’s still a couple thousand bottles. That’s pretty much it. It’s really focused on service — there’s not as many behind-the-scenes tasks. The majority of work outside of the cellar is interacting with clients.

Now for a few wine and industry questions: It seems like the wine industry is changing in that people are having more fun with wine — taking it less seriously. What are your thoughts?

I totally support the idea of wine drinking becoming more casual. I enjoy wines that have a cerebral element to them, but that’s not to say that every glass of wine you drink should be analyzed to death. It’s a visceral and emotional experience, and if you want to dive deeper that can be fun and compelling. But at its surface, wine should just be enjoyed.

What’s your process for learning wines?

When I started, Raj Vaidya, the gentleman who runs Daniel’s wine program, encouraged me to take an autodidactic approach to wine. He told me, Anything you don’t know, go home and look up, and if you still don’t understand, then come ask me. If you do research on your own, it sinks into your brain a lot more than when you’re told something. So that’s what I did. The tasting side is taken care of at work. We have a policy that when we open a bottle, we pour a half-ounce for ourselves, to analyze the wine and make sure it’s in good condition for the guest. In a given night, I taste upward of 30 wines. Then I have a large stack of books and do a lot of reading.

You’re on a date and want to impress someone — what region and year is your go-to?

It really depends on a person’s taste. It’s hard to have an overarching standard. Still, I’d say Champagne is the best way to impress somebody. There are few people who dislike Champagne. I’d recommend getting away from the Roederer, the Krug and the Moët and find a nice grower-producer of Champagne. Then you can talk about how you’re drinking a wine made by a producer family in a small town.

What about a funky sparkling wine from a lesser-known region?

Those are fun, but not always the most refined. I tend toward something refined, smooth and approachable. I’m less interested in rustic wines with sharper edges.

So you’re saying that Champagne makes the best sparkling wine?

Hands-down, absolutely (laughs.) Well, I would say the most complex. If you’re looking for complexity and wines driven by terroir, then Champagne is the answer.

What about screw-tops? Are those always inferior wines? 

I don’t have a ton of experience with screw tops. But you’re placing wine in a 100% anaerobic environment, which overtime could put “reductive taints,” as they call them, into the wine by not allowing for any passage of oxygen into the bottle like a cork would allow. I think for aging wines, it’s not a good thing. But for young, fresh wines, there’s nothing wrong with screw top. Plus, you can get to the wine easier.

Ready to launch your culinary career? Click here for more information on ICE’s career programs.

“It was always something I liked doing; something I was good at naturally. But it was never something that I thought I would do professionally,” explained Jennifer Tafuri (Pastry Arts, ’11) on the hobby that would ultimately become her livelihood. Though she never imagined she would find herself practicing her passion for pastry on a daily basis, one visit to ICE convinced this former anthropologist and recreational baker to enroll in ICE’s Pastry & Baking Arts program.

With the launch of our 2017 #CulinaryVoice Scholarship Challenge, we’re revisiting stories from our most inspiring alumni. Jennifer popped out of the pastry kitchen at Rotisserie Georgette, where she holds the title of Pastry Chef, to chat with us about her decision to come to ICE and to inspire you to take the leap and enter our scholarship challenge.

Ready to find your culinary voice at ICE? Click here for more information on the 2017 #CulinaryVoice Scholarship Challenge and enter today!

 

By Caitlin Raux

When our ICE alums grab the headlines, we can’t help but feel like proud parents. From Detroit-style pizza to home-style meatloaf to authentic Welsh cuisine, ICE graduates are using their culinary skills to create better dining experiences across the board. In 2016, ICE graduates and their restaurants were showered with praise — here’s a short list of those who regularly took spots at the top:

  1. Missy Robbins (Culinary ’95): Missy was the chef on everyone’s mind this year. For starters, she was donned Best New Chef – East, at the inaugural Taste Talk Awards. Lilia, the Williamsburg restaurant where Missy is chef/partner, was named one of The New York TimesTop 10 New York Restaurants of 2016, claiming the #2 spot. Lilia’s Cacio e Pepe Fritelle was among the Top 10 New York Dishes of 2016. Her Agnolotti dish topped the list of Time Out New York’s 85 best dishes in NYC 2016. Turning to the 2016 Eater Awards, Lilia won the Reader’s Choice for Restaurant of the Year. The Infatuation listed Lilia as one of New York City’s Best New Restaurants of 2016.
Zoe Nathan and partner Josh Loeb

Zoe Nathan and partner Josh Loeb

  1. Zoe Nathan (Culinary ’01): The west coast restaurateur has received accolades for the restaurants that she co-owns, among them Cassia, which was included in Bon Appetit’s 50 Nominees for America’s Best New Restaurants of 2016. As the BA Staff proclaims, “Given the powerhouse team behind this blockbuster — the same folks who gave L.A. its beloved Rustic Canyon, Huckleberry, and Milo & Olive — no one in Santa Monica would be surprised to find that this Southeast Asian restaurant fires on every imaginable cylinder.” Another of Zoe’s restaurants, Rustic Canyon, was listed as one of LA Weekly’s 99 Essential Restaurants. Michael Bauer, writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, also included Rustic Canyon as one of his new L.A. Favorites.
  2. Matt Hyland (Culinary Arts ’05): In a town famous for its pizza, it’s a rare feat to stand out from the pack of pizza makers. Matt and wife Emily have the secret sauce for success, judging by the cult-like following of their New York pizza eateries: Pizza Loves Emily, and its progeny, Emmy Squared. As Andrew Steinhal of The Infatuation succinctly stated, “We love everything about Emily.” Zagat named Emmy Squared’s Le Big Matt pizza (Detroit-style crust and burger ingredient toppings: Fleisher’s beef, American cheese, Sammy sauce, pickles and mizuna lettuce) as one of 25 Essential Dishes to Try in NYC. 2016’s Eater Awards awarded Matt the National Instagram Badge of Honor for Emmy Squared — likely due to their incredibly Instagrammable #ronicups. Matt Hyland - Pizza Loves Emily
  3. Owner Illtyd Barrett (Management ’12) and executive chef Tom Coughlan (Culinary/Management ’12), who were once ICE classmates, have teamed up to bring Welsh cuisine to NYC with Sunken Hundred in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. They were awarded 3 stars from Eater for their efforts. Food writer Becky Cooper also gave Sunken Hundred a glowing review in The New Yorker. Writes Cooper, “The pub atmosphere and the barrage of My Bloody Valentine and the Clash are incongruous with how quietly thoughtful the food is.”
  4. Ann Redding (Culinary ’02): Uncle Boons, the perpetually packed Thai restaurant where Ann and her husband Matt Danzer are owners and chefs, has been rolling in good press. Eater named their Toasted Coconut Sundae as one of The 20 Perfect Desserts in New York City. According to food writer Ryan Sutton, “If you don’t like this, you are a flawed human being.” As if having one wildly successful (and understatedly cool) restaurant in downtown Manhattan wasn’t enough, Ann and Matt opened a second eatery, Mr. Donahue’s. With just two tables and five counter stools, the restaurant was quickly donned a New York Times Critic’s Pick and included in Pete Wells’ Top 10 New York Restaurants of 2016, coming in right behind ICE alum Missy Robbins’ Lilia at #3. Mr. Donahue’s Roast Beef also landed a spot in the Top 10 New York Dishes of 2016.
Ann Redding and Matt Danzer

Ann Redding and Matt Danzer

Want to join the ranks of these ICE grads? Click here for more information on our career programs.


By Caitlin Gunther

Julie Resnick (Culinary Arts) didn’t start the feedfeed with the goal of creating a behemoth crowdsourced food Instagram account with a following of over one million enthusiastic foodies. Her initial motive was simply to swap recipe ideas and to find inspiration for ways to use her weekly allotment of CSA (community supported agriculture) goods. Something like, How about a new way to prepare those sweet potatoes? But her education from ICE — which helped give her the ability to recognize truly good food and innovative preparations of it — along with her background in digital marketing, led to the creation of a community that self-selected foodies and talented photographers were clamoring to join. Luckily, the barrier to entry was easy — simply tag #feedfeed in your Instagram photos. Feedfeed seemed to fill a void in the food media realm. It was a call to action for home cooks and food photographers to share gorgeous images of meals made with vibrant, seasonal ingredients.

We were thrilled that Julie took the time to chat with us for the ICE blog, to reveal what it’s like running a massively popular Instagram account and website, and to disclose her “worst nightmare” of a meal (a bowl of cereal).

Julie with husband and co-founder Dan (credit: Lindsay Morris)

Julie with husband and co-founder Dan (credit: Lindsay Morris)

When did you decide to study at ICE?

It was right after September 11. I was trying to decide if I wanted to make a career change. That sparked my interest in ICE and going to the weekend program. It was for nine months on the weekends, so I was working full time and going to school on the weekends.

That seems like a big commitment. You have to really want it.

It was competitive because most people were professionals who were in that same state of trying to decide or had made a decision to no longer be an accountant or a lawyer or dentist. Also, everyone was a little older than the typical student age because they had already had a bit of a career.

What was your weekday job?

I worked at a digital agency, which I had founded. My background was in digital marketing. After college, I started out at a big agency that was one of the first to build websites, back when e-commerce websites were just starting up. That’s what ultimately led me to create feedfeed. I was one of the only people in my culinary school class who didn’t end up making the career change. I was super excited to finish the program and graduate with my classmates, but by the end, my career in digital had taken off, and the agency where I was working was doing exciting things.

I continued cooking at home. I went on to get married, had kids and then we moved out of the city to Amagansett. I started changing the way that I cook and the way that we eat when we became part of the local farms and CSAs where you get a weekly share from a farm. So I basically stopped going to the grocery store. Each week you get a bag with onions, carrots, sweet potatoes, chicken and having to work with just those ingredients is what inspired me to start feedfeed. I was using the same ingredients week after week, and with three kids you want to make sure everyone is excited about dinner and not just like, Mom, I don’t want to eat sweet potatoes again. That was what ultimately led me to connect with other people on social media who cook the way I cook and who were using local and seasonal ingredients in their day-to-day cooking. It helped me get ideas for ways to cook instead of leaning on major food publications. Because really, how deep are they going to go with ideas of what you can do with sweet potatoes. I came back to food through a need I had and a connection with other people through social media.

I came back to food through a need I had and a connection with other people through social media.

How did the feedfeed start? With the Instagram account or the website?

It started on Instagram as a call to action. Initially, I began posting pictures of my own food and then asked people to share what they were making by also tagging their food with #feedfeed. That started to develop that community of people who were cooking the way I was. So I was connecting with people from all over the world. Maybe I would do a search for sweet potatoes and find some really cool sweet potato dishes, and I would follow those people and engage with them and comment on their posts. Then I would say, Hey, by the way, don’t forget to add #feedfeed to what you’re cooking and that way we can all share with each other. It was my need that was driving it. It took off from there. That was back when no one else was tagging. Now I feel like everyone is tagging and asking people to tag whatever to be featured. As more people started sharing with the hashtag, it became obvious that the content was amazing, and I didn’t want it to disappear in feeds and get forgotten. If someone makes something really amazing with sweet potatoes, why shouldn’t we catalog that and organize it on our website? Once we had a lot of content on the hashtag, we decided to start the website — to catalog all of the great recipes by ingredient or by topic.

The feedfeed seems to have been one of the first to utilize hashtagging. Then you have others like Infatuation, but that’s a different audience.

The hashtag #eeeeeats existed as a hashtag and was out there before we were, but because we didn’t live in the city, I wasn’t aware of them when we started feedfeed. Later we realized they were doing the same thing but on the restaurant side.

With all the different editors and types of feeds — from vegan to cold soups to French food to sandwiches — how do you manage to control the aesthetic and the content?

First, we reach out to people or they reach out to us because they have a passion or expertise, like brownies or chocolate or Spanish food. We use those people to help us find really good posts. Then once everyone sends in their selections, we have an internal team vetting the content and making sure it’s meeting our standards. Molly [Adams], who works for me, also went to ICE (she graduated from the Culinary Arts program in 2009). I found her by reaching out to ICE Career Services and asked them to post a job. At the time she was working as a private chef and reached out to me. It’s hard to find people who really get food. They cook but not at the level of someone who attended culinary school. So that was really important to me from the beginning — to find someone else who could look at a recipe or a picture and say, That’s really good and interesting and here’s why. Molly looks at everything and we have a couple of other people on our internal team who help us.

Right, because there are a lot of things that are popular, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re good. Like if I see another picture of a rainbow bagel…

That’s a good example — if we were to post a rainbow bagel, we would find one that we think is interesting or a story behind it. Like the person used freeze-dried blueberries and beets to dye the dough. That’s the other thing about us as a publication: When we look for something to post on our website or Instagram, we think, What is it that makes this unique? Would you have ever thought to make this? A recent dinner post was a good example of that: BBQ pulled spaghetti squash sliders. I’m not sure that other major publications would invest in having a writer and recipe developer going through the process of testing out a vegan spaghetti squash slider. But we have amazing vegan cooks in our community who are pushing the boundaries. We see that post as an opportunity to tell people that they can do more with spaghetti squash than treating it as an alternative to pasta.

I guess you could say you have more freedom because you don’t have bottom lines to think of as much as a big publication under a larger media company.

We’re looking at content and creativity. Obviously the visual, too: The photos have to be at a certain level to post it. Often we’ll see something we love but the picture isn’t at the level we need it to be. We’ll remake it and develop a recipe for something we saw on our feed.

Did you have a social media strategy or has it been an organic process?

Definitely organic. My career has been in helping brands to translate their real-world brand into the digital space, and as digital developed into social, I’ve figured out social media strategies for brands. I think like most startups, we look at what’s working and do more of that, and look at what’s not working and think of ways to make it work better. Our main focus from the beginning has been making connections and building a community of people who really enjoy each other’s food content and like to share.

Growing up, was food a big part of your family life?

Yes. I grew up in Texas and my mom made dinner every night. I always loved to eat, I love good food. When people ask, what do you hate, there’s really nothing I can think of. I helped my mom in the kitchen quite a bit. Then when I went to college, I couldn’t eat the food in the dorm, and I wasn’t one of those people who would say, Oh I’ll just have a bowl of cereal for dinner. That’s my worst nightmare. If our kids are in trouble — all of our kids love to eat — we’ll say to them, If you don’t listen, you’re going to get cereal for dinner, and they’re like, Noooo! That’s how I was, too. I need something savory and delicious. So in college, I started cooking as a necessity.

How did ICE prepare you for your current role as founder of feedfeed or other aspects of your life?

It helped me with the ability to throw together a really nice meal quickly. Having the basis of the techniques, plus knowing the flavor profiles and pulling them together. Another thing: I’ve always had an idea for a restaurant — especially living out here, because we don’t have a lot of options. When we go to the city, I always say Let’s have Indian, or let’s have some Korean food or Thai, because we don’t have those types of restaurants out here. At home, one night I’ll make something more Middle Eastern, and then the next night I’ll make something more Thai-inspired. I always have coconut milk, ginger and a good harissa on hand. One thing you learn in culinary school is that all the cuisines are using the same ingredients for the most part, but the end results are so different. That’s what I like to do in my own home cooking and I would love to do the same in my own restaurant: Use the same ingredients the whole week but every night try a different cuisine. Show people that you can get by with pretty much the same ingredients and completely change the dishes based on the preparation.

For our readers that are trying to build their brands via social media, what advice can you offer?

First, I would say that it’s important to be active on social. Don’t just spend time composing a beautiful, well-lit shot, posting it and then logging out of Instagram or whatever social media platform you’re using. Spend the time looking at what people you follow are posting, like the content and comment on the content. I think there’s also this perception that you shouldn’t be following too many people — I disagree with that. If there are people out there who are putting out nice content that you’re interested in, follow them, engage with them and get to know the people behind these accounts. Read what these people are writing, don’t just look at the pictures. It’s about relationship building.

Interested in studying culinary arts at ICE? Click here for information on our career programs.


By Caitlin Gunther

When you speak with Adrienne Cheatham (Culinary Arts ’07), you can hear the tenacity in her voice. As a former sous chef at Le Bernardin and executive chef at Red Rooster, and the subject of a recent NY Times Taste Makers video, Adrienne is mindful of the accomplishments behind her. She’s more concerned, however, with the missions that lie ahead — like leaving her comfort zone (if working 16-hour days seven days a week can be called a “comfort zone”) and branching out on her own. Adrienne balances her time in the kitchen with an activity that calls upon a completely different skill and mindset: dance.

While scoping out locales for a potential forthcoming project, Adrienne took a pause to chat with me for the ICE blog.

ICE Alumnus Adrienne Cheatham

First, congratulations on the Taste Makers piece. What was it like working on that?

They were trying to steer the focus of it to the challenges that a woman faces in the kitchen, and I didn’t support that idea. I didn’t want to be a part of that kind of story. I think that kitchens are the great equalizers — either you can do the job or you can’t. It doesn’t matter if you’re short, tall, your gender, your race, none of that matters in a kitchen. That’s why I was glad they took the focus off of that.

Is it a relevant question anymore: what’s it like to be a woman in a kitchen? Or is that a cliché at this point?

In some ways, it’s cliché because it’s asked so much. At least now people are aware of women in kitchens. And yes, women are still the minority, but you experience the same things that the guys do. Maybe you feel differently about a crass or vulgar joke but that offends some men too. It’s not as much of a gender issue as before when it was novel to see women in the kitchen. Don’t get me wrong — I’ve been the only woman in the kitchen for three to six months at a time. I’ve also been the only black person. But anyone can be the minority. You could be the only blond in the kitchen, but it’s not an issue because everyone’s there to work. It’s a complete meritocracy. You’re judged by whether you did a good job at your station.

When did you realize you wanted to work in restaurants? 

In high school, I told my mom that after graduation I wanted to go to a four-year culinary school and she was so unsupportive. And rightfully so — [having worked in restaurants herself] she had seen a lot of her friends burn out and have nothing to fall back on. She said I could go to a regular four-year school first and then if I still wanted to go to culinary school, I could. She told me, we’re not rich, so if you want to go to culinary school, you’re completely on your own.

So I went to college in Florida. I started majoring in business and finance, and then I switched to journalism and PR during my junior year. Business and finance were cool — those were principles I needed to learn. My mom was pushing me to get a job in finance. She told me to make a lot of money and then cook as a hobby. But I still wanted to go to culinary school, and if I wanted something to fall back on in the same industry, I figured that journalism would be the best option.

Do you do any writing nowadays?

I did the recipe testing and editing of the Avec Eric cookbook with Eric Ripert. Recently, I helped write and test the recipes for The Red Rooster Cookbook by Marcus Samuelsson. I also did the book’s food styling, working with the prop stylist and photographer.

What inspired you to go to culinary school?

It was something I had planned already. I was working for a pastry chef at a resort in Florida, and I thought I wanted to go into pastry. The chef and the sous chef knew I wanted to go to culinary school and they were very supportive. They believed that even if you have been working for a few years, it’s good to back up your credibility with a culinary school education. I figured because I’d worked in pastry for a few years, if I go to culinary school, I’d go to the general program to learn new skills. I thought I’d go back to pastry, but the culinary arts program offered such a different mindset, I ended up liking the freedom and creativity on the savory side.

adrienne_cheatham_alumni_

Is that how you ended up working at Le Bernardin?

I got referred there through a classmate. I’m originally from Chicago and I wanted to do my externship there, so I was holding out for Charlie Trotter’s. I thought, in case it doesn’t work out, I should look for something in New York. One of my classmates was doing her externship at Le Bernardin. She gave me the name of Chef Ripert’s assistant and I stalked her. When I didn’t hear back, I said, “Ok, you and I are about to become best friends.” I showed up at the restaurant to leave another hard copy of my resume. I would email her three times a week and call her four times a week until she finally responded. She owns Ardesia, the wine bar, and the Camlin in Brooklyn now.

Did ICE prepare you to work at Le Bernardin?

I felt comfortable in the kitchen because during all the modules at ICE you’re in a kitchen environment. You learn how to stand out of the way and not be intrusive in someone else’s space when it’s not your kitchen. I had great chef instructors and they had the same temperament and demeanor as the chefs at Le Bernardin.

In the NY Times video, you said, “There’s a point in your career when you have to put yourself out there. I do want to open my own restaurant. I want to develop my own style.” Have you reached a point in your career where you’ve developed your own style?

Yes, I think I have. When I tried to put things on the menu at Le Bernardin, Chef Eric would say, “It’s really good, but the ingredients are a little too humble. We have to elevate the dish a lot more.” So I learned the Le Bernardin style of elevating ingredients, making them more than themselves. Then working for Chef Marcus, a lot of the dishes I put on the menu were too sophisticated because Red Rooster is very casual. So the dishes there were too sophisticated for Red Rooster but too humble for Le Bernardin. Eventually, I started running specials—dishes that I wanted to do, separate from the Red Rooster menu. One day Chef Marcus said to me, “I’m not sure if you’ve had time to focus on your style. I think you’re still in the process of developing your style.” That made me realize that I do have to push myself out there. And I’m not going to do it when someone else says I’m ready. It’s a moment that you decide that you’re ready. There’s always more to learn. You’re always going to be learning from different people, from continuing education classes, magazines, visiting other restaurants. You’re not going to stop learning because you open your own place, but you still have to be confident enough in yourself and what you have to share with people. And you have to want to do it, too. I was perfectly happy working for other people. It’s so safe and comfortable. It’s a guaranteed paycheck and the comfort of knowing what you’re going into every day. But at some point, I had to ask myself: What do I want to convey? What do I want to execute that is my vision every day of the week? Plus, with Chef Marcus, I was working seven days a week, 16 hours a day. If I’m going to kill myself, it’s going to be for me.

What is your culinary voice?

Anybody who works in a kitchen and creates food is a very sense-oriented person. It’s about texture, visuals, flavors, aromas — everything that engages the senses. My voice is a reflection of everything about me: not just what I like to eat, but the kind of person I am. So a dish that I put together is an expression of love, of happiness, of learning. Being from Chicago, having family from Mississippi and a fine dining background, it’s not just those things combined. It’s a reflection of all of my life experiences that have created the person I am, and translating that into the food that I create.

Ready to find your culinary voice? Click here for more information on ICE’s career programs.


By Caitlin Gunther

On a Tuesday evening in the midst of September Fashion Week in New York City, I meet Thea Habjanic (Pastry Arts ’10) at La Sirena, the buzzy new restaurant in the Meatpacking district of Manhattan where Thea leads the sweet side of the kitchen as executive pastry chef. Given the restaurant’s location and the unseasonably warm weather, it will no doubt be a long night for Thea. Still, she seems poised and unhurried as I have her stand for a handful of portraits in her kitchen attire.

In a professional pastry kitchen, where technical skill is only half the battle, it takes a certain personality type—one that can stay focused on the details through an onslaught of tickets, demands and the occasional snafu—to truly succeed. Thea has the qualities to thrive in the restaurant world—though that wasn’t always her career path. She graduated from NYU with a degree in journalism and worked for several years as an entertainment writer before deciding to enroll in the Pastry & Baking Arts program at ICE.

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As her recent kitchen roles can attest, Thea has the demeanor and the work ethic suited to fast-paced restaurants. Said ICE Creative Director Michael Laiskonis, who hired Thea for her first pastry gig at Le Bernardin, “Last year, I signed on to create the pastry program for the newest Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich restaurant, La Sirena. When it came time to hire a pastry chef for the upscale and busy restaurant, I immediately thought of Thea. Her previous experience in both fine dining and high volume made for a perfect match. She has played a vital role in crafting La Sirena’s desserts, earning critical praise. She runs the hectic pastry kitchen with that positive, can-do attitude that initially impressed me!”

Thea was kind enough to pop out of the pastry kitchen and share with the ICE blog a glimpse into her daily life and her path to ICE.

ICE graduation year/program: Weekend Pastry & Baking Arts, 2010

Current Address: East Harlem, NYC

Occupation: Executive pastry chef at La Sirena

Describe a typical day in your life.

I start every day with an iced latte; whether it’s cold or hot outside, I need my iced latte. I don’t drink drip coffee—it has to be espresso with cold milk. I’m a big yogi and I do yoga six days a week, so that’s usually where I go before work. I typically go to work in the early afternoon. I’ll check in with the staff that have been doing production and see if they have any questions and if we have everything for the day. Then I’ll talk to the executive chef and see what’s in store for the night—if we have any parties and how many covers. After that, I’ll do some production and work on recipe development or specials for the day. We have a pre-shift meeting where the whole FOH and BOH discuss protocol issues or specials for the day. From there, it’s pretty much service all night.

We have more time to set up in pastry—we won’t normally get our first ticket until after 7:00 p.m., so we have time to get our stuff together. You hear the kitchen come alive on the savory side around 5–5:30 p.m. and we catch up eventually. But then, of course, pastry is always the last in the restaurant because we finish much later. I run the line, plate, make sure everyone is sending out all the dishes correctly. I’m very hands-on—I’m not the kind of chef who will leave early and let the cooks handle everything. I like to stay until the end. I still help clean and scrub.

How did ICE prepare you for being a pastry chef at La Sirena?

One of the first things I remember learning at ICE was something that my teacher Nicole Kaplan said: “Nothing about restaurant life is glamorous, so if you’re into a fantasy about this being a prissy job, then you’re going to be disappointed.” She was 100% right.

ICE was awesome. I made great friends and learned so much. If you’ve never worked in a restaurant before or in the culinary field, they give you a foundation for what the life is really like. Because I think people have no clue. It’s hard work, a lot of hustling and long days. It’s a bit of a masochistic job. But people who go to school and end up working in this field have a lot of drive and ambition. They love what they do.

How did you land your first externship at Le Bernardin?

I had been there once as a child—my parents had a wedding anniversary dinner there and I tagged along. When I was looking for externships, I didn’t know if I wanted to work in a bakery or a restaurant, and I thought of that dinner at Le Bernadin. I looked up the pastry chef [Michael Laiskonis] and I found out that he was very well known and respected. At the time, I didn’t realize what a pastry celebrity he was. I wrote him an email, he responded and the rest is history. I went in for a trail and it went well. I think Michael saw something in me that he believed in. He’s been my mentor ever since.

Nothing about restaurant life is glamorous, so if you’re into a fantasy about this being a prissy job, then you’re going to be disappointed.

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What inspired you to go to culinary school?

My dad was a chef. He owned a couple of restaurants on restaurant row on 46th street, so I grew up going there with my mom and I saw the business firsthand. He always encouraged me not to work in restaurants because it’s very hard. But we were always a big cooking family—we cooked dinner every night. Food around the table was always a big deal. Initially, I didn’t think of it as a career. I went to NYU, got a journalism degree and did that for several years. But then a bunch of life changes happened and my ex-boyfriend was always encouraging me to go to pastry school since I used to bake all the time. Then I finally did it. I totally changed careers.

Thoughts on the current culinary landscape?

It’s so vast and broad. I think there’s something for everyone out there. But there’s not a lot out there that hasn’t been done before. People always ask me: what’s your favorite food to make or what’s your specialty? I think that’s a silly question because I don’t have a specialty. I love to make everything. I love to make things that taste good and are beautiful. In pastry, you’re leaving the last impression on a diner in your restaurant. You want them to look at the plate and say “oh my gosh, that’s so pretty.” But in the end, I want the plate to taste better than it looks.

Ready to jump-start your career in pastry arts? Learn more about ICE’s career programs.


By Caitlin Gunther

Picture a culinary school graduate and chances are you imagine a white-toque wearing chef on his or her way into a traditional restaurant setting. Most people wouldn’t think that culinary school could also lead to working in the test kitchen of a food media startup located in Brooklyn’s coolest new creative hub, Industry City. That’s exactly where ICE alum Jiselle Basile (Culinary Arts and Culinary Management ‘14) recently landed—as chef and food stylist for Extra Crispy, Time Inc.’s new breakfast-centric website. Though the Career Services department at ICE set her up with her first food media internship (in the Birmingham-based test kitchen for Cooking Light), Jiselle’s willingness to try something different, leaving both her comfort zone and her hometown of New York City, helped Jiselle land her current gig.

Taking a break from such adventures as making green eggs and ham for grownups, Jiselle hopped out of the test kitchen to complete the ICE alum questionnaire. Unsurprisingly, this ICE alum has strong views on culinary school and where to score the best breakfast sandwich.

Jiselle Basile Extra Crispy

ICE graduation year: May 2014 (Culinary Arts and Culinary Management)

Location: Brooklyn, New York

Occupation: Chef and food stylist for Extra Crispy

Favorite sandwich spot:
I narrowed it down a lot obviously (laughs). One place is Steve’s Pork Store on Bath Avenue in Brooklyn. They make probably the best Italian sandwich I’ve ever had. And for breakfast—because obviously I have an opinion on breakfast—at the bagel shop I grew up with, Bagel Boy in Bay Ridge, they make a power bagel that has sunflower seeds, flaxseed and millet in a whole wheat bagel. I know a lot of people hate whole-wheat bagels, but this one is delicious. I get a sausage, egg and cheese with ketchup on that bagel and it’s a perfect breakfast sandwich.

Describe a typical day in your life.
There’s not a typical day, which keeps it interesting. At Extra Crispy, there’s a startup mentality—within a major company—but it’s still a startup. Most of us take on a lot of different roles so no two days are similar. Usually I’m either researching recipes at my desk; or I can be at a video shoot with a chef; or testing and styling in the kitchen. Tomorrow, I’m going to be making Scotch eggs with an ostrich egg on Facebook live. I have to pick up ostrich eggs at Union Square Market at 8:00 AM, so I’ll start here whenever I get back.

Where do you look for recipe inspiration?
Food & Wine, Lucky Peach, Bon Appetit…I also read a bunch of food blogs. Or if I really like something I eat at a restaurant, I’ll try to recreate it. I research a bunch of recipes and then try to make something that’s my own. My family is also a big inspiration. Everyone in my family cooks, so I grew up trying to learn from them, though that’s mostly Italian food.

How did ICE prepare you for being a chef and food stylist at Extra Crispy?
I am where I am today because of ICE. If it weren’t for [ICE Career Services Advisor] Tessa, I never would have known about the internship with Time Inc. in Alabama. To be completely honest, I didn’t even know this kind of job existed before attending ICE. Both programs definitely prepared me for working as a chef/food stylist. The Culinary Arts program provided me with the necessary technical skills and I gained an understanding of market trends in Culinary Management. The recreational classes were also a great way to build on a particular interest.

Chef Jiselle Basile

What is your culinary voice?
I’m still trying to figure that out. Right now I want to make delicious food that makes people feel good, or that brings back a memory or a specific moment in time. That’s why I like working for Extra Crispy—there’s so much comfort and emotion tied to breakfast.

Wired recently released a video with David Chang of Momofuku and in the video he talked about his success. He said a lot of things I love, but one thing in particular was that he tries to evoke nostalgia in his dishes, but not in an overtly obvious way. So the dish one person is brought back to won’t be the same dish that another person is being brought back to. I’d love to be able to do that but I have a lot more to learn.

What inspired you to go to culinary school?
It was always something I thought I wanted to do. When I graduated from high school, I thought I wanted to go to culinary school but I ended up going to college and getting a communications degree. I didn’t know where I wanted to go from there. At some point I realized that cooking had always followed me—no matter where I was, I was always finding a way to cook. Even in college I took cooking classes when they were offered. Eventually I realized that it was what I wanted to pursue as a career—something I always loved doing.

Where do you see yourself five years from now?
On my way toward starting something that will be my own. I don’t know if that will happen in five years because I need more restaurant experience first. So whether I’m back in kitchens or on the management side of things so I can learn how the FOH works, hopefully I’ll be on my way to owning my own restaurant.

Thoughts on the current culinary landscape?
The whole foodie culture thing is having an impact. People are either talking about things more than ever or social media is having an impact and brought to life how much people talk about it. People are more aware of their food; I’ve seen restaurants focusing more on where their food is coming from and I guess it’s in part because people are so much more concerned about the surrounding issues. It’s also interesting how owners and chefs now look at how social media affects their restaurants. Nowadays a lot of people, before they set foot in your restaurant, will see if you have an Instagram and check out what your food looks like, which has a huge impact on whether someone will eat in your restaurant.

Click here to discover how you too can earn a double diploma from ICE in Culinary Management and Culinary Arts or Pastry Arts.


By Caitlin Gunther

Where do you see yourself in ten years? That’s the question Chloe Vichot (Culinary Management ’15) heard when she was interviewing for admission to business schools after graduating from high school. Though she didn’t say it aloud, in her head the answer was clear—owning a restaurant. A successful career in finance and an ICE Culinary Management diploma later, the Paris native is on the cusp of realizing that dream in New York City. This fall, she will open the doors to Ancolie, a Greenwich Village grab-and-go eatery, where glass jars will be the eco-friendly packaging of choice. Serving fresh takes on the seasonal, home-cooked meals she grew up eating, Chloe is sharing her culinary voice with downtown Manhattan.

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In the midst of juggling the roles involved in opening a restaurant, Chloe sat down with us to answer the ICE alum questionnaire.

ICE graduation year: July 2015 (Culinary Management)

Location: New York, New York

Occupation: Founder of Ancolie, a restaurant with a grab-and-go concept that will open in the fall of 2016. It’s going to be in Greenwich Village in the NYU area. I chose this location, rather than midtown, because I wanted to be close to the student life. And people will come in the morning, evening and weekends.

Favorite sandwich spot: Tartinery in Nolita. They have open-faced sandwiches that I love…and there’s also a location in ICE’s building, Brookfield Place.

Describe a day in the life.
My life changes every day—one day I’m cooking for an event, another day I have to deal with the contractors and construction, another day I have to talk to my interior designer and make sure the plans are on track. Other days I have to take care of social media. There’s a lot of multitasking and wearing different hats in a single day. Then I’m also trying to plan ahead for all the things we’ll need once the store opens, which is challenging.

Did the management program at ICE prepare you for making these decisions?
Absolutely! Being with professionals from the industry who have done this for more than 20 years was fantastic. I was able to learn from professionals who have seen a lot of concepts and know the industry trends. I could pitch them my concept and get valuable feedback. And with three professors, I had more than one opinion.

What is your culinary voice?
I took recreational culinary courses, but I never considered myself a chef. I considered myself a businesswoman and someone who wanted to create a new concept, with a goal to touch people through food. Originally, I thought I would have a professional chef at Ancolie, but as the days went by, I realized that I was going to be the chef…it’s been an interesting transition.

My culinary voice comes from what I grew up eating and what my mother and grandmother taught me. I was lucky not to have to worry about what I was eating growing up—because my family was always cautious about picking the right ingredients and in the right proportions. So I’m trying to bring this culture to the U.S.: to enjoy food and find a balance.

Ancolie_Sharing

What or who inspired you to go to culinary school?
I always dreamed of having a restaurant. I started with an amateur cooking course, and at the time I wasn’t even considering quitting my job in finance. The course made me so happy and excited that I realized I wanted to switch from finance to the food world. When I decided to take the Culinary Management program at ICE, I think I had just had a fight with my team at work, and it made me consider what I wanted to do with my life. I was married and going to have children at some point, so if I was working and had kids I wanted to make sure I was doing something I was passionate about, and I knew finance was not that. So I started thinking—could I do something in food, but something more daytime-oriented for when I have a family? I started the ICE program knowing I wanted to do something in food but not sure what. The program helped me confirm that the food business is what I wanted to do and that I could do it by myself.

After graduating from ICE, I worked in a restaurant in front of house for a couple of months. I thought I’d have to gain a couple years’ experience, but then I realized it was time to just to do it. I’d never be totally prepared to open a food business, so I decided to jump in the water and do it.

Thoughts on the current culinary landscape?
I’m very inspired by what’s happening in the current culinary landscape, especially the focus on eating locally and seasonally. Dan Barber is an inspiration – he is trying to reuse things that are typically thrown away.
I think the culinary world needs to take the next step and focus on packaging. Ancolie is going in the right direction by using glass instead of plastic. Every time I talk to a restaurateur, they think I’m crazy and wasting money, but I think more people will start using glass and reusable packaging.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
In five years, I would really love to have a couple of Ancolie stores in the city and an operation that is successful. To me, success means making a difference in the local community and the environment—which is why I’m using glass, so people don’t need to throw away their packaging. Success also means making sure my investors are happy with their investment. And of course, I want happy customers. I feel like I’m finally on track to realizing my dream.

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Ready to start your own food business? Check out our Culinary Management program and find your culinary voice.

 

“If you want to succeed in the culinary industry, it’s going to take time, and you’re going to have setbacks and some heartache but ultimately if you have it in you, you’re going to be able to make it happen,” said Food Network Star finalist and Mac Truck owner Dom Tesoriero, an ICE alum who, judging by his successes thus far, has it in him.

“I’ve been drawn to the kitchen from a very young age,” said Dom. “Culinary school was a natural fit.” Dom’s Culinary Arts degree from ICE gave him the fundamental tools for thriving in the kitchen. Down the road, ICE connected Dom with opportunities abroad, including a stage at a renowned restaurant in Piedmont, Italy, where he perfected his pasta game.

Though his ambition took him around the globe, the small screen was not necessarily something that Dom aspired toward. Dom was more entrepreneurially inclined, and channeled his years of culinary experience into a novel venture: a food truck serving up gourmet variations of the comfort food classic, macaroni and cheese. Still, television opportunities came knocking on his door. First was an invitation to appear on the show, Rewrapped, where Dom was challenged to (and succeeded at) such tasks as creating barbecue fried chicken potato chips. His kitchen prowess—not to mention that Staten Island accent—attracted the attention of Food Network producers, and landed him a role as a contestant on Food Network Star, where he made it to the final round.

So what’s next for the ICE alum? While he continues serving up toothsome dishes like Braised Applewood Bacon mac and cheese, another television appearance may be in the cards. On screen or off, he’ll be somewhere in the kitchen, drawing upon his wide-range of experiences and realizing his culinary voice.

Ready to find your culinary voice? Click here for more information on ICE’s Culinary Arts program.