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By Casey Feehan

florian_pinelTechnology and the culinary industry have been natural allies throughout history. From new tools and appliances to advancements in our scientific understanding of food, these innovations have helped chefs lighten their workload, augment their creativity and enhance the experience of eating. Now more than ever, technology is setting new standards for how we cook, and ICE alumni are the ones leading the charge. In particular, Florian Pinel, IBM Senior Software Engineer and a graduate of the ICE culinary program, is at the forefront of this revolution, leading the research team for Watson’s “cognitive cooking” project. But back when he was a student at ICE, Florian never imagined that he’d be the tech expert behind the world’s coolest food truck.

What were you doing before enrolling at ICE?

I was working in the research division at IBM. I began there in 1999 after graduating from university in France. I was spending most of my weekends cooking at home, but I wanted to take my skills to the next level and work in a restaurant, with the idea of possibly opening one of my own someday. I checked out the major culinary schools in New York and chose ICE because it offered the best options in terms of program quality and schedule. I graduated in 2005.

Florian, outside the IBM Food Truck with ICE Creative Director Michael Laiskonis.

Florian and ICE Creative Director Michael Laiskonis outside the IBM Food Truck.

Where was your externship? Did it help you make any particularly meaningful connections in the industry?

I did my externship at Danube—a Michelin-starred Austrian restaurant of David Bouley’s (now closed). Since I was still working at IBM during the week, I worked on weekends and, on some occasions, weekday nights. Around the same time, I saw quite a bit of Cesar Ramirez, who was chef de cuisine next door at Bouley (before he moved on to open Brooklyn Fare).

What have you done professionally since graduating?

I continued working at Danube after my externship for almost three years, until the restaurant closed in 2008. During that time, I rotated through all the stations in the kitchen: cold apps, hot apps, deep-fryer, seafood and meat. Regretfully, I never made it to the pastry station: the desserts at Danube were great (Alex Grunert, the pastry chef, went on to work at Blue Hill at Stone Barns). When I create savory dishes, it’s easy to manipulate those ingredients to do what I want, but pastry is still sometimes a struggle: there’s a lot of experience and imagination needed for pastry work, in particular when it comes to achieving the perfect texture or an appealing plate composition.

After Danube closed, I realized I was having a great time creating my own recipes, and eventually started a food blog, foodperestroika.com. The focus is on Eastern Europe and combines recipes, restaurant reviews, and travel reports. Throughout that time, I was still working at IBM, and I began research for the Cognitive Cooking project about two and half years ago.

Florian Pinel - Alumni - ICE

Chef Florian Pinel (right), with Lav Varshney (left), a former IBM research scientist.

Are there any accomplishments of which you are particularly proud?

I think the best accomplishments are the ones still to come!

Briefly describe a day in your current career.

With all the interest in the IBM Food Truck, my days have become much busier in the past few weeks, and my schedule is packed with interviews, meetings and a lot of software engineering. While juggling a wide range of media requests, we’ve been simultaneously working to transform our prototype into an application that consumers would feel comfortable using in their kitchens every day. My favorite projects are those that involve helping someone create new recipes with our tool for an event. That’s when I get to do some hands-on work in my kitchen or pay a visit to James Briscione and Michael Laiskonis at ICE to see what they can come up with.

ICE - Alumni Interview - Florian Pinel - IBM Cognitive Computing Food Truck

From left: ICE Creative Director Chef Michael Laiskonis, Florian, and ICE Director of Culinary Development Chef James Briscione, in the IBM Food Truck.

What might people be surprised to learn about your job?

That IBM doesn’t make computers any more! Or that you can work at IBM and wind up creating cocktails as part of your job.

Where would you like to see yourself in the future?

At IBM, I’d like to deliver a cooking app that’s useful to home cooks and chefs alike, and later investigate how computers can help us be creative in other domains. For example, can computational creativity help us take better pictures or create more exciting travel itineraries? Outside of that, I’d love to have an opportunity to write a cookbook! I have plenty of recipes on my blog, and tons of recipe ideas in my notes that I hope to try some day.

 

To read more about ICE’s inspiring alumni, click here.

 

By Casey Feehan

Chefs get their inspiration from many different places, but it was a well-timed fortune cookie that helped ICE alum Zac Young realize that his future was in the kitchen. Since graduating from the Pastry & Baking career program, Zac has gained widespread recognition as a contestant on Top Chef: Just Desserts and has led the pastry team at some of New York’s top restaurants.

What were you doing before you enrolled at ICE? Was there something that sparked your decision to attend culinary school? 

ICE Alumni Interview - Zac Young - ice.edu

ICE alumni Zac Young.

I was working in the wig department at Radio City Music Hall. I decided that baking cookies would be a fun hobby and found myself becoming obsessed with the balance of creativity and structure involved in baking. Baking can be very precise: there are only so many alterations you can make within a recipe before it fails, and what I found was that I really enjoyed playing with those boundaries. As the Christmas season was winding down, my mother called and said, “You don’t talk about theater anymore: all you talk about are your damn cookies. Go to culinary school.” That night, I ordered chinese food and the message in my fortune cookie said, “Some men dream of fortunes, some men dream of cookies.” The universe was telling me something.

Where was your externship, and where have you worked since graduating? 

I was actually the first extern at Bouchon Bakery, and I burned down the microwave. Since then, I’ve been the Pastry Chef at Butter and Flex Mussels (including the Flex Donuts pop-up shops). I’ve also done development work for a large packaged food company specializing in boxed cake mix and frosting. Now I work for David Burke. Right now, my home base is David Burke Kitchen in SoHo, but we have so many new projects on the horizon – it’s fun to be a part of something that’s expanding.

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

I really love the little side projects I get to do, such as making dresses out of chocolate or creating a gingerbread version of the Chrysler Building.

What are the most valuable lessons you’ve learned from your time in the industry?

Show up early, leave late. Pay attention: listen to what your chef tells the other cooks and implement those things in your own work. Don’t complain.

Zac Young - Alumni Interview - ice.edu

Zac MCs the 2013 Dessert Pro Magazine “Top Ten Pastry Chef” awards at ICE.

Briefly describe a day in your current working life. 

I get to work at David Burke Kitchen in SoHo by 9:00AM and eat whatever is left over from breakfast (though I’m partial to just eating the fruit filling out of a danish). The sous chef and I go over prep lists and production for the day, and I make sure the station is set and ready for war before lunch picks up around 12:30PM. Lunch is tough because guests like to get in and out quickly. At 2:00PM we start bread production for dinner service. We can easily go through 300 mini loaves of bread so I like to lend a hand: I call it our “Bread Party.”

Around 3:00PM we put out amenities for the hotel, which can include chocolates, cookies, cheese, birthday cakes, chocolate-stuffed strawberries and champagne. When 3:30PM rolls around, I chat with the other properties (Townhouse, Fishtail) about specials or upcoming events.

At 5:00PM, I check the service station for dinner service. Pre-meal begins at 5:30PM with the front-of-house staff and we review the night’s specials. Once dinner service starts, I go back to the production kitchen and help with prep for the next day. My sous chef and I start inventory/ordering at 8:00PM, and we go over prep lists for the following morning. If there’s a private party or event at the restaurant (and there always seems to be one), it’s usually around 9:00PM that I put out their desserts, hoping that when 9:30PM comes I’ll get to head home. But most nights it’s closer to 10:30PM.

What might people be surprised to learn about your job?

How much work we do for the savory side of the kitchen: we make pizzas, potato rye crisps, savory flans, etc. I also help wherever help is needed in the kitchen. If that means plating hors d’oeuvres or expediting the line, so be it.

Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years?

This is my dream job, so I’m not really sure what more I could ask for. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see!

To read about a typical day in the life of a restaurant pastry chef, click here.

By Casey Feehan

A graduate of ICE’s Culinary Arts program, Valerie Broussard blazed a new trail in the field of foraging when she became Starwood’s first Forager and Director of Purchasing at the W Austin. Now heading up her own consulting company, she spends her time connecting with nearby farms and ranches, bringing local ingredients from artisanal producers to a larger audience in the community. With a resume that includes positions like food stylist, recipe tester and private chef, Valerie is an inspiring example of how culinary school graduates can craft a unique path to success in the food industry.

What were you doing before you enrolled at ICE?

Valerie Broussard - Alumni Interview - ice.edu

Valerie Broussard. Image courtesy of ValerieBroussard.com; photo by JBF Award Winner Jody Horton (jodyhorton.com).

I was working in the fashion industry by day and waiting tables by night. I’ve always been interested in food and was curious about what was going on in the kitchen, but wasn’t sure I wanted to become a restaurant chef. ICE introduced me to other career options within the culinary industry.

What sparked your decision to attend culinary school?

One night, while covering a friend’s coat-checking shift at the restaurant Po (this was back in the late 90’s), I naively asked Chef Mario Batali how I could get behind-the-scenes work on his TV show, and he suggested I attend culinary school. So I did.

Where was your externship, and where have you worked since graduating? 

I externed at JoJo and stayed on in a paid position for a few months after completing my required hours. I then worked in test kitchens, such as Martha Stewart Living and the Food Network. I’ve done freelance work as a food stylist, writer, recipe tester, and private chef, and spent some time in retail shops like Balducci’s and Citarella as well. After all that, I left NYC for a year-long Master’s program in Food Culture and Communications at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy.

When I returned to the States I worked as a buyer at an organic events facility in Austin, TX, and then became Starwood Hotels & Resorts’ first Forager at the W Austin. It was a purchasing position that allowed me to focus on sourcing local, sustainable and artisanal ingredients, along with training the hotel staff of 300 people about recycling and composting in the role of the property’s Sustainability Champion.

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

I’m especially proud of the volunteer work that I do with two non-profit organizations: Slow Food Austin and Les Dames d’Escoffier.

Valerie Broussard - Alumni Interview - ice.edu

Valerie Broussard. Image courtesy of Austin Chronicle; photo by John Anderson.

What are the most valuable lessons you’ve learned from your time in the industry?

Be open-minded, don’t burn bridges, be humble and work hard. But it’s also important to find balance and avoid burning yourself out.

Tell us about a typical day in your working life.

I recently started V. Broussard Consulting, specializing in Food and Beverage Sourcing and Sustainability. Every day is different. On market days I stop by farm stands and farmers’ markets to stay up to date on local availability, to do my personal grocery shopping and to meet with purveyors that I may want to connect my clients with – right now I’ve got a variety of foodservice operators, including restaurants, caterers, a bakery and even a local rancher. Other days it’s lots of meetings, research, emails and networking.

What might people be surprised to learn about your job? 

That it even exists! I often get the question “Do you know of anyone else doing this?”

Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years?

I’m happy as long as I continue to grow and learn while supporting the people who grow and create great food.

 

By Carly DeFilippo

To say ICE alum Frederico Guerreiro is unusually successful for his age is an understatement. Hailing from Portugal, he has made his way around the globe, working in Spain, London, Hong Kong and Tokyo—most notably for Chef Seiji Yamamoto at Nihonryori RyuGin, one of the “World’s 50 Best Restaurants”. Today, his travels have taken him full-circle, competing as a contestant on Portugal’s version of the hit show Top Chef and currently working as the Chef de Cuisine at Restaurante Pedro e o Lobo in Lisbon. We caught up with Chef Guerreiro this spring to discuss his time at ICE, his journey since graduating and his plans for the future.

freddy head shot

What were you doing before you enrolled at ICE?

Initially, I was pursuing a degree in psychology, but quickly figured out that I wanted to work with my hands as well as my intellect. Before enrolling at ICE, I worked in the restaurant industry for quite awhile. My experience was well-rounded, but primarily rooted in the front-of-house, where I worked as a server, bartender, sommelier, floor manager and host. While I loved every minute of it, I was always very curious about what went on in the kitchen, so I decided to make a move and enroll at ICE!

Where was your externship, and where have you worked since graduating?

I started dining at different restaurants in the city that were potential candidates for my externship and the one that I enjoyed the most was Degustation in the East Village. I liked it so much that one day, long before graduation, I went there with my resume hoping that the chef would accept me as a stagier. To my surprise, he asked me if I wanted to start working the next day, as they were short on floor staff. He told me that if I worked the floor three nights a week, I could work in the kitchen on the remaining days. I had a great time working at Degustation; I was pushed really hard and learned quite a lot. After that, I worked in London, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Barcelona, San Sebastian, and of course, Portugal. I’ve had the chance to work with a number of well-known chefs, including Martin Berasategui and Seiji Yamamoto, just to name a few!

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A photo of one of Chef Guerreiro’s dishes.

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

I have had several accomplishments and disappointments during my time as a chef, and I’ve learned from all of them. Keeping my focus and drive in tough kitchens is something I look back on with great pride. Being where I am today as a professional chef—after a relatively short period of time—makes me quite proud as well. Proud and humble: putting myself out there, exposing my work and being recognized for it has been a very rewarding experience.

What are the most valuable lessons you’ve learned from your time in the industry?

Love what you do and have fun doing it, no matter how hard it is. Also, be humble. If you are humble, others will be more excited to share their knowledge with you. No matter how experienced and knowledgeable you are, you always have more to learn – sometimes, from people you would never expect!

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A second photo of Chef Guerreiro’s work.

Describe a typical day in your working life.

Currently, I am Chef de Cuisine of Restaurante Pedro e o Lobo in Lisbon. I arrive early in the morning to receive various product deliveries, and set up my mise en place if I’ll be working the meat station that day. I work through lunch service and then I take a break for a couple of hours to go to a yoga session. Afterwards, it’s back to the restaurant to set up my mise en place for dinner service and I work through the evening. I supervise all aspects of the kitchen; the occasional meeting and food styling gig make my days even more challenging.

What might people be surprised to learn about your job?

Right now, television is showing a very glamorous side of being a chef that misleads a lot of people into thinking they want to be in the industry. Being a chef is very demanding and requires a lot of blood, sweat and tears until it gets glamorous. I am still struggling to get to that part.

Where would you like to see yourself in five years?

I see myself having my own restaurant where I am able to share my love for the craft.

 

By Carly DeFilippo

There are people who take years to decide to pursue a career in food, and there are those who know they were always destined for it. Lee Knoeppel, (Culinary Arts ’09) falls in the latter camp. Most recently, he’s made waves as the first ever contestant on The Taste to get voted “Yes” by all four judges—Marcus Samuelsson, Nigella Lawson, Anthony Bourdain and Ludo Lefevbre. Tune into ABC at 8pm EST on Thursdays to track his progress!

Lee K 2

What sparked your decision to attend culinary school?

Before I enrolled at ICE I had been cooking for four years as a line cook. I knew I wanted to go to culinary school and was instantly drawn to ICE. I actually grew up 20 minutes from Culinary Institute of America, so it was an easy choice between going to school and living with my parents, or moving to NYC and starting my culinary career on my own. When I took the tour, there wasn’t one specific thing that attracted me to ICE; it was a mix of things. Location, the chef instructors, curriculum and schedule—and the job success rate after graduation. 

Where was your externship, and where have you worked since graduating? 

I did my externship at Craftbar in Manhattan. Having that on my resume has certainly helped me obtain jobs since then. Since graduating, I’ve been cooking in restaurants in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Hamptons, as well as various work with the Food Network.

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

No awards as of yet, but I’m particularly proud of an amazing write up I received from the Queens Courier about the restaurant I opened in Woodside, Queens, as well as my work on the Food Network on the shows Secrets of a Restaurant Chef, and 24 Hour Restaurant Battle. Most recently, I’ve appeared as a contestant on The Taste on ABC. Also I’m extremely proud of the menu I just produced as the Executive Chef of Barcade Manhattan, opening in February.

Briefly describe a day in your current working life.

Currently a day in the life of my work day is hectic. I’m balancing two big things: opening a restaurant, and working as a culinary production assistant on a Food Network show. I’m doing everything from reading resumes and setting up interviews, to setting up pantry lists and shopping for food for the show. It doesn’t stop.

What might people be surprised to learn about your job?

People might be surprised that when you’re opening a restaurant as a chef, there’s a lot more that goes in to it besides cooking. I’ve been sanding and staining wood, as well as building tables. The cooking is expected to be amazing, and it will be. 

Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years?

5 years ago I expected to be doing exactly what I’m doing now. I couldn’t be happier. Who knows what the future holds—all I know is that I’ll be forever involved in the culinary industry, that’s for sure.

—Watch Lee make history on The Taste as the first contestant ever chosen by all four judges!—

 

 

By Carly DeFilippo

The Institute of Culinary Education takes great pride in the success and advancement of our staff and alumni. As we enter the culinary awards season, we are thrilled to recognize the wide variety of nominations, honors and awards that have been presented to members of our school community. From a Thai-inspired restaurant, to a chocolate-centric cookbook, award-winning turns on food television to the “Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America”, their culinary accomplishments could not be more diverse.

One trend we have seen is that many of our alumni in the spotlight are entrepreneurs or small business owners. And even more notable, given the recent buzz about women’s role in the culinary world, is that four ICE alumni chefs nominated as semi-finalists for James Beard Awards are female.

ICE Awards Brady Bunch
International Association of Culinary Professionals – 2014 Awards

Each spring, the IACP honors the industry’s best work in food writing, photography, design, and journalism and presents “Awards of Excellence” to institutions and individuals who have demonstrated an exceptional dedication to the culinary arts, as well as innovation and leadership in their specific field.

ICE Creative Director Michael Laiskonis received the IACP Award of Excellence for “Culinary Professional of the Year”.

ICE alumnus Rick Mast (Culinary Management ’06), co-owner of the Brooklyn-based Mast Brothers Chocolate took home the “Best Single Subject Cookbook” award for Mast Brothers Chocolate: A Family Affair.

ICE Pastry & Baking Arts Instructor Jenny McCoy was nominated for her first cookbook, Desserts for Every Season, in the category of “Baking: Savory or Sweet”.

ICE alumnus Sarah Copeland (Culinary Arts ’02) was nominated in the category of “Culinary Based Column” for her work on “Things Cooks Know” at the magazine Real Simple.

James Beard Foundation – 2014 Awards

In February, the James Beard Foundation announced the semi-finalists for the organization’s 2014 awards, including four female ICE alumni chefs. In March, five alumni were nominated for their work in food media and one was inducted into the organization’s “Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America”. The award winners will be announced May 5th at Lincoln Center in NY.

Ann Redding (Culinary Arts ’02) and her husband Matt Danzer’s New York City restaurant, Uncle Boons, is a semi-finalist for “Best New Restaurant (in America)”.

Tiffany MacIsaac (Culinary Arts ’02), Executive Pastry Chef/Co- Owner, Neighborhood Restaurant Group in Washington, D.C. / Virginia is named an “Outstanding Pastry Chef” semi-finalist.

Rachel Yang (Culinary Arts ’01) and her husband Seif Chirchi are nominated as semi-finalists as “Best Chef: Northwest” for their work as Chef/Owners of Joule Restaurant in Seattle.

Vivian Howard (Culinary Arts ’03) is a semi-finalist for “Best Chef: Southeast” as Chef/Co-Owner of Chef & the Farmer in Kinston, NC. She is also nominated for “Television Program, On Location” for her work as host of A Chef’s Life on PBS.

Ed Behr (Culinary Arts ’84) will be inducted into the JBF “Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America” on May 5th, for his significant contributions to the industry as the founder, editor and publisher of the quarterly food magazine, The Art of Eating.

Kristen Miglore (Culinary Arts ‘09) is nominated for her Food52 column “Genius Recipes” in the JBFA media category of “Food-Related Columns”.

Sarah Copeland (Culinary Arts ’02) is nominated as a cookbook author in the “Vegetable Focused and Vegetarian” category for Feast: Generous Vegetarian Meals for Any Eater and Every Appetite.

Greta Anthony (Pastry & Baking Arts ’95) is nominated for her work as Producer on Martha Stewart’s Cooking School in the “Television Program, In Studio or Fixed Location” category.

Jamie Tiampo (Culinary Management ’06) is nominated for his work with SeeFood Media as a host of Upwave Eat Videos in the category of “Video Webcast, Fixed Location and/or Instructional”.

By Rick Smilow

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ICE President, Rick Smilow

When possible, I make the enjoyable effort to have a meal in the restaurants that ICE alumni have opened as executive chef and/or owner. I don’t have to travel far to do this in metro New York. But in late August, I made some trips to visit alumni spots in Seattle, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC—all in the space of 12 days! That lead to the idea to have a long distance “round table” interview with the three ICE alumni chef/owners: Joncarl Lachman (‘02), Tiffany MacIsaac (’02), and Rachel Yang (’01).

In 2013, Chef Rachel Yang’s Seattle restaurant Joule ranked 9th on Bon Appétit’s “Best New Restaurants” in America list—an honor that was soon followed by a spot (two notches up) on Seattle magazine’s similar shortlist. Yang, along with chef/husband Seif Chirchi, was also acknowledged by Bon Appétit as a pioneer in Korean-American fusion cuisine, which they feature at Joule’s sister restaurant Revel.

Executive Pastry Chef Tiffany MacIsaac’s recipes have been featured in Food & Wine and her restaurant Birch & Barley, which she runs with her husband, Executive Chef Kyle Bailey, has been recognized by top critics as one of Washington, DC’s must-eat destinations. A James Beard Award semi- finalist for Outstanding Pastry Chef in 2013, MacIsaac oversees the dessert program for all of Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s eateries which, in addition to Birch & Barley, include: Tallula, Eat- bar, Vermilion, Evening Star Cafe, Columbia Firehouse, Rustico, and Buzz Bakery.

Chef Joncarl Lachman is also no stranger to accolades. His Chicago restaurant Vincent was named one of Chicago magazine’s “Best New Restaurants” in 2011 and his HB Bistro was featured in the prestigious Michelin guidebook. This year Lachman opened his highly anticipated Noord, a “Dutch-American” eatery in Philadelphia, the city where he was raised.

We asked these three impressive graduates to give some perspective and insight as to how they each have blazed a successful trail through what can be a very challenging career path. Here’s what they had to say:

Chef Joncarl

Chef Joncarl Lachman

 

How do the foods and flavors of your childhood fit into your current menu?

Joncarl: I grew up in Southwest Philadelphia surrounded by Italians. When I would go to my friends’ homes, their mothers would be making lasagna and meatballs, etc. I would return home to my own Dutch mother’s boiled cabbage and meat. Needless to say, at the moment, it was not a culinary inspiration. Little did I know I would end up in South Philly again surrounded by Italians, but this time it is me, and not my mother, making Dutch food!

Tiffany: I’m from Hawaii and I find that I tend to gravitate toward fresher, more acid desserts,—often incorporating passion fruit, pineapple and other tropical fruits into my menu.

Rachel: Where I was from and my Korean heritage, definitely influenced the menu at Joule and Revel. That’s what makes our restaurants so unique.

At what point in your life did you know you wanted to become a chef?

Tiffany MacIsaac: When I turned 18 I moved to New York where my first job was as a hostess at Michael’s New York. I had never really experienced food as anything other than a way to fill your stomach. After a few months of working, they invited me in to dine in the restaurant. I fell in love with everything. But the moment I knew I wanted to get into the kitchen was when I tried the beef cheeks. It blew my mind and within a week, I was trailing in their kitchen.

Rachel Yang: It was only after college that I decided to cook. I had an idea of what it is like being a chef and a restaurateur, but never thought that I would be one someday.

Chef Rachel Yang

Chef Rachel Yang

What is the process like to open a second, or third restaurant, versus the first?

Rachel: After a while, you can totally visualize the space and how the flow should work, even looking at the floor plan. You can construct a restaurant from every staff  member’s point of view, whereas in the beginning, you can only see the restaurant from a cook’s point of view.

Joncarl: I have to admit, it almost becomes addicting. I was petrified, when I made the first big step to open my own place. My second restaurant, Vincent, was not an easy experience, largely due to the fact that we brought-in other partners. With Noord, while it was certainly a leap of faith, I had more confidence.

Tiffany: I’d like to say that it gets easier with every opening. But after two restaurants, two bakeries, a doughnut shop and a brewery—I can say that each one presented its own challenges. Every time you do it, you are analyzing how to be better, faster, and smarter. You constantly push yourself to think of new ways to do things. Which certainly keeps you on your toes.

What are some of you “signature” dishes and were you surprised when they became so popular?

Rachel: One of our most popular dishes at Joule is our spicy rice cake. It’s really a great combination of the traditional rice cake dish from Korea and other very non-traditional items. It was my personal favorite when we put it on the menu, but I wasn’t sure how people would perceive it since it’s pretty darn spicy. We haven’t had any complaints that it is too spicy and, surprisingly, it’s been the most popular dish on the menu.

Tiffany: I started doing a cookie plate with kid classics and, four years later, it still hasn’t left the menu. Things like the Hostess cupcake, oatmeal cream pie, and Snickers bars—in a more grown-up version—are very appealing to customers. I knew they would be liked, but I didn’t think they would become such a big thing that they would never leave the menu.

Chef Tiffany MacIsaac

Chef Tiffany MacIsaac

Are there some ideas you thought would be a hit and turned out to be a flop?

Tiffany: I can never seem to get desserts with rice pudding to sell. People tell me all the time how much they love it, but I can’t seem to get them to buy a composed dessert featuring it.

How important—or not—are organic ingredients to your menu?

Rachel: It’s certainly important, but sometimes not the priority. We get organic and/or local ingredients whenever we can, but some ingredients are just really hard to come by or too expensive for us to serve at a decent price point.

Joncarl: I had the opportunity to work under Nora Pouillon, the “queen of organics,” at Restaurant Nora in Washington, DC. While it was a fantastic experience, it certainly affects a restaurant’s price point. We do our best to use locally farmed ingredients. If it is organic, it is a plus, but not a necessity.

Composing a new dish is sometimes simple and other times complex. Do you have a framework or set process when creating a new menu item?

Rachel: Sort of. I often have 2-3 key ingredients that I want to use and try to find an interesting way to connect them. Or I sometimes, I have a dish in mind and see a couple things I can change that would give it our signature stamp. At the end, I look for a “wow” factor in each dish, something that makes it stand out from others.

Tiffany: It’s not like I’ve got a sheet with boxes I check off as I’m developing a dessert. But, if all the components span several textures and temperature and you are able to make sure all the flavors taste distinctly like what they are supposed to, you are at a good starting point. I hate when a dessert doesn’t taste like its core components. Like a green apple sorbet that doesn’t have the right tartness or a ginger marshmallow with no bite. Keeping the balance of salt versus sweet will help the dessert from becoming cloying.

As an estimate, what percentage of your customers are regulars?

Rachel: There are quite a few regulars at both restaurants. Especially at Revel, we have a decent number of customers who come for lunch every week.

Joncarl: I would say 20 percent and growing. I love cultivating regular guests. It is honestly like having friends over to my home for dinner.

Tiffany: That’s interesting. At the restaurants we strive for regulars that come in every couple of weeks. At the bakeries we are trying to make people come in 4-5 times a week. I’d say 25 percent of Buzz bakery customer’s start or end their day here 3- 4 times a week, which is great.

What advice would you give to our culinary students on how to make the most of their first jobs out of school?

Tiffany: Find a chef whose food you are passionately in love with and give them everything you have—they’ll likely give a lot back to you. Don’t ask how much money you’ll make, or how long the day will be. That doesn’t matter at the beginning (or ever for that matter). The money will be low and the days will be long, but you aren’t done learning just because you finished school. Think about the hours as an investment in your future. And never leave your job in under 14 months. It just looks bad on a resume.

Rachel: Especially for the first restaurant job, you really need to put your head down and work. It sounds very boring and passive, but there is a reason why someone is asking you to clean a case of mushrooms or to cut quarts of shallots, brunoise, everyday. It takes time to master simple tasks. As you get used to doing this kind of work and can do it fast, your eyes will simply open up to what else is going on in the kitchen.

Joncarl: Keep your eyes and ears open. You know so much less than you think you do. Volunteer for as many events as possible. Be respectful. Get to know as many people in the industry as possible.

America seems to be experiencing a cocktail craze. Why do you think that is, and is mixology important at your restaurant?

Joncarl: I am incredibly annoyed by trends in general. I think the only other trend that annoyed me more was bacon, bacon, bacon….yawn!

As the restaurant scene continues to grow in your market, it must be more difficult to find—and retain—great staff. What methods do you use to deal with this challenge?

Rachel: The first thing that we want to make sure to do when we hire a cook is to see what the reason is that they want to work at our restaurants. We want to make sure that they have a very strong personal interest in working here. They need to love the food that we cook and be proud of where they are.

Joncarl: We have had the good fortune of keeping employees pretty long term. The type of environment I try to cultivate is very “familial.” When team members are emotionally invested in what we are doing, they tend to stay longer.

Tiffany: It is hard, but as a chef you need to always be looking for good people, then give them opportunities to keep learning and growing.

If you could travel to a foreign country to learn about its cuisine, what country would that be?

Joncarl: One of my life goals was to see as much of the world as possible, before I got serious about opening my own restaurants. I have been to 35 countries and spent some time living in the UK and Spain. I think my favorite place to experience the food was Singapore, and it would be great to re-visit and do more street stall eating. The next trip is back to Amsterdam, to catch up on the burgeoning modern Dutch cuisine that is happening in neighborhoods like the Jordaan and dePijp.

Tiffany: I’ve always wanted to go to Thailand. My husband and I thought we’d go there for our honeymoon, but we unexpectedly got job offers in DC and instead of honeymooning, we opened a restaurant—the opposite of a honeymoon.

Rachel: Maybe China. It would be great to learn about all regional Chinese cuisine and go beyond typical “Chinese flavor” that we are so used to in America.

What do you do to achieve a better or acceptable “work-life” balance?

Rachel: I have two little boys, three and a half years old and one and a half. They totally keep me going after a long day at work.

Joncarl: I think when you are a chef/owner the restaurant actually is your life—though it is good to take a mental health day every once in a while.

Tiffany: (Laughing) Is that a trick question? We still haven’t figured that one out yet. I guess I’d have to say that marrying the chef helps. Our work is our life, so I guess if we work all the time, then we balance it pretty well!

 

By Chef Kathryn Gordon

 

Food Start Up Help, founded by four colleagues at ICE, is an organization that helps budding entrepreneurs launch small food businesses. Today, we’d like to share the success story of one of our clients, ICE Pastry & Baking alum and Chef/Owner of The Savory Pie Guy, Zeke Mandel.

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Trading in Wall Street for the Business of Food

Prior to attending ICE, Zeke worked for 8 years on Wall St as a programmer and CTO. Soon after earning an MBA in Finance & Entrepreneurship, he left his job to pursue a career in a food. Working as a consultant, Zeke supported several food-related businesses, but kept hitting a wall with investors because he lacked any official training in the industry. So Zeke enrolled at ICE, where he got to know Chefs Kathryn and Jeff, instructors in the Pastry & Baking Arts program.

 

Zeke:  “I thought I had identified a niche market with some [production] barriers to entry that wouldn’t make it easy for competitors to follow my lead. I would bring in samples of Aussie-New Zealand style meat pies with an American twist for my chefs to taste, and give feedback. Chefs Jeff and Kathryn guided me through my product conception while I was at ICE.”

 

A Formula for Flaky Dough

While finalizing his business model, Zeke started working with soccer bars in his area to market a variety of meat pies. He wanted to sell an all-natural product that would appeal to the American market, with a dough that was “less doughy,” easy to eat, flaky and good tasting. He located a USDA-approved production facility and began small scale production for his original customer base. (United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) oversight is required for any animal-based wholesale product, and requires extensive preparedness, sanitation standards, HACCP plans and daily USDA inspector oversight.)

 

Zeke:  “I worked with Chef Jeff to formulate the dough. I needed a product that differentiated me from the competition, and Chef Jeff helped create a formula that could freeze, bake, be refrozen (if necessary), and maintain good flavor and flakiness, while holding traditional (wet) meat fillings and allow the product to be eaten from the hand.”

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The Obstacles of Outsourcing

Zeke needed to reduce the cost of producing his dough to achieve certain profit guidelines, and to establish the ability to increase his supply. That meant finding a co-packer to produce the doughs off-site, freeze and ship them to his meat pie assembly/baking facility.

 

Zeke:  “Chef Jeff and I worked together to taste and evaluate the quality of the dough after a few co-packers had created the pie bottoms, and tops. Each flavored dough has to meet certain features for my product to work correctly and achieve customer demands. Chef Jeff tweaked the formula to get it to work for large volume settings. It wasn’t an easy process—I needed a dough that contained only natural ingredients (on the Whole Foods accepted ingredient list) that would be able to be produced and distributed frozen, and reheated successfully by consumers who ultimately want a flaky, tasty meat pie.”

 

Growth Phase:  Increased Production / Troubleshooting

Zeke is now marketing his pies at D’Agostino and Whole Foods in NYC as well as various bars, pubs and cafes around the city. He also is working with Fresh Direct to develop an exclusive specialty line to be distributed through the online grocery service. Chefs Kathryn and Jeff recently toured his production facility in Mount Vernon, New Jersey.

 

Zeke:  Just having access to ICE chefs for periodic brainstorming is great.  Two different clients wanted to know if we could produce my meat pie fillings in a formats that would be “user friendly” and easy for kids to warm up.  We think so and are planning to work together on the “after school market” shortly.

 

Read more about Zeke’s story and where to find your own The Savory Pie Guy’s products at:  http://foodstartuphelp.blogspot.com/2013/02/interview-with-zeke-mandel-savory-pie.html

 

To learn more about Food Start Up Help, a consulting group that assists entrepreneurs in starting or expanding a bakery-related business, visit www.foodstartuphelp.com.

 

 

By Carly DeFilippo

 

The words energy and determination only begin to describe the curious, enthusiastic force that is ICE alum Eden Grinshpan. Aspiring to work in food television from a very young age, Eden currently hosts two shows on the Cooking Channel, Eden Eats and Log On And Eat with Eden.

 

What were you doing before you enrolled at ICE?

I enrolled at ICE when I was 22, before that I was traveling through India, South East Asia, and lived in London and Tel-Aviv.

 

When I was in high school I became completely obsessed with the Food Network. I didn’t grow up cooking or baking; the passion came from watching the network. I could not get enough of Ina Garten’s buttery cakes or Jamie Oliver’s colorful culinary masterpieces (he was on Food Network Canada). I was hooked, so I started playing around in the kitchen.

 

When It came time to apply for University, I knew where my head was at…so culinary school it was. I enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu for the “grand diplome” in both pastry and cuisine. What a funny and incredible experience. I was so nervous my first day; I didn’t know anyone and my knowledge in the kitchen was minimal. But I quickly made friends with the students and the chefs and accepted my new calling in life: food. During my time studying in London, I took advantage of the opportunity to travel to neighboring countries in Europe. It was then that I realized another passion of mine, travel, and that the best way to explore a new country and culture was to dive right into their cuisine and to try and live like a local.

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After graduating culinary school, I was not ready to settle down, so I enrolled in a course that took me on an adventure to the north of India—probably one of the most incredible experiences of my life! I didn’t know that much about India, but soon found out that it was one of the most colorful, warm and exciting countries I have ever been too. I ended up spending almost a year backpacking and exploring, while taking cooking courses, volunteering and just simply bonding with the locals and other people who were backpacking and traveling across this magical country. After India I continued my travels through Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Israel.

 

Following these amazing, worldly experiences, I was itching to get cracking on my career—so, what better place to start than the culinary mecca of NYC? I moved to New York around 5 years ago. My younger sister just got into NYU, so I decided to follow her here and start my new adventure. The first thing I did was enroll at ICE for the Culinary Management program. I knew that one day I would want my own restaurant, and ICE was the place to learn that skill set. I had such a great time in the program. I met so many people from all walks of life that were just as passionate as I was about food and the culinary industry. The school gave me a great platform to learn about the service industry and also allowed me to network and meet great people in the industry. Since graduating from ICE, I have been able to pursue my dream of food television and I am very fortunate to the Cooking Channel for taking me under their wing and believing in me and my shows.

 

What attracted you to the Culinary Management program?

What attracted me to ICE was the school’s reputation and the great management program they offered. I had a great teacher and the speakers they brought in told us their stories and facts about their businesses. Having so many people come in really inspired me and I got some really great ideas from that course. It’s also so much fun meeting people that are as obsessed about food and the culinary industry as you are—they’re a very special group.

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What have you been up to since graduation?

Through ICE, I was introduced to many people in the field that have helped me along the way with my career. Since leaving ICE I have worked on Eden Eats, a show that I created with my business partner Samantha Schutz, and am currently working on a brand new show for the Cooking Channel, which will be premiering this September….very exciting!

 

Briefly describe a day in your working life.

Every day is very different since I am traveling all over the country, meeting different people and featuring different foods in every segment. When we get to a new restaurant, we usually learn all about the dish that we are featuring on the show, make the dish, try the dish and try a bunch of other dishes that the restaurant is famous for, while speaking with the person I am interviewing.

 

What might people be surprised to learn about your job?

I think people would be surprised how much time and work goes into one episode. I was so surprised to find out what goes on behind the scenes—so cool! I love how creative everyone is.

 

5 years ago, did you ever think you’d be doing what you’re doing now?

I’ve always dreamt of having my own food television show, but you never know. As much as it is about networking and persistence, there is also luck that goes into it. I am so fortunate to do what I do and I am thrilled to be apart of the Cooking Channel family.

 

What’s next?

Well, I am working on a new show for the Cooking Channel, and I hope to continue working in television (I love it). But, one day I would love to take advantage of the skills ICE taught me and manage/run my own restaurant.

 

By Tia Cannon, Career Services Department

 

In April, ICE opened its doors to welcome past students for the Annual Alumni Party. This year’s mood was especially celebratory, as we officially unveiled the launch of the ice.edu website. Though the halls, the familiar, friendly faces of Chef Instructors and staff haven’t changed much, but our look is all new, inviting ICE students to “find their culinary voice.”

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Special Events Coordinator Jordan Csernica and recent grad Seohyung Im

During the event, alumni had an opportunity to see what’s new while enjoying refreshments and rubbing elbows with their peers and former instructors. For the staff, it was an amazing opportunity to hear, firsthand, from our graduates about how ICE has transformed their lives.

Alumni catch up with Pastry & Baking Arts Chef Instructor, Scott McMillen

Alumni catch up with Pastry & Baking Arts Chef Instructor, Scott McMillen

Amongst the many faculty members in attendance were ICE instructors and industry heavy hitters Chef Toba Garrett and Chef Simon Cass. Chef Toba has expanded her role from teaching recreational cake decorating classes to our new 240-hour Techniques and Art of Professional Cake Decorating program. Likewise, Chef Sim, the founding baker of New York City’s acclaimed Balthazar Bakery, answered questions about Techniques and Art of Professional Bread Baking—a comprehensive, 200-hour program built to accomodate both aspiring bakers and seasoned professionals looking to grow their skill set.

One of the many prizes was a copy of "Sweet Chic", by alum Rachel Thebault of Tribeca Treats

One of the many prizes was a copy of “Sweet Chic”, by alum Rachel Thebault of Tribeca Treats

As the night went on, students had the chance to win a range of prizes, including wines curated by Richard Vayda, Director of Wine Studies, and alumni-authored cookbooks. Attendees also got a sneak peek of our new promotional videos, now featured on our website and YouTube channel.

ICE President Rick Smilow and noteworthy alum, Anthony Sasso, Chef de Cuisine at Casa Mono

ICE President Rick Smilow catches up with alum, Anthony Sasso, Chef de Cuisine of Casa Mono

Among the high-profile alumni in attendance was Anthony Sasso (Culinary ’05), Chef de Cuisine of Casa Mono. I was able to hear about all of his new endeavors, including a host of classes in our recreational cooking division. There were many other successful alumni in attendance, ranging from a food truck owner to the Dinex Group’s new HR manager, proving that if you can make it here, you’ve quite a tasty future ahead.