Search Results for: life as a culinary student

By Kelly Newsome —Student, Culinary Arts, ‘17

I come from a long line of salt lovers. My mother loves telling the story of my grandfather, who during peak tomato season, would arrive at our house, grab a salt shaker and head out to the garden to stalk his prey. He would sit on a log and enjoy the sweet reward of summer: a juicy, ripe tomato, every bite sprinkled with a little salt. My father has shocked friends and guests by salting any melon that crossed his path, a skill acquired from his parents and grandparents while growing up in southern Virginia. To say that I come by my appreciation of salt honestly would be an understatement. We are and will always be a salt-loving family. As a culinary student, I was surprised to hear my instructor tell me, “Very good, but it needs a little more salt.” Is he talking to me, the queen of salt? Apparently, chefs love salt too, but that love is born from an understanding that salt can transform just about any food from alright to irresistible.

Kelly Newsome

“Teaching salt is incredibly difficult and it is the most important thing that you will get out of culinary school,” says my current instructor, Chef Charles Granquist, an ICE alum who has worked at Savoy, Blue Hill and Food Network. Chef Charles’ reliable instruction of, “needs a little more salt” spurred me to dig a bit deeper into teaching and learning about salt. Why is it so difficult? I wondered. According to Chef Charles, “For the first few modules, students straight don’t believe you. You just have to tell them over and over again: more salt.” Starting with disbelief does seem like a steep hill to climb. Even my historically salty palate was tested by his demand for more salt.

Chef Lorrie Reynoso, my instructor for Module One, uses a gradual approach to teach new culinary students about the transformative power of salt. Says Chef Lorrie, “To teach how beneficial salt is to cooking and flavor, I usually make students taste something unsalted, graduating to slightly salted, and at the end graduating to a full and satisfactory flavor level with more salt and whatever seasonings are required — usually pepper, herbs or spices.” We did this with salsa on our second day of class and many times thereafter with other dishes. Every single time, it was as if I was experiencing that innate salty power for the first time. “Wow,” I thought, “salt is magic.”


Kelly’s salt collection

The great thing about being a student is that you have ample opportunities to screw up. And it’s from this freedom to fail that the learning really sinks in. When it comes to salt and developing your palate, taking your salt a bit too far may be the best mistake you can make. Chef Charles believes this is the salty tipping point. “At first, students may salt too much and that is a crucial moment. That is when they taste what it’s like to truly over season and they can start to back off.”

Salt is justly revered and cherished by cooks across the globe. Depending on the cuisine, it takes a variety of forms, from the ubiquitous soy sauce and fish sauce used in many Asian cultures to the salt-cured pork from Italy or the American South. Chef Lorrie points out that salt has been so important in history, that even the word “salary” is derived from salt. “During the Roman Empire, salt was not only used to pay salaries, but for rent, ransom, dowry and more. Even then, people knew that salt just added flavor to practically anything edible.” Salt was also crucial to food preservation, an essential technique used by humankind for thousands of years before refrigeration. Think about that the next time you enjoy a luscious piece of salty, savory, porky, aged prosciutto.

To my great surprise, my love and appreciation for salt continues to evolve and deepen every time I step in the kitchen for a new lesson. As soon as I hear, “Pull out the rib-eyes” I start thinking, “Let’s get those babies salted and on the fire.” There really is nothing like a perfectly cooked and seasoned piece of beef — it’s what dreams are made of. No matter what you’re cooking, be it bread, blanched vegetables, grilled fruit, hollandaise sauce or ice cream, it will always be better with just a little bit more salt.

Want to learn to salt, season and cook like a pro? Click here for more information on ICE’s career programs.

By Kelly Newsome — Student, Culinary Arts

I’ve been thinking about getting Julia Child’s face tattooed on my forearm for about two years now. Julia is one of my greatest inspirations. Like me, she was a late bloomer, marrying at 34 and starting her culinary career soon after. Her pure joy and passion for food was evident in everything that she did. She was an authentic voice in a world crowded with phonies, and that’s probably why she became so popular. She got the timing right. After being in the Culinary Arts program at ICE for just over a month, one thing I’ve learned is that timing is everything. It took me 15 years to get to culinary school. It’s something I wanted to do since graduating from college, but more practical voices prevailed and as a result, I forged a career on the periphery of the food world. Ironically, I couldn’t be happier that my path to ICE ended up this way.

Culinary Student Kelly Newsome

At 38, I knew that I would probably be the oldest in my culinary school class. It was a recurring thought, neither negative nor positive, just inescapably following me like the hook of my favorite song. Somehow, I knew that my age would play an important role in this journey. Pre-ICE, I spent nearly a decade working on the business side of the food industry. There were two serious attempts at culinary school and in each case I was talked out of it. You won’t make any money and the hours are terrible, was a common remark on my ambition. I let the doubters win. Yet every step I made in my career was an effort to get closer to the kitchen.

In 2007, after an intense Googling session, I found my first move towards a career in the food world – the NYU master’s in Food Studies program. At the time, I was working a dead-end job and desperate to pursue my passion for food and gastronomy. I applied in secret, fearing that my parents would not understand or support this unorthodox program. When I was accepted and finally told my parents, they surprised me with their overwhelming support. One year into the program I landed my first “food” job with a food science company that made natural food colorings. Not exactly Food & Wine, but it was a start.

It took me three years to finish my degree. My days were spent in the vast and complicated world of food ingredients and corporate food companies while my nights were shared with the brightest minds in food academia. Still, something was missing. Without realizing it, I had snaked myself into a career on the sidelines of food in order to make other people happy. After landing what I thought was my dream job, I realized that the cutthroat corporate food world was not for me and it was time to follow my dream of going to culinary school — so I finally took the leap and enrolled at ICE. My circuitous route led me to wonder how some of my classmates found their way to culinary school.

My classmate Tommy Kim’s road to ICE could not be more different than mine. After 9/11, he decided to join the Marines and served tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan. While deployed, food was a frequent topic of thought and conversation. “I was constantly dreaming about all the wonderful foods I missed while I was away and hungry. You’d be surprised how much we used to talk about food while deployed. It was always about girls and food — but mostly food, haha.”

Tommy’s military experience served as the unexpected catalyst for his own food journey. Time spent fishing and hunting, while based in North Carolina, deepened his appreciation for food and nature. Deterred by the long hours and tireless work of professional cooking after serving six years in the military, Tommy decided to pursue a more lucrative career in medicine. However, just before med school interviews, Tommy’s inner voice took charge and he decided to pursue food.

He explained, “I had realized I was not really following what my heart desired. This was my tipping point. This is when I told myself to find that one thing that I knew that I had to be. That I had to stop being arrogant and stop thinking that I had to be something incredible. To be humble and to only express myself with what I love without care of what anyone thought of it. It was food and nature, it was something I found that brought me true joy.”

Fulfillment was the driving force behind my classmate Liz Bossin’s decision to pursue a career in food. People don’t often associate culinary arts and finance, but Liz discovered that her passion for food, love of hospitality and talent for relationship building could provide her with a unique edge in food and finance. After graduating from Villanova with degrees in both political science and philosophy, Liz worked as a legal assistant at a large firm in NYC. She quickly realized that law was not in her heart. “My job was extremely demanding – I regularly worked 60-80 hour weeks and got absolutely no satisfaction out of it. I quickly realized that if going to law school meant slaving over monotonous documents for the world’s biggest corporations, I wanted no part of it.”

Liz’s tipping point came when she took a knife skills class at Brooklyn Kitchen in December. A conversation with the kitchen assistant who had recently finished culinary school in Paris resonated with her. Liz knew that she didn’t want the career of a traditional restaurant chef. Rather, she was interested in food styling, working in a test kitchen, writing or owning her own specialty shop. She never considered going to culinary school until hearing the kitchen assistant talk about her career options after exiting culinary school and it didn’t involve working in restaurants. Suddenly, Liz realized that culinary school “made so much sense for launching a fulfilling, long-lasting career guided by her passion.”

Kelly's Julia collection

Inside Kelly’s kitchen: her Julia collection

Don’t be fooled — it isn’t easy to just follow your passion. Most people never get this opportunity. Some never even discover what it is. And when you do find it, you will always have voices telling you why you shouldn’t. Liz, Tommy and I come from vastly different backgrounds. What we share, however, is our inability to ignore our love of food and the unique circumstances that led us to ICE at the same moment in time. So here we are, three passionate foodies who finally got the timing right. To me, “getting the timing right” means doing what you want, on your own terms, when you’re ready. You make the hard choice to change careers or go back to school or move across the country. And then you’re in it and you realize you absolutely could not be doing anything else. I think I’m getting a little bit closer to my Julia tattoo.

Ready to launch your culinary career with ICE? Click here for information on our career programs.

By Gabby Guarino,
Student, Culinary Arts ’17 

Gabby is a student in ICE’s Culinary Arts program and our newest student blogger. She’s been cooking since before she was allowed to use the stove — making “soup” by using hot water from the sink to “boil” pasta and then throwing in some spices. Before culinary school, she received a bachelor’s degree in communications and human resources management from Rutgers University. She worked in marketing for a stint before launching her blog, “The Semi-Healthy Foodie,” and in October 2016, she finally decided to pursue her dream of going to culinary school and enrolled at ICE. For her first blog post, she takes us through a daunting pastry lesson: Danish dough. 


Tackling Danish dough was one of the most challenging things I’ve had to take on in culinary school so far. When I think of a Danish, I think of buttery, flaky crust with a cheese or fruit filling. I think of the beautiful layers and the soft, chewy dough. Before culinary school, I casually enjoyed a Danish now and again, not thinking much of it. Now that I know the time and effort that goes into making that perfectly layered dough, I have a new appreciation for pastry chefs (and their Danishes) everywhere. There is a certain technique and process that’s essential to get the dough just right. Have you ever wondered how all of those buttery layers of dough are created? It may seem daunting, but with some time, patience and good instructions, it’s totally possible.

Apple Danish

For starters, Danish dough is considered a laminate dough, which means that there are layers of fat encased in dough and each layer remains separate. The laminate dough process is tedious but so rewarding. Before I explain the process, here are a few key words to know: beurrage, detrempe and paton. The fat component of the dough is called beurrage, the dough component is called the detrempe and the act of making the dough and encasing the fat in dough is called paton. Okay, enough with the fancy words — let’s get to it.

  • First, make a basic dough with yeast, sugar and cinnamon, and let it rest for about an hour.
  • Next, make sure your butter is very cold and cut it into thin blocks. Flour the butter and line up the blocks of butter into a rectangle. Pound them together with a rolling pin until they form a sheet that is about 10-12 inches wide.
  • Roll out the dough into a rectangle about one-third longer than your butter sheet. Place the butter sheet on the dough and fold into thirds like a letter. Roll the dough out, turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat the folding and rolling process. Rotate the dough again and repeat.
  • Next, refrigerate the dough for at least an hour. Remove the dough from the refrigerator, roll it out and cut into 4×4 inch squares.
  • When ready to bake, you can fill Danish dough with different fruits, jams or pastry creams.

Once you break down the steps, the process is quite simple and the result is the flakiest Danish. Those layers of butter and dough create the amazing structure that made the Danish famous. With this pastry lesson, not only did I master Danish dough, I also stepped out of my comfort zone, challenged my inner baker and acquired a new appreciation for Danishes and laminate doughs.

Apple Danish

Ready to challenge your inner baker with professional culinary training from ICE? Click here for more information.

By Jessica McCain—Student, School of Culinary Arts

Before culinary school, when I thought of culinary arts and fine dining, my mind always wandered to the French—at the time, I saw the French as the sole proprietors of exquisite cuisine. From classic dishes such as coq au vin to other dishes with fancy names I could hardly pronounce (before coming to ICE, that is), I was sure that I wanted to focus my culinary studies on French cuisine. In fact, I wanted to master the art of French cooking.


When classes began and we started cooking our way through different regions, I was exposed to numerous different styles and flavors of the world. Initially, I was still fixated on the French—the classic style and elegance associated with this cuisine was more than captivating. And with ideas of restaurant kitchens like Daniel in my head, I couldn’t shake the idea that French fare was the pinnacle of cuisines.

It was when our class curriculum moved on to the Asian region that my mind began to open to different styles of cooking. Before culinary school, I only knew of the more popular Asian dishes—like sushi rolls and pad Thai—but I never realized the complexity and variety of Asian cuisine. Getting to know the different spices, methods of cooking and the time required to prepare the bases to some of the dishes came as a total shock to me. I discovered new flavors and textures in Asian cuisine that I hadn’t been exposed to previously and found myself excelling at the new methods of preparation—to my surprise, preparing items like bao buns and sushi came naturally to me. When we began exploring the flavors of India and Thailand, I knew my idea of one “supreme” cuisine had changed.


In addition to learning new cooking styles and ingredients, our classes introduced me to equipment I had never heard of before culinary school—one of my favorite aspects of my education here at ICE. For example, in one of our lessons we had the chance to make naan, a pita-like bread that is made with a special oven called a tandoor. A tandoor is traditionally a clay, wood or charcoal-burning oven—the kind used to cook tandoori chicken. We cooked our naan by pressing the dough firmly against the sides of the tandoor to infuse it with the spices, smoke and flavors of the chicken while simultaneously cooking the bread. This technique means safety gloves and great caution are a must. When done properly, this lengthy process produces an absolutely delicious product, and one that I never would have learned by focusing solely on French cuisine.

From toasting and grinding our own spices to making marinades and curries to rolling our own sushi rolls, Asian cuisine is so much more compelling and delicious than I ever thought. I look back to when I was one-cuisine-minded and I could not be happier with my decision to be here. I have a more complex view and ICE has broadened my culinary horizons beyond French cuisine. I can’t wait to enter the world of pastry in the next module!

Ready to broaden your culinary horizons? Click here to learn more about ICE’s innovative Culinary Arts program. 


By Jessica McCain—Student, School of Culinary Arts

Most of us spend our childhoods answering the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The fact is, we all become adults some day and have to do something…but what we want to do and what we end up doing isn’t always the same thing.

All of your life experiences push you in a certain direction: they influence the choices you make, define who you are and what you choose as a career. But why just choose a career when you can choose your passion? It took me 25 years to figure out the difference between the two, and now here I am, a student at ICE.


However conclusive and easy that sounds, it wasn’t an easy journey. I didn’t just wake up one day with everything falling into place. If we go back seven years ago, you find me at age 18—the youngest of four in a hardworking military family. I did what any normal kid would do: went to college, just like the rest of my siblings. The only difference? I hated it! I was so concerned about what I thought my parents wanted that I ended up a first-year nursing student with an overloaded nineteen-hour course schedule, as a new sorority pledge, an ROTC cadet and an intramural sports enthusiast.

If this overachieving, trying-to-please everyone else style of decision-making sounds like you, you’re not alone. By the time I was halfway through my degree, I knew something had to change. So I decided to change my major to psychology. So what if it added another year? I didn’t love it, but it was still a degree…right? I’d be 23 with a degree!

Wrong answer. Another year in, I had the same drowning feeling and still no degree.

College didn’t work out, so I started making other changes. I spent four years in reality television, worked endless miscellaneous jobs and even moved across the country to California. By then, I had finally had enough. Working for so long in fields that I hated (and that offered no room for professional growth) inspired me to finally give in to the one passion that had always stuck with me: cooking.


ICE was all the way back in New York City, but I knew I had to give it a chance. Once I toured the school and met with the admissions team, I could just feel that I was finally in my lane. Still, the process was far from easy. Coordinating on a three-hour time difference, trying to wade through FAFSA paperwork and find an apartment within a short period of time was no joke! However, unlike some of the other culinary schools I had visited, at ICE I could tell I wasn’t just a number in a system. No, Mr. Jock Grundy, my admissions counselor, made sure I felt that I mattered, and he was always there to help with every step—from my first questions to my first day of school.

Fast forward three weeks later and I, Jessica McCain, was all moved into my new apartment in New York City. I suited up in my crisp white uniform with my name stitched on the chest and had my own set of knives gleaming back at me in my new classroom—kitchen six—with Chef Ted.

Culinary Arts | Jess McCain | Institute of Culinary Education| Sauces | Cauliflower | Roasting

Day one was so exciting, and unlike normal school, we dove right into the fundamentals of becoming a chef—and I felt my passion more intensely than ever. I was no longer waiting to meet my future. A month into the program, I don’t even feel like the same person. I’m no longer nervous to hold my knives­—they’re like an extension of myself, and I feel like I’m beginning to find myself at ICE.

My dad always told me, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” I say if you’re lucky enough to find your passion in life, pursue it and let it set your soul on fire.

Ready to start your culinary journey? Click here to receive free information about ICE programs.


By Lauren Jessen—Student, School of Culinary Arts and Culinary Management

Learning about the history of food is an excellent way to understand why we cook the way we do today. Some flavors and ingredients from years ago have long been forgotten, yet many have been modernized with the changing times. Just like music, art or theater, food reflects the culture of different regions around the world and provides insight into our values and traditions.

churros masters of social gastronomy sarah lohman jonathan soma


As a student of cooking, I was immediately intrigued when I came across a listing for an event called “The Masters of Social Gastronomy: Fried Foods” at ICE. A look into the history and science behind fried foods? An examination of the how churros became popular in America? A live churro-making demonstration? Sign me up!

The class was taught by historic gastronomist Sarah Lohman and the co-founder of Brooklyn Brainery, Jonathan Soma. Sarah shared the story of how churros made their way from medieval Europe to Mexico to America. There was even a special focus on the churros that are sold on NYC subway platforms! Soma dove into the world of frying techniques, with a specific examination of fried chicken.

masters of social gastronomy sarah lohman jonathan soma


Over the course of her talk, Sarah explained that deep-frying originated in 3,000 B.C. and that the first styles of fried foods originated in India and the Middle East. Interestingly, churros began as a festival food containing sugar, eggs and fat (olive oil or rendered lard) and it was an expensive treat. Nowadays, you can get two churros for $1 in the New York City subway—though the people who sell those churros are often subject to fines and other hardships.

After Sarah finished sharing the history of these delicious golden treats, Chef Jenny McCoy from ICE gave a live demonstration on how to make churros. Extra bonus: we got to eat these churros. A few important takeaways from Chef Jenny’s demo:

  • 325-350°F is a good temperature range for chewy and golden churros.
  • Use a star-shaped pastry tube tip when piping the churro batter into the hot oil.
  • When discarding used oil, don’t dump it down the sink. Instead, pour the oil into an old coffee can and discard it in the trash.

churros masters of social gastronomy

To finish off the evening, Soma shared the science behind deep-frying, complete with graphs, charts and images. Deep-frying relies on liquid but is a dry heat cooking method. The reason is that moist cooking methods rely on water penetrating your ingredients, whereas frying something in fat or oil causes water to escape whatever is being fried. The temperature of the oil, the batter you use and how you choose to leaven the batter (beer or soda water are always good options!) make deep-frying a creative and complex cooking technique.

Since attending this event at ICE, I have taken more time to think about the history of the food I eat, as well as the science behind my cooking. Additionally, I’ve taken on a mission of eating as many subway churros as I can—and I recommend you do the same!

Click here to learn more about lectures and cooking demonstrations at ICE.


By Lana Schwartz—Student, School of Culinary Arts and Culinary Management

Cooking, like all art forms, is a subjective medium. Just as fine artists or musicians have different styles, ask any group of professional cooks, and you’re sure to find varying perspectives on what makes food “good.”

collaboration creativity in the professional kitchen

It would be nearly impossible to find a restaurant kitchen where all the chefs hail from the same place, hold the same beliefs or boast the same level of culinary experience—and the same holds true in a culinary school. In my classroom alone, there is a 10-year age difference between the oldest and youngest students. Some of us have prior kitchen experience while others have none. In short, the unifying ingredient in any kitchen is, of course, the love of food and cooking.

According to ICE Chef Instructor and Program Director of Culinary Arts Sabrina Sexton, these differences allow people to bring something different to the classroom and are an essential aspect of the student experience. “The creative process is about being open and exposing ourselves to different things. Having students from various backgrounds means that we’re bringing more than one perspective to the table. At ICE, we’re proud to say that our classrooms are consistently diverse.”

Sabrina Sexton culinary school

Unlike musicians or studio artists, restaurant chefs rarely have the opportunity to work alone. Producing a large quantity of food on a daily—even an hourly—basis is a team sport. Beyond knife skills, flavor pairings and cooking techniques, one of the core missions in the classrooms at ICE is to prepare students for becoming industry professionals—in other words, how to navigate the many personalities in the kitchen while making sure every dish reaches the table.

According to Chef Sabrina, kitchen work is always about teamwork: “There are very few jobs in the culinary industry where you do not rely on other people. Learning how to play a role in a large group while communicating with everyone else is an essential skill in the kitchen.” In other words, if one of your colleagues has a different style of working, you had better establish a productive way to work in harmony.

Another significant fact to acknowledge is that kitchen teams range in size. Some restaurants run with just two chefs while others have more than a dozen. Similarly, at ICE, you could have 14 students tackling a project; in another situation, it could be just five. According to a fellow culinary student, Theresa Fesinstine, having a small class has underscored the importance of teamwork and accountability. “You feel the impact of being both mentally and physically present,” she explains. Working with a small team has also provided a stronger personal connection to the chef instructor, as a result of significant one-on-one feedback.

culinary classroom working as a team

As my classmates and I work through a diverse checklist of skills and cuisines, this ever-varying classroom dynamic reflects the full spectrum of the culinary landscape in a way that a specific restaurant kitchen may not. For me, this has been one of the most valuable parts of my culinary school experience. As students, we download tremendous amounts of knowledge from our instructors, but we also learn from one another—though we may fail to recognize the importance of these moments until long after they occur.

Reflecting on my time at ICE thus far, it’s clear how essential it is to understand that we are each part of the greater whole. No matter our differences, we’re all operating with the same goal: to deliver a positive experience and a delicious plate of food to a fellow human being.

Ready to take your place in the kitchen? Click here to receive free information about ICE’s award-winning career programs.


By Christen Clinkscales—Student, School of Culinary Arts

As 2015 comes to a close, it’s incredible to look back over my last six months as an ICE culinary student. I’ve gotten my hands dirty with knife skills and butchery, learned the full range of hot and moist cooking methods, and even journeyed through the cuisines of France, Italy and Asia. It’s challenging to choose just a handful of my favorite moments from the program thus far, but below I’ve compiled my top five culinary school experiences of 2015:

professional kitchen - institute of culinary education

Learning to work in a professional kitchen environment:

Chef Mike Garrett has a unique approach to the third module of ICE’s program, which focuses on international cuisines. He chooses to make his classes work in a brigade system. In short, the brigade system is how traditional European kitchens are organized. Teams execute specific tasks for all the dishes on the menu, as opposed to a single chef cooking a dish from start to finish. Throughout Mod 3, our class rotated through three different stations: garde manger (salads, cold appetizers, etc.), entremetier (sauces, soups and stocks) and mains (meat fabrication and cooking, as well as the plating of all final dishes). It was interesting to see how we came together to create the dishes as a team and to experience the coordinated efforts of a professional kitchen.

Trying new foods:

This will probably sound like a crazy statement, but I’ve never been a big fan of Italian food. (I know, how dare I say something so controversial!) I’m not sure why, but I’ve never been interested in pasta—unless it was mac and cheese. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed our lessons on regional Italian cooking. I didn’t know that Italian cuisine varied so widely by region, and by the end of our section on Italy I was converted. It also taught me to be more open-minded when it comes to trying new things and to throw away prior notions of what specific types of foods should be. For example, Italian food isn’t all pasta and tomato sauce. One of my favorite dishes we made was polenta con sugo di porri: a beautiful Italian meat sauce served over polenta.

italian cuisine institute of culinary education

Getting a chance to flex my creative muscle:

At this point in the program, we’re still primarily following recipes to learn techniques—so I was thrilled to learn that we would get to improvise and create our own rolls during our sushi lesson. Sushi is one of my favorite foods, and I’ve wanted to take a sushi class for a long time. I had so much fun experimenting with different ingredients, and getting to chow down on all the awesome sushi at the end of class wasn’t so bad either.

Discovering new techniques:

Our lessons on international cuisine were fairly eye-opening, but there was one technique in particular that I was very excited to learn. During our studies of Asian cuisines, we learned how to cook with a wok. I had seen this style of cooking in Asian restaurants but never understood how versatile it could be. You can use the wok to saute, fry, stew and braise—all of which we did during our lessons on Asia! It was interesting to see how this simple tool could be used in so many different ways: from soups to fried egg rolls, the wok really can do it all. Family and friends—if you’re reading, a wok is definitely at the top of my Christmas list!

asian mise en place

Putting my new skills to the test:

Though I frequently cook for myself outside of class, I hadn’t tested my skills on other people until I went home to South Carolina for my mom’s birthday in November. That weekend, I not only prepared a few dishes for our weekly tailgate (shout-out to Chef James, who gave me an awesome porchetta recipe!), but I also cooked a fancy birthday dinner for six guests. After a quick lesson in regional grocery shopping—the butchers back home didn’t offer chicken supremes, a bone-in cut we learned to fabricate in class—I was able to whip up boneless breasts with a Riesling reduction. It was the first time I’ve attempted this kind of plated dish for multiple people, so I was thrilled to see that everyone enjoyed the meal. My secret to success? Mise en place and a detailed timeline for prep. These experiences helped solidify my confidence in my ability to take what I’ve learned in class and put it into practice on my own.

2015 has been a whirlwind of new experiences in culinary school. I know 2016 will bring even more adventures, including intensive lessons on pastry techniques and charcuterie, an externship where I can put my skills to the test and a clearer idea of where I belong in the culinary world. Overall, I’m so happy with my decision to pursue my passion for cooking, and I look forward to putting my education into practice in the new year!

Click here to pursue your own culinary adventures in 2016.

By Christen Clinkscales—Student, School of Culinary Arts

Like the old phrase, the second module of the Culinary Arts program at ICE is literally a lesson on taking—or rather, managing—heat in the kitchen. For me, that meant facing my fears—of fire and overcooking proteins—and learning a lot more about cooking, and myself, in the process.Grilling Flames PepperAfter successfully completing “mod 1,” as students call the first section of our program, I felt that my basic skills were in a good place. I was quicker with my knife skills, beginning to understand fabrication and loving all that I was learning in class. Mod 2 was a different story—with a new chef instructor and numerous hurdles to conquer.

This mod is where we learn to actually cook, and boy, did we ever. From sautéing to deep frying, braising to poaching, Chef Sam Kadko taught it all. For future students who are wondering how to survive unscathed and make the most of this mod—I have a few pieces of advice:

Don’t be afraid. Yes, there is fire and sometimes there are flare-ups. And when you’re cooking on the high-powered ranges, there’s a good chance you may get burned. But that’s all part of working in a professional kitchen, so the sooner you get over your fears, the more successful you’ll be. It took a few days of feeling nervous around popping oil and unexpected flare-ups—and some teasing from my classmates—for me to feel comfortable at the stove. However, once I was able to get over that initial fear (and realized that everything in professional kitchens is designed to be much less flammable than home kitchens), I found myself able to use the heat to my advantage and finish dishes more successfully.Grilling Flames HamburgerPrepare for class before class. When you’re dealing with fire, boiling water and other time-sensitive elements, preparation leads to success. In short: do your homework. Reading the lessons and writing out the recipes before class cemented the information in my mind before we began cooking. Taking notes was essential, as Chef Sam supplied many facts, tricks and shortcuts that weren’t in our readings.

Volunteer. For those, like me, who don’t have previous experience in a professional kitchen, volunteering is a great way to meet others in the industry. I signed up for as many volunteer events as I could fit into my busy schedule. I was lucky enough to work alongside two former contestants from Top Chef at the Food Network & Cooking Channel New York City Wine and Food Festival. Some of my other classmates have received job offers through these volunteer events! Start checking the ICE volunteer boards and sign up. It’s not just work—it’s fun!Jade Island Professional KitchenStart researching externships now. Even though you don’t have to start trailing for externships until mod 3 or 4, it’s important to start researching the job opportunities that interest you early on in your education. Want to work in restaurant kitchens? Think about the size of the operation and what style of food most appeals to you. Are you interested in intricate plating techniques, or do you prefer a more casual approach? Long term, are you more interested in positions outside of restaurant kitchens? During mod 2, your ICE Career Services counselor will meet with you to discuss your options, and already having some ideas helps them tailor their recommendations to your career goals.

Have fun! This module has so many amazing techniques and delicious recipes. The first time you successfully execute a recipe, you will feel like you conquered the world! And of course, it is awesome to taste all the fruits of your labor.

Ready to start your culinary career? Click here to receive free information about ICE’s Culinary Arts program.

By Christen Clinkscales—Student, School of Culinary Arts

The first time I walked into an ICE kitchen, I could not wait to start cooking! I quickly found out how much there was to learn before I’d be allowed to craft a complete dish. Initially, I was disappointed that we weren’t going to jump right in and prepare elaborate feasts. That’s what I signed up for, right? As it turns out, consistently producing an amazing plate is harder than it looks. From knife skills to sauces to butchery, it’s amazing how many “basic” skills I learned in just the first two months of school.

sauce making culinary school

The ICE Culinary Arts program is divided into five modules, and “Mod 1” is all about these basics. During this intensive dive into the foundations of professional cooking, my classmates and I learned about the evolution of cooking throughout history, the importance of sanitation, basic knife skills, herb identification, culinary math, stock making, fabrication (also known as butchery) and more.

I can honestly say that through all of my years of school and working, those two months were the biggest learning curve I have ever experienced. I breezed through culinary math and herb identification, but I got tripped up by knife skills. Chef James made dicing potatoes look so easy that I immediately thought, “I’ve got this.” In truth, my ego should have been checked at the door. Try as I might, I could not get those pesky potatoes diced into perfect cubes. After much practice in class and at home, I figured out how to “surrender to the potato.” With a little kitchen meditation, I was—finally—able to dice those spuds into cube-like pieces. I’m still not perfect at it, but I am getting better.

Speaking of knife skills, I was a little intimidated by fabrication. You see, there’s this cool place called a grocery store, and in that store they have these packages with perfect cuts of meat already portioned out. In short, I’d never broken down anything, let alone a whole fish or a leg of lamb. While pre-cut meat is just fine for a home cook, it doesn’t fly in the professional kitchen.

lamb fabrication butchery

In class, we fabricated many proteins, but the most challenging for me by far was the lobster. It wasn’t the hardest protein to fabricate, but it was the most daunting. It was still alive, and I was terrified! I spent the better part of ten minutes apologizing to it for what I was about to do. (Cue some serious flashbacks to my high school biology class.) Ultimately, I swallowed my fears and cut right between the eyes. RIP. After that, I knew I could break down any other type of protein thrown at me—as long as it was already dead.

Of all the skills I learned in Mod 1, my favorite was sauce making. Before enrolling at ICE, if you had asked me about sauce, I would have pointed you to the jars of tomato purée at the grocery store. I did not understand the level of complexity and preparation that goes into making sauces for fine dining. Just like knife skills, classic French sauces are among the building blocks for many of the dishes that we will make during the rest of the Culinary Arts program.

lobster butchery culinary school

Creating a mouthwatering red wine pan sauce or turning a creamy béchamel into Mornay sauce were just two of the many techniques we mastered. I was so excited to bring these concoctions home after class and experiment in my own kitchen. (My friends were blown away by the cauliflower gratin I made using my leftover Mornay sauce!) It has been so much fun to utilize these new skills at home, and I can already tell how much I have grown as a cook since starting the program.

Click here to learn more about the Culinary Arts program at ICE.