Search Results for: life as a culinary student defilippo

By Carly DeFilippo

From 17-year-old high school grads to former doctors, artists and executives, ICE students come from all walks of life. In the case of Brooklyn native Christian Souvenir, it took many years in the military before the desire to attend culinary school took hold.

The switch from government intelligence work to cooking may seem like a drastic change, but Christian’s disciplined background is serving him well in the kitchen. Since graduating from ICE’s Culinary Arts program in 2011, he has worked in some of Brooklyn’s most innovative new restaurants, including Nightingale 9 and French Louie, growing his love for a new kind of service.

Thanks to ICE’s flexible scheduling options, Christian is able to continue kitchen work while pursuing a second ICE diploma in Culinary Management. “I love cooking in restaurants,” Christian explains. “But I saw myself on this path where I could potentially be in charge of people and not have the tools to help them get better. What I’ve learned in management is helping me form what I want in my eventual restaurant, and what I want for myself as a leader. That is so important.”

To learn how ICE’s Culinary Management program prepares grads to own or operate culinary businesses, click here. For more information about the range of active duty, reserve and veteran’s benefits available to ICE students, click here.

By Carly DeFilippo 

It’s not every day that a student gets to return to his or her alma mater, to walk the halls as not only an alumnus, but also a teacher. ICE Culinary Arts graduate Charles Granquist has more than earned his place among our faculty, with a resume that includes such diverse experience as the fine dining kitchens of Blue Hill NYC and the fast-paced food media world of the Food Network.

chef charles granquist culinary school

When he first arrived in New York, Charles wasn’t the most obvious candidate for the culinary profession. He didn’t grow up in a family of cooks, and his education in music and economics at Bates College hadn’t prepared him for life in the kitchen. But when his first job at a sound branding company didn’t pan out as planned, the thought of escaping the cubicle for the kitchen began to sound increasingly enticing.

“If there was anyone in my family who sparked my interest in food, it was probably my grandfather,” Charles explained. “He was originally from Bogota, Columbia, but he spent a significant part of his life in Paris. He couldn’t cook at all, but he would regale us with stories of meals he had in France or Gstaad.” Those stories, paired with a few summer jobs at fish markets and grills during his college years marinated in Charles’ mind, forming the foundations of a professional calling.

His curiosity sparked, Charles knocked on the door of Chanterelle—then, one of the most innovative fine dining restaurants in NYC. Offering his services for free got his foot in the door, and within the first few days in the kitchen Charles was certain cooking was the career for him. From there, he moved on to the Savoy, where he was hired as garde manger. But the longer he spent in professional kitchens, the more Charles realized he would benefit from formal schooling.

chef charles granquist culinary school kitchen

So in 2002, Charles enrolled in the morning Culinary Arts program at ICE, while continuing night shifts at Savoy and Fleur de Sel. Immediately, he found a mentor in Chef Ted Siegel. Charles explains, “I don’t think I would have gotten very far in the industry if it weren’t for him. He was tough on all of us and actually got us ready for a restaurant. Specifically, having him for the fifth and final module of the program…that really made me feel ready to enter the industry.”

For his externship, Charles chose to work under an equally rigorous chef, Dan Barber, at Blue Hill in Greenwich Village. He arrived at the restaurant at a fortuitous time: right before Barber opened Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, New York. “It was amazing because we closed down Blue Hill NYC for a few months, and the entire crew went upstate to help with the opening. We knew we were on the cutting edge of something, and getting to work with Dan Barber and other chefs like Mike Anthony (now the executive chef of Gramercy Tavern) and Juan Cuevas was an incredible learning experience.”

At the time, Blue Hill was still in its infancy, but Barber’s mission and vision shaped the way Chef Charles cooks to this day. “Chef Dan was a very cerebral guy. He was tough and demanding, but he also made you think really carefully about what you’re doing and where your food is coming from. My cooking style remains hyper-seasonal to this day—even in my home kitchen. My wife might think it’s ridiculous, but I genuinely like to work with what’s in season because it tastes the best and because working with restrictions is the best way to challenge yourself.”

chef charles granquist culinary school kitchen

After the opening of Stone Barns, Chef Charles returned to Blue Hill NYC for another two years. As he moved his way through various stations—from garde manger to saucier—the restaurant continued to evolve, eventually earning a rave three-star review from The New York Times.

Working at one of New York’s finest restaurants didn’t offer much flexibility, so at the request of his newlywed bride, Charles began investigating kitchen positions with more normal hours. Dan Barber personally helped Charles in his search, putting in a call to the Food Network, where Charles landed a position as a food stylist.

“Working as a food stylist at the Food Network is totally different than in other parts of the industry. If you’re styling a turkey for Emeril, you might prepare a turkey in six different stages of the cooking and plating process. Every detail needs to be carefully planned out in advance,” Charles notes. After about a year and a half, Charles was promoted to culinary producer, which involved cross testing the talents’ recipes, developing a run of show for every shoot and working with the talent to ensure everything ran smoothly on set.

Working in food media did leave Charles missing the heat and camaraderie of the kitchen, so when the chance to work on new business opportunities for the network arose, he jumped at the opportunity. Working with the Delaware North company, Charles’ role was to build out a flagship Food Network concession stand at Yankee Stadium. After three years, the project was such a success that it expanded to 22 stadiums across the country.

“Working in large-scale food service was something I had never done before,” explains Chef Charles, “so there was a learning curve—in terms of what people would want to eat, how to do local or sustainable sourcing in a stadium setting, etc.” Charles was also recruited to develop two Food Network restaurant concepts for the Fort Lauderdale and Atlanta airports—each with an open kitchen and a menu that reflected local culinary flavor.

chef charles granquist culinary school

After years at Food Network, something was still missing for Chef Charles. He took a year off to follow his passion—spending a week in Chef Mike Anthony’s kitchen at Gramercy Tavern, training in charcuterie at Artisan Meat Share in Charleston and eventually, taking a job at Dickson’s Farmstand Meats as an apprentice charcutier and in-house chef for the shop’s prepared foods.

“After a year back in real kitchens, I knew that I wanted to continue in a place where I was cooking actively,” says Charles. “I had always liked training the staff at the restaurants I had opened for Food Network, so when I saw an opportunity to teach at ICE, I knew that would be a meaningful next move.”

Though only in his first weeks of teaching, Chef Charles is already shaping the career paths of the next generation of chefs. “Initially, a lot of students are interested in my work with the Food Network, but even if food media is your professional dream job, it would be a major mistake to leave culinary school and not spend at least one year in a professional kitchen—the very best kitchen you can find. No matter where you go after that, you are going to need that foundation. At Food Network, the people who rose through the ranks quickest were invariably those with restaurant experience. And yes, that first year might be the most terrifying career choice of your life, but you will be a much better candidate for any job after that.”

Get to know Chef Charles in person. Click here for free information about ICE’s Culinary Arts program.

 

By Carly DeFilippo

From food trucks to pop-ups, the food world has expanded both where and how we like to eat. With supper clubs, there’s a dining adventure for every appetite: chef-driven supper clubs, art-focused supper clubs, anti-food waste supper clubs and so much more. But how many of these business ventures survive the test of time?

Jenny Dorsey I Forgot Its Wednesday

Photo Credit: Robin Lam, MakeThingsWell.com

In the case of ICE Culinary Arts alum Jenny Dorsey, co-founder and chef of the supper club I Forgot It’s Wednesday (IFIW), these DIY dinners have been a catalyst for sustained culinary success. With the press and connections she has gained from IFIW, Jenny has been able to start a culinary consulting practice and is currently planning to launch a food incubator for projects focused on culinary experiences, rather than food products.

Before Jenny was the host of one of the country’s most exciting dinner parties, she was a management consultant in the fast-paced world of NYC fashion and luxury goods. “I was working on a lot of ‘sexy’ projects, attending fashion parties and my friends were envious of the discounts I could get on clothes. It probably seemed like a dream job, but truthfully I was really unhappy,” explains Jenny.

Searching for an exit strategy, Jenny applied for an MBA program at Columbia Business School. Once she was accepted, she realized she had just enough time to squeeze in another one of her dreams—attending culinary school—before earning her MBA. “The average person would have kept their job and earned a bit more money before grad school,” says Jenny, “but I had taken a bunch of recreational classes at ICE and really enjoyed the experience. Once I saw that I could finish the professional culinary program in just six months, I knew I had to make it happen.”

Jenny graduated from the Culinary Arts program three days before starting school at Columbia, and the transition was harder than she expected. “I had such a great time in culinary school. The people I met made a deep impact on my life, and when I went to business school, I wasn’t making the same type of connections.”

Jenny Dorsey I Forgot Its Wednesday Supper Club

Photo Credit: Robin Lam, MakeThingsWell.com

After one semester at Columbia, Jenny left the program and joined the research and development team at Le Pain Quotidien. At the same time, she began dating one of her business school peers, Matt Dorsey, who boasted some impressive amateur cocktail skills. Together, the pair began hosting supper clubs for friends as a creative outlet. “Matt and I started the supper club in January of 2014, primarily as a way to spark great conversations. In business school, people always reverted to ‘what do you do, where do you work’—and we wanted to get beyond that. The core idea would be that people could escape their lives in the middle of the week—to the point where they would ‘forget that it’s Wednesday,’” Jenny explains. During the first few dinners, it became clear that guests were also craving meaningful ways to meet new people, motivating the pair to consider IFIW as a viable business venture.

Yet the two still had plenty to learn when it came to the dinner logistics. “The first dinner was super chaotic—especially because one of our friends brought a Village Voice reporter. I’ll be honest, the first six months were really tough. We didn’t advertise anywhere outside of social media and occasionally through MeetUp, so we were hustling to get people in the door. But then we did a pop-up for 100 people in the Old Bowery Station space that helped get our name out there and things started to pick up.”

After their first pop-up, Jenny and Matt both found opportunities at tech companies in San Francisco and ventured west. Outside of her day job, Jenny pursued opportunities in fine dining, such as volunteering at Michelin-starred restaurant SPQR. Bringing her new skills to the table, Jenny relaunched I Forgot It’s Wednesday and caught the attention of 7×7 magazine.

“When we got the mention in 7×7, things got crazy. Our mailing list jumped to 1,000 people overnight,” says Jenny. “Once we had the audience, we were able to raise our price point a bit and professionalize the evening’s service and hospitality.”

I Forgot Its Wednesday Supper Club

Photo Credit: Robin Lam, MakeThingsWell.com

The pair returned to NYC in August of 2015, at which point Jenny received the Bocuse d’Or Ment’or scholarship, which provided her a full-time position at two-Michelin-star restaurant Atera. From there, she launched her own consulting business and refocused on the supper club. With success in San Francisco, IFIW earned an east coast press hit from Urban Daddy, and the NYC iteration of the supper club has been selling out ever since. Today, guests experience seven courses, four cocktails, coffee and tea service in a secret location. Jenny and Matt also curate personalized experiences for various clients, from Fair Trade USA to Deloitte, in addition to hosting food- and drink-centric workshops each month.

Over the course of her professional journey, Jenny has found the ICE community to be a constant support in her development as a chef. “You will always need to supplement school with real-world experience, but as a career changer, I really appreciated having formal training before I went into the kitchen. It’s been cool to be a part of the alumni community and have the chance to come back and take professional development classes. Because when you’re in a restaurant kitchen, you’re exposed to advanced techniques, but you don’t necessarily have the time to stop and learn why someone is doing something in a certain way.”

As for other entrepreneurial-minded students, Jenny has a simple piece of advice: “If you want to do something, you should do it. A million people are going to say no, it’s a bad idea, etc. I even had a PR expert tell me that ‘no one was going to write about us.’” Clearly, she has proven the naysayers wrong.

Eager to explore your entrepreneurial side? Click here for free information about ICE’s Culinary Management program.

 

By Carly DeFilippo

When it comes to generating new ideas, it’s easy to feel like everything’s been done before. In the past few years, however, the food industry has had an influx of fresh, innovative concepts that challenge that old adage. Among the first-time entrepreneurs successfully disrupting the food market is ICE alum Mary McAuley, founder of Ripe Life Wines.

Mary McAuley Ripe Life Wines

A former health care analyst, Mary’s story began like that of many ICE students. She felt unfulfilled in her career and spent her free time dreaming about opportunities in the restaurant business, but she wasn’t quite ready to make the professional leap. Thanks to the flexible schedule options at ICE, Mary was able to enroll in the Culinary Management program while continuing to work full time. “ICE is such an accommodating school, and, because of that, I feel like we had all walks of life in the classroom—executives interested in restaurant management, people who were young, people working in PR, etc. For those who aren’t fully comfortable diving straight into the restaurant industry, it’s a great way to get your feet wet.”

During her time at ICE, Mary picked up shifts at Maialino, an Italian restaurant in Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group. She eventually left her analyst job to work full-time as a server and expediter at Maialino, and, at the same time, began pursuing wine classes through ICE’s School of Recreational Cooking. Between her work at the restaurant—where Master Sommelier John Ragan oversees the beverage program—and classes with ICE Director of Wine Studies Richard Vayda, Mary soon had a significant knowledge of varietals and winemaking styles.

Continuing her wine training with formal classes and rigorous extracurricular research, Mary earned a beverage director position under chefs Alex Raij and Eder Montero at acclaimed Brooklyn restaurant La Vara. It was during this period that Mary’s entrepreneurial vision began to take shape, inspired by a summer clambake in 2011 on the Jersey shore. As a sommelier, Mary was charged with picking out a wine for the event. “I was trying to find something at an affordable price that would fit the seafood-centric menu for the event, and what I kept coming back to was a white Burgundy, which was much too expensive for this kind of casual dining. On the American side, things were more affordable, but all the options were over-oaked and inappropriate for seafood.”

Mary McAuley Clambake Wine

Frustrated by the options available to her, Mary resolved to make her own wine for the next annual clambake, thinking she would simply develop a limited number of cases through an existing winery. Once the wine was developed, Mary kept hearing the same reaction from friends and family, “This is great. You should do this professionally.”

“In an entrepreneur-heavy generation, I knew I wasn’t the only person encouraged to start a company by friends and family,” says Mary. “But what started to persuade me was the market research. I realized there was a void that could be filled with this concept: craft, small-batch wines at an affordable price.”

Reaching out to the resources at her disposal, Mary shared her business plan with La Vara general manager Jason Aris. By that point, Mary had developed several wine concepts that stretched beyond her original idea for Clambake Chardonnay. “Jason looked at everything and gave me the best advice of my career: ‘Stop launching all of these things at once. Focus on one, get it right and then focus on the next. You are Clambake—so start with that.’”

Developing a new wine is hardly a simple process, but Mary’s experience in wine buying rendered her exceptionally prepared for the task at hand. “I knew there was a question of approachability. For example, there are a lot of beach-themed wines (in terms of the name or label), but most of them are not high-quality products. By choosing the name ‘Clambake,’ I was keeping things approachable, but surprising people in a good way.”

That concept of surprise was something Mary learned at ICE. “I remember [Dean of Culinary Management] Steve Zagor used to say, ‘Never surprise people with mediocrity.’ In the wine industry, there is so much mediocrity out there, which is what makes buying wine an intimidating process. I took that idea to heart when I was developing my wine.”

Mary McAuley Ripe Life Wines

The first vintages of Mary’s chardonnay and limited edition rosé were a hit among restaurateurs and wine enthusiasts alike. “Our mission is to make only single vineyard, single varietal bottles. That means the flavors may vary year-to-year, but they will always reflect the terroir and the climate of a given growing season. It’s a very European approach, and we’re not cutting any corners.”

It’s exactly this unexpected approach that has earned Mary acclaim within the winemaking market—and entrepreneurial publications like Inc. She recently hired a new winemaker, Jason Driscoll, who has previously earned 96 points for his bottles on the Robert Parker/Wine Advocate rating system. “Jason was supposed to be a consultant, but once he realized we weren’t doing blends, his response was, ‘This is gangster. I want this project.’”

Mary is quick to add that her journey to entrepreneurial success hasn’t been all wine and rosés. “Starting a business requires two entirely separate skill sets. One is to envision, imagine and deliver a product. The other is the day-to-day running of a business. Bookkeeping, taxes, hiring and firing—that never comes to mind when you’re developing the product you want to place in the market. If you don’t have that skill set, it’s important to seek out professional training, mentorship or a partner with skills that complement yours.”

Eager to explore your entrepreneurial side? Click here for free information about ICE’s Culinary Management program.

 

By Carly DeFilippo—Student, School of Culinary Arts 

When I first stepped into the kitchens at ICE seven months ago, it never felt like this day would come. But somewhere between knife skills 101 and our market basket challenge, I began to discover my “culinary voice” and a professional direction for my creative future in food. Graduating from culinary school felt different from any prior graduations I’ve experienced—perfecting a hands-on skill is entirely different than writing papers, crafting persuasive arguments or memorizing facts and dates. Sure, culinary training involves a bit of typical academic work; but it’s ultimately about honing your instincts and hands-on skills, about becoming that guy or girl someone can count on when the going gets rough.

Life as a Culinary Student - Graduation - Carly DeFilippo

In the corporate world, I’ve heard people use the phrase “putting out fires” to describe the stress of last minute deadlines. But in the kitchen, no matter how well you plan and prep, every task is still a last minute deadline. The turnaround between getting your clients’ order and delivering your product typically takes less than thirty minutes. It makes even the most notoriously stressful desk jobs sound almost easy.

Luckily, for our graduation, we weren’t working as short-order cooks. Our assignment held other challenges: serving up eighty catering portions of a cold appetizer, a hot entrée and a dessert. Working in teams of two or three students, we had to devise dishes that were impressive enough to wow our friends and family, but not so complicated that they couldn’t be prepared within a 10-hour window. (And yes, 10 hours may seem like a lot of time, but if you’ve never cooked for eighty people, it’s really not.)

Life as a Culinary Student - Graduation - Preparation

My teammate Mari and I opted to create three dishes: Thomas Keller’s famous truffle custard, wiener schnitzel and blood orange tiramisu. Each of the dishes held sentimental value: the truffles were one of the most complex dishes from the curriculum at ICE; wiener schnitzel is my mom’s favorite dish; and the blood orange tiramisu recipe was developed by Mari’s coworkers at BAKED in Red Hook.

Each dish presented its own challenges. First and foremost, the tiramisu: neither Mari nor I had ever made a tiramisu cream that included egg yolks—and the original recipe suggested we use them raw. Not wanting to risk poisoning a room full of people (especially people we love!), we had to devise a sabayon strategy with Chef James—an experiment that turned out beautifully, but ultimately cost us valuable time.

Then, the wiener schnitzel: being a deep-fried dish, it could only be prepared so far in advance. So while my homemade cranberry sauce and cucumber pickles were ready to go hours before, I was concerned about keeping my veal hot, dry and crunchy. (It’s worth noting that this predicament—cooking in advance and reheating food—is one of the primary skills we learn in culinary school. You’d be shocked at what you can cook in advance. It just takes experience, training and a dash of restaurant magic.)

Life as a Culinary Student - Graduation - Thomas Keller Truffle

As for the egg custard, the complicated, multi-step process meant that Mari had to clean out the shells of nearly 100 eggs. Beyond its tediousness, it was a precarious task, as was slowly cooking the tender custard. While the recipe seemed straightforward when prepared for twenty people, the larger scale of our efforts presented issues of over-salting, perfecting the custard texture and other unforeseen hurdles.

Yet in the end, when we finally served our first dishes as culinary school graduates to our friends and family, all of this anxiety dissolved into pride. First and foremost, our dishes tasted awesome, and it was incredibly satisfying to show our parents and friends how much we’ve learned. I even got some of the pickiest eaters (ages seven and under) to try my wiener schnitzel!

Last, but not least, it was a thrill not only to receive my very first chef’s hat, but also to learn that my classmates had nominated me for the Wüsthof Leadership Award. One of three awards presented at graduation—the others given to “Most Likely to Succeed” and the “Nespresso Top Toque”—it felt particularly special to be recognized by the very peers with whom I had worked side by side for so many months.

Life as a Culinary Student - Graduation - Graduating Class

It was also exciting to consider my classmates’ futures. Technically, we will not have officially “graduated” until we fulfill a 210 hour externship in the field. I, for one, will be spending the next few months as a recipe-testing assistant for a cookbook, while others have secured externships on the line at such restaurants as Blenheim and Aldea, or even paid positions writing for Delish.com! In no time, we’ll all be full-blown food professionals, using the contacts from our externships—and the networks of our classmates and the ICE alumni network—to pursue our personal dream jobs. And while I’ll miss our time in the ICE kitchens, I can’t wait to see what will come next.

Click here to learn how ICE supports recent graduates through job placement and externship opportunities.

By Carly DeFilippo—Student, School of Culinary Arts

For most of my time in culinary school, I’ve been learning time-tested techniques or following a recipe “to a T.” So with the exception of a few lessons in modern plating, the ICE “market basket challenge” was the first time I was asked to truly cook creatively for my Chef Instructor and classmates.

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These Chopped!-style lessons, which culminate in an exam of the same format, have been among my favorite moments in the program. After months of following specific directions, I knew that having a blank canvas with only the specification to use “bacon, scallops and tomatoes” or “half a chicken” would be the ultimate test of what I had really learned.

To understand what I experienced during those lessons, it’s important that you know a little about my cooking skills before I entered the Culinary Arts program. I was an above-average home cook—highly knowledgeable, but with no technical training. Cooking dinner for 15 was a task I had already accomplished on numerous occasions, and experimenting with new ingredients is one of my favorite hobbies. So as I approached the “market basket” lessons, I was actually most anxious that I might feel I had not advanced significantly as a cook during the past several months of culinary school.

A "market basket" trial run: half poussin with roasted potatoes, cauliflower and porcini ragout

A “market basket” trial run: half poussin with roasted potatoes, cauliflower, porcini ragout and pan sauce

However, over the course of our two market basket “practice days” and exam, I realized how dramatically I had underestimated the transformation of both my skills and my confidence over these past few months. From pan sauces to warm vinaigrettes, creamy purées to perfectly cooked proteins, I honestly couldn’t believe how easy it felt to execute these dishes—and how proud I was of the results.

Now, before you call me “cocky,” let me be the first to say that there was still improvement to be had. For example, when I served a delicious and well balanced—but rustic—half poussin, Chef Sabrina Sexton challenged me to elevate my presentation style. So, leaving behind the bistro style that came most naturally to me, I felt motivated to tackle a true fine dining presentation for my final exam. Integrating a rainbow of colors, a balance of sweet and bitter flavors and at least seven different textures on a single plate, my final exam dish felt like an overwhelming success. While plating the many components of my “high end” braised chicken—with roasted and raw beets, sautéed radicchio, squash purée and carrot ribbons—was far more difficult than my bistro-style poussin, the flavors and textures were spot on, and never in a million years would I have imagined that I could have come up with such a dish. With a gentle push from Chef Sabrina, I realized for the first time, the incredible possibilities that could be available to me as a cook.

My "market basket" exam: braised chicken with orange/squash puree, roasted and raw beets, carrot ribbons, stewed radicchio, pan sauce.

My “market basket” exam: braised chicken with orange/squash puree, roasted and raw beets, carrot ribbons, stewed radicchio, pan sauce.

As we move toward graduation—and I plan a three-course appetizer menu to serve 60 guests—I’m all the more grateful for this “market basket” experience. While it taught me about time management, multi-tasking and devising a dish from scratch, it also taught me not to play it too safe. At the end of the day, cooking is the most fun when there’s a little risk involved—or, as some might prefer to call it, when you’re learning something new.

Want to tap into your creative potential? Consider a career in Culinary Arts.

 

By Carly DeFilippo—Student, School of Culinary Arts

As I round the corner on the last lap of culinary school, it’s amazing to consider how far my classmates and I have come. Less than eight months ago, many of us didn’t know how to tell the difference between oregano and marjoram. Today, we’re tackling the recipes of the greatest chefs of our time.

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After working through a seemingly endless array of techniques, our class has arrived at the point in our program where we spend five days crafting menus by five incredible chefs: Mario Batali, Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller, Rick Bayless and Ming Tsai. Yet, despite the caliber of these culinary leaders, I didn’t initially feel excited about these lessons. Of course, I have immense respect for all these chefs, but, as a student, I have typically found that I learn more by studying a general concept than by following a recipe.

But oh, how I was wrong. Just like any line cook who has worked under a truly great chef, “merely following a recipe” turned out to be quite the lesson in and of itself.

When you’re attempting to recreate the classic dishes of these chefs’ fine dining establishments, recipes that might traditionally consist of three to four steps often require six, seven or even 17 steps to accomplish. Now, certainly you might ask, “If they’re such master chefs, shouldn’t they be able to accomplish delicious dishes more efficiently?” The answer is yes—but these chefs aren’t just working fast, they’re actually redefining the limits of delicious.

Mario Batali's Fennel Dusted Sweetbreads

Mario Batali’s Fennel Dusted Sweetbreads

Take, for example, Mario Batali’s Fennel Dusted Sweetbreads: Chef Batali doesn’t use just one type of onion, he uses four! Any good cook knows that shallots, white onions, red onions and scallions all have different properties, and Batali uses each to build complexity and interest in what could have been just any rustic offal dish. What’s more, he’s demonstrating a very clever chef skill: using multiple related ingredients in a single dish.

The other chefs’ menus proved just as educational. Both Daniel Boulud and Thomas Keller’s recipes required me to reserve the cooking liquid leftover from steaming shellfish. Despite having frequently cooked clams or mussels before, I never previously considered transforming this cooking by-product into the base for a flavorful seafood soup or the starting point for a chowder-like sauce. In both cases, the results were brilliant.

Steamed mussels // Daniel Boulud's famed "Billi Bi Cressonière"

Reserving the liquor of steamed mussels // Daniel Boulud’s famed “Billi Bi Cressonière”

In short, these lessons were “aha!” moments for me on two fronts. First and foremost, they increased my respect for not only these chefs, but also for every line cook who has ever worked in a fine dining establishment. Second, they conveyed the importance of a well-written recipe, both as an effective guide and an educational tool.

As the end of our program draws near, and we enter into lessons in which we will devise our own creative recipes, I have already begun to apply the lessons that I have learned from these culinary masters—and I can say with confidence that learning to cook a great chef’s signature dish is 100% more satisfying than simply ordering it at a restaurant.

Interested in pursuing a career in the Culinary Arts? Click here to learn more and schedule your personal tour of ICE.

 

 

By Carly DeFilippo, Culinary Arts Student

In the process of preparing a multi-step dish, there are typically a few points of “no return.” Incorrectly butchering a protein, over-cooking the pasta or curdling the egg in your sauce are all-too-common ways to waste time and valuable products. Yet for all these stiff road blocks in the culinary kitchen, there are many more forgiving mistakes—opportunities to add in ingredients or seasoning you had forgotten, methods to smooth out overly reduced sauces or creative solutions for those improperly butchered proteins.

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While the raw ingredients are often (though not always) less costly in a pastry kitchen, there is far less room for slip-ups. Errors in measurement, adding ingredients in the improper order or even something as simple as forgetting the salt can result in an unusable product. Which is why I was thrilled to learn that I would be studying this tricky art with none other than Chef Sim Cass, a master of detail and all things baked.

The incredible Chef Sim Cass.

The incredible Chef Sim Cass

While we culinary students spend only a portion of our program on baking, our previous training in mise en place and cooking in large quantities provides us the skills necessary to dive straight into the pastry process. In our first few classes, we prepared a wide range of candied and preserved fruits, marzipans and pastry creams. In addition to technique, these were lessons in delayed gratification, as creating the individual components of recipes in large, advance batches is an essential part of the pastry process.

Pears poached in port and my first fruit tart at ICE!

Pears poached in port and the (unbaked) design for my first fruit tart at ICE!

From there we delved into doughs, learning the difference between a pâte brisée (literally “broken dough”) and pâte sucrée (“sweetened dough”), as well as various dough-mixing methods. All of this preparation culminated in the creation of our very own fruit tarts—all the sweeter for the prior days of work we had invested in the production of their individual components.

But of all the techniques we’ve learned so far, the one that fascinates me most is lamination. This process of folding and rolling butter and dough into many, many miniscule layers is, in my opinion, one of the coolest things to ever come out of a pastry kitchen. From croissants to mille feuille, “elephant ears” to flaky quiche crust, the results are nothing if not magical.

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Just like the first time I butchered a chicken, learning to craft laminated dough is a moment I’ll never forget. It’s the kind of technical skill that takes time and repetition to master, a combination of visual and muscle memory that separates professional chefs from home cooks. Though a single mistake could result in a subpar product, the difficulty involved makes the end results all the more prized—and delicious.

To learn more about life as an ICE culinary student, click here

By Carly DeFilippo, Culinary Arts Student

When first starting out in culinary school, my classmates and I were all performing the same task. Each station set with a cutting board, chef’s knife, paring knife, boning knife and vegetable peeler. Each student holding an onion to dice, a rack of lamb to French or a pile of potatoes to tourné.

prepduo

Eventually, as we moved on to different cooking methods—learning to sauté, braise, grill, roast and fry—we worked in teams of three or four. The real test here was learning to communicate within a group, delegating who would break down which vegetables and proteins; measure out spices, wine or oil; and most importantly, who would make sure nothing overcooked or burned.

Yet now that we’ve moved beyond basic techniques to the regional cuisines of France and Italy, the whole class is working together as one collaborative group. Manning one of three stations—garde manger, entremets or main dishes—my peers and I are no longer responsible for the creation of a single recipe from start to finish.

Making "farfalle" (bow tie pasta) from scratch at the garde manger station.

Making “farfalle” (bow tie pasta) from scratch at the garde manger station.

 

If stationed at garde manger, we’re responsible for breaking down vegetables, crafting handmade pasta and other various cold or preliminary preparations. The entremets team is responsible for hot sides or the supporting elements of main dishes, from sautéing mushrooms or braising artichokes to brewing soups and crafting sauces. The cooks responsible for main dishes are the kingpins of proteins: breaking down flounder, de-veining shrimp and grinding meatballs, then sautéing, frying or roasting as needed.

There's a big difference between veal for three and veal for thirty.

There’s a big difference between veal for three and veal for thirty.

In the beginning, there was concern among the ranks that we would learn less by only preparing one or two components of each dish. Yet, to our surprise, this style of working has far surpassed all our expectations. We’re not just learning to chop, whip, butcher, sauté or bake—we’re learning how to trust (and how much to trust) the members of our kitchen team.

In short, we’re learning the skills it takes to survive and thrive in a restaurant—from how to communicate when we need help and when to lend a hand, to timing our tasks so that we can keep the whole kitchen on schedule. And, in the process, we’re realizing that our technical skills are only 50% of what it takes to be a great cook—and maybe 10% of what it takes to be an extraordinary chef.

planning

Not to mention, we’re mentally training for the repetition of professional kitchen work. No longer chopping a single onion or frying just three portions of fish, we now cook in bulk. I’ve personally cleaned and cooked enough artichokes, calamari, pasta or soup for a party of thirty. It’s amazing how long it takes to roll and shape farfalle when your end goal is serving a small army!

Beyond scaling up our efficiency, streamlining our communication and refining our technical skills, we’re gaining an appreciation for the battles fought and won each night at a successful restaurant. You start with a motely crew of strangers with different strengths and expectations and train them to work like a seamless team—executing at the highest level, over and over again. The fact that so many excellent restaurants and food businesses exist is a sheer miracle—a miracle that, one day, my classmates and I hope to help create.

It takes many hands and solid communication to prepare a beautiful feast.

It takes many hands and solid communication to prepare a beautiful feast.

Click here to read more about life as an ICE culinary student.

By Carly DeFilippo

If you like cooking and have access to the internet, chances are you’ve heard of Food52, the brainchild of former New York Times dining writer, Amanda Hesser, and freelance editor/recipe tester, Merrill Stubbs. The two met when Amanda was charged with revising 1,400 recipes for The Essential New York Times Cookbook and over the course of many, many sessions in the kitchen, the pair discovered a mutual dissatisfaction with the state of online cooking resources—which, at that time, focused more on the quantity rather than the quality of recipes.

Amanda shares the story of Food52 with ICE students.

Amanda shares the story of Food52 with ICE students.

The founders had a vision for a website that would provide “everything for your cooking life,” from recipes, to kitchen tools, to servingware and more. Today, after launching with a focus on carefully curated recipes, that vision has been fulfilled, as the site has recently grown to include Provisions, an online lifestyle shop for food enthusiasts.

In the over-saturated world of food blogs and websites, the legions of followers and industry-wide respect that Food52 has garnered is an extraordinary success story. It was, therefore, no surprise that Amanda’s visit to the Institute of Culinary Education was a particular thrill for our students.

Food52's strategy? Get bigger by being better.

Food52’s strategy? Get bigger by being better.

When asked to describe what she believes distinguishes Food52 from other sites, Amanda cited a few specific aspects of their team’s philosophy:

  • A Unique Voice: Amanda believes that what prevents recipe-seekers from feeling loyal to recipe aggregators like Epicurious or All Recipes is the fact that these sites lack a unified perspective or tone. She explains, “[Voice] is what makes people feel they share your sensibility.”
  • A Thoughtful Aesthetic: Just like a beautifully presented plate of food, the understated look of Food52 has far more depth than you could even imagine. Their logo color? Grabbed from a pixelated photo of kale. It doesn’t matter that you didn’t notice—the point is that they’ve thought about it. “When you set a strong voice and aesthetic,” Amanda explained, “it’s like a magnet.”
  • Multiple Levels of Engagement: Only 2% of the Food52 community actually wants to add recipes, but there are many, many more users who want to comment, favorite and share the recipes with their own community. That said, of the 28,000 recipes currently on the site, 98% were provided by the community.
  • Self-Selecting Content: Amanda and Merrill intentionally chose to make the process of adding recipes to the site a commitment, automatically weeding out less-committed cooks from their pool of ad-hoc contributors. To bolster that pool of content, they run specific recipe contests—for example, a contest for burger recipes during grilling season. They’ve also signed on a few of their staff members—including Executive Editor and ICE alum Kristen Miglore—to maintain ongoing columns, like the ever-popular “Genius Recipes” series.
A manifesto for the cooking community of Food52

A manifesto for the cooking community of Food52

Sticking to these principles, Amanda and Merrill have grown one of the most successful food start-ups in the industry. Over time, their staff has grown and business needs have changed, which sometimes means revising the game plan. For example, in the beginning, they never planned to have “featured contributors” from other successful food websites. Yet, over time, they have figured out how to seamlessly celebrate the cookbook launches or other milestones of their community’s favorite DIY celebrities.

In fact, one of Amanda’s most resonant points was that their staff is very keyed in to the voice of the community. From viewing analytics reports to maintaining an unusually high response rate to their audience’s questions and comments, their multi-faceted approach is akin to a master class in Community Engagement 101. The end result is impressive: one of the most civilized web communities on the internet. As Amanda put it, “People [only] misbehave when they feel like there’s no one there [listening].”

Amanda answers students' questions and signs their New York Times cookbooks.

Amanda answers students’ questions and signs their New York Times cookbooks.

Advising those who want to launch their own food start-up, Amanda emphasized that it can be a long and bumpy road. “I have start-up baggage, but I think that baggage is actually good. [Before working at Food52], I made some mistakes without doing a lot of damage.” In short, working for a start-up on someone else’s dime to figure out how the financing and logistics come together might not be a bad idea. And don’t expect to get bought out for millions of dollars like some tech company: “Brands are not born overnight; we were not going for hyper-growth.”

Amanda also had salient advice for other aspiring food writers—namely, that the industry isn’t what it was when she first came onto the scene. “If you’re really interested in food, do something interesting in food,” Amanda says. You don’t need to be a full-time food writer—a role that rarely comes with a sense of financial stability—rather, you can work for a company that furthers your experience and knowledge, helping you to gain credibility.

Amanda with Dean of Culinary Business Steve Zagor and ICE Instructor Kate Edwards.

Amanda with Dean of Culinary Business Steve Zagor and ICE Instructor Kate Edwards.

Last but not least, Amanda shared a bit of insight that can apply to all ICE students, whether future entrepreneurs, bakers, recipe testers or food media personalities: “We’re not in a business of big wins—it’s about small adjustments. Always be ready to adapt.”

For more lectures and discussions with industry leaders at ICE, click here.