Search Results for: meet the chefs

By Carly DeFilippo

Less than five years ago, the stretch of Harlem between Central Park North and 135th Street was, in the words of Chef Mike Garrett, “a total food desert.” But in October 2010, as the Executive Chef of Marcus Samuelsson’s first independent restaurant venture, Red Rooster, Mike and his staff opened a fine dining establishment that would forever change not just the food of this historic neighborhood, but the culture as well.

Chefs Marcus Samuelsson and Michael Garrett pose with their namesake "Red Rooster"

Marcus Samuelsson and Mike Garrett represent Red Rooster at the New York Wine & Food Festival. Credit: MarcusSamuelsson.com

In 2011, Red Rooster received a rave two-star review from Sam Sifton in the New York Times, but its influence went far beyond great food. The restaurant, whose cuisine pulled from the ethnic backgrounds of the neighborhoods’ many diverse communities, was a galvanizing force in introducing downtown diners to the emerging uptown scene. Today, Red Rooster is in good company—playing the wise, inspiring neighbor to such celebrated newcomers as The Cecil, Barawine and 67 Orange Street.

But back before Chef Mike was revolutionizing Harlem’s culinary culture, he was just a 17-year-old dishwasher in upstate New York. When one of the prep cooks didn’t show up for work, the executive chef asked, “Do you know how to make a burger?” One brutal day on the grill station taught the inexperienced young chef to never underestimate the nuances of any dish—no matter how simple it seems.

Posing with his fellow ICE Chef Instructors and NY Jets greats Willie Colon and Damon "Snacks" Harrison.

Chef Mike, posing with his fellow ICE Chef Instructors and NY Jets players Willie Colon and Damon “Snacks” Harrison.

Mike continued cooking through college as a way to earn money, jumping from hotels to bakeries to restaurants. At the time, his professional goal was to be a radio DJ, but after relocating to Baltimore with a friend, Mike realized that, with a little education, his seven years of kitchen experience might prove to be more profitable. Soon enough, Mike was a new culinary school graduate, working his way up through Baltimore’s restaurant scene.

Eventually, Mike returned to New York, where he found work in restaurateur Pino Luongo’s famed empire. At Coco Pazzo, in particular, his interest in becoming an Executive Chef started to grow, as did his interest in exploring other lesser-known cuisines.

As any of Mike’s culinary students can tell you, he’s very passionate about Asian food, with skills that he picked up during stints at pioneering American sushi restaurant, Ringo (a predecessor to Masa and Kittichai). Eventually, Mike’s network landed him a spot in a very young Marcus Samuelsson’s three star kitchen at Aquavit—the then premiere Swedish restaurant in New York City. From 2004-2010, Mike worked under Samuelsson and Chef Nils Norén, graduating from junior sous chef to executive sous chef.

Chef Mike and Marcus Samuelsson in the kitchen.

Chef Mike and Marcus Samuelsson in the kitchen.

 

 

Throughout this period, Mike also found opportunities to open such restaurants as Merkato 55 and Aer Lounge—even spending stints at C House in Chicago. But once Red Rooster came into view, Mike knew it was time to go all-in.

Red Rooster was a massive success from day one. Catering to both the local community and serving as a hip “destination restaurant,” Mike juggled the desires of an almost impossibly diverse clientele. “On a given night, you would have Fab 5 Freddy, Citibank business partners, real estate guys, politicians, actors, musicians—all in the same restaurant. The impact on the local community was incredible.”

But even as he helped Red Rooster open Ginny’s, its downstairs supper club, and reinvent the upstairs menu time and time again, it became clear to Mike that his primary job as Executive Chef wasn’t cooking—it was teaching. And after years of working in fine dining, Mike was most excited to pursue his growing interest in simple, well-executed food.

Meet Chef Mike header

In 2013, Mike joined the Culinary Arts faculty at ICE. As an instructor, he’s particularly adamant about reforming students’ bad habits. (His signature tagline—“control your energy!”—speaks to their tendency to cook too hot, too fast.) He’s also found time to explore his own artisanal hobbies, teaching beer-making or NY Jets tailgating classes for ICE’s School of Recreational Cooking. Yet whether he’s training future chefs or enthusiastic home cooks, Mike’s philosophy remains the same: “[ICE] is the perfect place to make mistakes and iron out the kinks—before you go and test run your skills in the real world.”

Want to study with Chef Mike? Click here to learn more about ICE’s Culinary Arts program. 

By Timothy Cooper

This interview originally appeared in ICE’s Main Course newsletter. 

Born in Los Angeles, Ken Friedman attended UC Berkeley, where he discovered San Francisco’s lively music scene. He left college to pursue a full-time career in music as a concert promoter, first independently and then working for the impresario Bill Graham. He moved to London to manage bands such as The Smiths and UB40, before finding himself in New York City, working with the renowned Clive Davis at Arista Records.

Ken Friedman

When Friedman turned 40, he decided to make a career change. Opening a restaurant was a natural next step: He’d already spent many nights frequenting New York City’s best restaurants while entertaining his clients, and friends continually offered to invest in his first project, sure it would be a success.

Thus, in February 2004, Friedman opened New York City’s first gastropub, The Spotted Pig, with Chef April Bloomfield. Since then, the duo has opened The Breslin Bar & Dining Room, The John Dory Oyster Bar, Salvation Taco (with a second soon to come in Williamsburg), Salvation Burger, White Gold Butchers, and Tosca Cafe (Friedman’s first venue in San Francisco), all to critical acclaim. He is also a partner in The Rusty Knot, The Monkey Bar and Locanda Verde, with Andrew Carmellini. In 2016, Ken was honored with the James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurateur.

How did you get your start in the restaurant industry?

Ken Friedman: I was the high school kid who had no idea what I wanted to do in college. I decided to go to UC Berkeley as an art major, with American history as a minor. What happened in the ’70s and ’80s was pretty much everybody in the art department at Berkeley, and Stanford and California College of the Arts and the San Francisco Art Institute—we all formed punk rock bands. I did the same.

That led to me putting on concerts and working for a guy called Bill Graham, a legendary concert promoter in San Francisco. All of a sudden I found myself on the business side of things.

I dropped out of Berkeley and moved to London and managed bands, then moved to New York and worked for record companies. I was basically living in nightclubs. I was really fascinated by public assembly in general, and restaurants specifically, which are sort of clubs for adults. I found myself looking at the chefs and speaking to the chefs as the artists.

I was living in New York an throwing parties and barbecues in the Hamptons; it was a creative outlet for me. I loved hosting dinners. People told me how great the food was and how great the experience was. So I started to realize that I should either be a chef or open a bar or open a restaurant. I’ve got a good ear and eye and nose for upcoming talent.

Then I was inching toward 40 and I wasn’t really all that happy in the music business, so I started to think, “Do I want to be that guy who looks back on his life and says, ‘Damn, I wish I had tried that; maybe I would have been good at that’?” I don’t want to have regrets.

Maybe the most important part of it is that when you’re an artist, a novelist or a songwriter or a painter, if you write a song and it’s a hit song, for the rest of your life you get paid for that. Not just when you perform the song, but if you’re sitting on a beach with a beer in your hand and someone is buying that record, you get paid for it. I was only getting paid when I was awake; I wanted to get paid when I was asleep.

What do great artists do—great songwriters, great novelists, great painters? They make work for themselves. Bruce Springsteen doesn’t say, “I’m going to make a record that sounds like what’s being played on the radio now.” He just makes a record that he enjoys and it works. So I thought, well, I’m going to do that when I do my restaurant.

How did you know what you wanted in terms of the venue, the menu, and the beverage service?

I was a punk rock musician. I was an alternative thinker. What didn’t New York have? Well, British food wasn’t really a thing that people took seriously. People thought British food was fish and chips. They didn’t really know that there’s a great tradition of fabulous seasonal British food. I’d lived in London for three years, and I’ve always been kind of an Anglophile from music, so I kind of knew that.

I knew about the gastropub phenomenon, where all the best young chefs in London who didn’t have the money to open restaurants would just go to the old pub on the corner. Four people would sit there all day Sunday, and there’d be no customers Monday night. So the chef would go to the owner and say, “Give me Sunday and Monday nights and let me cook. You get the bar proceeds, and I get the food proceeds.” And that’s how gastropubs first started. I also thought it would be cool to have a female chef, because there just aren’t enough.

Anyway, I was lucky enough to actually find a British female. She thought the way I did and she was obsessed with America, and specifically Chez Panisse. When I was a student at UC Berkeley, I worked there to pay the rent, so that was my introduction to working in restaurants: Chez Panisse, the best restaurant in the country. We shared that.

So The Spotted Pig was born. And design-wise, I’ve always been a bit of a hoarder, I love going to flea markets and thrift stores, so I had a bunch of stuff. I liked the way pubs are designed with a photograph of the local prizewinning cow, or a photograph of somebody who just caught a bunch of ducks.

Often pubs didn’t have names, or didn’t have signs with letters because people couldn’t read. “Pubs” is short for public houses. So I thought, well, a spotted pig is super-visual, and I don’t need to put a sign up that says “spotted pig.” I can just hang a pig sign.

How did that first meeting with April Bloomfield come about?

I was introduced by Jamie Oliver. We just started emailing each other, and I liked her right away; she liked me right away. So I flew her to New York and my friend Mario Batali and I took her to a farmers’ market and a few other places, and he said, “Yeah, she’s perfect.” And I said, “How do you know? We haven’t even tried her food yet.” He said, “She’s worked at all your favorite restaurants in London. That’s an indication that she’s got the same taste.”

And he said, “She’s got all these burns on her arms.” I said, “What does that mean?” He said, “She’s a badass—she reaches into hot ovens and she’ll do anything to make sure the food is treated right, and that’s a big deal.”

So I hired her and made her a partner right away. I believed that restaurants co-owned by the chef were cooler and better, and the chef would care more.

During the initial opening, how did you settle on a menu? How do you keep that menu continually fresh?

I worked for record companies—Arista Records, London Records, Interscope Records. When I would sign a band—I was always an A&R guy, a talent scout—I’d sign a band that was great or had potential to be great, and give them money to make a record.

But my philosophy was very much, “I’m not going to tell you how to make your record. I’m a failed musician. My job is to keep the rest of the record companies away from you so that you can be an artist and not have to talk to a bunch of suits and bean counters about your art.”

I have the exact same philosophy when it comes to April and other chefs I’m partners with in some other restaurants. I never, ever tell them what to do. I think the worst thing you could do to an artist is start advising them on how to make their art better.

It’s hard for me to say, “You should put sesame seeds on this bun instead of poppy seeds,” or “These pickles are too garlicky.” I love April’s food, and it totally fits in the places we do. If she does something that I think isn’t perfect, I know she’ll figure it out.

She doesn’t get permission from me. If she wants to buy expensive tomatoes instead of cheap tomatoes, I understand. The dirty little secret of chefs—the thing that separates great chefs from not-great chefs—is ingredients. So we spend a lot of money on the best ingredients. That’s okay because we sell them all and we mark them up enough, we make the profit, we pay all our employees.

What are some of your favorite offerings at your own restaurants?

I love April’s burgers. I love her veggie burger, now that I’m trying to eat less meat. April does pretty incredible vegetables and salads. The lamb burger at The Breslin is awesome. The roasted chicken at Tosca is another favorite.

April had never even heard of a Cubano before she moved to New York. I took her to a Cuban place, she had one, she flipped out, and she put on the menu at The Spotted Pig. It’s won all kinds of awards for the best Cubano in New York, so I love that.

I’m also partners in Locanda Verde with Andrew Carmellini, and the same goes for him. I love his pastas, and I love his chicken for two.

I’m lucky—I get to eat great food for free at my places. I always leave a big tip, though. It’s not fair for me to eat for free and the staff still has to do the work, so I always tip the kitchen and the front-of-house staff.

What was your next venture?

Our second venture after The Spotted Pig was the first John Dory, which failed. Luckily we believed in the concept still, so we moved it to Ace Hotel. Closing your second restaurant is like your first album is a big hit, and then your second album doesn’t even make the charts. So we remixed it and put it out again.

Then The Breslin was our third one and that was a huge hit; it still is. That was us getting back to what we were best at. We went back to the gastropub concept in a hotel had been renovated and changed to Ace Hotel; we called it The Breslin because it had been the Breslin Hotel since the late 1800s.

The nose-to-tail trend took off at least partly because of The Breslin. How were you so attuned to that movement?

To do this American thing where you eat the tenderloin and throw the rest of the cow away is kind of dumb. And the most humane thing to do if you’re going to kill an animal is eat all of it.

When we opened The Spotted Pig, April would go to the meat purveyor and say, “What do you do with your chicken livers?” They’d answer, “Oh, we just give them away. Nobody even wants them.” So we got chicken livers for free from the meat purveyor.

The chicken liver toast that she did, which she called “chicken liver parfait,” was and is one of her bestsellers, and that’s all profit. Instead of charging $70 for a steak, we can charge $46 because we’re making so much money on the other parts of the same animal. We basically got to the point where we were buying whole cows and pigs because we were using every part. It wasn’t a movement as much as, that’s how people used to eat.

April grew up poor, and her mom would buy cheap cuts of meat and boil the hell out of them and season the hell out of them. That’s what pastrami is, that’s what corned beef is. The cheeks are the best part of the pig. To make head cheese, April takes all of the bones out of the pig head, boils it, rolls it up and ties it and slices it—and you have this beautiful meat like bologna or mortadella.

April makes liver and onions that bring tears to people’s eyes: “Oh my God, this is what my mom used to make us.” It’s a feel-good thing that’s good for the environment and good for the soul.

How has that philosophy continued with White Gold Butchers?

We get whole animals into our store on 78th and Amsterdam, and we sell and use every part of the animal. One of our bestselling dishes is beef heart.

People on the Upper West Side and others go there to maybe get a skirt steak for dinner, but they end up buying a bunch of cuts of meat that they never really knew how to cook because Erika Nakamura and Jocelyn Guest, our partners who are the butchers there, are right at the counter. They say, “Here is what you do with this cut. Oxtail is really just the tail of a cow, and here’s how you make soup out of it.”

We do and will continue to sell any and all cuts of meat, including the innards and the offal. Hopefully more and more people are getting hip that it’s a good way to eat. Sometimes we even know the animals’ names. We go to the farms and pet them, so we know what we’re eating and we know what our customers are eating.

What’s your advice to people who want to be in the same position as you someday?

Life is full of trial and error. If I don’t succeed at this thing, I can go try something else or go back. Don’t think you’re stuck in one kind of career, unless you actually are—and even then I would take a look at how you can get out of doing something you just hate. Your hands aren’t tied, you know? If they are, untie them.

As time goes on, people are realizing, “I’m in charge of my own life. I can do whatever I want.” I switched careers at a point when everybody said, “You’re crazy.”

Say a young restaurateur has an idea, but not the money. How do they overcome those financial hurdles?

Think small at first. Instead of finding a shoe store and spending millions of dollars to transform it into a restaurant, find a building that was a restaurant, so you don’t have to spend too much money. Or, if the owner spent thousands or millions of dollars on infrastructure and kitchens and exhaust systems, that’s great. Make them a partner instead of giving them a bunch of money to walk away.

Don’t focus too much on rent. Pretty much 100 percent of the time when a restaurateur says, “I moved out because the rent was too high,” they’re not telling the truth. They moved out because butts stopped sitting in their seats. If the rent ends up being five or six days’ sales, you’re in trouble—but usually it’s not. If you’re doing well, rent could be three days’ sales, and that’s where it should be.

I’m not a bean counter. The way I solve every problem in my restaurant is get more customers in. Everything else falls into place. Your labor costs go down. Your food costs go down. Everything goes down by having more people there, so focus on doing something great.

For our readers who are coming from the chef side, what is your advice on forming a partnership with someone like you?

Be smart. Don’t be like a lot of chefs who think it’s all about them. It’s not. Chef-owned restaurants are boring. Chef-and-another-person-owned restaurants are not boring. A chef wants a blank canvas to show their art. They want no music, they want no other art on the walls; they want nothing to get in the way of their beautiful creation that they slaved over on the plate.

Customers don’t really want that. They want a casual, fun place, or a not-casual fun place. If you want to eat by yourself in quiet, stay home. If you want to go out, you want to go to a place that’s packed with people who are great to look at and interact with.

Food is the most important part of a restaurant, but it’s not the only reason why you go somewhere—in New York especially. You’ll walk by ten places that are empty and wait for an hour at the eleventh one, because you want to be there.

So my advice to chefs is: It’s not all about you, and stop trying to be on TV. Be a restaurant chef or don’t be a restaurant chef, but quit acting like you’re a restaurant chef when you really just want to be a TV star.

What’s next for you?

We’re in a lot of hotels—I have Locanda Verde in the Greenwich Hotel. We have two restaurants and a lobby bar in Ace Hotel. We have a restaurant in the Pod Hotel on 39th Street, Salvation Taco—and Salvation Burger in a Pod Hotel on 51st Street. We’re opening up Salvation Taco in a Pod Hotel in Williamsburg. I’m a part of the Monkey Bar with Graydon Carter, the editor of “Vanity Fair,” in Hotel Elysee.

People always come in The Spotted Pig and say, “Why isn’t this a hotel? Why don’t you have rooms upstairs that have the same kind of country pub feel?” Maybe that’s what we’ll do next.

It’s never too late to follow your passion — click here to learn how you can launch a new career right away by enrolling in one of ICE’s career programs. 


By Michael Laiskonis — Creative Director

“If you cook, you are going to get hurt.” The crowd that gathered for a panel discussion on modernist cooking erupted into laughter, but Wylie Dufresne’s observation was gravely accurate. Extreme heat (and cold — working with liquid nitrogen was the object of Wylie’s remark), sharp knives and heavy equipment are some of the perils that cooks must navigate in their daily workplace environment. Add to the mix a dash of occasional chaos and the pressure to produce at breakneck speed, and it’s a wonder more chefs don’t bear hideous deformities.

Chef Sharpening Knives

Young cooks are instantly identified by the rows of scars running up their forearms: the reminders of brief skin-singeing encounters with blazing hot oven racks and pan handles. A cook’s relative experience is easily judged by his or her fingertip’s tolerance to heat (a seemingly heat-proof layer of skin inevitably forms with time). Another telltale sign of a chef is the tough, raised callous at the base of the index finger: the contact point of skin and the carbon steel blade of a chef’s knife. This callous never fully returns to soft, supple flesh, even after years of retirement from daily slicing and chopping. It’s a calling card of sorts, a silent testament to one’s lifelong métier.

While kitchen scars may fade with time, they rarely disappear completely. My first ghastly kitchen injury dates back to my days as a baker. The shop where I worked focused primarily on bread and cakes, but we also did some light takeout fare and off-site catering. During the mid-December holiday season, we were catering one or two small parties every night. One of those afternoons, the chef/owner executed one event while I simultaneously staged a second party at another location. I could easily handle the responsibility of the arrangement, but I was probably still too green of a cook to entrust with the logistical feats these parties presented.

Hot Kitchen Boiling Over Flames

I was wrapping up my prep list with that menu’s protein: a Cajun-spiced, blackened chicken affair (this was the early 90s). Proper blackening technique — as I knew it, anyway — would dictate exposing the oiled, spice-rubbed meat to a fierce high heat and only a little added cooking fat. In my haste to get everything finished, I ignored the gradual buildup of oil in my smoking cast iron pan. Worse yet, I violated the cardinal rule of adding food to any pan: always place the item so that it falls away from you. This precaution ensures that, in the event any hot cooking oil splashes, it does so away from you.

As I tossed the last chicken breast onto the fire, my face and eyes were stung with a spray of hot and spicy oil. I dropped back from the stove and somehow managed to feel my way to the three-compartment sink for some temporary relief. I splashed my face with cold water, wiped myself off and glanced at the clock. I was running late and I didn’t have time to assess the situation properly.

I managed to arrive at the catering gig fully prepped and on time, but as I worked my chafing dishes I was filled with self-conscious dread. I thought I’d scarred myself for life, that I’d need a shroud to hide my culinary deformity like some modern-day elephant man — all because of one impatiently flung piece of chicken. As it turns out, the burn on my face was minor and fully healed within a couple of weeks. But it could have been far worse. The lesson learned? Always respect the fire. That scar may have faded, but others have been permanent.

Chopping Onions

Another early mishap of mine persists in the form of a long-term, conspicuous reminder. A year or so after the blackened chicken incident, I was working my way through a very large pile of onions. It was a straightforward task: hack the polar ends off of each one, score through the skin, peel that off, then halve the onion lengthwise and perform a simple, uniform julienne. At ICE, our fledgling cooks are taught to tuck the thumb back and under, using the broad surface of the resulting fist to both secure the food and guide the knife while chopping. Of course I knew that then, too. But in my urgency to finish all those onions in time, I either looked up or the heavy chef’s knife slipped…and into the mountain of sliced onions went the tip of my left thumb.

My reaction was swift. I didn’t want to look closely at the damage, nor did I have much time to fret over it. I rinsed my hand in the nearby sink, slapped on two or three Band-Aids, wrapped it with a length of gauze and secured it all with what must have been a foot or two of electrical tape. And then I went on with my prep.

I certainly didn’t forget about it over the course of the night’s work. I was in a sense of denial. I was uninsured and living check-to-check on my cook’s wage. I didn’t want to bother with any workers’ comp benefit I may have been entitled to, so there was no professional medical attention given to the mangled digit. After a day or so, when I realized I might have made an error in judgment, I still didn’t seek help. I feared getting yelled at by some nurse or intern for not going directly to the emergency room. Instead, I kept it clean and wrapped, and it eventually healed. The contour of my left thumb is no longer rounded, but now sloped off at a sharp angle.

Butchery Fish Butchering

I’ve heard many stories over the years—likely mythical legends by the time they got to me. The fish bone that went in one side of someone’s finger and emerged months later on the other side. The arm broken in multiple places by an industrial mixer. The fingers severed on deli slicers. I’ve had close calls throughout my twenty years battling in the kitchen, but in comparison to many colleagues, I’ve survived mostly unscathed. My worst injuries were the result of total rookie moves.

A young cook might boast over a particularly gnarly burn or gash, eager to display it as a badge of honor. It’s part of the bravado, the mandated sense of fearlessness that pervades the kitchen. As I grow older, I’m not proud of my mistakes. With time, one increasingly feels stupid over the tiniest nicks and scratches, embarrassed for even a split second’s lack of control. So a word of advice to those starting out in the industry: the second you sense you’re playing too close to the edge, slow down. You won’t work faster with a half of a finger, a burnt face or a broken arm.

Want to study with Chef Michael? Click here for more information on ICE’s Pastry & Baking Arts program.

By Carly DeFilippo

Wall Street consultant. Macaron master. International pastry competitor. Best-selling author.

Like many culinary professionals, ICE Chef Instructor Kathryn Gordon never intended to work in food. Yet today, this former management consultant is one of ICE’s most celebrated pastry instructors, one of the country’s foremost experts on the art of French macarons, and was recently named one of Dessert Professional Magazine’s 2017 Top Ten Pastry Chefs in America and inducted into their prestigious Hall of Fame.

Kathryn Gordon Headshot cropped

ICE Chef-Instructor Kathryn Gordon

Growing up, Kathryn didn’t have a “home base.”  Her father’s work in the oil business meant that the family was constantly on the move, offering her exposure to various regional cuisines, such as the Creole recipes of New Orleans.  She even spent part of her childhood in Australia and attended high school in London, where she sampled a wide range of ethnic foods.

Before she realized her culinary ambitions, Kathryn completed her undergraduate studies at Vassar College, and later, obtained her MBA at New York University’s Stern School of Business. Her work as a consultant in the high-stakes world of Wall Street trading left her more than prepared for a new career in the fast-paced world of restaurant kitchens. So, after earning an honors certification from L’Academie de Cuisine in Washington DC, it’s no surprise that Kathryn excelled in the kitchens of New York’s “big three” restaurants — The Rainbow Room, Tavern on the Green and Windows on the World — then, the three highest-grossing restaurants in the country.

Among her many contacts in the industry, Kathryn names Kurt Walrath as her most influential mentor. From serving dinner for 700 at the Rainbow Room to Sunday brunch for 2,000 at Tavern on the Green, there were few tasks he challenged her to take on that she did not master. Yet it was at Windows on the World, as pastry chef of Cellar in the Sky, that Kathryn realized her primary job responsibility was teaching — instructing a sizable staff of experienced chefs and interns during her time there.

Kathryn Gordon Dessert Professional

Shifting her focus, Kathryn was hired as an instructor (and subsequently became the Program Director for the pastry program) at New York Restaurant School, one of the city’s top culinary schools (now closed). During that time, she also collaborated with an American artist who owned a hotel in France to launch a series of culinary tours and French pastry classes for U.S. based industry professionals.

In 2003, Kathryn joined the faculty at the Institute of Culinary Education and has since helped to launch ICE’s own culinary study abroad programs. She has also proved a formidable competitor in National and Regional pastry competitions, and has even been the Master of Ceremonies for a number of pastry events, including the live Carymax World and National Pastry Championships.

Back in ICE’s New York teaching kitchens, Chef Kathryn aims to create extreme scenarios that challenge students to think on their feet. In 2011, she published a best-selling guide to crafting French macarons, which was described by the Wall Street Journal as the most “comprehensive and inspiring” book on macarons in any language. In 2016, Chef Kathryn also published a companion cookbook entitled Les Petits Sweets: Two Bites Desserts from the French Patisserie.

Inspired by her attention to detail and determined focus, it’s no surprise that Kathryn’s students have gone on to find their own significant success. Two, in particular — Dana Loia of Dana’ Bakery and Kathleen Hernandez of Cocoamains— have followed in her footsteps, opening entrepreneurial macaron businesses catering to NYC’s latest dessert craze.

celebratory summer cocktail

Ready to launch a rewarding and creative career in Pastry & Baking Arts? Click here for more information on ICE’s career programs. 

By Caitlin Raux 

“The Italian language wasn’t passed on — but the food definitely was,” says Chef Frank Proto, ICE’s newest career program instructor, on his Italian-American upbringing in Long Island. Since childhood, Frank received a firsthand education in Old World cooking methods: homemade sausages hung to dry from bamboo in the cellar; wine made from Grenache grapes purchased at the Brooklyn Terminal Market. It’s no surprise that once he became a chef, Frank gravitated toward unfussy Mediterranean cuisine made with the highest quality products.

Chef Frank Proto

At the outset of his career, Frank found a mentor in renowned Chef Joe Fortunato, now chef/owner of the West Village mainstay Extra Virgin. Chef Frank not only rose through the ranks in Joe’s late restaurant Layla, he helped him to build new restaurants from the ground up, and went on to do the same with restaurateur Marc Murphy, too. When the New Haven restaurant Barcelona needed an executive chef, Chef Frank had the chops to take the helm. Young chefs who have had the opportunity to work with him, and now ICE students, would be lucky to call Chef Frank a mentor. With an affable, encouraging disposition, he’s the kind of chef that makes you want to work harder and better because his passion for cooking and his high expectations for others who have chosen a culinary path are clear.

Chef Frank plans to use his straightforward approach and decades of restaurant experience to teach ICE students how to succeed in the culinary industry and how to prepare delicious, uncomplicated food. On a recent Thursday, after introducing a class of culinary students to Lombardy cuisine, Chef Frank and I sat down to chat for ICE’s “Meet the Chef” series.

Growing up, what was food like at home?  

My dad’s side of the family is Italian-American. And though my mother’s side of the family is German, she learned to cook from my paternal grandmother. So I grew up with Italian-American traditions, like making wine and sausage. We still make our own tomato paste — it’s a process I’ve never seen anyone else do. We dry the tomatoes, we peel them, remove the seeds then dry them in the oven for 48 hours until they’re brick red — it almost looks like a brownie.

Do you still make sausage?

I made sausage in the restaurants where I worked. I’d like to get back into making dry sausages at home. We used to make the sausages then hang them on bamboo in the wine cellar to dry out, because the temperature is perfect in there. We’d dry them out and put them in old, glass mayonnaise jars, then top them with olive oil so they’d store well. Then you peel the skin off and eat it like a salumi.

Chef Frank Proto

What was your first restaurant job?

I worked in a catering hall in Long Island in high school and college. I was a dishwasher, a prep cook, a line cook — I did everything. I always wanted to be a chef, though. I know that’s kind of weird — kids usually want to be firemen or policemen or lawyers. I don’t know where I got the idea but I always wanted to be a chef. I come from a family that cooks. Back in the 70s, when people were eating canned stuff, my mom always had fresh vegetables, and not for health reasons — that’s just the way my grandma taught her. You go to the store, you buy vegetables and you make them. You don’t get them from a can. So we had a lot of good food as kids.

Tell me about your decision to enroll in culinary school.

I had gone to community college for two years to study restaurant management. For me, culinary school was the next step. So I enrolled at CIA [Culinary Institute of America].

What was your first job out of culinary school?

I did my externship at Tribeca Grill, but my first job out of culinary school was at Layla. It was a restaurant that served Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food. That’s where I met my mentor, Joe Fortunato. I worked up the ranks and became sous chef there. Then I moved around with Joe and I also worked on and off with my other friend Marc Murphy. When Joe was opening something, I’d help him open it, when Marc was opening something, I’d do the same.

When I started working with Marc, I helped him open Landmarc and Ditch Plains. I was the corporate chef.

What does being corporate chef entail?

Doing everything. We did all the menus together. I was the operations manager and he managed the big picture. I trained chefs, cooks, planned menu changes, specials. I managed costs, all of the ordering systems, basically building everything from scratch. When I left, we had two Ditch Plains and two Landmarc locations.

Chef Frank Proto

Did you choose Joe as a mentor or did he choose you? How does that work?

It was kind of mutual. He wouldn’t have been my mentor if I did a crappy job. I’m a bit of a bulldog in the kitchen. I come in, I work hard and I’m quiet. Maybe he saw something in me. By him just pushing me along, he became my mentor. Eventually he moved me up to sous chef. At that point, he knew what I could do.

It goes both ways. There are a lot of guys who I chose to mentor when I was working as a restaurant chef. They get chosen because they have the work ethic and the passion for it. You say through your work if you’re worth being mentored.

What would you say is your approach to cooking?

I like simple. Don’t get complicated. A lot of people like to put a lot of stuff on the plate. Sometimes, the less you put on the plate, the better. A lot of young cooks do that before they have experience. Joey always used to ask, “Do we really need to put that on there?” I like to keep everything simple. The last restaurant I was working in, Barcelona in New Haven, was a joy because we’d cook a piece of fish on the plancha and serve it with a good salsa verde. That’s the way I like to cook.

I also like Middle Eastern and North African ingredients — the spices, pomegranate, molasses… the mezze. Even before small plates became the big thing, I always liked small plates. I don’t like committing to just one thing. I don’t play golf because I can’t commit myself to five hours on the golf course. That’s how I feel about a meal, and cooking, too.

What are you excited about teaching ICE students?

I’d like to bring some of my Spanish cooking background and influence to the curriculum. In the restaurant industry, for the past 15 years it’s been the cuisine. Now people are starting to recognize it outside of the restaurant industry.

Other than that, I want the food to taste really good. I want students to walk out of here knowing they’ve made some really good meals. I also want them to walk out of here with as much information as possible about working in the real world, and I’ve tried to include that in every lesson I’ve taught so far. Things like: when you go into professional kitchens, there’s not going to be a ton of paper towels like we have at the school; the less pans you use the better — I want to teach them the nuts and bolts, together with the substance of the lesson.

What advice would you give to culinary students starting their careers?

Show up early. Show up prepared. I always tell my cooks, If you come in 10 minutes early and ready to go, you already stand out. There are ways to stand out that take no effort at all. When I was a culinary student, I read and got as much information as I could about food. That’s another thing: be an information seeker. Learn your craft.

I read every day still, after 20-some odd years. There’s always something that interests me.

What do you read?

I read the Eater newsletter every day, I read Saveur, Food52, even the home cook-focused outlets like Bon Appétit. I like to see what they’re doing. I’ve always got the New York Times in my bag. I’ve been going to the public library more, too. It’s such a great resource. I also collect old books. I bought a copy of Larousse Gastronomique and a Fannie Farmer cookbook in the Berkshires last week.

What are your favorite things to do outside of the kitchen?

I have a workshop. I’m just starting to build it up. I really want to learn how to forge. I brew beer. My son and I just brewed beer last year and we’re doing another batch soon. Most of the things are food-related. In my workshop, I made gnocchi boards out of wood. I give them to friends.

gnocchi boards

Ready to hit the ground running on your culinary career path? Click here to learn about ICE’s career programs. 

By Emma Weinstein — Student, Culinary Management ’17 / Culinary Arts ’17

When considering different culinary schools, one of the aspects that attracted me to ICE was the exposure to different elements of the culinary world. Throughout my culinary management course, I have been able to hear some amazing speakers thanks to ICE’s “Meet the Culinary Entrepreneurs” lecture series. So far, I’ve had the chance to attend lectures by Sylvia and Steve Pryzant of Four Story Hill Farm, Rob Kaufelt of Murray’s Cheese, Eamon Rockey of Betony and Ruairi Curtin of the Bua Hospitality Group. On the surface, these speakers may seem to have little in common. Their expertise ranges from raising milk-fed veal calves to curating the cocktail program of a fine dining establishment. All of these individuals, however, shared with us the triumphs and hardships of their culinary careers — and through their stories I came away with some key points that will help me on my own path:

  1. Perseverance

Have faith in yourself and your concept. Sylvia and Steve Pryzant of Four Story Hill Farm lost their farm twice — first in a deadly blizzard in 1993 and again during an ice storm in 1994. Their barn collapsed and many of their livestock didn’t survive. Still, they resolved to rebuild and Sylvia decided to study how to raise a unique type of bird: milk-fed poulardes from Burgundy, France. Once she learned to raise these specialty birds, she built a list of clients that included the country’s most acclaimed chefs, including Tom Colicchio, Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller, Daniel Humm, Charlie Trotter and Mario Batali, among others.

Eamon Rockey

Eamon Rockey of Betony

  1. Know Your Market

Whether your goal is to sell a gourmet food product or open a restaurant, making sure your business is targeted towards a certain demographic is critical. Ruairi Curtin shared that anytime he and his partners are looking at spaces for a new bar, they sit at the local train station and watch people getting on the train during the morning rush hour. They try to decide whether or not the people who live in that area will be their market. You may have an awesome concept, but it’s important to ask yourself if local residents will be your customers. If not, can you guarantee people will travel to your business?

  1. Know Your Strengths and When to Delegate

All of the speakers had a wide breadth of knowledge in their fields, but primarily in a particular aspect of their businesses. Rob Kaufelt had no intention of having an e-commerce site to sell his cheese — that is, until he met a woman who convinced him that he was missing out on a huge business opportunity. He let her set up the Murray’s Cheese e-commerce site, which then became a huge success. Rob would never have ventured down that route had he not been nudged in that direction. Likewise, with Eamon Rockey, while he has a great deal of front-of-house experience at Betony, he specializes in the cocktail program and delegates other aspects of running the restaurant to his partners. One of the hardest aspects of opening and operating a business is learning to manage the desire to be involved in every aspect. An owner has to know the importance of delegating tasks — you simply cannot do everything yourself.

Rob Kaufelt

Rob Kaufelt of Murray’s Cheese

Murray's Cheese

Gooey Cheese from Murray’s

 

  1. Choose the Right Partner

Choosing the right partner isn’t just about deciding to go into business with a friend or partnering with someone who shares your vision. Make sure this person will be someone with whom you can efficiently and effectively run a business. Look for someone who complements your strengths and weaknesses. With the exception of Rob Kaufelt, all five speakers had a business partner or partners. As they stressed, the restaurant and food business is one of the most stressful environments in the world, so it’s critical that if you decide to have partners, just like a marriage, you will stick together through thick and thin.

  1. Stay Relevant

People are fickle — especially in a city as fast-paced as New York — and there’s always something new opening around the corner. Staying relevant is critical to surviving in the restaurant industry, whether by updating the menu and beverage program or by adding a new type of product or service. You need to constantly think of ways to improve your business and keep up-to-date with the market and the needs of your demographic.

  1. Never Stop Caring

Ruairi Curtin spoke about how he finds going to his own bars stressful because he is constantly finding flaws in the service and seeing ways in which things can be improved. Curtin said he and his partners always check on the restrooms each time they visit one of their bars and normally end up cleaning the bathroom in the process. Eamon Rockey told us how he helped one man over a period of several months plan the perfect proposal dinner for his now-wife. Going above and beyond for your clients will help give your business the best chance for success. As soon as you stop caring about your product, including your bathrooms or special client requests, your staff and others will stop caring as well.

  1. Love What You Do

This is perhaps the hardest goal to attain and yet the most important lesson I learned from listening to these five lectures. It was clear that they are all extremely passionate about their careers. Several had jobs in different fields before making the switch to the food or restaurant industry. They all stressed how the field is challenging but also very rewarding. What makes the food/restaurant industry unique is the nature of the business — to constantly interact with people and create experiences for them. Food is crucial, but at the heart of the restaurant industry is service. Having a memorable waiter or personable bartender can have a profound impact on a guest’s experience.

I’m looking forward to picking up more nuggets of wisdom in the upcoming “Meet the Culinary Entrepreneurs” lectures.

Want to launch your own food business? Click here for more information on ICE’s career programs.


By Caitlin Gunther

With the heart of a globe-trotter and a passion for lifelong culinary education, Lourdes Reynoso (“Chef Lorrie”) is always up for an adventure. Whether she’s stationed in St. Petersburg for a three-month teaching residency or exploring the best parrillas in Buenos Aires, Chef Lorrie is continually feeding her voracious appetite for foods and cultures of the world. She shares both her global perspective and her expertise in international cuisines with the culinary arts students at ICE.

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Chef Lorrie comes from a big, food-loving family in the Philippines. Seven of the nine Reynoso siblings, including Chef Lorrie, work in some facet of the food industry. In fact, her sisters, pioneers of their time, founded a culinary school in Manila in the 1960s. Today, the Sylvia Reynoso Gala Culinary Art Studio counts among the most well-known culinary schools in the Philippines. As Chef Lorrie explains, “In Manila, my family is more or less synonymous with culinary school…and good food.” After receiving a bachelor’s degree in world history, Chef Lorrie earned the prestigious Grand Diplôme from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. She remained in Paris to study the French language at Le Sorbonne and art history at the Louvre museum, before returning to Manila to join the teaching staff at her sisters’ culinary school. Her ultimate career path came as no surprise to her family. “Even when I was in high school, I was teaching children’s baking courses during the summer,” says Chef Lorrie. Teaching in the kitchen was her calling from a young age.

Drawing upon the classical French techniques she learned at Le Cordon Bleu, Chef Lorrie taught culinary arts in Manila for several years. When she wasn’t in the kitchen classroom, she was traveling—feeding her second passion for discovering new foods and cultures. The opportunity arose to teach at the New York Restaurant School (now The Art Institute of New York City) and Chef Lorrie jumped on it. Asked about the intercontinental move, Chef Lorrie recalls, “I wanted to be in New York. At that time, it was just becoming the food capital of the world and a true melting pot.” She continued to teach there for twenty-one years, helping to train such prominent chefs as the current executive chef of Nobu, Ricky Estrellado, who considers Chef Lorrie a mentor.

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In 2008, when The Art Institute announced that it would discontinue its culinary program, Chef Lorrie immediately thought of ICE. Since 2009, she’s been part of the ICE teaching staff and has continued her own culinary education by traveling when not in the kitchen classrooms. Her most recent adventure has been her multiple teaching stints in St. Petersburg, Russia at Swissam, a top hospitality and culinary arts school that partnered with ICE in 2012. Though she was hesitant to go at first, Chef Lorrie quickly fell in love with St. Petersburg. “The food culture is extremely advanced. That’s why Swissam was opened. Before it opened, Russia had new wealth and great chefs like Alain Ducasse and Jaime Oliver were going there. But they still had communist-style hospitality schools. The owner decided to establish the best culinary and hospitality school he could.” Chef Lorrie has enjoyed being one of the ambassadors of the ICE curriculum, all while taking in Russian art and culture.

chef_lorrie_reynoso_9-16-16-1

From sampling the spices in the souks of Morocco to exploring the best parrillas in Argentina, Chef Lorrie has had her fair share of culinary voyages recently. For this lover of international cuisines and passionate teacher, ICE is the perfect place to call her permanent home.

Want to get in the kitchen classroom with Chef Lorrie? Click here to receive more information on ICE’s career programs.


By Caitlin Gunther

On a sunny Friday afternoon, Rob Laing and I meet in a conference room at ICE, a clear view up the west side of Manhattan just outside. Rob is the founder of Farm.One, the organization that grows and tends to the fresh produce and herbs in ICE’s hydroponic farm. Wearing a heather grey tee emblazoned with KALE, he’s agreed to meet with me to discuss a subject he’s passionate about—vertical farming. So passionate, in fact, that he left behind a successful Tokyo-startup career to dedicate himself to vertical farming full time. With the help of his farm manager David Goldstein, Rob brings to hydroponic farming a level of care instilled in him by years of immersion in Japanese culture. Take a look at his Instagram and you’ll see his attention to detail and the neatly composed minimalism that results from it. Start-up minded and forward-thinking, Rob’s not satisfied with growing the same old Genovese basil—he’s after the herbs and greens that aren’t readily available, the stuff that students, chef instructors and even visiting culinary masters like Thomas Keller haven’t before tasted.

In anticipation of forthcoming posts focusing on ICE’s hydroponic farm, I sat down with the man behind the greens to chat about his path to ICE and the state of agriculture and vertical farming today.

Rob Laing First things first: what is vertical farming?

Vertical farming is about moving food production to cities—rooftops, vacant lots or growing things inside buildings using artificial light. Vertical farming is the conceptual vision of this. Then there’s another concept of vertical farming, which is layers of growing areas that use artificial lighting stacked above each other. People started doing this type of vertical farming in Japan with 12 or so layers. With the advances in LED light technology, vertical farming has become way more efficient and less expensive. Ten years ago this stuff would be completely unfeasible.

What’s special or advantageous about vertical farming?

One of the really exciting things about vertical farming is that if you look at our agriculture system, there are so many negative externalities that we don’t even think about. Vertical farming can offer many ways to combat that. If you compare it with mono-culture farming, those are huge, efficient crops but they affect so many other systems with pesticide usage, shipping and so on. With small scale, vertical farming, a lot of those externalities disappear—there are no pesticides, we don’t have to ship anything, and we don’t use manure so there’s no need to even wash what you grow. Granted, vertical farming can be good in certain situations, but not all situations. People tend to think of agriculture as one monolithic thing, but it’s extremely complex—you’ve got vine crops, root crops, large-scale grain, herbs and greens. I think urban agriculture can fit into that herbs and greens category really well.

We’re growing things like toothache plant, purple ruffle basil, papalo, bronze fennel, red shiso (which is ten times better than normal shiso), and ordering new stuff all the time. We’re really trailblazing.

You lived in Tokyo for several years before turning to vertical farming. Have Japanese cuisine or culture had an influence on your work?

Yes. Think about it: what do people love about Japanese cuisine? First, the respect for ingredients—whether you’re a sushi fan or kaiseki fan, it’s about finding the best ingredients, not messing around with them too much and presenting them for people to enjoy. The second thing people love is Japanese attention to detail in service. Sometimes people confuse minimalism for simplicity, but you can only achieve minimalism if you have high attention to detail and quality.

I want to take that same level of respect that chefs have in the kitchen and bring that back to farming. If you look at the way chefs treat food on a plate, we want that same attention to detail in growing, which you can do on a small scale.

Farm one hydroponic farm herbs

 

How does the location inside a culinary school affect the farm?

It’s amazing to be located at ICE and around people who are enthusiastic about food. Plus, the exposure to random encounters is a truly valuable thing and when you’re on your own, you don’t get that. That’s the beautiful thing about being in an educational institution.

Thinking long-term, I love that everyone here supports us growing new things. We want to bring seeds from all over the place and taste new things. It’s a great opportunity for experimentation.

How do the chefs and students interact with the farm?

It’s fun because you get to see people who fall along the whole spectrum of skill levels. Some students come in and have literally never seen something grown. They get excited and ask questions. Then there are chefs here who are much more experienced but deal with the frustrations of not having access to fresh things. Maybe they’ve never tried a particular type of basil before and they try it here and that inspires them. Then at the super level we have visitors like Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud and Michael Laiskonis, chefs who have such a refined palate that they can try an herb and know exactly how to use it.

Farm.one 1

What are the challenges involved in vertical farming?

You can do a lot of theoretical planning, but achieving is another challenge. Even the installation of equipment took longer than planned. There’s no standard equipment for hydroponic farming. Remember when people started planning bicycles? There were different styles, starting with the Penny Farthing, then they kept tweaking the design. We’re still at the Penny Farthing stage. We’ve tried out different systems and we’ve had to throw out unwieldy equipment and start again. Coming from my startup background, my approach is: if it’s not working, fix it as rapidly as possible or chuck it out and start again.

Another challenge is that there is no guide. Most of what we’re growing, no one has done it hydroponically before. Either that or they’re not talking about it because there’s no research out there. We’re growing things like toothache plant, purple ruffle basil, papalo, bronze fennel, red shiso (which is ten times better than normal shiso), and ordering new stuff all the time. We’re really trailblazing.

What is special about what Farm.One is doing at ICE?
We’re trying to grow things that most people have never tasted before or have never had access to. We’re growing those things in a controlled environment that allows them to be cared for. One example is papalo, an herb I came across in a farmers’ market in Santa Monica. It’s a flat leaf that has elements of cilantro, citrus freshness and is used in Mexican dishes like cemitas. You can find papalo in LA, but in New York you can maybe find it in a Mexican grocery, and even then it’s not really fresh. We can say, “We’ll grow that here in New York,” and no one else in New York is doing that.

Rob Laing hydroponic farm ICE

Take a look inside ICE’s groundbreaking hydroponic farm. 

Check out the Farm One blog.

 

By Carly DeFilippo

 

When Michael Laiskonis got hired for his first job, scooping ice cream in Detroit, he probably never imagined that he would one day be teaching ICE Pastry & Baking students about the complex chemistry of frozen dairy products. In fact, Michael never intended to enter the food industry. Rather, he fell into it by accident, after deciding to abandon formal studies in fine arts and photography for what he describes as an “earn while you learn” approach. And so he entered the business, working the overnight shift at his roommate’s brother’s bakery.

Michael, teaching a petit four class at ICE's School of Professional Development.

Michael, teaching a petit four class at ICE’s School of Professional Development.

Soon enough, Michael discovered he had a certain talent for pastry and wanted to find a more structured environment to further his skills. He found it in Emily’s, a small kitchen with only four chefs. Starting out as a savory cook, Michael gradually absorbed more and more pastry duties, proving his merit until his boss agreed to make him the full-time pastry chef—the first time he would see his name on a restaurant menu.

 

In 1996, Michael moved to Tribute, starting as a line cook and moving up the ranks until he was again named pastry chef in 1999. The restaurant was at the epicenter of Detroit’s culinary scene, named one of the nation’s best by the New York Times in 2002. In 2003, it became one of only two Detroit restaurants to have garnered a coveted James Beard Award. But by 2004, Michael was looking to test his hand in one of the nation’s culinary capitals, and was referred by a friend to Chef Eric Ripert. After a single 90 minute meeting, Ripert offered Chef Michael the chance to come on as Executive Chef of renowned New York institution, Le Bernadin.

Parsnip brulee and sponge, hazelnut cream, browned milk solids. 2013 "Pastry Pop Chef" at the Star Chefs International Chefs Congress.

Parsnip brulee and sponge, hazelnut cream, browned milk solids. 2013 “Pastry Pop Chef” at the Star Chefs International Chefs Congress.

Making a move to Le Bernadin was no small feat. Michael’s predecessors included one of his idols, François Payard, as well as acclaimed chefs Florian Bellanger, Herve Poussot and Oscar Palacios. But over the next eight years, Michael more than proved his talent, helping the restaurant earn three Michelin stars and four stars from the New York Times. Celebrated for his use of modern techniques to reinvent classic desserts, Michael was also awarded the coveted James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef in 2007.

 

In 2012, Michael joined the Institute of Culinary Education as our first ever Creative Director. “After a successful 20 years in some amazing kitchens,” Michael explains, “I’d earned a lot of opportunities—and I chose to join the team at ICE. I have always admired ICE, and education is the perfect opportunity for me to give back, to inspire the next generation of chefs to enjoy and excel in a career in culinary or pastry arts.” He has already instrumented significant progress in our kitchens, providing pastry students with a more in-depth look at the science of their craft, and teaching a number of both public seminars and advanced pastry classes in our School of Professional Development.

michael blow torch

Looking back on his career, Michael notes that his path was most unusual in that he stayed in nearly every position for more than five years. He recommends that young chefs only move on to a new position if they feel that they have taken everything they possibly could from that position (including what not to do moving forward). In large part, he credits Chef Takashi from Tribute for establishing his belief in never making a lateral or inferior move, in only moving on if it’s a step up. As for how to judge when it’s time to move on, Michael says, “The day you go into work without a pit in your stomach is the day you start looking for a new job.”

 

It’s this sense of curiosity and constant pursuit of furthering his own education that has kept Michael at the forefront of his industry. Outside of the rigorous constraints of a restaurant schedule, teaching has provided Michael with the ability to work on innovative research projects and to pursue his lifelong interest in the arts, film, reading and writing. (To date, he has contributed to publications including GourmetSaveur, The Atlantic and a range of professional pastry journals.) Whether in his public demonstrations, writing or other creative endeavors, it’s clear that Michael has developed a newfound appreciation for teaching. After learning so much from others, he insists, “You don’t keep secrets. You have to share.”

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.