Here’s a question: What inspires students to enroll in ICE’s hospitality management program? Several of our students, past and present, answered that question and turns out there are myriad reasons why students choose to study hospitality management at ICE.

Rommel Gopez

Rommel Gopez, Director of Guest Relations at Hotel Edison

For Rommel Gopez (Hospitality ’14), it was an unquenchable thirst for international travel combined with a love of meeting new people that led him to the hospitality industry. In his words, “I love talking to people from all over the world. I’ll talk to someone from one country and then think, ‘Oh, I should travel there next.’ And when I do travel there, I already have a friend.” After spending years working on international cruise ships, he decided to enroll at ICE. Rommel explained, “I wanted the diploma to go with my work experience. And I learned so much [during my time at ICE]. I learned about hotel industry unions, management skills and the culinary side of hospitality. We also had the chance to get in the kitchen and prepare food. I love cooking, so that was a great experience.”

For Madison Malchiodi (Hospitality ’15), a job at Subway during college sparked her passion for service. As she recalled, “Over time, my job taught me something about myself: I took pride in serving as the shift manager, in taking on the responsibility of opening and closing the store.” This first brush with hospitality led her to ICE — a place where she could “boost [her] knowledge of management and service.”

ryan alexey headshot

Ryan Kim

For Ryan Kim (Hospitality ’16), a native of Seoul, South Korea, ICE’s hospitality management program was the perfect fit for a food lover who preferred to work outside of the kitchen. Ryan explained, “As much as I loved cooking and baking, I knew I wasn’t passionate about spending the rest of my life working as a pastry chef. I was looking for a way to be around food, but realized I would rather manage an establishment than be in the kitchen.”

Reeya Banerjee, a current ICE student with nearly ten years’ hospitality experience under her belt, chose ICE in order to catapult her career to the next level. “Between the classroom component and the externship requirement, the Institute of Culinary Education has a hands-on practical approach to education that appeals to me.” Another current student, Julie Milack, was drawn to ICE’s flexible schedule options — with morning, afternoon and evening schedules beginning on a rolling basis. According to Julie, “I chose ICE due to its flexible schedule that fit perfectly into mine.” With an intensive program spanning just 12 months, ICE is the best route for professionals looking to make a career change.

Though many paths lead them to ICE, our students share a passion for hospitality and service. From hands-on training with the latest property management systems to field trips into NYC’s premier hotels and resorts, ICE gives them the tools and experience to turn that passion into a career with endless opportunities around the globe.

Ready to launch (or advance) your career in hospitality? Click here for more information on ICE’s career programs.

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Recently, ICE hosted another successful Career & Externship Fair, where current students and alumni had the chance to meet one-on-one with top employers in the food and hospitality industry — Thomas Keller Restaurant Group, MeyersUSA, Blue Hill, Craft Hospitality Group, Union Square Hospitality Group, Momofuku and more. To build on the momentum, we tapped one of our experienced career services advisors, Tessa Thompson, to offer some pointers for launching a culinary career.

ICE Career Fair

By Tessa Thompson — Career Services Advisor

Starting your culinary career is a thrilling time. You’ve made the big decision to begin culinary school and become a culinary professional. Chances are, you’re filled with a combination of excitement, anticipation, hopefulness and a touch of uncertainty. You’re finally here — so now what? How do you make the most of your time as a student to start your career in the right direction? Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you kick off your successful culinary career.

  1. Educate Yourself. You may have decided to come to culinary school for various reasons, but one thing that everyone has in common at ICE is a passion for food — eating it, cooking it, talking/writing about it, even dreaming about it! Equally important is knowledge of what’s going on in the industry and who the key players are. Today, researching is easier than ever and the Internet has a wealth of information at your disposal. Take advantage of it. And don’t forget to hit the pavement — there are at least 10 great restaurants within walking distance of ICE and at least five sweet spots for delicious hot chocolate in Brookfield Place alone…can you name them? Get to know your surrounding culinary businesses and hit them up for information (and hot cocoa!).
  1. Use Your Resources. ICE has a near limitless supply of resources — from our instructors and alumni, to guest speakers and professional development classes and more. Honing your knife skills and perfecting your pan sauce are necessary parts of your culinary education, but learning how to use your resources will open up endless opportunities for your future. Develop relationships with your instructors, your advisors and your peers. Take advantage of your class credits, attend the Wine Essentials course or be a part of First Fridays here at ICE. Ask questions, volunteer your time, cultivate your curiosity and use all the resources at your disposal to get the most out of your ICE education.
  1. Find Mentors. Support and encouragement from family and friends is an important factor in your success. But finding industry mentors is equally as crucial. Non-industry folks are well-intentioned but may not fully understand the demands of life in the kitchen. “So you’re telling me you want to stand on your feet for 12 hours a day peeling potatoes for minimum wage with a chef screaming down your neck — WHAT?!?! Are you crazy?!” This is the all-too-familiar response from non-industry friends and family. Industry people can assure you what is or is not normal and offer solutions for the many challenges that you will face in your career. Often, just talking to someone who’s been there and understands you will make a huge difference. So, find a chef you connect with or a trusted career services advisor to help support you in your culinary journey.

Spring Career Fair

  1. Enthusiasm: Act Like You Want it. Ours is an industry of hospitality. Chefs, servers and restaurateurs — we all have a desire to be generous and make others happy. But in order to receive the benefit of a helping hand, you must act like you want it! Enthusiasm comes in many forms and no better time to act like the professional you want to be than right now. Take advantage of opportunities to learn. Volunteer and network as much as possible. Show up to class and your trails with a can-do attitude. Make sure your resume is in order, your emails are free of typos and your whites are clean. Communicate and follow up with those who offer help. Act like you want it and you’ll find that the hospitality flows.
  1. Try, Try, and Try Again. If at first you don’t succeed (or even if you do!), starting your career is about trying different things to discover what’s out there and finding the best fit. Trailing is a big part of this process. As part of finding an externship at ICE, you’ll work with your advisor to research and come up with a list of potential sites. Variety is key here, as is a willingness to move beyond your comfort zone. Ask for recommendations, sign up for industry newsletters and discover what’s out there. Trailing, whether for an externship or a job, is a fun process, so take full advantage of it and try out at as many places as possible. 
  1. Reach for the Stars! You’ve chosen to attend one of the premier culinary schools in the world, so why limit yourself when it comes to your externship (or first job)? Whether fine dining is your thing or really tasty Mexican cuisine, build a strong foundation by setting your sights on the best in the field. Don’t know the top sites? Educate yourself, use your resources and ask for help! Work hard and aim high — you’ll find the stars are within your reach!

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

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By ICE Staff

The Institute of Culinary Education is dedicated to making sure that graduates get the most from their ICE education. That’s why we forged a partnership with Excelsior College that gives Hospitality Management grads the opportunity to apply their diplomas toward an associate degree from Excelsior. With an immersive campus experience in NYC and an online associate degree program that’s flexible and affordable, the new program truly gives aspiring hospitality professionals the best of both worlds.

The ICE Experience

ICE’s Hospitality Management program offers the opportunity to study with industry leaders at ICE’s brand new campus in the heart of downtown Manhattan. In addition to state-of-the-art kitchens and culinary equipment, the school’s facilities boast the nation’s first education-focused bean-to-bar chocolate lab, which is overseen by acclaimed pastry chef and ICE Creative Director Michael Laiskonis, as well as an indoor hydroponic garden. Upon graduation, ICE students receive up to 19 credits toward an associate degree from Excelsior College—providing nearly one-third of the 60 required credits.

The Excelsior Experience

Excelsior College provides students with personalized and innovative ways to earn a degree and achieve their career goals. To begin, students earn their degrees online, providing the flexibility to work and study at the same time. What’s more, students can earn credits in a variety of ways: by passing examinations in lieu of taking classes, and through work and life experience.

ICE and Excelsior want to help each student create a personalized path of study. With a budget-friendly degree program, you can focus more on the important things—classes, studying and preparing for your career in hospitality.

Ready to take the first step toward a rewarding career in hospitality? Click here to learn more.

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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 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 to see a list of his upcoming courses at ICE.

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By Jenny McCoy—Chef Instructor, School of Pastry & Baking Arts

Jenny McCoy Craft HeadshotI distinctly remember the first time I tried to establish a relationship with a pastry chef that I really admired. I was a 17-year-old pastry cook in Chicago at Gordon. It was my first restaurant kitchen position, and I was lucky to be given the advice to spend my days off staging (aka, working for free) for other chefs to gain more experience. I had just eaten at Trio in Evanston where Della Gossett was the pastry chef. Her dessert menu blew me away, and I knew I had to meet her. I called her kitchen and asked if I could spend a week working with her. She agreed.

After a week of making simple recipes and helping with basic prep work, I thought Della and I were two peas in a pod. So about a week after my stage, I decided to call Della, IN THE MIDDLE OF DINNER SERVICE, to ask what her thoughts were about the best flavor pairings to use with pomegranate. Not to mention, it was July, and I was busy making a list of ideas for the fall and winter season. I still cringe at Della’s response: “Ummm…pomegranate is out of season. Why are you calling me right now?”

Of course, I was just a silly pastry cook who forgot that a pastry chef might be a bit too busy to entertain my creative whims. Don’t get me wrong; Della was perfectly civilized in her response—not rude at all—which was quite generous of her. But I quickly learned that bothering a chef in the middle of dinner service is not a professional way to build a friendship with a new mentor. To make matters worse, I wasn’t in any way responsible for creating menu items at Gordon, so what the heck was I doing making a list of dessert ideas anyway? It’s funny how certain memories stick with you, right?

Craft dessert. Photo courtesy of StarChefs.com

Plated dessert by Jenny McCoy. (Photo credit: StarChefs.com)

So how does one go about creating meaningful relationships with mentors? Here are five tips:

Be curious. Start by observing what successful chefs around you are doing differently—maybe it’s a new flavor combination, maybe it’s a new cooking technique or maybe it’s sourcing from an interesting producer—whatever it is, use that as an entry into conversation with that chef. How do you start that conversation? Don’t call them! Instead, write an email and ask if you can stage in their kitchen. Otherwise, you can go to dinner at their restaurant and ask to tour the kitchen afterwards. Tell your server you are a culinary student or a cook and use flattery and compliments to get through the door. Everyone loves being told they are great—especially when the comments you are making show your intelligence and passion.

Keep in touch. Whenever you have a chance to interact with a would-be mentor, send personal thank you notes or emails. Once you have worked with that chef, if you see them mentioned in an article, write to them and tell them how much you enjoyed reading that piece. If you see said chef is cooking for a charitable event, offer to volunteer. If he or she wins an award, send them a card. In many ways, creating a relationship with a future mentor isn’t that much different than making a new friend. Find out what you have in common and build a relationship based on those interests.

Jenny McCoy - Karen Page - Andrew Dornenberg - Rising Star - StarChefs

Accepting an award for “Rising Star Pastry Chef” alongside my mentors Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg (Photo Credit: StarChefs.com)

Remember that any relationship is a two-way street. Two of my greatest mentors are Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, authors of The Flavor Bible and many, many other brilliant books on food and wine. (If you don’t already have The Flavor Bible and The Vegetarian Flavor Bible, stop reading this post and immediately go to your nearest bookstore!) I first met Karen and Andrew through the pages of their book Culinary Artistry around the same time as my ill-fated call to Della Gossett. Fast-forward about six years and a few pastry jobs later, I was writing for Emeril Lagasse’s blog and published a post about how much I loved their book and recommend it to every new cook. Through the magic of Google Alerts, Karen and Andrew found my post and wrote to me to tell me how happy they were that I loved their book. I was in shock. Here I was reading an email, addressed directly to me, from my two favorite authors.

Eighteen years after I first read Culinary Artistry, I am still friendly with Karen and Andrew. They have helped me throughout my career by giving me glowing references, honest feedback and straightforward advice about my professional development. In return, I have publicly endorsed their books, promoted their work via social media and quite simply told everyone I know about how wonderful they are—as both culinary professionals and personal friends.

Go to culinary school. If you are an engaged, hard-working and curious student, your professors will take note. Just like the chefs in restaurants and hotels, your chefs at school want nothing more than to share their expertise—be it through demonstrating techniques in class or sharing advice about succeeding in the culinary industry. In short, don’t treat your professors like paid employees, treat them like they’re your first chefs. After graduating, let them know where you are working and what is happening along the road to your culinary success. They’ll be grateful to hear from you and eager to help. I know that personally, as a chef instructor, I feel it is my duty to aid students in navigating the industry after they graduate, especially in the early stages of their career.

culinary school - chef james briscione - culinary students - culinary class

Don’t be afraid to ask. I don’t know too many chefs who cook glorious meals only to sit alone in their kitchens pigging out. Chefs, by nature, serve others—we want to share. So when interacting with the chefs you admire, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions—perhaps their opinion on a new restaurant or a kitchen you are considering working in or even where they find their inspiration. Seriously, don’t be shy! A chef who is inclined to be a mentor will happily give you a few minutes of their time. However, if they aren’t happy to share, don’t take it personally. Chefs are incredibly busy. You never know what can happen unless you try, so don’t be afraid to engage with them and ask for something! (But, repeat after me: do not call them during dinner service.)

I’d love to hear who your culinary mentors are, how you met them and what makes your relationship meaningful. Share your stories in the comments below!

Want to study with Chef Jenny? Click here to learn about ICE’s Pastry & Baking Arts program.

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