By Robert Ramsey — Chef-Instructor, Culinary Arts

Earlier this year, on a trip to Guatemala, I found myself sitting in the secret tasting room of a local mezcal producer in the colonial town of Antigua. My friend Adam and I had walked through a bookstore, which opened into a bar, then crawled through a tiny door in the back and perched on low stools. There, we sampled tastes of the smoky and complex tequila derivative, mezcal, poured by an exceptionally knowledgeable barkeep. Months later, as the summer wanes and the cool autumn temperatures move in, my mind has been wandering back to the colonial charms of Antigua — the tastes and smells of local cuisine, the incredible volcano hiking, and the relaxing and inspiring Lake Atitlan. With each adventure in the beautiful country of Guatemala, new flavors emerged.

mezcal carrot cocktail

Mornings started with local coffee, as this region is known for producing some of the world’s finest. Refuge Coffee Bar offers one of the purest tasting cold brews I’ve ever experienced. For lunch, we hit the city market, where you can find everything from fried chicken to street tacos to hearty, local stews. I couldn’t get enough of the different takes on ceviche, a local specialty served in abundance — with fresh fish, shrimp, crab, chilis, onions, lots of lime and a surprising amount of worcestershire sauce — an interesting local twist. It was both delicious and refreshing in the Central American heat.

At night, the city really comes alive. The market in the city’s Plaza Mayor, or central square, is teeming with vendors offering every variety of local cuisine — tasty horchata, tortas bursting with grilled meats, avocado and spices, pupusas with black beans and tacos, tacos, tacos. The intoxicating smells were accompanied by upbeat music, the sounds of local children playing and the postcard-perfect scenery of Spanish colonial churches framed by ominous volcanoes. In Antigua, every night is a celebration.

My favorite meal of the trip was the least expected. The mission was to reach the top of Vulcan Acatenango, a 13,000-foot volcano with sweeping vistas of Guatemala and its neighboring, active cousin, Vulcan Fuego (the most active volcano in the world). I left Antigua and embarked on a series of rides and transfers on the infamous Guatemalan “chicken buses,” which involved sprinting and hurling myself into a moving bus. I made arrangements to set out from the base of Acatenango with a local named Jaime. We arrived at Jaime’s family’s picturesque and ancient-seeming farm in the rolling foothills of Acatenango. It was here that his mother prepared a simple but perfect meal: scrambled eggs from the chickens running at our feet, homemade tortillas from the maize covering the hillside, and rich, smoky refried black beans with a depth unmatched by any other beans I’ve ever tasted. Slow-simmered over a wood burning stove, I imagined the beans had been continuously cooking for countless generations — at least they tasted that way. It was the perfect, rib-sticking last meal before the two-day hike to Acatenango’s lofty crater.

chicken bus

One of the Guatemalan “Chicken Buses”

Vulcan

Vulcan Acatenango

Chef Robert Ramsey

Chef Robert pictured left with his friend Adam

Inspired by this incredible trip, I developed a subtly sweet, intensely smoky and moderately spicy mezcal cocktail. (Pro tip: It’s best made with Ilegal Joven, the youngest of the mezcals we sampled on that gorgeous night in Antigua.) I approached this recipe as if I were building a dish. I started with the mezcal, which is a little savory and a lot smoky. By infusing the mezcal with the fruity heat of the jalapeño pepper, I created a base that needed balance in the form of sweetness (agave nectar) and sourness (lime), and is rounded out by the earthy, vegetal depth of carrot juice. I call it the “Antigua Elixir.” Each sip brings back memories of cool evenings on the shore of Lake Atitlan, where my last magical days in Guatemala were spent.

mezcal carrot cocktailAntigua Elixir

For the cocktail
Servings: makes 1 cocktail

Ingredients:

3 ounces carrot juice
1.5 ounces Jalapeño-Infused Mezcal (recipe below)
1.5 ounces lime juice
1 ounces agave nectar
Ice
1 lime wheel, for garnish
Smoked Paprika Salt (recipe below), for garnish

Preparation:

  • Rub the rim of a rocks glass with the lime wheel to wet it. Turn the glass over and dip it into the paprika salt to coat the rim. Fill glass with ice and set aside.
  • Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and pour in the carrot juice, mezcal, lime juice and agave nectar. Shake vigorously for 15-20 seconds, until the outside of shaker is frosty. Strain into a rocks glass and enjoy.

For Jalapeno-Infused Mezcal
Yield: makes enough for about 4 cocktails

Ingredients:

1 jalapeño, chopped (with seeds)
1 cup mezcal joven

  • Combine the mezcal and chopped jalapeño in a nonreactive container (a mason jar works well) and let the flavors infuse for at least one hour. Note: you can infuse for longer, but the longer you infuse, the spicier your mezcal will be — taste and infuse to your liking.
  • Strain through a fine mesh cocktail strainer. Reserve.

For Smoked Paprika Salt
Yield: makes enough for about 4 cocktails

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons smoked paprika

Preparation:

  • In a small bowl, mix the salt and paprika until evenly combined. Spread the mixture on a small plate and reserve for cocktails.

Immerse yourself in a global culinary education at ICE — click here for more information. 

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By Caitlin Raux

Miguel Trinidad didn’t plan to create a mini-empire of Filipino cuisine in New York City. “I thought when I graduated ICE I would cook Italian food,” says Miguel, who grew up idolizing PBS chefs like Lidia Bastianich. After graduating from culinary school, he landed a gig as executive chef at a popular restaurant in Soho. That’s where he first met Filipino-American Nicole Ponseca, the restaurant’s general manager who was looking to open an eatery that served the foods she grew up eating, like kare kare (oxtail stew) and chicharon buklakak (deep-fried pig fat). At the time, there was hardly a taste for Filipino cuisine in New York. Miguel had sampled Filipino food before and was intoxicated by the combination of bold flavors. So he hedged his bets and joined Nicole’s mission. Today, Miguel and Nicole helm two critically praised restaurants, Maharlika and Jeepney, and they’re in the works on a cookbook, due in early 2018.

Chef Miguel TrinidadOn a recent afternoon, I caught up with Miguel at Jeepney. On the wall hangs a photo of two hands tenderly cradling an egg — it’s the famed Filipino dish balut (a fertilized, fermented duck egg). And yes, it’s on the menu. The interior — vibrant colors, mismatched tables, the occasional pineapple and nods to Filipino culture — matches the chef’s style: loud but thoughtful. Miguel and I chatted about Filipino cuisine, cooking at the James Beard House and the rise of fine-casual dining.

How was your experience at ICE — did you enjoy being a student?

I loved being a student at ICE. By the time I started with classes, I had been cooking for a long time. I knew a wide variety of ingredients and I had the opportunity to use that knowledge and do things with it. But there were a lot of things I didn’t know, like [the five French] mother sauces and advanced techniques. I got to refine a lot like plating and timing.

I remember in Module 2, during our practical [exam] with Chef Ted, we had an hour to cook a steak, pommes frites and green beans. I was sitting there, watching everyone and Chef Ted said, “Miguel, what’s wrong?” I told him I didn’t need an hour to do it. He said, “Really? You think you can do this in how long?” I told him 15 minutes. He said he would time me, and if I didn’t do it in 15 minutes, he’d fail me.

Wait, like beginning from raw potatoes?

Yes! We had practiced this. You dice your potatoes, put them in cold water, bring it up to a boil, once it comes to a boil, you drain them and put them in the cast iron pan with parsley and oil, and let it cook. At the same time, you’re cooking your steak. Medium rare? Sure, that takes less than 12 minutes. Beans, you blanch them and pop them in a hot pan with garlic and butter. I almost failed, because I was a little too confident. But I did it in under 15 minutes.

When did you discover Filipino food?

I tried it for the first time when I was 19, and again when I met [my business partner] Nicole Ponseca after I graduated from ICE. I was working at a Southern restaurant in Soho called Lola and she was the general manager. I became executive chef after two months of working there. Nicole wanted to start a Filipino restaurant but couldn’t find a chef who believed Filipino food could become mainstream. We teamed up and went to the Philippines to backpack through the country for three months.

Jeepney NYCDid you hit up the grandmas and grandpas for their secret recipes? 

I learned a lot of recipes from Nicole’s dad. I spent time with the yayas, which are housemaids, and the lolas and lolos, which are grandmas and grandpas. I also spent time with some of the top chefs in the Philippines like Claude Tayag. I absorbed as much as I could, and then when we came back, we created a menu and started as a pop-up restaurant in the East Village in 2011. We just did brunch. We did that for eight months until we earned enough money to start Maharlika.

Our first day, we had five people. Our second day: 10 to 15. Someone wrote an article about us in Time Out New York. Then the third weekend there was a line around the corner. We went from 15 covers to 120 to 170 to 200 — all served within a three-hour period.

And then the New York Times listed you as a Critic’s Pick — that must have kept the momentum going.

We’ve been very fortunate with press. Maharlika won Metro New York’s Best New Restaurant. We’re Michelin-rated, Zagat-rated. Jeepney received two stars from the New York Times, three stars from Time Out New York. Condé Nast Traveler named Maharlika on their list of Where to Eat in the World.

What do you love, and what do you think people love, about Filipino food?

Filipino food is like a punch in the mouth. It’s big, it’s loud and it takes you on a journey. You have sweet, salty, sour — it all comes together. We approach our food like a glass of wine. We want it to hit you on the nose, all over the palate and have a strong finish. Even when you’re stuffed, you still want to take another bite because it’s so delicious.

Has it been challenging introducing Filipino cuisine to New Yorkers?

People are open to trying it. The flavors can be polarizing, but for the most part people are intrigued and happy and want to try more. They come in just to try balut — fertilized duck egg. The first time I had balut, the egg was a little overdeveloped, so I had some feathers and beak. We usually get them 11-14 days before they hatch, and it tastes like a rich, hardboiled egg.

Jeepney NYCWhat changes have you seen in the culinary industry since starting?

One of the biggest changes is that for a long time everyone wanted to get into fine dining. Now, everybody’s more into fine casual. The food just needs to be good. You can’t spend too much time on tweezers food, especially for a restaurant of Jeepney’s size. Here it’s about quality, about turnover, about fun and about experimenting. It’s not just about the plate. It’s about the service, the atmosphere, the crowd, the music, the cocktails — the whole package. I’m giving you a mini-vacation every time you walk in the restaurant.

When you’re hiring, do you look for people with a culinary education?

It helps when they have it on their resume. Especially when I get someone from ICE, I give him or her a chance to see what he or she can do. I feel like I’m giving them an extension of their education. It’s helpful to have someone with a culinary background, but at the same time, it’s important to find someone with grit.

You cooked at the James Beard House recently — how was that?

For one, it was a huge honor. It was absolutely insane and everything went off without a hitch. The food came out perfect. I was extremely happy. I also had an opportunity to work with my friends again. There’s a group of us chefs who work in different restaurants — we’ve been friends for a while and we try to support each other as much as we can, to the point where if one of us is short on the line, someone else will jump in. When I told them I was cooking at the James Beard House, they said OK, what day are we there?

What is your culinary voice?

I’m loud and in your face (laughs). My culinary voice is all about really enjoying what you do. Listen, look, feel, taste, have all your senses involved in everything you’re doing, then put it on the table and let someone else come into your mind —and see what you’re feeling when you’re cooking.

Ready to find your culinary voice? Click here to learn more about ICE’s career programs. 

Watch Miguel talk about his culinary voice here

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By Caitlin Raux

Chef Bill Telepan’s bio reads like a culinary best-seller. He’s the executive chef of the bustling midtown restaurant, Oceana; executive chef of Wellness in the Schools, a national nonprofit devoted to healthy eating in public schools; he enjoyed a 10-year run as chef-owner of a Michelin-starred farm-to-table restaurant; he was even invited by Michelle Obama to join the Chefs Move to Schools task force. Chef Telepan cares as much about what’s on the plate as where it comes from, whether he’s cooking for his own children or an über-exclusive dinner hosted by Questlove.

With so many achievements, why is this chef going back to culinary school? Because he’s stepping into a brand new role as ICE’s director of sustainability, a role in which he’ll help develop a sustainability-focused curriculum for the next generation of chefs. In Chef Telepan’s words, “Sustainability is important to teach culinary students because they are our future food leaders.” Not only will he contribute to the teaching side of ICE, he’ll also have the chance to learn how to grow herbs and produce in ICE’s indoor hydroponic farm.

Chef Bill Telepan

ICE is thrilled to welcome Chef Telepan into our community, and in anticipation, we caught up with him to chat about urban farming, food waste and teaching culinary students about sustainability.

How do you incorporate sustainability into your daily work as executive chef at Oceana? 

From the beginning, I knew I wanted to work with local farms because fresher produce means better flavor. And if you get produce from farms, it lasts longer because you’re basically buying produce from the ground.

As time went on, I realized how important farms were to the environment, which made me want to support them even more. At Oceana, I can have a tiny impact on the oceans. I hope to be able to work with fishermen and women on using lesser-known fish and being less detrimental to the waters.

As far as waste, chefs naturally think about waste because of costs. I’ve always thought about how to incorporate every part of a product into our menus. It’s not easy because most customers want familiar ingredients like the center cut. But I’m slowly seeing the needle move in the right direction on this issue.

You’re also executive chef for Wellness in the Schools — tell me about your path to working with nutrition and education.

I’ve always thought about eating well and good nutrition. But I became more aware of it when I became a father. I wanted my children to eat well and when my children started going to school, I became curious about what was being served. It wasn’t until I met Nancy Easton, the founder of Wellness in the Schools, that I found an opportunity to help. There are many, many children who don’t have the means to eat well outside of school. Schools have the ability to bring nutritious, real food to students, as well as educate them on healthy food and cooking.

I got involved back when [the organization was] in just three schools in New York City — and now we’re in 125 schools nationwide, reaching 60,000 children a day. We are helping kids get a healthy lunch and teaching cooking and nutrition lessons that they’ll have for the rest of their lives.

As a culinary school graduate yourself, why do you think it’s important to teach culinary students about sustainability?

Sustainability is important to teach culinary students because they are our future food leaders. They are the ones who are going to dictate what food should be produced, how it’s produced and the effects it has on the environment. They need to learn about proper farming practices and waste. They need to know what foods are good for us. They need to understand all of this so they can teach, direct and become a force of good for the planet.

What do you see as the biggest challenge for restaurants in terms of sustainability?

Money. Space. Time. Education. These are the factors that restaurants need to consider in order to run sustainably. We want to buy from farmers, producers and fisheries that are producing their product properly. But since poorly raised food has become so cheap, it’s more expensive to buy right. Space is an issue because it’s hard to set up composting and recycling in busy restaurants. But I know that restaurant owners and chefs are finding ways to do it. Time and education go together. It takes time to educate your staff on the proper procedures, know why you’re doing them and having them execute it properly.

 

Bill Telepan and Questlove

Chef Telepan in the kitchen with Questlove

More and more restaurants are focusing on minimizing food waste — is this the future of restaurants? 

Like I said before, chefs are conditioned not to waste. But now we are thinking about it on a different level. We are utilizing things that we may have thrown out in the past, and not just in the kitchen — we’re seeing this at the restaurant bar, too.

Urban agriculture is on the rise — how is this affecting the food industry?

Urban farming is so smart. I mean, think about all the rooftop gardens in NYC alone! We chefs are excited about it because it gets us closer to the food source, and that means our products are as fresh as possible. We are going to have to feed a lot of people in the future so it is a very opportune time for this movement to be happening.

What are you hoping to learn from working in ICE’s hydroponic farm?  

A lot: I’m excited to get involved not just to learn about farming, but also for the teaching opportunities — to use the hydroponic garden for taste lessons, and to choose to grow different products that aren’t normally taught in the school. I’m excited to work with the instructors to see what they want to grow and to create lessons together. It’s a great opportunity for me to see what we can teach future students and chefs.

Ready to study culinary arts alongside leading chefs like Bill Telepan? Click here to learn more about ICE’s career programs.

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By James Briscione — Director of Culinary Research

The fried chicken sandwich, by law, may only contain bread, chicken, pickles and sauce. Never mind which law that is — the point is this: if you try to put anything more on my sandwich, we are going to have problems. With just four components to build it out, this sandwich is perfect in its simplicity, so each ingredient that goes into it better be perfect, too. Any missteps or half measures are going to stand out big time and completely throw off your chicken sandwich mojo.

Fried Chicken Sandwich Recipe Video - Institute of Culinary Education

Now don’t worry, you have me to take you through it step by step. First, the sandwich components:

  1. The bun: Only a soft potato roll will do. Period.
  2. The pickles: Dill chips are really the way to go (but if you have another preference I won’t fight you on this one).
  3. The chicken: Fried, of course — but also brined.
  4. The sauce: It’s gotta be special.

Now, let’s get to the meat of the sandwich: fried chicken. Two important things need to happen: first brine, then fry. Brining — the process of soaking your chicken in a solution of salt and sugar — is an essential step that helps the meat retain moisture and stay juicy throughout the cooking process. Proper frying at home is easier than you might think. For starters, you don’t need as much oil as you think you do. If the chicken has been butterflied or properly pounded out, you’ll need the oil to be no more than an inch and a half deep in the pot.

And what about that special sauce? Mayonnaise on a chicken sandwich is great. Umami mayonnaise on a chicken sandwich will change your life. Umami — known as the fifth taste (after sweet, salty, sour, and bitter) — is what we think of when something is savory and gives food a rich and satisfying taste. Umami is found naturally in tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, mushrooms, soy sauce and meats. For our chicken sandwich sauce, we build layers of umami with roasted shallots, garlic, shrimp paste (optional) and fish sauce. Trust me: once you have this condiment in your arsenal, you’ll find many more uses for it beyond your chicken sandwich. There’s no law for that.

Pro tips:

  1. The umami mayo can be made in batches and keeps for up to two weeks in the refrigerator.
  2. Frying temperature is crucial: 350˚F is your ideal cooking temperature — if things dip below 300˚F, the chicken ends up a bit greasy. The best way to avoid this is to begin with oil hotter than you need it, around 370˚F; that way when the temp drops after adding your chicken, you’ll land right at your ideal cooking temperature.
  3. After cooking, rest the chicken on a rack, not paper towels. The rack will allow oil to drip away and keep the chicken from getting soggy on the bottom.

The Perfect Fried Chicken Sandwich with Umami Mayo
Makes 4 sandwiches

For the Fried Chicken

Brined Chicken

Ingredients:

1 quart water
½ cup kosher salt
¼ cup granulated sugar
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast filets

Preparation:

  • In a large bowl, combine the water, salt and sugar in a bowl and whisk until dissolved.
  • Butterfly each of the chicken breast filets. Add chicken filets to the brine and leave to brine for at least two hours, or let it brine overnight.

Flour Mixture

Ingredients:

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Preparation:

  • Add the flour, salt, granulated garlic, black pepper and cayenne together in a large bowl, and whisk to combine.

Fried Chicken

Ingredients:

Brined Chicken
Flour Mixture
Salt and pepper, to taste
Oil, for frying

Preparation:

  • Remove the chicken from the brine and pat dry. Season each piece lightly with salt and pepper. Dip each chicken breast into the flour mixture and press to coat well on both sides. Remove the floured pieces to a pan and rest briefly before frying.
  • Heat a pot of oil to 370˚F. Add chicken, working in batches of two pieces at a time, and cook until golden brown, about 6-8 minutes. Remove to a rack to rest and season immediately with salt.

For the Sandwiches

Ingredients:

4 potato rolls
Umami Mayonnaise (recipe below)
16 slices dill pickle or more as desired
Fried chicken

Preparation:

  • Split each roll, spread the bun with umami mayonnaise, add pickle slices and top with fried chicken.

For the Umami Mayonnaise

Ingredients:

1 shallot, cut in half, peeled, root removed
1 head garlic, top trimmed, root intact
¼ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon shrimp paste, with chiles (optional)
Sriracha hot sauce, to taste
2 egg yolks
1 cup vegetable or canola oil

Preparation:

  • Place the shallot, garlic and olive oil in a small pan and cover with foil. Roast in a 350˚F oven for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and, when cool enough to handle, add the shallot and garlic to a blender, squeezing the roasted garlic cloves from the skin, and reserving the oil from the pan for later.
  • Add the fish sauce, Sriracha, shrimp paste (if using) and egg yolks to the blender and process until smooth. Turn the blender to low and slowly drizzle in the canola oil and reserved olive oil until the mixture has emulsified.
  • Umami mayonnaise can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

To learn how you can study with Chef James, click here.

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By Luz Estrella — Student, School of Culinary Arts ‘17

Throughout my experience at the Institute of Culinary Education, I’ve learned so many terms, recipes and methods that it’s hard to keep track of them all. During each module we’ve had a new topic to discuss, and I’ve studied diligently in each. Learning to fabricate protein has been one of my biggest challenges. Each section of protein has its own terms and these terms can vary, based on what animal you’re fabricating. Having to cut open an animal, touch the cold, gooey flesh and separating the different parts was very new to me and, needless to say, very messy, too. I was afraid of cutting myself, or simply doing it wrong.

Luz Estrella

The first protein I ever fabricated was a fish: flounder. As we started, the words of my instructor, David Waltuck, were scrambling through my head. “Be careful,” he warned us. “Always remember, you are in control of your knife. Listen to your knife touching the bones.” It was like nothing I had ever done. It wasn’t a matter of just cutting meat — everything had to be done with caution.

Here are a few things I picked up during the fish fabrication lessons.

  1. Safety first: Use your senses. The first step of fabricating meat, poultry or fish is following food safety regulations. Use your senses — check the fish for aroma, clear eyes, firmness of flesh and bright gills. This is to make sure the fish is fresh.
  2. Round versus flat fish. The first fish I fabricated was a flounder, which is a flat fish, so I used a fillet knife. A fillet knife is flexible and it works wonders when fabricating flat fish. When cutting a flat fish, start by cutting around the head and making a V-shaped notch. Pull the head away from the body while twisting it slightly. Then, slice from head to tail, making sure you don’t cut through backbones. For a round fish, start by laying the fish on a cutting board with the backbone parallel to the work surface and the head on the opposite side of the hand that’s holding your knife. Proceed to make a cut behind the head and gill plates. Then, turn the knife making sure the tip of the knife is pointing toward the tail. Run the blade down the length of the fish, cutting against the backbone.
  3. Removing the skin and pin bones. We also learned how to remove the skin from a fish fillet and it was pretty simple. To remove the skin, lay the fillet parallel to the edge of the cutting board, make a small cut on the tail side and pull the skin away from the flesh with your guiding hand. Then, make sure to remove all pin bones — those needle-thin bones that can be tricky to spot. To remove the pin bones, first run your fingertips over the fillet to locate the bones. Then, use tweezers to gently remove each bone. Chef David taught us the useful trick of using a small hotel pan filled with water to rinse your tweezers each time you pull a bone out. As I mentioned before, using your senses is very important while fabricating fish. You can see the pin bones, but using your sense of touch is fundamental. (Side note: after the fabricating lesson, we gathered all the fish bones and made fish stock.)
  4. How chefs tackle lobster. As part of the fabrication curriculum I also had to fabricate shellfish. As this point, I thought to myself, how bad can it be? Everything seemed to go okay until I had to fabricate a lobster. I had always heard that the best way to kill a lobster was by boiling it alive. However, in this lesson, I was taught not to fear my knife and to kill the lobster with a chef’s knife. To do so, first insert the tip of the knife into the base of the head, pulling the knife all the way down to the shell and splitting the head in half. Then, continue to do the same procedure with the tail. The cutting part wasn’t too hard, but having to deal with a live, moving lobster while you’re trying to cut through it was frightening.

fish fabrication

Overall, it’s been a rewarding experience to learn the terms, techniques and steps to create the meals I grew up eating. Mastering the art of fabricating meat and fish was a challenge for me, but I’m glad I was able to overcome the challenge and now understand this important culinary technique.

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