By David Waltuck — Director of Culinary Affairs

Richard Olney’s book “Simple French Food” is one of my favorites. This exploration of “simple” food has a 40-page introduction explaining in detail what the author means by simple — clearly, simplicity can be complicated. The idea of the book — focusing on preparing simple foods very, very well — was made clear to me during a trip to France, years before I opened my restaurant Chanterelle.

plated sea bass

Like many young, aspiring chefs of the time, I was inspired by La Pyramide, the mythic three-Michelin-star restaurant in Vienne, France, and of its formidable chef Fernand Point, who mentored a whole generation of great chefs and is considered the father of nouvelle cuisine. Point had died long before I made my pilgrimage to La Pyramide in the mid 70s. (He died in 1955, the year of my birth. Coincidence?) But the restaurant, still run by his widow, remained a shrine to his legacy. The style and service at La Pyramide would stay with me throughout my career and influence the way I eventually conceived of my own restaurant.

First and foremost, La Pyramide demonstrated the importance of simplicity — with a caveat. Point famously reinvented haute cuisine by focusing on regional dishes, reworking and refining them, and ultimately achieving a seemingly simple perfection: one that was only attainable through much effort. As it turns out, the trick of simplicity is to never let the effort show.

Though considered the height of haute cuisine, La Pyramide was unpretentious in terms of service and style, something I noted in other great restaurants in France. The humility of the restaurant and staff made all of the difference in the experience for the client. This starkly contrasted with many French restaurants in New York in the 70s and 80s, where snobbishness and condescension were a matter of course. Like La Pyramide, my restaurant, Chanterelle, was noted as a place that was welcoming and unpretentious, though quite serious about food and service. This once surprising combination has since become the norm.

Finally, La Pyramide hammered home the value of the kind of expertise that only comes with time. At La Pyramide, everyone from the sommelier to the servers to the chef had been a part of the team for years, so their craft had become second nature. I discovered a profound lesson here: To be really good at anything, you must master technique to the point where you can relax within it. Like an athlete or a dancer, you must become so familiar with the movements of your craft that you’re completely at ease even at moments of great effort. This ease comes with practice and repetition, and in my opinion, relies on simplicity and lack of pretension. When you are confident and comfortable with what you do, there’s less temptation to indulge in showiness or condescension. Your clients will sense that they are in good hands and will want to go with you wherever you take them.

I like to think that the success of Chanterelle was in large part because I embraced the above lessons — humility, expertise through repetition, and the appearance of simplicity. I am sure that some chefs still practice this approach nowadays — though restaurants are going in a million directions, from perfected comfort food to elaborate, modern creations, I’m still a firm believer in stripping away. If something is on a plate, you should be able to give me a reason why. Though substantial efforts may go into each component of a dish, the result should feel simple. Diners can then enjoy the food on its own terms, and though they are on some level aware of the work that went into preparing it, they are not ostentatiously reminded of it.

Ready to get started on your culinary education? Click here to learn about ICE’s Culinary Arts program.

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By Rick Smilow, President of ICE

The largest appetite for food in America is found at our landfill sites. That is where much of the estimated 70 billion pounds of food waste in our nation goes each year. Internationally, it’s estimated that one-third of food produced worldwide, worth around US $1 trillion, gets lost or wasted in food production and consumption systems. The United Nations Environment Programme “waste facts” include:

  • In the United States, 30-40% of the food supply is wasted, equating to more than 20 pounds of food per person per month.
  • Nationally, organic waste is the second highest component of landfills and the largest source of methane emissions (a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming).

Meanwhile, up to 14% of Americans have food insecurity and globally, millions of people are at best, malnourished and at worst, starving. With all of the issues that the world faces today, food waste may seem like a benign problem but it’s linked to much larger global problems and presents a great opportunity to help address hunger and economic insecurity both today and in the future.

Zero Food Waste

Food enters the waste stream at many links along the chain of food production and consumption. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that 40-50% of food waste comes from consumers and 50-60% from businesses. One of the major causal factors in America is that quality standards at the retail level are largely based on appearance. Growers, farmers, supermarkets and retailers throw out produce with minor blemishes believing that those products won’t sell. Fortunately, there are companies of all sizes addressing this issue. Here are a few to take note of.

Imperfect is a California-based company that sources from growers across the state and delivers boxes of imperfect and discounted produce, via a subscription service, directly to customers’ doors for $12-$18 per box. The startup’s goal is to repurpose produce that retailers and distributors reject while helping to generate extra revenue for farmers and making local produce more affordable.

Another good example of a company dedicated to effective waste management of produce is Snact, in Kent, England. Snact buys unwanted produce from British farmers that is either “too big, too ugly or simply too abundant.” They blend this unwanted fruit into a smoothie of sorts, then dry the mix into snackable “fruit jerky.”

Snact

Snact Team (photo credit: Snact)

One of ICE’s major suppliers, Baldor Foods, is gaining national attention for its leadership in tackling food waste. They are leading the charge on finding innovative uses for typically discarded food scraps and “reshaping perceptions of what is truly worthy of going in our landfills.” Their food scraps, such as vegetable and fruit trimmings, have been rebranded as “SparCs” and are now being sold to a wide range of customers including restaurants (for their stocks), juice companies and animal feed producers.

Some of the world’s largest companies are participating in food waste initiatives. Walmart found it expedient to dump an entire carton of eggs if one was cracked, rather than replacing the damaged egg with one of equal freshness. Now the company is testing a program that uses a laser system to etch individual eggs with product information, enabling workers to easily substitute a new egg with the same specs. If adopted nationally, Walmart projects that the system could save roughly five billion eggs a year from premature scramble.

Chefs across the country are putting into practice the “no food waste” ethos. Dan Barber, chef-owner of the acclaimed restaurant Blue Hill at Stone Barns and founder of the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, NY, made waves when he launched wastED: an organization that hosts pop-up events devoted to the theme of food waste and re-use. Asked about his upcoming wastED pop-up, Barber explained, “Let’s take the trend for juicing. What happens to all the pulp that’s leftover in the juice-making process? It gets thrown away. So we’ve taken it and repurposed it into a vegetable burger — a juice pulp cheeseburger in fact.” (“New York’s Biggest Food Waste Chef Is Bringing Pulp Burgers to London,” Munchies, Feb. 24, 2017.) Meanwhile, on the west coast, chefs Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson are developing a fast-food chain called Loco’l. Unlike the typical fast-food joint, Loco’l will serve more wholesome foods while cutting costs by minimizing food waste — integrating what would otherwise be scraps (such as meat trimmings and veggie ends) into the recipes for regular menu items.

zero waste food

For its part, ICE is committed to supporting the movement to eliminate food waste. In fact, we’ve partnered with The New School to host the innovative Zero Waste Food conference on April 28-29, bringing together visionary chefs like Massimo Bottura and Missy Robbins to explore ways to minimize food waste. Sustainability is one of our most significant long-term challenges. Food professionals have the opportunity to make an impact by creating more sustainable food networks.

Click here for more information on the Zero Waste Food conference — and buy your tickets today!

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This is the third part of a three-part Valentine’s Day menu. Get the first course here and the second course here!

By Robert Ramsey — Director of Advanced Culinary Center

Round out your vegetarian Valentine’s Day with this savory main course. The presentation is beautiful and it’s actually a lot simpler than it looks to create. Plus, the rich buttery crust and truffle-infused mushroom duxelles scream decadence and luxury. If any of the mushrooms are unavailable, you can substitute any type of fresh mushrooms that are available.

mushroom tart

Truffle Mushroom Tart
Servings: Makes about two servings

For duxelles (filling)

Ingredients:

8 ounces button mushrooms
4 ounces shiitake mushrooms
4 ounces oyster mushrooms
1 large portobello cap
1/2 yellow onion
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary
4 ounces white wine
1 ounce truffle oil
2 ounces + 1 ounce butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

  • Clean mushrooms and remove stems. Process mushrooms in food processor, pulsing until mushrooms are finely minced, but not puréed into a paste. Reserve.
  • Finely mince the onion, rosemary leaves and thyme leaves. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and sauté until they cook down to about half the original volume. They should have a very dark color. Add the onion, thyme and rosemary and continue to sauté until onions are soft, about five minutes.
  • Next, add the white wine and continue to cook over medium heat. Allow the wine to reduce and absorb into the mushrooms, about five more minutes.
  • Remove the mixture from the heat, stir in the butter and truffle oil, and season with salt and pepper. Chill and reserve.

mushroom tart crust

mushroom tart filling

mushroom tart egg wash

For the crust

Ingredients:

2 sheets puff pastry
1 egg
Small amount of flour for dusting work surface.

Preparation:

  • Preheat oven to 425° F.
  • Remove puff pastry from the freezer and allow it to warm up slightly at room temperature on a lightly floured work surface. It should remain firm, but slightly pliable, about five minutes.
  • Using the bottom of an 8-inch tart pan, or just an 8-inch plate as a guide, cut two matching circles from the puff pastry. Place one circle on a baking sheet and the other back in the freezer.
  • Next, pile the duxelles filling into a mound in the center of the puff pastry, leaving a one-inch ring around the edges. Transfer back to the freezer for five to ten minutes to re-firm the puff pastry.
  • While the crust is in the freezer, make your egg wash by beating together one whole egg with one ounce of cold water.
  • Remove both the top and bottom crust from the freezer and return to your work station. Before proceeding with the tart assembly, cut a small hole directly in the center of the top crust (the one with no mushrooms on it), about the size of a pencil. Brush the bottom crust (the one with the duxelles filling on it) with the egg wash, covering just the portion of crust not covered by duxelles. Place the now pliable top crust on and press the two sheets of puff pastry together. Be sure to seal the seams tightly — you can really pinch the edges together.
  • At this point you’re ready to decorate the crust. First, using the backside of a paring knife blade, pull the edge of the dough inward at one-inch intervals to make scalloped edges (see photo). Once you have scalloped all edges of the tart, cut curved lines into the tart top with the tip of the paring knife. The lines should connect from the center vent hole to each of the scallops on the edge, making a graceful curve as they go (see photo). The cuts should not go more than halfway through the puff pastry dough.

mushroom tart

mushroom tart

mushroom tart

To finish

  • Brush the entire tart carefully with the remaining egg wash. Make sure it is evenly coated and that there is not excessive egg wash pooling anywhere on the tart or it will burn.
  • Place the tart into preheated oven. The tart will need to bake for about 20 minutes. It should be rotated about halfway through the cooking to ensure even browning.
  • Once the tart is a dark, golden brown, puffed up and shiny, it is ready. Remove from the oven and allow it to sit for at least 30 minutes before cutting.
  • This dish is beautiful served with a simple green salad, dressed with just a little oil and vinegar.

mushroom_8

Want to study the culinary arts with Chef Robert? Click here for more information on ICE’s career programs. 

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What drives you? How do you reach people? When you make your mark on the world, what will it look like? What’s your culinary voice? With the 2017 #CulinaryVoice Scholarship Challenge in full swing, we turned to the judges, ICE’s industry-leading chefs and instructors, and posed them that same question. Here’s a look at their answers.

Culinary Voice ICE Instructors

(Top to bottom, left to right)

Tom Kombiz-Voss, Dean of Hospitality Management: “Inspiring and training each student to reach his or her highest potential in the hospitality industry.”

James Briscione, Director of Culinary Development: “Creative … and never satisfied.”

Sabrina Sexton, Culinary Arts Program Director: “Inspiring future chefs to better their community.”

Kate Edwards, Restaurant & Culinary Management instructor: “Hello! … And every little thing that matters.”

Michael Laiskonis, Creative Director: “Innovation and inspiration.”

David Waltuck, Director of Culinary Affairs: “Sharing 4+ decades of knowledge and experience.”

Anthony Caporale, Director of Beverage Studies: “The art of the drink.”

Steve Zagor, Dean of Culinary Management: “Mentoring, coaching and educating the next generation of the industry.”

Entries and voting are open! Click here to enter or vote for your favorite video. 

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This is the second part of a three-part Valentine’s Day menu. Get the first dish here

By Robert Ramsey — Director of Advanced Culinary Center

Figs and honey have long been considered aphrodisiacs by cultures the world over, so we’ll use both in this sweet and savory combination. Figs were supposedly the favorite fruit of Cleopatra and honey was prescribed by Hippocrates to boost libido. In short, this is the perfect Valentine’s Day appetizer, regardless of whether you stick to a vegetarian diet or not.

Fig Toasts with Ricotta

Fig and Ricotta Toast
Servings: Makes about two servings

Ingredients:

1 pint fresh figs
1 small shallot
2 ounces wildflower honey
3 ounces extra virgin olive oil
1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large handful arugula
1 tablespoon champagne vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
Salt to taste
4 slices of crusty, country style bread

Fig Toast with Ricotta

Preparation:

  • Start by slicing your figs in half. Then mince the shallot. Reserve in a mixing bowl together.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together ricotta, half the olive oil, the black pepper and a pinch of salt. Whisk this mixture vigorously until smooth. Reserve.
  • Next, separately whisk together the honey, remaining olive oil, vinegar, paprika and another small pinch of salt to form the dressing.
  • Toast the sliced bread until lightly crisp.
  • Add the arugula to the bowl with the figs and shallots, and gently mix with the dressing. Be careful not to overdress, you may not need it all.
  • To assemble, spread a quarter of the ricotta mixture on each slice of toast. Pile the fig mixture on top. Drizzle with a little extra honey dressing if desired.

Ready to get into the kitchen with Chef Robert? Click here for more information on ICE’s culinary arts program. 

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