At ICE, we make it our mission to help students find their culinary voice — that creative drive within each of us that determines how we express ourselves through food. Whether it’s a career training program, a recreational course in pie crusts or a special event featuring handmade pasta, we’ll give you the tools to hone your culinary creativity. Join us as we ask some of today’s leading food industry pros to share their culinary voice.

If you’re trying to figure out where the cool kids in New York are eating or just looking for delicious, DIY home-cooking inspiration, look no further than the Instagram feed of Eden Grinshpan (Culinary Management ’08), aka @edeneats. With a voracious appetite and a contagious sense of humor, the Chopped Canada judge and ICE graduate has a unique culinary voice, inspired in large part by her experience delving into food cultures around the globe.

“I’ve spent a lot of time backpacking through India, southeast Asia, living in Israel,” says Eden. “Even by living in New York City, there are so many cultures and different restaurants I go to all the time, which really inspire the dishes and the food I make at home.”

Watch as Eden Grinshpan shares her culinary voice.

Find your culinary voice with ICE — learn more about our career training programs.

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By Steve Zagor, Dean of Restaurant & Culinary Management

These days, we’re seeing more news on the abolition of tips. You might wonder: what’s the consensus on tipping? I have a little tip for you. We won’t be ending tipping in the U.S. anytime soon. We have a better chance of seeing Mickey Mouse star in a new movie. Here’s why.

Recently, the no tip experiment – yes, it’s still in the test tube phase – was spotlighted in a “60 Minutes” interview with Danny Meyer, whose Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG) claims fame to a formidable roster of top full-service restaurants and the fast casual Shake Shack. Meyer is also the Pied Piper of the no-tipping movement, and as such he eloquently spreads the gospel of no tipping and the equalization of the wages between cooks and wait staff. Meyer has commented that it’s an important human value-based decision, but that the road will be long before it becomes commonplace.

bustling restaurant

Photo by Kevin Curtis

What Meyer failed to mention, which was recently revealed in a Grub Street article, is that the no-tipping policy has jolted Meyer’s company with major staff turnover from hourlies to senior managers, drops in sales and lower morale — a secret that everyone in the industry in NYC has known for some time. USHG has even stopped implementing the no-tipping policy in further restaurants until they figure out its effects.

Don’t forget: plenty of others in the business are not in favor of changing the tipping status quo. Mom and pop café owners in Anytown, USA couldn’t care less about no tips. They prefer the current method. Some notable owners who ended tips have gone back to tipping — the public just couldn’t be convinced that eliminating tips and nudging up menu prices costs the customer about the same. To the customer, it looks bad when your competitor down the street hasn’t changed — suddenly the lower prices, even with tipping, appear to be a bargain. What’s more, the business owner faces potential staff losses in the form of those front-of-the-house stars who earn less and leave.

At the same time, as though choreographed with the “60 Minutes” interview, a lawsuit was filed accusing many notable restaurateurs, including Danny Meyer, David Chang and others, of colluding vis-à-vis the no-tip movement to gouge the public with obscene price increases. But that doesn’t seem to have a basis in reality. One legal expert I spoke to said it’s never been illegal to raise prices for any reason. We’ve paid more to eat because of the Malaysian locusts, the sunspots, the alleged Martian landing and El Niño. A criminal conspiracy among disparate restaurant businesses is not likely. Still, whether they should do away with tipping begs another question.

Tipping isn’t inherently a good or bad thing. A separate issue is whether, as practiced, it’s fair to all employees or if it helps to perpetuate an inequitable caste system among the staff. Or is it just simply unwieldy to use and account for? The bottom line is that in poll after poll, only a small percentage of the general dining public is in favor of abolishing this long-standing behavior. Many find the perceived higher prices that result from non-tipping and the loss of control of server compensation to be displeasing. And, right now in particular, when month after month table-dining restaurants are seeing fewer customers and casual chains are closing hundreds of outlets, what we don’t need is a new reason to upset the public and make them stay away.

Our industry is going through a major reshaping. Not only are costs increasing and competition is outrageous in all styles of dining, but the leading opposition force may also be our big comfy couch at home. At night we cocoon, wrapping up in our sweats and hoodies, and order a meal kit, an Uber food delivery, a virtual restaurant takeout or soon maybe a drone-delivered pizza soaring through the window of the car or house. Even at lunch we are eating out less at table-service restaurants — takes too long and costs too much. It’s not the millennial style. Give them a locally sourced fast casual hummus sandwich and all will be fine.

So what does it all mean? Is no tips a niche idea that will never gain traction? We all know that long-standing behaviors are not easy to change — stayed on a diet lately or kept a New Year’s resolution? Education helps some, but if you believe the behavioral scientists and gastrophysicists, we humans are much more emotionally driven than intellectually — especially when it comes to the whole experience of eating, which is as emotionally charged as it gets.

One scientific study said that the habit of eating is as addictive as what we actually eat, if not more. Might it be the same with tipping? Is the habit more addicting? For boomers, it sure is, and for Generation Z, it’s quite likely. There’s a chance that millennials and beyond who prefer electronics and less social interaction are more easily changed, but it will be a while before they dominate the dining landscape.

Maybe Danny will be right — the parade will ultimately follow him. However, I’m not betting on it — not just yet. I’ll still keep my tip calculator and that nice feeling I get when I leave a larger-than-usual tip as a reward for a job well done and an experience enjoyed. I like that perceived control.

Interested in learning to run your own food business? Click here to learn more about ICE’s Restaurant & Culinary Management program. 

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By Steve Zagor — Dean, School of Restaurant & Culinary Management

I was recently invited to dinner at a long-standing restaurant on the Long Island waterfront. It was 7:30 p.m. on a Saturday and the restaurant was half empty. What’s more, the service was slow. I was hungry. Eight of us were seated at a round table not far from the restrooms. An occasional whiff of pine-scented cleaning fluid swirled by our seats. My new table acquaintances droned on with their unabridged life stories. Enter my chicken Parmesan — at last there was some relief, or so I thought. It was massive: an inch-thick alien creature that totally enveloped the extra large platter. I thought animals like this were extinct eons ago. Without my touching, tomato sauce oozed over the edges of the plate in a lava-like flow and onto the white tablecloth, like blood from a wound staining a hospital sheet. Wedged on top of the beast loomed a towering pile of cheese-soaked ziti, perched like a yellow-capped mountain range on the plains. There were pounds of food on the plate. Only Joey Chestnut, the Nathan’s Hot Dog champ, might have had the fortitude to finish this dish. The whole experience — the pine scent, the huge portion, the sloppy presentation, the long wait, the boring guests — equaled a big turnoff. I lost my appetite. While the restaurant can’t control my dinner companions, they can do something about the rest.

This is not just for restaurants. In the food product world our desire to eat is similarly affected — it’s the packaging; the title titillation or name of the product; the room lighting and location on the shelf; the color of the label; the font; the logo. It’s the price; the ambient room noise or music; the noise the package makes; the sound the food makes in your mouth; the scent of the room where the food is sold; and much more. In our minds, we “eat” the package — it’s a direct link to the product inside. Our minds control our mouths.

And don’t forget our own individual preferences. Each customer has a lifetime collection of stimuli and experiences that affect our judgements and make us unique. Spicy to me may be mild to you. Exciting to me maybe routine for others.

Nowadays, competition in the food industry is scary. Hundreds of restaurant seats go unfilled and thousands of artisanal food products go unsold. If food producers only looked at the full picture, they would fare better. Study after study tells us that taste and food appreciation is only partially from the tongue — the rest comes from various stimuli affecting our minds. It’s called the science of gastrophysics, and it’s important for your customer’s taste buds and for your bottom line.

Though this is not new science, it’s often overlooked. We hear of menu psychology and scent stimulation, but we focus on what we know —the food — without a full appreciation of the vast array of other things that equally affect success. Each time we serve or sell food, we create an emotional bond with the purchaser. The better we are at controlling the brain brattle — the many incitements that rattle our brains causing us to judge, appreciate and react — the more likely we are to succeed.

Walt Disney was known for over-managing the customer experience. In his opinion, no detail was too small. Maybe we should consider his perspective more seriously when our product doesn’t fly off the shelves or our seats go unfilled.

None of our group from that Saturday night will return to that restaurant on the waterfront. Despite the great chef and the picturesque location, the experience didn’t click. Regardless of how tasty my massive chicken Parmesan was, the other stimuli turned me off completely. Just another case of mind over mouth.

Interested in learning to run your own food business? Click here to learn more about ICE’s Restaurant & Culinary Management program. 

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By Steve Zagor — Dean, School of Restaurant and Culinary Management

Why should I get a culinary or hospitality education? Can’t I just get a job and learn the business while I work?

What a great question and one that should be asked. I hear this almost weekly. As a dean and instructor at ICE, I often meet dreamers who are navigating the very intense process of looking down a long, unpaved and rocky road to the future, evaluating what can only be termed a “seismic” career change. Some may have MBAs or JDs with significant experience and incomes in other fields. A few may have families with kids at home. Others might be reentering the business world after a hiatus. And there are also those who are entering the work world for the very first time. Though they come from different places, they have similar a goal: a career in culinary or hotels.

Rommel Gopez

So let’s examine the above question and see if there is an easy answer.

News media and blogs continually publish stories about the shortage of talented people in our industries. Restaurants and hotels have an unquenchable thirst for talent in both front-of-house and back-of-house. It seems like a no-brainer: find a conveniently located restaurant or hotel, get a job and then begin the learning process under the supervision of a current business operator.

This may be doable. You may encounter a few slammed doors before one opens to accept you — after all, you have little or no experience. But eventually, someone will probably hire you. Now what? You will be in an entry level job focused on hourly or daily tasks at hand. Sure, you will be learning, but your knowledge horizon will be narrow and opportunities for bigger perspective far off.

The larger, more important question should be where are you being taught and who is teaching you. More likely than not, you’ll be learning in a local operation from someone who has come up in the business one step at a time and just knows his/her way of doing it. In some cases, there may be a few company procedures to help in daily operations, but the reality is: you will learn someone’s current knowledge, not necessarily the best or only way, but someone’s way. Not to mention, your hoped-for mentor has little or no time to train, viewing you as somewhat of a burden.

Why care? Further, should you care if your place of employment is doing great? In short: YES. Definitely, you should care a lot. Most operators of individual restaurants, local hotels and small business groups do not know how to operate with maximum efficiency. They don’t know all of the small things that can make a giant difference between marginal and profitable — not to mention, they aren’t necessarily aware of the newest technology and key industry issues. Many managers in small hotels and food businesses have a singular approach. In fact, often these people don’t know what they don’t know.

Learning the right way as well as alternate ways to operate is vitally important to succeed in businesses that at best are competitive and at worst, complicated, multifaceted, but seemingly easy.

Here’s another secret. Learning how to cook and how a kitchen works is a valuable asset, but knowing how to run the full business with all its operational controls, labor issues, purchasing systems, financial aspects, new technologies, marketing and social media opportunities, etc. will be a major advantage when compared to your competitor who began as a restaurant prep cook or hotel desk clerk and worked upward for years in an environment with limited exposure. In the end, to be a success, whether as a business owner or a senior manager/chef for someone else, making a profit will be the key. Several well-known guest chefs who recently visited ICE told our classes that they wished they knew more of the business side when they started out.

So, are culinary and hospitality programs the answer? In many cases, the answer is yes. It’s an opportunity to learn the best approaches from experienced pros whose only job is to teach. Plus, a school provides a network of contacts and expertise you can call on long after you leave. It’s like having a personal group of mentors who will be there to give advice and shadow you as long as needed.

Is school always the answer? Not for everyone. It’s not inexpensive. Personal financial situations may make it challenging as an option. And, there is the question, “Why should I spend thousands on an education when I will be earning a small salary after graduation?” The answer is: if you view the education as your entry for a job, that’s not why you enroll. You go to school for a career not just a job. The first job isn’t the end game. It’s a valuable step on the ladder.

Now, you might be thinking: he’s an educator. Of course he thinks school is a great route. Yes, that’s true, but I’m also a former owner/operator of multiple food businesses and have consulted and mentored many others. I’ve learned through experience how many opportunities are squandered by surprisingly well-known businesses. In many of these situations, just a bit more knowledge could make things better.

Whether you choose formal education, practical experience or a combination of both, there is no assurance you will succeed. There are many other factors that influence success, and not everyone’s goals are the same. Hopefully with your learned ability and knowledge, the first job will be a quick step. What is learned in formal education should make that rocky road smoother and your speed faster to get to where you want to go.

Interested in learning more about ICE’s Restaurant & Culinary Management program? Click here for more information.

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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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