By Natalie Zises — Student, Restaurant & Culinary Management ‘18

The food industry is not for the faint-hearted — long days, heavy lifting and endless tasks are pillars of your average hospitality position. Never did I feel that more than when I was working as a line cook at an upscale, all-day restaurant in the West Village. During those days, it wasn’t uncommon for me to leave work at 2:00 or 3:00am, without a trace of stamina to think about what I would feed myself, let alone to take a shower when I got home (though I did, half asleep).

wellness

Photo by Joanie Simon

Without healthy habits in place, my body began to break down. After three years as a line cook, I realized I had taken all I possibly could from the position — and it had taken a lot from me. It was time to move on and to put my body first. So I did. I made it my mission to use food to heal my body. I began by learning everything I could about food therapy, and soon after began a Master’s program in Nutrition and Integrative Health. But that wasn’t enough — I wanted to help others on their journey towards a more vibrant, energized and healthful life. But how?

Natalie Zises

Hospitality is in my blood: My family owned and ran Grossinger’s, a popular Catskill hotel in the sixties (on which Kellerman’s in Dirty Dancing is based!). Though Grossinger’s unfortunately no longer exists, in its heyday, families would flock there each summer and holiday season to enjoy eating, relaxation in our spa, and recreational activities. But a healthy place, it was not. My dad used to joke that the main activity there was eating, eating and more eating. It became my dream to open a modern-day Grossinger’s, only this one would have an emphasis on health and healing. I envisioned a retreat center with incredible, nourishing food, wellness education and impeccable hospitality. The only problem: I knew next-to-nothing about running a business. Enter ICE’s Restaurant & Culinary Management program.

I began looking online for an academic program that teaches the fundamentals of the business side of this industry, and when I came across ICE’s Restaurant & Culinary Management program, I felt it was the perfect fit for my career goals.

The first week of class we fleshed out our concepts and menus. You may think that creating a menu is all about the food, but really it ties back to things like the organization of your space, inventory, staffing and overall concept. What’s your storage space like for dry goods and refrigeration? Do you want to be seasonal, local or cater to a specific dietary preference such as vegan or gluten-free? Where is your location and what are people looking for in that specific area? Examining the demographic and psychographics of the neighborhood is vital and zooming out on the whole picture in order to inform your menu is crucial in the overall success of your business. Because our instructor has opened dozens of clubs, restaurants and bars, he is able to help us with these important perspectives and point out potential issues we may be overlooking. Plus, hearing the incredibly diverse ideas of my fellow classmates helped keep me inspired and creative on my own—another huge benefit that comes with studying in a program alongside other future entrepreneurs.

I’m excited to continue on this journey with ICE.

Ready to embark on your culinary career path? Learn more about ICE’s career programs. 

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By Caitlin Raux

Before even graduating from high school, Francesca Kolowrat (Culinary Arts/ Management ’17) was already a champion horse jumper with dozens of achievements under her belt, including an individual ranking of 15th in the European Championships in 2015 and 2016. One of the top young riders from the Czech Republic, Francesca could have easily continued on the same path and led a very successful career in the equestrian world. Instead, she decided to explore her passion for food and nutrition at ICE. “I didn’t want to look back on my life and think that the world offered so many opportunities and I didn’t take them,” she said, speaking with a level of maturity and decisiveness that makes you forget she’s just 18 years old.

Francesca_1

With a dream of one day opening an Australian-inspired café in her hometown of Prague, she came to ICE to get the necessary culinary skills and business acumen before embarking on a four-year degree at the University of Sydney, where she plans to study Nutrition.

With two weeks remaining in her program, we caught up with Francesca to chat about studying culinary arts in NYC and about taking small steps to achieve big goals.

When did you start with show jumping?

I was about 12 when I started doing it seriously. I proceeded until last summer, just before I moved here.

Did you compete internationally?

There were a lot of international competitions — the national cups. I traveled all around Europe — to Italy, Spain, Hungary, Germany, Austria, Ireland. The European Championship was in Ireland last year. I placed 15th twice in a row — first in Austria, then Ireland.

Francesca_2

Why did you decide to come to culinary school?

I needed a career change. I didn’t want to look back on my life and think that the world offered so many opportunities and I didn’t take them. Even though I got to travel with show jumping, I was on the show grounds from morning until night. I didn’t really have time to explore and when there was some free time, I would sleep because I was exhausted from so much exercise.

I wanted to pursue other passions, and I’m very interested in fitness and nutrition. I really wanted to see how the restaurant and hospitality business works so that one day I can combine it with my passion for nutrition — I was accepted to the University of Sydney so I’m going to study nutrition there. This was my gap year, but I didn’t take the year to just travel: I’ve been educating myself in culinary arts and culinary management. That way, when I get a bachelor’s degree, I’ll be ready if I want to form my own business targeting fitness and nutrition. I’m building up these small steps towards my bigger goals.

There are a ton of culinary schools in Europe. Why did you choose to come all the way to NYC?

Because I’ve always loved New York, but I wanted to expand my experience beyond traveling here on holidays, and really get a feel for what it’s like to live in America. When I Googled “best culinary schools,” ICE was the first one to pop up and I said, “This is it.” I stopped my search. I spoke to Ron from Admissions and he told me I could start November 1. I knew it was the right opportunity and if I didn’t take it, I would be upset. It was hard for me to tell my team I was moving. I had people who were relying on me — I had my groomer, who takes care of my horses, and my trainer, who was with me 24/7, and it was difficult to tell them it was finished. But I wanted to try different things and figure out what I was most passionate about.

I knew it was the right opportunity

How was your experience at ICE?

I love the management program and I really like the culinary arts classes. You get to learn about back-of-house and front-of-house. I’m doing my externship now at Ellary’s Greens on Carmine Street in the West Village. It’s owned by Leith Hill and she’s given lectures in the [culinary] management classes about her business. I think that the externship has been the most beneficial part of the [culinary arts] program because you get to experience how it works in a real restaurant, how to deal with people, prepping, being on the line, catering, deliveries. You get to experience how it would be if you worked in the industry. At Ellary’s, they always ask me if I want to try new things, too; for instance, though I’m a culinary arts extern, I’ve been doing pastry work at the restaurant lately, which I discovered I love during the pastry module [at ICE]. Since I’m so into health and nutrition, I love taking the actual recipes and substituting ingredients that are more beneficial for the body. I like getting creative with it. People love sweets, they’re addicted to sugar and they always will be. With me it’s the same. I want to treat my body, but I want to treat it to good things.

Francesca at ICE’s May Commencement Ceremony

What kind of desserts do you like?

I prefer raw desserts made from things like coconut — coconut milk and coconut oil — cashews, or dates.

Next is Sydney! I’ve heard the food culture there is amazing.

Actually, I’m developing my business plan in my Management class and my café is Australian-inspired. Even though I’ve never been to Australia, I’ve learned from social media and what friends have told me about the cafés and breakfast and brunch menus there, and I’ve been so inspired by them: protein slash vegetable-based slash locally sourced products. Avocado toast came from Australia — come on! Even the plating I’ve seen — they use black plates with bright vegetables and it’s almost like a painting.

I also import my chocolate from Australia! It’s called Loving Earth chocolate. Everything natural, there’s no added sugar. They use coconut nectar as a sweetener. I can eat loads of it — literally, like two boxes.

What would you say is your culinary voice?

I want to show people that healthy things can be tasty. When people hear “healthy,” they think of a salad — to be honest, I don’t even like salads. Anything can be tasty, but you don’t always have to add stuff: you don’t have to add sugar to sauces; you don’t have to add roux to sauces to thicken them — you can just blend vegetables and add those instead. I want to give people ideas for changes they can make — even small things — to feel better.

Ready to explore the possibilities of a career in food? Click here for more information on ICE’s career programs. 

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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.

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

I have been in love with food from an early age. Growing up in a family where both of my parents worked in the restaurant and hospitality industry, food and restaurants have always been a huge part of my life. At seven days old I was already in my first restaurant, sleeping soundly in my mom’s lap while my parents ate. I am lucky to have been born into a family where food has always been prominent. I have so many wonderful food-related memories, from exploring farmers’ markets in Paris to waking up at the crack of dawn to see the tuna auction at the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo.

ICE Student Emma Weinstein

Emma at ICE’s Fall Career Fair

I attended Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY, where I majored in Art History. Still, I always found myself very involved with food. I wrote restaurant reviews for our local campus chapter of Her Campus, went on road trips to visit local cheese farmers and loved exploring the different farmers’ markets and restaurants in our area. It seemed that a career in food was always my calling, even if I didn’t recognize it yet. After graduating, I worked in several contemporary art galleries in Chelsea before deciding to finally face the music and pursue a career in food. I left the gallery where I had served as assistant director for a year and a half and joined my father and brother to help launch a new restaurant venture—Chuck & Blade, a contemporary steakhouse located in Chelsea.

Prior to this decision, I had some experience working in restaurants but it was by no means extensive. I worked as a hostess briefly in high school and did a pastry internship as well, but that was it. Suddenly I was fully immersed in the world of restaurants and having to learn a great deal of information within a relatively short time frame. I never dreamed I would find myself researching different types of commercial dishwashers or deliberating over what size ice cubes our restaurant should serve. Some parts were much more fun than others. I loved meeting with different vendors, sampling products, touring the restaurant show, developing the menu and beverage program and participating in menu tastings. On the other hand, filling out paperwork for all the vendors, setting up payroll and dealing with the department of buildings was not as exciting. It was a wonderful learning experience, and while I do feel I learned a lot on my own in a relatively short period of time, I felt I would greatly benefit from a more formal education; this led me to ICE.

I started my time at ICE as a Culinary Management student, but just recently decided to pursue Culinary Arts as well. I’m not entirely sure yet what I want to do with my culinary diploma. I love writing and reading about food, and I’m a huge fan of Michael Pollan, Ruth Reichl and Frank Bruni. I also really enjoyed developing the concept of my family’s restaurant and working with my mom to design the interiors. I am eager to soak up as much information as possible during my time at ICE and hope these two programs will help me hone in on what aspect of the industry I would most like to pursue.

Want to learn more about ICE’s career programs? Click here for more info.

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By Lauren Jessen—Student, School of Culinary Arts and Culinary Management

Mastering the art of purchasing can make or break your restaurant. What do I mean when I say purchasing? Purchasing is part of restaurant operations and entails buying enough food and beverages to meet the demand of the restaurant’s customers. It requires organization, planning ahead, diligence, creativity and consistency. As a restaurant, buying more food than you need means inventory and money going to waste. However, if you buy too little of an ingredient and it sells out, you’re faced with unhappy customers and a potentially expensive problem to solve.

Roam Halls-003-150dpiIn my Culinary Management program, the topic of purchasing is an entire unit because of its complexity. By now, I could write a book (or two) on the topic, but for now I’ll share the key things that I’ve learned in class to keep in mind when purchasing for your restaurant:

  • If feasible, put someone in charge of purchasing. These people usually have titles such as purchasing manager or purchasing director. Because it takes a lot of effort to properly purchase goods, you want it to be someone’s job to do it correctly.
  • Create a budget for goods. You need to know how much money is going to be spent so you can organize your funds strategically. This also provides useful boundaries for the chef and purchasing director.
  • Audit invoices and payments to make sure you’re being properly charged.
  • Have at least two vendors that you are buying from. You want more than one so you can price check and make sure you’re not being scammed, but also in the event that one vendor runs out you have a backup plan.
  • Your purchasing director should go through everything with the purveyors, which means he or she should randomly weigh items and count the number of items delivered. Some examples of things to look out for include delivering scallops in water so it costs more (order dry weight scallops), fish that isn’t fresh and items that weigh less than what you originally ordered (weigh items to make sure you’re getting the exact ounce you ordered).
  • Consider whether you want fish or meat delivered fabricated or pre-fabricated. If you want the meat already cut to order, this may save you money in the long run because you won’t have to pay for the labor of butchering meat in-house. Run the numbers so you know which option is best.
  • Take inventory of what you have at least once a month. This will inform you of which goods you’re buying too much of and will give you an idea of what needs to be adjusted.
  • Create a system and cycle so you know which days during the week you need to order goods, the process of how the food and beverages will be delivered and what time of day you (or the purchasing director) will receive the goods.

Roam Halls-015-300dpi

Purchasing requires trial and error and continuous adjustment. The good thing is that you can try new ordering strategies every week and improve each day. The world of purchasing is a hands-on and ongoing learning experience.

Ready to learn to manage and build your own food business? Click here to learn more about ICE’s Culinary Management program. 

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