Sometimes, a moment of inspiration can change the course of your career. Whether it’s an ah-ha! moment or a taste of something outstanding, it sets you on a new path of discovery. For Pastry Arts student Calvin Luk, his moment came during a visit to the York Cocoa House Chocolate Emporium in the U.K. The Hong Kong native had relocated to York to study archaeology, but one sip of the famed York Cocoa House hot chocolate and he knew his future lay in the art of chocolate making.

Soon after his visit, Calvin began working at the acclaimed York Cocoa House. When he realized he was ready to take his education to the next level, he chose the Pastry & Baking Arts program at ICE. Asked why he chose ICE, Calvin explained that he was, unsurprisingly, drawn to ICE’s bean-to-bar Chocolate Lab, led by James Beard Award-winning pasty chef Michael Laiskonis. Once he arrived, Calvin knew he had made the right choice: “I had been studying chocolate-making for some time,” he says. “But it wasn’t until I met Chef Michael Laiskonis that I realized there’s so much more to learn.” What’s more, as a student at ICE, Calvin has had the opportunity to learn alongside not only Chef Michael — both in his career program courses and during elective classes in the Chocolate Lab — but also from other inspiring ICE chef instructors as well as prominent chefs through volunteering opportunities, like the annual Top Ten Pastry Awards, hosted by ICE each year.

At ICE, we make it our mission to help you take your inspiration to the next level — to pursue your passion and make a lifelong career of it. For Calvin, he’s been able to grasp the fundamentals of chocolate making and to explore his unique culinary voice. And it all began with a sip of delicious hot chocolate.

Ready to discover your own culinary voice? Learn more about ICE’s career Pastry & Baking Arts program.

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By Caitlin Raux

Why would one of the successors to an empire of bread and pastries in Spain travel all the way to New York City to study pastry arts? That’s the question that many have posed to Pablo Moreno (Pastry Arts ’17), grandson of the founders of Mallorca Pastelería, a household name for bread and pastries in Madrid, and pastry student at ICE. We sat down with Pablo to get the answer to this question, and to chat about topics like the most useful thing he’s learned at ICE, his advice for prospective culinary students and whether he’s a fan of New York’s holy pastry — the bagel.

Pastry Student Pablo Moreno

 When did you realize that you wanted to study pastry arts?

I always thought that I wanted to go into the family business, but more on the human resources side, like my father. After studying business, I realized that in the pastry business, you need to know more than just the business side. You have to understand the product, including how to change the product. Without that, I would never be able to get a top position in the business.

With all of the culinary schools in Spain and Europe, why did you choose to come to New York to ICE?

That’s the question that everyone is asking me. All of my family has studied in Switzerland and France. That school of cooking and pastry didn’t sound so attractive to me because it’s what I’ve seen all my life. All French schools are more or less the same. Here, you can study French basics, but with different ideas — with the American aesthetic. I also wanted to get to know New York because of the economy. There’s so much business here. Plus, all of the trends begin in New York. When I saw the story of Dominique Ansel, for example, I was inspired to come to New York.

Speaking of New York pastries, have you tried a bagel?

Yes, I have (laughs). I’m not a fan of bagels. For me, the bad thing about bagels is that they’re so dense. I don’t know why but I have the idea that dense pastries are bad quality — because the fermentation wasn’t good.

Which pastry and baking traditions have you learned at ICE?

I’ve learned about American pastries — bagels, donuts, pretzels. I’m also learning the French school with an American taste. For example, things in the U.S. are very light-colored. When I bake something, I want it very dark.

Have you done lessons with Chef Sim Cass, the “Prince of Darkness,” yet?

I’m taking classes with him now and I really love it. For me, it’s been the best thing since I’ve been at ICE.

What is the most useful thing you’ve learned during your time at ICE?

One thing is the knowledge of American tastes. I don’t quite have it yet, but I think after my externship I’ll understand how to run a business here. In the future, if I could have one or more bakeries here in New York, I’d love that.

Another thing is learning about how to make products from start to finish. Working for my family business, I’ve seen the products developed but I’ve never seen the basics. I needed to understand the simple aspects of making bread — water, salt, flour and yeast. Afterwards I’ll be able to understand more complicated products.

I think that’s how you get to the level of someone like Sim — who touches a piece of dough and knows how it was made.

My uncle is exactly the same. My uncle is the judge for the competition of the best croissants in Spain. He can look at a table of croissants and see which is the best. I need to get to that level.

What has been your favorite lesson so far?

I don’t like sugar at all, but I love the lessons about sugar — understanding how to cook sugar and the different colors and temperatures. The lessons made me understand something that I would never understand otherwise because I don’t like sweets. But my favorite classes have been the ones with Sim, especially when we made Italian breads. I also enjoyed the trip to Dominique Ansel.

If you could travel anywhere in the world to sample pastries, where would you go and why?

Two countries. First, I’d go to France. I’ve been in France but without the knowledge of how to appreciate the pastries. I really prefer Italian baking though — the olive oil culture is the best flavor in the world. I love how they make breads like ciabatta and focaccia. They’re hollow inside but have a strong flavor. I wouldn’t go to the typical places like Rome or Florence. I would go to Sicily and see how they make bread there. One pastry I love is panettone.

What advice would you give someone considering going to culinary school?

Some people look for the fanciest school and, to me, that approach is wrong. People want to make the best-plated dessert and I think you’re not going to learn that in school. The things you should learn in school are the basic skills — knife skills, fermentation, sugar cooking — basic things that you will build on when you get a job. The good thing about ICE is that they start with the basics. You need to learn the fundamentals because afterwards that’s what defines you from your colleagues who haven’t gone to culinary school. They may be much faster than you, but they don’t have the knowledge of why something should be made a certain way. You can be in control of changing a recipe, while the other person only knows how to make it.

Ready to launch your career in pastry arts? Click here for more information on ICE’s career programs.

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By Lauren Katz—Student, School of Pastry & Baking Arts

One of the first things people ask when I tell them I’ve started the Pastry & Baking Arts program at ICE is, “So, are you still working?” I was surprised the first time I was asked this question, because, to me, the answer was so obvious. I currently work as the web editor at Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine, and on Mondays and Tuesdays I leave about an hour early to rush down to Battery Park for class.

At first I was terrified to juggle work and school—scared that the trains would be delayed, that I wouldn’t have time to eat dinner and, most of all, that I would be exhausted and unable to pay attention after an eight-hour day at the office. But what I quickly discovered is that my passion for baking overrides all of the above.

My most vivid memories of growing up are those of helping my mom cook and bake. From sitting on the counter to perching on my tippy toes, to eventually standing right by her side, my appreciation for culinary education starts with her. My grandma was also a phenomenal cook and baker, and it has become very apparent how much of her talent has been passed down through two generations. Yet it wasn’t until I was old enough to prepare entire meals for my family and friends that I fell in love with cooking. It was so gratifying to see something go from a collection of ingredients to a beautifully composed dish, all due to my diligence and hard work.

When thoughts of working in the real world began to populate my brain, I started focusing on perfecting my two passions: cooking and writing. It only took about a semester in college to realize my dream job: editor-in-chief of a major food magazine. At 24, I’m so lucky to already work at a food magazine, but I knew that to further my career, the hands-on part of my professional education still needed to be fulfilled. So after more than a decade of watching the Food Network, attending recreational cooking classes and hosting dozens of dinner parties, I knew that it was time to pursue my passion for pastry and baking.Lauren Katz Food Media Culinary School

It took watching just one episode of the Netflix series Chef’s Table for me to pull the trigger and submit my application for Pastry & Baking Arts at ICE. Seeing the drive and devotion of such chefs as Massimo Bottura and Dan Barber was one of the most inspirational things I’ve ever witnessed. I could relate on so many levels, and I realized that, at one point, these chefs had the same dreams that I do now.

Lauren Katz Everyday with Rachel Ray Culinary School

Now that I’ve enrolled in culinary school, those dreams are closer to being realized than ever before. Being away from my apartment for more than 13 hours a day, eating dinner on the subway and getting significantly less sleep is far from an ideal lifestyle, but the gratification I have received in just four weeks has been worth it. What’s more, my fellow evening class students share my drive to succeed. They too are juggling unusual schedules, and their commitment is proof that they genuinely care about making it in this industry, just like me. They make excellent taste testers, too!

In just the first few weeks of class, I’ve had so many different experiences, and one of the best pieces of advice I’ve received was from Alice’s Teacup owner Michael Eisenberg. He spoke to our class about the trials, tribulations, risks and rewards of owning a restaurant and to use this time to fail as much as we can. Those words alone have made me infinitely more excited to learn, experiment, fail and—eventually—succeed. So bring on the soufflés, flambés, pâte à choux, fondant, ganache and sugar sculpting. I’ll be waiting at ICE with open arms.

To learn more about ICE’s Pastry & Baking program, click here.

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For 27 years, the U.S. Pastry Competition, hosted by Paris Gourmet, has provided opportunities for experienced professionals and up-and-coming pastry chefs to display the best of their talents. As the most prestigious pastry competition in the country, the event has long been an incredible opportunity for networking and career advancement.

This year, a team of three ICE pastry students—Pooja Jhunjhunwala, Marcela Torres and Anne Roche—entered the competition’s Junior Pastry Challenge. Mentored by ICE Chefs Kathryn Gordon and Michael Laiskonis, the students were charged with submitting a plated dessert, petits fours and a showpiece inspired by the theme “Magic and Illusions.”

Paris_Gourmet_Student_Winners_3.6.16-1

 

For many students, competition may not have crossed their mind as a way to advance their careers. “We went from zero to 60 in one day,” says Marcela. “For example, when we started training for the competition, we hadn’t yet studied chocolate in class—and we built a full chocolate showpiece!”

Pooja added that working with ICE Creative Director Michael Laiskonis was a highlight of the process: “Spending multiple days training with [James Beard Award winning] Chef Michael Laiskonis on plated desserts and petits fours was like…A Beautiful Mind, but for pastry!” As an international student, the competition also represented a unique opportunity for Pooja to reach a career milestone in the United States.

“Doing the competition definitely reinforced the fact that I made the right decision by coming to pastry school. If we won second place—that means we’re really doing something right,” adds Marcela.

To learn more about ICE’s award-winning pastry program, click here.

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By Lauren Katz—Student, School of Pastry & Baking Arts

Throughout my life, I’ve learned to appreciate high quality ingredients—both in the food I’m cooking and dishes prepared by others. One of my biggest revelations on the road to pastry school was the first time I tasted the difference between a cake made from a boxed mix and one made from scratch. Ultimately, I feel infinitely happier consuming something when I know exactly what went into it to make it taste so good. However, it wasn’t until pastry school that I truly understood the impact the best ingredients make in the final product.

ICE - Bread Program - Sim Cass - Pastry School - Baking School - Baking Student

In our first unit, I was exposed to two ingredients that will change the way I bake for good: Trablit coffee extract and Italian pistachio paste. Trablit is a concentrated extract that tastes like the best cappuccino you’ve ever had. Once I discovered its potential, I tried featuring it in every dessert possible, from ice cream and crème brûlée to buttercream and doughnut glaze. It imparts a warm, rich and authentic coffee flavor that cannot be achieved with espresso powder or other coffee flavorings.

Pistachio paste from Italy has a similar effect. Its concentrated, earthy pistachio flavor is what takes desserts from being somewhat nutty to intensely flavorful. It often contains a touch of sugar or almond meal, but the majority of the product is simply ground pistachios. The creamy olive green color is also far more beautiful than the fluorescent green of lesser quality pistachio paste.

pistachios in shell

Beyond these flavoring agents, I’ve gained an appreciation for quality in the day-to-day ingredients we take for granted. In our bread unit, I have noticed there is a distinct difference between the flavor of breads made with white flour and breads made with wheat. Of course, I already knew that whole wheat bread is healthier, but it wasn’t really until I baked bread myself that I truly realized how ingredient selection impacts the flavor, texture and nutritional aspects of artisanal products.

Another example? Whether we’re whipping up a batch of brioche or just looking for the perfect complement to our freshly baked breads, ICE students have the benefit of working with President butter, made from high-quality cream in Normandy, France. It’s rich, creamy and perfectly salty, and enhances the flavor of bread, rather than taking away from it.

Brioche Before Baking President Butter

So will I refuse to eat anything made with products of lesser quality now? Of course not. But if I’m the cook responsible for a dish, I know I can give myself an edge on the competition by opting for these premium ingredients. Moreover, as a student, I feel very lucky to have access to these incredible tools during such a pivotal time in my culinary education.

Experience the finest ingredients when you enroll in ICE’s professional Pastry & Baking Arts program.

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