By Carly DeFilippo

Wall Street consultant. Macaron master. International pastry competitor. Best-selling author.

Like many culinary professionals, ICE Chef Instructor Kathryn Gordon never intended to work in food. Yet today, this former management consultant is one of ICE’s most celebrated pastry instructors, one of the country’s foremost experts on the art of French macarons, and was recently named one of Dessert Professional Magazine’s 2017 Top Ten Pastry Chefs in America and inducted into their prestigious Hall of Fame.

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ICE Chef-Instructor Kathryn Gordon

Growing up, Kathryn didn’t have a “home base.”  Her father’s work in the oil business meant that the family was constantly on the move, offering her exposure to various regional cuisines, such as the Creole recipes of New Orleans.  She even spent part of her childhood in Australia and attended high school in London, where she sampled a wide range of ethnic foods.

Before she realized her culinary ambitions, Kathryn completed her undergraduate studies at Vassar College, and later, obtained her MBA at New York University’s Stern School of Business. Her work as a consultant in the high-stakes world of Wall Street trading left her more than prepared for a new career in the fast-paced world of restaurant kitchens. So, after earning an honors certification from L’Academie de Cuisine in Washington DC, it’s no surprise that Kathryn excelled in the kitchens of New York’s “big three” restaurants — The Rainbow Room, Tavern on the Green and Windows on the World — then, the three highest-grossing restaurants in the country.

Among her many contacts in the industry, Kathryn names Kurt Walrath as her most influential mentor. From serving dinner for 700 at the Rainbow Room to Sunday brunch for 2,000 at Tavern on the Green, there were few tasks he challenged her to take on that she did not master. Yet it was at Windows on the World, as pastry chef of Cellar in the Sky, that Kathryn realized her primary job responsibility was teaching — instructing a sizable staff of experienced chefs and interns during her time there.

Kathryn Gordon Dessert Professional

Shifting her focus, Kathryn was hired as an instructor (and subsequently became the Program Director for the pastry program) at New York Restaurant School, one of the city’s top culinary schools (now closed). During that time, she also collaborated with an American artist who owned a hotel in France to launch a series of culinary tours and French pastry classes for U.S. based industry professionals.

In 2003, Kathryn joined the faculty at the Institute of Culinary Education and has since helped to launch ICE’s own culinary study abroad programs. She has also proved a formidable competitor in National and Regional pastry competitions, and has even been the Master of Ceremonies for a number of pastry events, including the live Carymax World and National Pastry Championships.

Back in ICE’s New York teaching kitchens, Chef Kathryn aims to create extreme scenarios that challenge students to think on their feet. In 2011, she published a best-selling guide to crafting French macarons, which was described by the Wall Street Journal as the most “comprehensive and inspiring” book on macarons in any language. In 2016, Chef Kathryn also published a companion cookbook entitled Les Petits Sweets: Two Bites Desserts from the French Patisserie.

Inspired by her attention to detail and determined focus, it’s no surprise that Kathryn’s students have gone on to find their own significant success. Two, in particular — Dana Loia of Dana’ Bakery and Kathleen Hernandez of Cocoamains— have followed in her footsteps, opening entrepreneurial macaron businesses catering to NYC’s latest dessert craze.

celebratory summer cocktail

Ready to launch a rewarding and creative career in Pastry & Baking Arts? Click here for more information on ICE’s career programs. 

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By Caitlin Raux 

“The Italian language wasn’t passed on — but the food definitely was,” says Chef Frank Proto, ICE’s newest career program instructor, on his Italian-American upbringing in Long Island. Since childhood, Frank received a firsthand education in Old World cooking methods: homemade sausages hung to dry from bamboo in the cellar; wine made from Grenache grapes purchased at the Brooklyn Terminal Market. It’s no surprise that once he became a chef, Frank gravitated toward unfussy Mediterranean cuisine made with the highest quality products.

Chef Frank Proto

At the outset of his career, Frank found a mentor in renowned Chef Joe Fortunato, now chef/owner of the West Village mainstay Extra Virgin. Chef Frank not only rose through the ranks in Joe’s late restaurant Layla, he helped him to build new restaurants from the ground up, and went on to do the same with restaurateur Marc Murphy, too. When the New Haven restaurant Barcelona needed an executive chef, Chef Frank had the chops to take the helm. Young chefs who have had the opportunity to work with him, and now ICE students, would be lucky to call Chef Frank a mentor. With an affable, encouraging disposition, he’s the kind of chef that makes you want to work harder and better because his passion for cooking and his high expectations for others who have chosen a culinary path are clear.

Chef Frank plans to use his straightforward approach and decades of restaurant experience to teach ICE students how to succeed in the culinary industry and how to prepare delicious, uncomplicated food. On a recent Thursday, after introducing a class of culinary students to Lombardy cuisine, Chef Frank and I sat down to chat for ICE’s “Meet the Chef” series.

Growing up, what was food like at home?  

My dad’s side of the family is Italian-American. And though my mother’s side of the family is German, she learned to cook from my paternal grandmother. So I grew up with Italian-American traditions, like making wine and sausage. We still make our own tomato paste — it’s a process I’ve never seen anyone else do. We dry the tomatoes, we peel them, remove the seeds then dry them in the oven for 48 hours until they’re brick red — it almost looks like a brownie.

Do you still make sausage?

I made sausage in the restaurants where I worked. I’d like to get back into making dry sausages at home. We used to make the sausages then hang them on bamboo in the wine cellar to dry out, because the temperature is perfect in there. We’d dry them out and put them in old, glass mayonnaise jars, then top them with olive oil so they’d store well. Then you peel the skin off and eat it like a salumi.

Chef Frank Proto

What was your first restaurant job?

I worked in a catering hall in Long Island in high school and college. I was a dishwasher, a prep cook, a line cook — I did everything. I always wanted to be a chef, though. I know that’s kind of weird — kids usually want to be firemen or policemen or lawyers. I don’t know where I got the idea but I always wanted to be a chef. I come from a family that cooks. Back in the 70s, when people were eating canned stuff, my mom always had fresh vegetables, and not for health reasons — that’s just the way my grandma taught her. You go to the store, you buy vegetables and you make them. You don’t get them from a can. So we had a lot of good food as kids.

Tell me about your decision to enroll in culinary school.

I had gone to community college for two years to study restaurant management. For me, culinary school was the next step. So I enrolled at CIA [Culinary Institute of America].

What was your first job out of culinary school?

I did my externship at Tribeca Grill, but my first job out of culinary school was at Layla. It was a restaurant that served Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food. That’s where I met my mentor, Joe Fortunato. I worked up the ranks and became sous chef there. Then I moved around with Joe and I also worked on and off with my other friend Marc Murphy. When Joe was opening something, I’d help him open it, when Marc was opening something, I’d do the same.

When I started working with Marc, I helped him open Landmarc and Ditch Plains. I was the corporate chef.

What does being corporate chef entail?

Doing everything. We did all the menus together. I was the operations manager and he managed the big picture. I trained chefs, cooks, planned menu changes, specials. I managed costs, all of the ordering systems, basically building everything from scratch. When I left, we had two Ditch Plains and two Landmarc locations.

Chef Frank Proto

Did you choose Joe as a mentor or did he choose you? How does that work?

It was kind of mutual. He wouldn’t have been my mentor if I did a crappy job. I’m a bit of a bulldog in the kitchen. I come in, I work hard and I’m quiet. Maybe he saw something in me. By him just pushing me along, he became my mentor. Eventually he moved me up to sous chef. At that point, he knew what I could do.

It goes both ways. There are a lot of guys who I chose to mentor when I was working as a restaurant chef. They get chosen because they have the work ethic and the passion for it. You say through your work if you’re worth being mentored.

What would you say is your approach to cooking?

I like simple. Don’t get complicated. A lot of people like to put a lot of stuff on the plate. Sometimes, the less you put on the plate, the better. A lot of young cooks do that before they have experience. Joey always used to ask, “Do we really need to put that on there?” I like to keep everything simple. The last restaurant I was working in, Barcelona in New Haven, was a joy because we’d cook a piece of fish on the plancha and serve it with a good salsa verde. That’s the way I like to cook.

I also like Middle Eastern and North African ingredients — the spices, pomegranate, molasses… the mezze. Even before small plates became the big thing, I always liked small plates. I don’t like committing to just one thing. I don’t play golf because I can’t commit myself to five hours on the golf course. That’s how I feel about a meal, and cooking, too.

What are you excited about teaching ICE students?

I’d like to bring some of my Spanish cooking background and influence to the curriculum. In the restaurant industry, for the past 15 years it’s been the cuisine. Now people are starting to recognize it outside of the restaurant industry.

Other than that, I want the food to taste really good. I want students to walk out of here knowing they’ve made some really good meals. I also want them to walk out of here with as much information as possible about working in the real world, and I’ve tried to include that in every lesson I’ve taught so far. Things like: when you go into professional kitchens, there’s not going to be a ton of paper towels like we have at the school; the less pans you use the better — I want to teach them the nuts and bolts, together with the substance of the lesson.

What advice would you give to culinary students starting their careers?

Show up early. Show up prepared. I always tell my cooks, If you come in 10 minutes early and ready to go, you already stand out. There are ways to stand out that take no effort at all. When I was a culinary student, I read and got as much information as I could about food. That’s another thing: be an information seeker. Learn your craft.

I read every day still, after 20-some odd years. There’s always something that interests me.

What do you read?

I read the Eater newsletter every day, I read Saveur, Food52, even the home cook-focused outlets like Bon Appétit. I like to see what they’re doing. I’ve always got the New York Times in my bag. I’ve been going to the public library more, too. It’s such a great resource. I also collect old books. I bought a copy of Larousse Gastronomique and a Fannie Farmer cookbook in the Berkshires last week.

What are your favorite things to do outside of the kitchen?

I have a workshop. I’m just starting to build it up. I really want to learn how to forge. I brew beer. My son and I just brewed beer last year and we’re doing another batch soon. Most of the things are food-related. In my workshop, I made gnocchi boards out of wood. I give them to friends.

gnocchi boards

Ready to hit the ground running on your culinary career path? Click here to learn about ICE’s career programs. 

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By Caitlin Gunther

With the heart of a globe-trotter and a passion for lifelong culinary education, Lourdes Reynoso (“Chef Lorrie”) is always up for an adventure. Whether she’s stationed in St. Petersburg for a three-month teaching residency or exploring the best parrillas in Buenos Aires, Chef Lorrie is continually feeding her voracious appetite for foods and cultures of the world. She shares both her global perspective and her expertise in international cuisines with the culinary arts students at ICE.

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Chef Lorrie comes from a big, food-loving family in the Philippines. Seven of the nine Reynoso siblings, including Chef Lorrie, work in some facet of the food industry. In fact, her sisters, pioneers of their time, founded a culinary school in Manila in the 1960s. Today, the Sylvia Reynoso Gala Culinary Art Studio counts among the most well-known culinary schools in the Philippines. As Chef Lorrie explains, “In Manila, my family is more or less synonymous with culinary school…and good food.” After receiving a bachelor’s degree in world history, Chef Lorrie earned the prestigious Grand Diplôme from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. She remained in Paris to study the French language at Le Sorbonne and art history at the Louvre museum, before returning to Manila to join the teaching staff at her sisters’ culinary school. Her ultimate career path came as no surprise to her family. “Even when I was in high school, I was teaching children’s baking courses during the summer,” says Chef Lorrie. Teaching in the kitchen was her calling from a young age.

Drawing upon the classical French techniques she learned at Le Cordon Bleu, Chef Lorrie taught culinary arts in Manila for several years. When she wasn’t in the kitchen classroom, she was traveling—feeding her second passion for discovering new foods and cultures. The opportunity arose to teach at the New York Restaurant School (now The Art Institute of New York City) and Chef Lorrie jumped on it. Asked about the intercontinental move, Chef Lorrie recalls, “I wanted to be in New York. At that time, it was just becoming the food capital of the world and a true melting pot.” She continued to teach there for twenty-one years, helping to train such prominent chefs as the current executive chef of Nobu, Ricky Estrellado, who considers Chef Lorrie a mentor.

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In 2008, when The Art Institute announced that it would discontinue its culinary program, Chef Lorrie immediately thought of ICE. Since 2009, she’s been part of the ICE teaching staff and has continued her own culinary education by traveling when not in the kitchen classrooms. Her most recent adventure has been her multiple teaching stints in St. Petersburg, Russia at Swissam, a top hospitality and culinary arts school that partnered with ICE in 2012. Though she was hesitant to go at first, Chef Lorrie quickly fell in love with St. Petersburg. “The food culture is extremely advanced. That’s why Swissam was opened. Before it opened, Russia had new wealth and great chefs like Alain Ducasse and Jaime Oliver were going there. But they still had communist-style hospitality schools. The owner decided to establish the best culinary and hospitality school he could.” Chef Lorrie has enjoyed being one of the ambassadors of the ICE curriculum, all while taking in Russian art and culture.

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From sampling the spices in the souks of Morocco to exploring the best parrillas in Argentina, Chef Lorrie has had her fair share of culinary voyages recently. For this lover of international cuisines and passionate teacher, ICE is the perfect place to call her permanent home.

Want to get in the kitchen classroom with Chef Lorrie? Click here to receive more information on ICE’s career programs.

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Chef David Waltuck | Director of Culinary Affairs | Institute of Culinary Education | Restaurant Chanterelle

By Caitlin Gunther

In 1975, fresh out of college, Chef David Waltuck landed his first cooking gig at Empire Diner, the legendary late-night haunt in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. The young grad had recently decided not to pursue a career in biological oceanography, his college major. Little did he know that this opportunity at a diner would lead to a celebrated culinary career that would span four decades, earn him two James Beard Awards, multiple glowing New York Times reviews, two acclaimed books and, his latest venture, a role as director of culinary affairs at ICE.

Growing up in the Bronx, no one in Chef David’s family worked in the restaurant industry. In fact, as he explained, “Food in my home was not a big deal.” For Chef David, however, a passion for food and restaurants was innate. “My parents loved to go to the theater or concerts,” he recalled, “and when I was old enough, I got invited to come along. It pretty much always involved dinner at a restaurant beforehand—and that was much more compelling to me than the theater or a concert.” He continued, “It was exciting! You got to try new things, order whatever you wanted; there was a certain level of care and theater about the whole experience.”

Chef David’s first gig at Empire Diner was a defining period. Not infrequently, the restaurant chef left him, still an untrained cook, in charge of the kitchen. As he explained, “I was there, and stuff would arrive, and I would have to figure out what to do with it.” What’s more, the owners created an ambitious, prix fixe menu—not the typical greasy spoon fare. Thrown into the heat of the kitchen, something clicked, and he managed to thrive. “I liked the atmosphere: the team spirit, the hands-on aspect…that you got to start over every day.”

Culinary School | Culinary Arts Training | Institute of Culinary Education | Chef David Waltuck

After his time at Empire Diner, Chef David decided to enroll in a formal culinary training program. It was in school that he developed the fundamental culinary techniques essential to building his career. It was also during this period that he landed an externship in the kitchen of Tavern on the Green. With both formal training and real world experience under his belt, Chef David decided to take a position as sous chef at La Petite Ferme, an Upper East Side restaurant that was a favorite with the fashion set (Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was a regular).

Within a couple of years, he was ready to venture out on his own. He and his wife Karen opened the doors of Chanterelle, a restaurant that would introduce a new kind of fine dining—French and New American cuisine—to downtown Manhattan.

As Chef David describes it, the cuisine was “French food, filtered through my aesthetic”—that is, the aesthetic of an American man. At Chanterelle, the Waltucks enjoyed 30 years as the proprietors of a critically acclaimed restaurant. Under his leadership in the kitchen, the restaurant received two James Beard Awards, including Best Chef NYC in 2007 and Best Restaurant in America in 2004, plus another 10 James Beard Award nominations and two four-star reviews from the New York Times in 1987 and 1993. During this epoch, Chef David also authored two books: Staff Meals at Chanterelle and Chanterelle: The Story and Recipes of a Restaurant Classic, which won an IACP Award for Best Cookbook: Chefs and Restaurants in 2009.

After three decades of celebrated success, and much to the chagrin of New York City diners, Chanterelle closed its doors in 2009. Chef David went on to explore various culinary opportunities. He became executive chef for Ark Restaurants and opened another restaurant, élan, which was awarded two stars by the New York Times. Asked about his decision to open a second restaurant, Chef David explained, “I missed the restaurant world. It didn’t make sense to a lot of people, but I missed it.” In particular, Chef David missed the team-like nature of the work. “Even when it’s not good, you’re not in it alone.”

Student prep in a culinary arts class at the Institute of Culinary Education

 

Chef David’s love for the kitchen and guiding other chefs may be part of what led him to his latest position as director of culinary affairs at ICE. As he explained, “It’s a beautiful facility and the people are dedicated and caring. I wanted to be back among motivated people who are interested in food and cooking.” The team at ICE couldn’t be more excited to welcome Chef David, who will be sharing his insight and years of experience with a new generation of aspiring culinary professionals.

Want to study with Chef David? Click here to learn more about our award-winning culinary arts program.

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By Carly DeFilippo

 

When Michael Laiskonis got hired for his first job, scooping ice cream in Detroit, he probably never imagined that he would one day be teaching ICE Pastry & Baking students about the complex chemistry of frozen dairy products. In fact, Michael never intended to enter the food industry. Rather, he fell into it by accident, after deciding to abandon formal studies in fine arts and photography for what he describes as an “earn while you learn” approach. And so he entered the business, working the overnight shift at his roommate’s brother’s bakery.

Michael, teaching a petit four class at ICE's School of Professional Development.

Michael, teaching a petit four class at ICE’s School of Professional Development.

Soon enough, Michael discovered he had a certain talent for pastry and wanted to find a more structured environment to further his skills. He found it in Emily’s, a small kitchen with only four chefs. Starting out as a savory cook, Michael gradually absorbed more and more pastry duties, proving his merit until his boss agreed to make him the full-time pastry chef—the first time he would see his name on a restaurant menu.

 

In 1996, Michael moved to Tribute, starting as a line cook and moving up the ranks until he was again named pastry chef in 1999. The restaurant was at the epicenter of Detroit’s culinary scene, named one of the nation’s best by the New York Times in 2002. In 2003, it became one of only two Detroit restaurants to have garnered a coveted James Beard Award. But by 2004, Michael was looking to test his hand in one of the nation’s culinary capitals, and was referred by a friend to Chef Eric Ripert. After a single 90 minute meeting, Ripert offered Chef Michael the chance to come on as Executive Chef of renowned New York institution, Le Bernadin.

Parsnip brulee and sponge, hazelnut cream, browned milk solids. 2013 "Pastry Pop Chef" at the Star Chefs International Chefs Congress.

Parsnip brulee and sponge, hazelnut cream, browned milk solids. 2013 “Pastry Pop Chef” at the Star Chefs International Chefs Congress.

Making a move to Le Bernadin was no small feat. Michael’s predecessors included one of his idols, François Payard, as well as acclaimed chefs Florian Bellanger, Herve Poussot and Oscar Palacios. But over the next eight years, Michael more than proved his talent, helping the restaurant earn three Michelin stars and four stars from the New York Times. Celebrated for his use of modern techniques to reinvent classic desserts, Michael was also awarded the coveted James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef in 2007.

 

In 2012, Michael joined the Institute of Culinary Education as our first ever Creative Director. “After a successful 20 years in some amazing kitchens,” Michael explains, “I’d earned a lot of opportunities—and I chose to join the team at ICE. I have always admired ICE, and education is the perfect opportunity for me to give back, to inspire the next generation of chefs to enjoy and excel in a career in culinary or pastry arts.” He has already instrumented significant progress in our kitchens, providing pastry students with a more in-depth look at the science of their craft, and teaching a number of both public seminars and advanced pastry classes in our School of Professional Development.

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Looking back on his career, Michael notes that his path was most unusual in that he stayed in nearly every position for more than five years. He recommends that young chefs only move on to a new position if they feel that they have taken everything they possibly could from that position (including what not to do moving forward). In large part, he credits Chef Takashi from Tribute for establishing his belief in never making a lateral or inferior move, in only moving on if it’s a step up. As for how to judge when it’s time to move on, Michael says, “The day you go into work without a pit in your stomach is the day you start looking for a new job.”

 

It’s this sense of curiosity and constant pursuit of furthering his own education that has kept Michael at the forefront of his industry. Outside of the rigorous constraints of a restaurant schedule, teaching has provided Michael with the ability to work on innovative research projects and to pursue his lifelong interest in the arts, film, reading and writing. (To date, he has contributed to publications including GourmetSaveur, The Atlantic and a range of professional pastry journals.) Whether in his public demonstrations, writing or other creative endeavors, it’s clear that Michael has developed a newfound appreciation for teaching. After learning so much from others, he insists, “You don’t keep secrets. You have to share.”

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