When it comes to chefs that have changed the way America eats, few have been more influential than Top Chef Masters champion and James Beard Award-winner Rick Bayless. He’s introduced millions of diners and home cooks to the authentic cuisine of Mexico through his six restaurants, eight cookbooks and numerous television appearances. This spring, he shared personal stories and valuable career advice with ICE students when he visited the school as part of our ongoing “Meet the Culinary Entrepreneurs” lecture series.

Watch the video below to learn about Rick’s unique “culinary voice” and the way it has shaped his dynamic career.

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By Carly DeFilippo

Kate Edwards 1The Odeon. Balthazar. Per Se. Le Cirque. When it comes to life behind the scenes at New York City’s highest temples of gastronomy, Kate Edwards has seen and done it all. Today, she’s sharing nearly 30 years of restaurant experience—from serving celebrities to delivering expert industry advice as a restaurant consultant—with Culinary Management students at ICE.

Before Kate was recruited by Manhattan’s hottest restaurateurs for her impeccable sense of service and savvy staff training strategy, she was simply a college graduate seeking to start a career in music and theater. “In theater, you study a little bit of everything,” Kate explains, “which planted the seed of being a multitasker and defined the way my mind works.”

Her first job in the city was waitressing at The Odeon—the see-and-be-seen brasserie of 1980s New York—which opened her eyes to other possibilities in the industry and helped her land a job as hostess at Brian McNally’s Royalton Hotel. After a few months serving such regulars as Anna Wintour and Madonna, Kate had learned the ins and outs of how to seat a room, plan a menu and manage the wishes of high profile guests. Kate says, “Relationships with restaurant guests last. You’ll see them again and again over the course of your career. It’s something I’m incredibly fond of.” Soon enough, she was promoted to maitre d’—a mark on her resume that thenceforth served as a professional passport to roles at the city’s best restaurants.

In 1997, Kate joined the team at Keith McNally’s new hotspot, Balthazar, just two weeks after opening to unprecedented buzz and acclaim. Having missed the professional training that benefitted the rest of the staff, Kate became acutely aware of the specific requirements of successful staff training—the area of restaurant management that ranks as her primary specialty today. Meanwhile, Kate had developed a foothold in the music industry as a jazz and R&B singer, but at Balthazar, she realized that working in restaurants was no longer a way to support her musical ambitions—it had become her career.

The bustling scene at Balthazar. Photo Credit: Taste Savant

The bustling scene at Balthazar. Photo Credit: Taste Savant

Kate eventually decided to trade in her two-career lifestyle and applied for a management job at one of the city’s most ambitious fine dining establishments: Per Se. Just five days after opening, the hotly anticipated restaurant was closed due to a fire, and Kate was brought on to help facilitate the postponed reopening. It was a time that Kate remembers acutely, a transition from “the Maitre D’iva” at Balthazar to the new kid, all amongst the stress of a highly-anticipated restaurant whose momentum had come to a screeching halt. “You learn the most when you’re struggling just to make it to the next day,” Kate explains.

Per Se was one of the wildest rides of Kate’s career, a more-than-full-time gig that took up every waking second. So after two years, Kate took a step back—both to plan her wedding and to reconsider her next move. Her inspiration came during a stint at Chef Geoffrey Zakarian’s Town Restaurant, while working in management alongside a group of consultants. She realized there, that with all her varied roles and experiences, she had more than a lifetime’s worth of restaurant wisdom to offer.

The pristine, high end kitchen at Per Se.

The pristine, high end kitchen at Per Se.

Her first consulting opportunity came from the newly relocated Le Cirque—which meant Kate would be working alongside New York City’s most legendary maitre d’, Sirio Maccioni. At Le Cirque, Kate’s role was to absorb 30 years of accrued, anecdotal excellence and standardize procedures for a brand new staff. Reflecting on the specific challenges of the experience, Kate reflects, “Always listen to your team. They see things from a different perspective—and can help you do your job. Especially when it comes to the quality of your service and your product.”

Since then, Kate has worked with an impressive list of diverse clients, from Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare and Il Buco to Haven’s Kitchen and the Plaza Hotel. She notes that the “ultimate compliment” has been receiving multiple contracts from the same clients—a testament to her dedication and talent.

Business Class-044-72dpi

Kate conducting an interactive Culinary Management seminar with three other instructors.

Over the past seven years, in addition to growing her consulting business, Kate has served as a guest lecturer and lead instructor in ICE’s Culinary Management program, helping students reach the next level in their own dynamic careers. “Teaching challenges what you know,” Kate adds. “People come from different walks of life and really open your mind.”

Reflecting on her own winding, dynamic career path, Kate shared some of the advice she gives to Culinary Management students regarding their professional development: “Look for diverse, challenging experiences in your career. People tend to comment on how ‘calm’ I seem for this business. But once you’ve tackled the high volume of Balthazar and the high expectations of Per Se, you become a real professional and learn to hold yourself with a certain degree of poise.”

Want to study with Kate? Click here to learn about ICE’s Culinary Management program.

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By Dana Mortell

Foie gras. Pâté. Offal. These niche food items may be familiar to us today, but in 1985, these products were unknown to many Americans. That is, until Ariane Daguin launched D’Artagnan, an inspired idea that became one of the largest and most trusted specialty meat distributors in the country. In celebration of the company’s 30th anniversary, we recently invited the visionary founder and CEO to ICE as part of our Meet the Culinary Entrepreneurs series.

Photo Credit: Boston.com

Photo Credit: Boston.com

Born in the Gascony region of France to a family with a seven-generation culinary legacy—including a chef father with 2 Michelin stars to his name—it was clear from early on that Ariane had inherited a passion for the food industry. Yet, despite growing up with this impressive gastronomical heritage, her original career ambition was to become a journalist, a dream she pursued by enrolling as an undergraduate at Columbia University.

During her summers off from school, Ariane worked the retail counter at Les Trois Petits Cochons, which was—and still is—one of New York’s finest French pâté producers. When she suggested to the owners that they should sell their products wholesale to the city’s fine food shops, amazingly, they presented her with the opportunity to develop this concept within their existing business.

Meanwhile, at Columbia, Ariane had met George Faison—her future business partner. Joining Ariane and her friends on weekly restaurant outings, George realized they shared one very special passion: French cuisine. Soon enough, he joined Ariane at Les Trois Petits Cochons while he was finishing his MBA. Working together, the two gained invaluable experience in the industry over the next five years. But when the shop’s owners decided that Ariane’s entrepreneurial ideas—in particular, becoming the sole foie gras distributor for a duck farm in the Catskills—were too risky, the pair knew it was time to branch off on their own.

Photo Credit: First We Feast

Photo Credit: First We Feast

The timing couldn’t have been better. At the time, there was no fresh, domestic foie gras available in the country—American chefs were cooking it out of a can. With a specific mission in mind, the two launched D’Artagnan (named after one of the Three Musketeers, a book penned by Alexandre Dumas, with whom Ariane shares her hometown). Draining their savings, the pair leased a truck and a small refrigeration space, and gained an exclusive contract with the Catskills duck farm to sell foie gras. “The first few years were extremely difficult. It was hard to receive cash flow. Banks didn’t want to lend anything since there was no guarantee. At one point, we had $35 in the bank,” said Daguin.

To stay viable, they had to convince the foie gras farmers that they were the right people for the job. Ariane threw everything she had into her work. Knowing that it would be met with hesitation from the public, she invested time in educating clients about the product. And since foie gras was a relatively unfamiliar ingredient for chefs, D’Artagnan kept two days’ inventory on hand, to allow for last-minute orders. This, Ariane knew, would give their clients the freedom to be more daring with the specialty ingredient, testing the waters as they gauged their guests’ reactions.

Ariane and her father. Photo Credit: dartagnan.com

Ariane and her father. Photo Credit: dartagnan.com

In addition, Ariane was taught by her father that a good chef knows how to use the whole animal, so she sought out chefs with a similar perspective. George and Ariane began to develop relationships with these chefs, who provided checks as credit to receive foie gras in the future. Those crucial partnerships allowed the company to get one step ahead.

Ariane’s vision for D’Artagnan also began to re-shape the farming practices of her producers. She wanted to be able to market D’Artagnan’s products as fresh, free-range, and organic, but felt she still needed something to set her foie gras apart. Ariane begged her farmers to raise heritage duck breeds. These would take longer to raise—nine months, as opposed to the traditional five—and it took all of Ariane’s powers of persuasion to convince the farmers that this time-consuming change would be a worthwhile investment. At the same time, Ariane was growing her network at the other end of the food chain, tapping into a new generation of ambitious New York City chefs.

Ariane gets a boost from the industry's top chefs. Photo Credit: Food Arts Magazine

Ariane gets a boost from the industry’s top chefs. Photo Credit: Food Arts Magazine

Her primary customers were young culinary innovators, such as Patrick Clark of Odeon, David Burke, and Daniel Boulud. Growing her inventory to include game birds and other specialized products, Ariane provided chefs with access to a whole new world of high quality products, distinguishing D’Artagnan as a unique resource for this ambitious culinary community.

Today, Ariane is one of the most respected women in the food industry. She works with chefs, restaurateurs and purveyors from across the country—some offering ideas for new product offerings, while others make requests for such rare products as charcuterie, truffles, or mushrooms.

D’Artagnan, in turn, has become one of the most successful specialty food companies in the industry, with 172 employees, 35 trucks and 82 million dollars in revenue. Though she and George parted ways in the early 2000’s, Ariane has since taken D’Artagnan to new heights. The business now has an outpost in Chicago, and is about to open a third location in Houston. But despite her ambitions, Ariane also knows her limits—she may be a master of sourcing, but she has no desire to open her own slaughterhouse. Ariane wisely believes the key to her success is that she knows what she does best, and sticks to it with passion, integrity, and honesty.

For more success stories from the industry’s top entrepreneurs, click here.

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By Carly DeFilippo

If you like cooking and have access to the internet, chances are you’ve heard of Food52, the brainchild of former New York Times dining writer, Amanda Hesser, and freelance editor/recipe tester, Merrill Stubbs. The two met when Amanda was charged with revising 1,400 recipes for The Essential New York Times Cookbook and over the course of many, many sessions in the kitchen, the pair discovered a mutual dissatisfaction with the state of online cooking resources—which, at that time, focused more on the quantity rather than the quality of recipes.

Amanda shares the story of Food52 with ICE students.

Amanda shares the story of Food52 with ICE students.

The founders had a vision for a website that would provide “everything for your cooking life,” from recipes, to kitchen tools, to servingware and more. Today, after launching with a focus on carefully curated recipes, that vision has been fulfilled, as the site has recently grown to include Provisions, an online lifestyle shop for food enthusiasts.

In the over-saturated world of food blogs and websites, the legions of followers and industry-wide respect that Food52 has garnered is an extraordinary success story. It was, therefore, no surprise that Amanda’s visit to the Institute of Culinary Education was a particular thrill for our students.

Food52's strategy? Get bigger by being better.

Food52’s strategy? Get bigger by being better.

When asked to describe what she believes distinguishes Food52 from other sites, Amanda cited a few specific aspects of their team’s philosophy:

  • A Unique Voice: Amanda believes that what prevents recipe-seekers from feeling loyal to recipe aggregators like Epicurious or All Recipes is the fact that these sites lack a unified perspective or tone. She explains, “[Voice] is what makes people feel they share your sensibility.”
  • A Thoughtful Aesthetic: Just like a beautifully presented plate of food, the understated look of Food52 has far more depth than you could even imagine. Their logo color? Grabbed from a pixelated photo of kale. It doesn’t matter that you didn’t notice—the point is that they’ve thought about it. “When you set a strong voice and aesthetic,” Amanda explained, “it’s like a magnet.”
  • Multiple Levels of Engagement: Only 2% of the Food52 community actually wants to add recipes, but there are many, many more users who want to comment, favorite and share the recipes with their own community. That said, of the 28,000 recipes currently on the site, 98% were provided by the community.
  • Self-Selecting Content: Amanda and Merrill intentionally chose to make the process of adding recipes to the site a commitment, automatically weeding out less-committed cooks from their pool of ad-hoc contributors. To bolster that pool of content, they run specific recipe contests—for example, a contest for burger recipes during grilling season. They’ve also signed on a few of their staff members—including Executive Editor and ICE alum Kristen Miglore—to maintain ongoing columns, like the ever-popular “Genius Recipes” series.
A manifesto for the cooking community of Food52

A manifesto for the cooking community of Food52

Sticking to these principles, Amanda and Merrill have grown one of the most successful food start-ups in the industry. Over time, their staff has grown and business needs have changed, which sometimes means revising the game plan. For example, in the beginning, they never planned to have “featured contributors” from other successful food websites. Yet, over time, they have figured out how to seamlessly celebrate the cookbook launches or other milestones of their community’s favorite DIY celebrities.

In fact, one of Amanda’s most resonant points was that their staff is very keyed in to the voice of the community. From viewing analytics reports to maintaining an unusually high response rate to their audience’s questions and comments, their multi-faceted approach is akin to a master class in Community Engagement 101. The end result is impressive: one of the most civilized web communities on the internet. As Amanda put it, “People [only] misbehave when they feel like there’s no one there [listening].”

Amanda answers students' questions and signs their New York Times cookbooks.

Amanda answers students’ questions and signs their New York Times cookbooks.

Advising those who want to launch their own food start-up, Amanda emphasized that it can be a long and bumpy road. “I have start-up baggage, but I think that baggage is actually good. [Before working at Food52], I made some mistakes without doing a lot of damage.” In short, working for a start-up on someone else’s dime to figure out how the financing and logistics come together might not be a bad idea. And don’t expect to get bought out for millions of dollars like some tech company: “Brands are not born overnight; we were not going for hyper-growth.”

Amanda also had salient advice for other aspiring food writers—namely, that the industry isn’t what it was when she first came onto the scene. “If you’re really interested in food, do something interesting in food,” Amanda says. You don’t need to be a full-time food writer—a role that rarely comes with a sense of financial stability—rather, you can work for a company that furthers your experience and knowledge, helping you to gain credibility.

Amanda with Dean of Culinary Business Steve Zagor and ICE Instructor Kate Edwards.

Amanda with Dean of Culinary Business Steve Zagor and ICE Instructor Kate Edwards.

Last but not least, Amanda shared a bit of insight that can apply to all ICE students, whether future entrepreneurs, bakers, recipe testers or food media personalities: “We’re not in a business of big wins—it’s about small adjustments. Always be ready to adapt.”

For more lectures and discussions with industry leaders at ICE, click here.

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By Richard Vayda

ICE - Meet the Culinary Entrepreneurs - Suzanne GoinFresh off her most recent nomination for a James Beard Award, Suzanne Goin – celebrated chef, restaurateur and cookbook author – charmed and informed our students and industry attendees as the latest guest in ICE’s ongoing series, Meet the Culinary Entrepreneurs. The featured speakers are noted foodservice business leaders from all corners of the industry–wine makers, bakers, chefs, distillers, restaurateurs, bar owners, cheese mongers and more–who are invited to share their backgrounds, successes and advice for aspiring entrepreneurs. While every guest brings a unique and inspiring tale to tell, because of my own French culinary background, I was particularly excited to moderate this discussion with Suzanne, and the two hours did not disappoint.

Goin began by sharing how an early interest in cooking began the foundation for her career in the food industry. That curiosity led her to some extraordinary places, first among them an internship at the legendary Ma Maison (called by Zagat one of “13 restaurants that changed LA dining forever”) while still attending High School in Los Angeles. After heading east for undergraduate studies at Brown University, Goin resumed her career in restaurants by working at such famed establishments as Chez Panisse, owned by the legendary chef Alice Waters in Berkeley, CA, and Olives, the first restaurant by chef Todd English, in Boston, MA.

Her next step was France, where she worked at restaurants of equal or even greater acclaim, including Alain Passard’s 3-star Michelin restaurant, L’Arpège. Suzanne eventually made her way back to Los Angeles where she worked her way up to executive chef at Mark Peel’s critically acclaimed restaurant, Campanile. Quite a résumé, for a young chef!

ICE - Meet the Culinary Entrepreneurs - Suzanne Goin

Photo credit: Lucques.com

After establishing a strong skill set in the world’s top kitchens, Goin felt ready to open a place of her own. When asked how she knew it was the right moment, she recalled that it was just a gut feeling; something she felt driven to do at the time. In 1998, Lucques was born – the first of several restaurants she has opened with her business partner Caroline Styne. Serving French and Mediterranean-influenced California cuisine, the inviting, rustic restaurant was an immediate success. Goin was named one of the “Best New Chefs” by Food & Wine Magazine the following year.

Goin shared the ups and downs of opening her first restaurant, in particular, stressing the importance of the location and setting. “Find a space with soul,” she advised. With renewed confidence and experience under her belt, Goin’s second restaurant, a.o.c., debuted in 2002 and was quickly celebrated by the critics. The concept featured small plates (then, a cutting-edge concept) with superior wines by the glass.

Today, Goin owns and operates several restaurants, as well as casual marketplace dining concepts, and says there is more to come. Among her top lessons she learned along the way: be wary of unnecessary start-up expenses, exemplified by the beautiful but far-too-expensive tufted banquettes she installed at one location. (Goin confided that, while lovely to look at, they took a very long time to pay for!)

In addition to offering practical advice about operating and expanding business ventures, Goin stressed the importance of a good working relationship with any partner—mutual respect, communication and clear delineation of duties are key. She also passed on many of her thoughts about staff management, recounting several anecdotes of nurturing and motivating employees. Obviously having a great deal of respect for her staff, she commented that all business owners “owe [their employees] some mentorship.”

Goin was full of wisdom, offering great insights into starting and operating a successful business. But perhaps, as one of my students commented, the best part of the event was to meet a celebrated restaurateur and chef that was also unusually genuine and sincere. Beyond her talent in the kitchen, her attitude is yet another great reason to pay Chef Goin a visit on your next trip to L.A.!

ICE - Meet the Culinary Entrepreneurs - Suzanne Goin

Suzanne Goin (center) with ICE Director of Wine & Beverage Studies Richard Vayda (left), and ICE President Rick Smilow (right).

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