It’s hard to believe that it’s been two years since we launched ICE’s bean-to-bar Chocolate Lab (the first education-focused one of its kind!). We decided to check in with ICE’s Creative Director Michael Laiskonis to find out what he’s been up to. As it turns out: a lot.

Having produced over 120 batches of chocolate with beans sourced from more than 20 countries, the Chocolate Lab has given Chef Michael the chance to tinker with each step of the chocolate-making process and bring out the best qualities in each bean. What’s more, Chef Michael has been meticulously tracking these changes and differences in process and flavor, which he then shares with interested students and colleagues in a number of hands-on classes at ICE.

Our Pastry & Baking Arts students have also had the opportunity to swap textbooks for hands-on experience with Chef Michael inside the Chocolate Lab, benefitting from a full understanding of the bean-to-bar process.. Watch below our two-year check in with Chef Michael.

Want to study in the ICE Chocolate Lab with Chef Michael? Click here for more information on ICE’s Pastry & Baking Arts program.

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By Jenny McCoy — Chef Instructor, School of Pastry & Baking Arts

As the Fourth of July approaches and we eagerly anticipate colorful firework displays and backyard barbecues, why not celebrate with a red, white and blue sprinkle-covered confetti cake? This delicious lemon-almond cake, filled with fresh strawberries and blueberries and layered with cream cheese icing, is sure to be a crowd pleaser.

Before you begin, here are my favorite pro tips for success:

  • Use some shortening to make the cake a brighter white, which also makes it easier to color. If you prefer butter, you can substitute the shortening with more butter.
  • Be sure to scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl as you add the ingredients to your cake batter. This will ensure your batter is buttery smooth.
  • If you want to customize the results, your cake batter can be flavored with a variety of extracts. One of my favorite combinations is vanilla and coconut extracts. Alternatively, if you prefer a plain vanilla cake, replace the almond extract with an additional one teaspoon vanilla extract, for a total of two teaspoons.
  • I love to use a cardboard cake round to invert my cakes from the pans. It gives them a sturdy surface to fall on, which prevents the cake layers from tearing. Ask your local bakery for a few or cut out some rounds from a cardboard box.
  • Don’t have a cake turntable? Not to worry! My favorite kitchen hack is to use the plate and wheel from a microwave to layer and frost my cakes.
  • Instead of worrying about your cake layers sliding around as you frost the top and sides of the cake, try this trick — use a long bamboo skewer to hold everything in place.
  • A flat, metal bench scraper (more often used for cutting bread dough) makes for amazingly straight sides on your frosted cake. If you don’t have a bench scraper, use a metal icing spatula, like the one featured in the video.
  • Don’t worry about having a perfectly frosted cake for this recipe. As long as it’s relatively smooth, once it’s covered in sprinkles, it will be a showstopper no matter what!

One last trick: to make sure the cakes don’t stick to the pan, cut parchment paper into a circle to line your round cake pan. Here’s how:

Remember how you used to make paper snowflakes from folded paper in elementary school? Well, that same technique will now serve you well as an adult. If you enjoy baking cakes, that is.

For a round cake pan, simply fold a piece of parchment paper in half three times to make a triangular wedge of paper (kind of like a slice of cake—what a coincidence!). Turn your cake pan upside down and place the tip of the paper wedge directly in the center of the pan. Trim the wider edge of the paper wedge to the length of the radius of the pan, or the very edge of the cake pan. Unfold and voila! A circle of parchment paper to perfectly line the inside of your round cake pan. Check out this video on ICE’s Instagram feed to see how it’s done.

July Fourth-fetti Cake
Makes one three-layer cake

For the Cakes:
Makes 3

Ingredients:

2 sticks (8 ounces) butter, softened
½ cup (4 ounces) shortening
3 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
3 large egg whites
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup milk
½ cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
Red food coloring
Blue food coloring
3-4 tablespoons red, white and blue sprinkles

Preparation:

  • Preheat oven to 350º F. Lightly spray three eight-inch cake pans with nonstick cooking spray and line with parchment paper.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, shortening and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, egg whites, almond extract and vanilla extract, and mix until smooth.
  • Combine the flour, baking powder and salt, and stir together. Add half of the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Add the milk and mix until combined. Add the remaining half of the dry ingredients, followed by the buttermilk and mix until well combined and smooth.
  • Divide the batter evenly between three bowls and add blue food coloring to one bowl and red food coloring to the second bowl, mixing in and adding coloring in drops as necessary until the desired color is reached. Add sprinkles to the third bowl and stir until evenly combined. Pour the batter into the three prepared cake pans and bake until very light golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Let cakes cool in pans for five minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack and let cool to room temperature.

 

For the Lemon-Almond Simple Syrup:
Makes ½ cup

Ingredients:

½ cup simple syrup
2 teaspoons almond extract
2 teaspoons lemon extract

Preparation:

  • Combine the simple syrup, vanilla extract and lemon extract and refrigerate until ready to use.

 

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
Makes 6 cups

Ingredients:

2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups (16 ounces) cream cheese
6 cups powdered sugar, sifted
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preparation:

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter until soft and very smooth. Add the cream cheese and mix until smooth. Slowly add the powdered sugar and salt and mix until fully combined. Add the vanilla extract and whip on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Use immediately or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to five days.

 

To assemble the cake:

Ingredients:

1 blue cake layer
1 sprinkle cake layer
1 red cake layer
½ cup Lemon-Almond Simple Syrup (recipe above)
6 cups Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe above)
1 cup blueberries
1 cup sliced strawberries
1 ¼ to 1 ½ cups red, white and blue sprinkles, to decorate

Preparation:

  • Slice the tops off the cake layers to create a flat surface. Place the blue cake layer on top of an eight-inch round of cardboard. Use a pastry brush to lightly soak the blue cake layer with the simple syrup. Spread about one cup of the frosting on the blue cake layer and cover with fresh blueberries. Top with the sprinkled white cake layer and repeat by soaking the cake layer with simple syrup and covering with one cup of frosting, and top with the fresh strawberries. Place the red cake layer on top. Frost the tops and sides of the cake with the remaining four cups of frosting. Freeze cake for 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Place the sprinkles in a large bowl. Hold the cake over a rimmed baking sheet and gently cover the sides and tops of the cake with the sprinkles by pressing them against the frosting and allowing the excess to fall back onto the tray. Serve immediately, or refrigerate for up to two days. If refrigerated before serving, let cake stand at room temperature for one to two hours before serving.

Want to learn how to make tasty desserts like a pro? Click here for more information on ICE’s career programs.

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By Chef James Distefano

Is there anything better than corn in the summertime? To me, corn is one of the highlights of the season’s produce. As a kid spending summers at the Jersey shore, the last thing I wanted to do was leave the beach early and shuck corn for dinner (but I did love eating it!). Now, it’s one of my favorite summer ingredients to work with, its subtle sweetness giving it the versatility to work in many dishes. What’s more: whether you’re using it in a soup, salad or simply grilled and buttered, corn is an ingredient that doesn’t need a lot of gussying up.

When thinking about fresh ways to eat corn, I wanted to highlight its sweetness by combining it with another summertime staple: ice cream. You may not believe corn and dessert go together, but consider this: while we commonly think of corn as a part of a savory dish, it’s also in plenty of your favorite breakfast cereals.

The inspiration for this homemade corn ice cream comes from a former boss of mine, Richard Leach. Rich has an amazing talent for creating and pairing desserts with uncommon ingredients. When I was a young kid working for him in the mid-90s, putting corn in a dessert was a mind-expanding notion. One day when we were talking about food, he calmly asked me if I’d ever had a bowl of corn cereal with peaches in it. “Of course, I have,” I said quickly—and then realized what he was getting at. My mind melted. Corn: it wasn’t just for dinner anymore!

The best part about this recipe is that you can make it without an ice cream maker. If I haven’t convinced you of corn’s delicious virtues as a dessert, you can try adding different flavors (see my tip below) or keep it easy by just adding the vanilla extract to the cream for a simple ice cream. Here are some pro tips to help you out:

  1. The scoop on the scoop: To get picture-perfect scoops of ice cream, dip your scoop into a tall container of warm water. The water will warm the scoop enough to enable you to dig into the ice cream and shape it into a nice round ball without the ice cream sticking to the surface. Just make sure to tap any excess water off of the scoop before digging in to avoid any messy dripping.
  2. Flavor-ific: If you’d like to add another flavor, such as a spice, you can whip it with your egg yolks. If you’re keen on adding something else such as chocolate chips, candy or nuts, replace the amount of roasted corn kernels with the ingredient of your choosing. If you’d like to try adding fresh herbs, mint, cilantro or tarragon would all taste delicious with the corn! Add any of the above to the batter at the end when you’re folding in the whipped cream. For this recipe, two to three tablespoons of chopped herbs should be enough.
  3. End results: To get the best from your eggs, let them come to room temperature because they will whip up more quickly and easily and hold more air (volume). To get the best results from your heavy cream, the cream and the bowl you will be using to whip in should be as cold as possible to whip up more quickly and easily and hold more volume. When you maximize the volume of both, your ice cream will be lighter and creamier!
  4. Bowled over: Since most of us only have one KitchenAid bowl to work with at home, I’d recommend whipping the cream first and storing it in your refrigerator while you whip up the egg yolks, followed by the egg whites. Whipped cream tends to hold its volume (the air trapped during the whipping process) longer than either whipped yolks or whites.
  5. Whip it good: To get the most out of your whipping cream, set the speed on your mixer between seven and eight or medium-high. At this speed, as the cream is whipping, the whisk will “cut” more evenly sized air bubbles into the cream. This is important because uniform air bubbles will “pop” closer to the same rate, whereas if you whip your cream on high speed, you will have irregular sized air bubbles—some large, some small—meaning your whipped cream will deflate more quickly than you want…and nobody wants to feel deflated!

 

Sweet Corn Ice Cream
Yield: 3 quarts

For the Roasted Corn Kernels:

Ingredients:

3 ears corn (approximately 1 ½ cups kernels), shucked, silks and husks reserved for corn-infused heavy cream (recipe below)
1 tablespoon canola oil
2-3 tablespoon sugar
Pinch of salt

Preparation:

  • Heat the oven to 350 F°.
  • Remove kernels from the cob and set aside. Cut cobs in quarters and reserve for corn-infused heavy cream (recipe below).
  • Spread kernels on a parchment paper-lined baking tray.
  • Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of canola oil.
  • Sprinkle with the sugar and season with a pinch of salt.
  • Roast in the oven at 350 F° for 15 minutes or until the corn begins to color.
  • Remove from the oven and allow it to cool to room temperature.
  • Can be stored in an airtight container for up to two days.

For the Corn-Infused Heavy Cream:

Ingredients:

3 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
2 cups reserved husks, silks and cobs

Preparation:

  • Combine all of the ingredients in one large pot.
  • Bring to a boil over medium heat.
  • Turn the heat off and steep for 15 minutes, covered with a lid.
  • After 15 minutes remove the lid and cool to room temperature.
  • Store corn-infused heavy cream in an airtight container for at least 24 hours or up to two days in the refrigerator.
  • The following day, strain the infused cream through a colander to make the corn ice cream base (recipe below). You need to make sure you wind up with three cups. Add fresh cream to make up the difference if needed.

For the Corn Ice Cream Base:

Ingredients:

4 eggs, separated
Salt
1 ½ cups sugar
3 cups corn-infused heavy cream, strained
1 ½ cups roasted corn kernels

Preparation:

  • Combine the egg yolks, ½ cup sugar and a pinch of salt in the bowl fitted for the electric mixer with a whisk attachment.
  • Whip on high speed until pale, thick and ribbony, make sure all of the sugar has dissolved. This should take three to four minutes. Remove whipped yolk base from the bowl and set aside in a large mixing bowl. Keep cold. Wash the mixing bowl and whip for the mixer because you will need it to whip the egg whites.
  • Place egg whites and a pinch of salt in the bowl fitted for the electric mixer and begin whipping on medium speed until medium peak.
  • Once egg whites are at medium peak, slowly add in the remaining one cup of sugar. Once all of the sugar is in, turn the machine up to high speed and continue to whip until the meringue looks like shaving cream. It will be light, fluffy and glossy looking.
  • In three separate stages, gently fold the meringue (egg white mixture) into the egg yolk base, only folding about three quarters of the way. This will help prevent over mixing. After the third addition of meringue has been folded in, place back into the refrigerator to keep cold.
  • Wash the mixing bowl and whip for the mixer because you will need it to whip the corn-infused heavy cream.
  • Whip the corn-infused heavy cream to medium peaks in an electric mixer with the whisk attachment.
  • Fold one quarter of the whipped corn-infused heavy cream into the ice cream base and mix three quarters of the way.
  • Add the last three quarters of the whipped corn-infused heavy cream along the with the roasted corn kernels to the ice cream base.
  • Gently fold everything together until no visible streaks of whipped cream remain.
  • Pour corn ice cream into an airtight container with a tight lid and freeze immediately.
  • Allow to freeze for 24 hours before serving.

*Ice cream will last for up to four days in the freezer.

Want more delicious dessert ideas from ICE’s expert chefs? Click here to learn more about ICE’s professional pastry program.

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By Andrea Strong

In 2013, Dominique Ansel opened a tiny pastry shop in SoHo where he married a croissant and a donut and turned its offspring, the Cronut®, into an overnight Instagram sensation that was heralded by TIME magazine as one of the “25 Best Inventions of 2013.” Since then, Ansel has gone on to create some of the most inspired and viral desserts in the industry, including the Cookie Shot, Frozen S’more, Blossoming Hot Chocolate, Gingerbread Pinecone and Christmas Morning Cereal. His out-of-the-box creations have given him a reputation as a “culinary Van Gogh” (Food & Wine) and “the Willy Wonka of New York” (New York Post).

Dominique Ansel

photo credit Thomas Schauer

What’s the next step for the creator of the most Instagram-worthy pastry on the planet? To quote Ansel, “the creation isn’t killing the creativity.” He’s taking yet another risk and expanding into unchartered territory — the savory kitchen, with a full-service restaurant called 189 by Dominique Ansel set to open this fall in Los Angeles at The Grove. The restaurant name is personal: it is taken from the address of Ansel’s original SoHo shop, located at 189 Spring Street. Coincidentally, his LA restaurant address also happens to be at 189 The Grove Drive. “It was meant to be,” said Ansel. “It reminds us of our home, and now it will be our second home on the West Coast.”

Andrea Strong spoke with Dominique about his move from pastry to savory, the challenges of opening restaurants in new cities and finding inspiration in unexpected places — like nail art.

What inspired you to choose Los Angeles as a location for your first savory restaurant? I’m a tad upset — what about NYC! 

I’ve always loved LA. The food scene is so exciting and so eclectic, and it’s so much a part of the culture there. Each time I visit LA, I find myself going to different neighborhoods, ones that are often out of the way, just to eat. One minute you can be having amazing Korean BBQ, Ethiopian food the next, then al pastor tacos from a truck somewhere late at night. And there’s beautiful fresh produce year-round so I’m excited for that, too. Plus, coming from New York where our Soho shop is quite small and has a tiny kitchen of just about a hundred square feet, it’ll be nice to have so much more space to work with.

How does your pastry background influence your savory cooking?

I actually started working in kitchens on the savory side before turning over to pastry. It’s the science behind pastry that really stuck with me. I love that it requires precision and measuring. You have to be exact. And I think that carries over to all parts of cooking — the level of discipline, precision and planning that goes into all that you do in a kitchen regardless if it’s a pastry or a savory kitchen.

I wonder what you might tell a student about being limited to pastry or savory cooking. In other words, should a pastry student stick to pastry or should they be open to doing savory? Is it best to stay in your niche?

You should never limit yourself. I always tell my team to stay curious and to really push yourself and not be afraid of trying something new. If people always stayed in their niche or stuck to what’s comfortable for them, then creativity wouldn’t be possible.

One of the things I think is most impressive about chefs is their fortitude. You are constantly faced with criticism and I wonder how you stay true to your goals and follow your passion when there are naysayers along the way.

For us, it’s about continuing to create. We have a saying: “Don’t let the creation kill the creativity,” meaning, don’t let one creation stop you from continuing to come up with new ideas and to keep pushing. Even before we opened, there were people who would tell me that a French bakery in New York would never work, and that I should make cupcakes and cheesecakes. I didn’t listen. Every day, we work on developing new ideas, new creations and when I see our guests enjoying what we’ve made, it makes all of it worth it.

You have said that when you cook you try to make an emotional connection with people. Desserts like the Cronut and the Frozen S’more take people to a more simple time. What is it about food that you think really moves people and how do you figure out how to do that so well? 

Food is such a personal thing. You always remember that birthday dinner you had with your family, celebrating special moments with a beautiful cake, spending the holidays around the table with your loved ones — all of these moments that are centered around food. With desserts, there’s a sense of nostalgia there too — roasting marshmallows around the campfire during the summertime, having cookies and milk after school, baking with your mom or grandma when you were a kid. For us, food is a way to create a memory or an emotional connection with people.

Dominique Ansel

You have shops in London and Tokyo. How do you learn about a new culture before you make the leap? What is your process? Do you move there? Eat there for a few days? Talk to friends? 

We took a lot of time in developing Japan and London, both of which were years in the making. Japan is somewhere where I get a lot of inspiration — from the food, from learning about the culture, appreciating the dedication that people have for food and for their craft there. And the talent there is incredible — well-trained chefs who have the skills and the discipline to maintain quality. And with London, there’s quite an international scene when it comes to food and a blend of history and heritage there that’s special. We spent quite some time immersing ourselves in the culture, learning from the locals and about local ingredients and traditions, understanding people’s tastes and how to work with new ingredients we hadn’t worked with before and learning from our partners there who helped guide us along the way.

What are the challenges you’ve faced in expanding overseas or to new markets?

With distance, quality becomes the most important thing — maintaining quality day in and day out. And communication becomes crucial too — having a team that’s on the ground who communicates with one another about what’s happening in the kitchen and in the FOH, and also communicating to our team here in NYC that’s an ocean away.

There’s also a learning curve when it comes to working with local ingredients, because with pastry, the tiniest nuances and changes with moisture levels, fat content, how the flour is aged, etc., can make all the difference. Learning to standardize ingredients and recipes in London and in Tokyo took some time to work out. In the UK, for example, the dairy is richer and thicker, so infusion times go up. The eggs are different, the butter is different, so we took a lot of time working on standardizing recipes to adapt.

Do you have any advice for someone who is trying to make that move to expand to an unfamiliar market?

You have to make yourself familiar first and foremost. If you don’t do the proper due diligence to really understand the culture, local tastes and adapt accordingly, then you shouldn’t be heading into that market.

Let’s talk a bit about inspiration — where do you find yours? Did the Cronut come to you in a dream? 

For me, inspiration can come from anywhere — from traveling, from art and architecture, fashion, even something totally unrelated to food that I see on Instagram, like nail art, for example. Each item that we create has a different story and a different inspiration, so there isn’t a set formula.

The Cronut was just one item that we decided to add to our menu. It took more than two months and 10 different recipes until we finally got it right. We change our menu every six to eight weeks, so it was just another new creation.

How do you instill inspiration and motivation in your staff? 

We’re always working on creating something new, and I encourage my team to push themselves to think out of the box, even if that means failing the first few times we try something. I also think that a product is never really complete. There’s always a way that it can be improved, whether it’s figuring out a different way to present or plate it, or a different technique when it comes to the baking process. It can always get better, and we can always get better.

What comes next? Will New York City get a savory restaurant too? (Please say yes!)

We’re taking things slowly and steadily, making sure not to overwhelm the team or open something just for the sake of opening. We put a lot of thought and a lot of time into each place that we open, so it’s never just a cut and paste. We just opened a new shop in Tokyo, and with the LA restaurant coming up in the fall, that’s our focus.

Ready to pursue your passion for food? Take the first step by clicking here to learn more about ICE’s career programs.

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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.

Kathryn Gordon Headshot cropped

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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