By Stephen Zagor, Dean of Culinary Business

 

Is the announced demise of Crumbs—the 50-unit national cupcake chain—a culinary earthquake whose accompanying tsunami will now wipe out cupcake shops across the country? Yesterday, papers and business blogs immediately proclaimed the end of the cupcake trend as the obvious explanation. “Cupcakes are over,” shouts a pundit. “Too much reliance on a single product,” says another expert.” “Simply a ginormous calorie bomb,” comments another.  Even “too expensive” was listed among the many of the chain’s cupcake crimes.

Photo Credit: Judith Doyle

Should cupcake businesses everywhere throw out their muffin pans, burn up the liners and make plans to become the next salad bar? Maybe, if you believe these supposed “experts.” But let’s all hold on a minute before proclaiming the end of an entire segment of the pastry business and dig a little deeper into the real reason businesses fail.

 

By Carly DeFilippoCulinary Arts Student

 

Beyond mise en placebutchery and learning various techniques to build rich flavor, one of the most fascinating parts of culinary school is, quite simply, discovering new ingredients. It could be something as simple as chervil (a faintly licorice-flavored relative of parsley) or as strange as sweetbreads (a cut of offal derived from an animal’s thymus gland). Every new discovery is just a drop in the endless sea of flavors and ingredients available to the contemporary chef.

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Yet of all the unexpected ingredients I’ve discovered as a student, there is none so bizarre—and cool!—as caul fat. A natural, thin membrane that surrounds the internal organs of animals such as cows, sheep and pigs, this spiderweb of fat is most often harvested from pork. In an industry that increasingly celebrates snout-to-tail or “whole hog” cooking, this natural casing for stuffed roasts adds moisture and flavor that will literally melt away while helping your dish keep its shape.

 

By Orlando Soto, Pastry & Baking Arts Student

 

On our first day of class in Kitchen 501, Chef Gerri Sarnataro shared several indispensable truths about the food industry. One of them really struck me as odd: “There’s always a back door.” Meaning, there’s always more than one way of doing things, especially in cooking. I thought this was ironic, given my initial perception of pastry: we follow recipes to the gram in an effort to deliver consistent results. But of course, Chef Gerri’s words rang true throughout the program, and never more so than in cake decorating.

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Professional cake decorating elevates the common, spongy dessert from ordinary to memorable. It’s an opportunity for the pastry chef to tune directly into the desires and expectations of a client. A cake is a canvas to delight the sense of sight, as much as the sense of taste. Not surprisingly, it’s the details make or break a cake. If you want to create flowers, for example, you aim to make all the petals, leaves and buds look like nature intended. Subtle color gradients and textures bring to life what was once plain, pliable fondant.

 

By Virginia Monaco

 

James Peterson is a legendary culinary figure. He has just published his fifteenth cookbook, the most recent in a line of impressive and important publications. His writing has addressed such vast topics as Sauces or Vegetables, all while keeping a focused and grounded view of his subject matter. Not only does Chef James (or Jim, as he prefers to be called) spend enormous amounts of time researching and recipe testing for each book, but he also does all his own food styling and photography, making each book a true labor of love. In addition to garnering a slew of IACP and James Beard awards, his work has also provided him with a devoted following of chefs, cooks and amateurs.

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Yet, while Jim has admiration and appreciation for all kinds of cuisines and techniques, his heart always returns to the rich and comforting flavors of classic French food. For his recent cooking demonstration at ICE, he thoughtfully chose to demonstrate squab salmis over a cassoulet of fava beans and foie gras. 

 

By Michael Laiskonis, ICE Creative Director

 

One of the many hats I wear as creative director is that of a guest lecturer. Perhaps my favorite task at ICE is leading our professional Pastry & Baking students’ introduction to dairy products during the very first days of their program.

Whipped cream, firm peak stage

If you know me, then you know that I have become a bit of a dairy nerd, always looking to better understand the composition, structure and function of milk and all of its derivatives. And while I present a great deal of technical information during my dairy lecture—in addition to offering a tasting of some two dozen products—my goal is simply to present this humble, common ingredient in a new light. Retaining every specific fact and figure isn’t as important as getting our students to start thinking about all ingredients in an analytical way—in other words, what they bring to a recipe and how they affect its final outcome.

 

By Virginia Monaco

 

At ICE, we’re always thrilled to celebrate the successes of our graduates, and, in particular, to invite them “back to school” to share their stories and expertise with our current students. Most recently, we invited two outstanding alumni—Miguel Trinidad and Kamal Rose—to demonstrate some of their signature dishes and impart industry advice from their years of experience after ICE.

miguel kamal

In addition to introducing the audience to new techniques and flavor combinations, Chefs Kamal and Miguel also shared valuable career advice based on their own professional careers. Both stressed that ICE provided them with a solid culinary foundation, but that learning never stops when you work in the kitchen. For students nervous about trailing or beginning their externships, they recommended three tips: write everything down in a notebook, work enthusiastically and be inquisitive but humble. While admitting that kitchen work can be very demanding, they stressed the pride in a job well done and the sense of satisfaction they feel at the end of the day. Their final take-away? Success is in the hands of each student, and a culinary career is one where you get out what you put in.

How Toba Garrett helped transform American cake design from common buttercream to complex artistry. 

 

By Carly DeFilippo

 

ICE Chef Instructor Toba Garrett wasn’t always a master cake decorator, renowned for her unusually attractive, skilled, and delicious confections. Her prior careers spanned the fields of theatre, education, and computer science, before she changed her life through culinary education.

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Today, juggling the roles of teacher, industry expert, author, and artist, Toba is among the country’s foremost experts in the field of cake decorating and design. She has won more than a dozen international gold and silver medals for her designs, and has been featured in numerous media outlets, including Today ShowInStylePastry Art and DesignGourmet (and many more). In 2010, Dessert Professional magazine named her one of the “10 Best Cake Decorators in America” and she has even had her work featured by the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C.!

 

By Michael Laiskonis, ICE Creative Director

 

As a professional pastry chef, I have a deep relationship with candy. But then don’t we all? Several years ago, I began to ponder the ‘culture’ that surrounds our taste for sweets. What I came to realize is that we relate to sweetness on three different levels: the physiological, the psychological, and the nostalgic.

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With the possible exception of salt, the instinctual desire for sweetness—more than any other taste—is surely hardwired somewhere deep within our DNA. From the moment of birth, we seek our nourishment and comfort in the rich, sweetened form of mother’s milk; it is indeed the only taste we know in our early months. Eventually our sense of taste becomes considerably more complex as our food choices expand, but I find it interesting that, for all humans, the craving for sweet endures.

 

By Shannon Mason 

 

It’s always a privilege when we can invite our alumni back to ICE to share their professional expertise with our students, including those in recreational cooking classes. Recently we welcomed back Ivy Stark, a 1995 graduate of ICE’s Culinary Arts program, and currently the Corporate Executive Chef of Dos Caminos, a critically-acclaimed restaurant with several locations in New York City as well as New Jersey and Florida.

ICE - Recreational Classes - Dos Caminos Ivy Stark Tacos

The restaurant thrives on her creative vision, featuring a menu of Mexican cuisine with a modern twist. There are few chefs better suited than Ivy to share a fresh take on the classic taco; we’re sharing her pro tips, time-saving tricks, and the recipe for Dos Caminos Baja-Style Mahi Mahi tacos.   

 

It was recently announced that Chef Wylie Dufresne, one of the leaders of the country’s modernist cooking movement, would be closing down the acclaimed, 11-year-old wd~50 on New York City’s Lower East Side. Dufresne has gained national recognition for his cutting-edge creativity, receiving awards including the 2013 James Beard Award for “Best Chef New York City” and a Michelin star, which he has maintained every year at wd~50 since the founding of the Michelin’s first American edition, in 2006.

ICE - Pro Dev - Wylie Dufresne

It is a set-back that we are sure will open up many new opportunities for the famed chef, who, prior to striking out on his own, served as sous chef at Jean Georges in New York City and chef de cuisine at Prime in The Bellagio, Las Vegas. Today, Dufresne also oversees the kitchen at Alder in New York City’s East Village, a restaurant that reflects a more approachable interpretation of his modernist leanings.

Earlier this year, we spoke to Dufresne about his influences, his unique perspective and what’s next for him as a chef.