By Michael Laiskonis—Creative Director
Sometimes the only thing better than finding inspiration on your own is witnessing someone else’s process of discovery. I see this spark in students all the time, when a visible realization of an idea or technique strikes, when the proverbial “light bulb” turns on. In my current position at ICE, making that connection is the most important aspect of what I do.
Yet while ICE’s classroom kitchens regularly provide opportunities for inspiration, the routine of the professional kitchen often presents fewer of those moments. Chefs must actively seek out new experiences and learning opportunities. However, it’s not just about keeping on the lookout for a revelation that will become the next dish on your menu. Inspiration can also be a means to remind us of the reasons why we started cooking in the first place.
Read on to learn which “eureka moments” have sparked Michael’s creativity.
The culmination of three years of research and creativity, Cognitive Cooking with Chef Watson is a revolutionary new cookbook revealing the inner workings of ICE’s collaboration with IBM. For the first time ever, the general public will be able to experience the flavor pairing potential of Watson’s AI system, as realized through the recipes of ICE chefs.
From a Peruvian spin on poutine to a savory dessert pudding that incorporates both bacon and mushrooms, these recipes may initially appear odd, but the results are far more than the sum of their parts. For aspiring chefs and current culinary professionals, this cookbook explores a new source of inspiration for dish development, based not on personal experience, but rather on the unexpected molecular potential of everyday ingredients.
Click here to purchase a copy of the ICE & IBM cookbook.
Running two restaurants in downtown Manhattan wasn’t originally Jason Soloway’s dream job. Yet after ten years managing a philanthropic organization, he found himself ready for an entirely different kind of service. With training from ICE’s Culinary Management program, Jason has quickly become an industry success, with rave reviews for both Wallflower and The Eddy. Yet when we caught up with Jason, we quickly learned his secret to success is focusing on his day-to-day guests.
What were you doing before you enrolled at ICE?
I was Vice President at The Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies (ACBP), a family of charitable foundations working in Canada, Israel and the United States that focus on investing in a range of programs in the arts, education, medicine, social services and the environment.
What specifically attracted you to the program?
I had been at ACBP for ten years and was looking for the next challenge in my life. I knew I wanted to be in the food and beverage industry, but didn’t know where to start. I saw the ICE Culinary Management program as the perfect bridge between my old life and my new one.
By Alison Mahoney—Student, School of Pastry & Baking Arts
For as long as I can remember, I have had a love affair with bread. Growing up Italian, good bread was compulsory at every meal and, as a vegetarian, it’s sometimes the only item I can eat on the menu (and you won’t hear me complaining about it). So why would a self-proclaimed “avid home baker” and bread lover never make bread? That’s right, this baker—who has laughed in the face of the French macaron and homemade puff pastry—has run away from bread-making like I was the only woman left in the zombie apocalypse. And the reason is yeast. Yeast has always scared the daylights out of me, because yeast is, after all, a fickle mistress.
So, just imagine my shock, awe and utter trepidation when I heard our first class at ICE was Bread 101. Not only would I have to use a scale for the first time and make sure that all of my measurements were perfectly accurate, but I would also have to face my greatest baking demon head on. Luckily for us, our chef calmly walked us through process of making bread. It didn’t look that hard, and I was fascinated by what I was learning about my former foe; who knew that sugar feeds yeast, while salt slows it down? I was starting to feel slightly more excited.
Read on to learn how Alison conquered her fear of bread baking.
In 2014, Ed Behr earned one of the food industry’s most prestigious honors: an induction into the James Beard Foundation’s “Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America.” Over the past thirty years, he has grown his publication, The Art of Eating, from a simple newsletter into a respected quarterly journal. For aspiring food media professionals, artisanal producers and culinary professionals inspired by the ethical and aesthetic questions of our time, Ed’s uncompromising vision and entrepreneurship stands as a model of excellence. We caught up with the publisher (and new cookbook author!) to learn more about his inspiring career path.
What were you doing before you enrolled at ICE? And what sparked your decision to attend culinary school?
I was working as a carpenter and builder, which I did for about a dozen years. I decided I wanted to open a restaurant, and to do that I felt I had to go to cooking school, not because I wanted to cook in the restaurant, but because I knew I didn’t know enough to recognize and hire a good chef. In the end, I never opened a restaurant. Since 1986, I’ve been writing about food and wine as the editor and publisher of The Art of Eating.
Read on to learn about Ed’s entrepreneurial career path.
There’s currently one chef on ICE’s staff who is registered as both an instructor and a student. That’s because—despite more than 25 years in the industry—Chef Scott McMillen is far from finished learning. Whether enrolling in Chef Toba Garrett’s cake decorating classes, Chef Sim Cass’ intensive bread baking program or, most recently, earning a diploma in Culinary Management, Chef Scott has stayed hungry for new opportunities to push his skills.
Scott’s hunger for knowledge has rubbed off on his students as well. Head Baker and Co-Owner Dave Crofton of One Girl Cookies and entrepreneurial cake designer Leigh Koh Peart are just two of the noteworthy alumni Scott has trained at ICE. “I still hear my own culinary school instructors’ voices loud and clear in my head, and I enjoy the opportunity to make a lasting impact on my students’ careers.”
What’s more, this continuing education has given Scott a special appreciation for the benefits of culinary school: “If you’re a career changer in your mid-twenties or older, culinary school really accelerates the process. When you start off in kitchens, each environment has a very narrow focus. The broad range of skills you learn at school means you can advance your career that much faster.”
Read on to learn more about Scott’s journey from executive pastry chef to ICE instructor.
By Lizzie Powell—Student, School of Culinary Arts & Culinary Management
Though I had the opportunity to explore many cuisines growing up, I had never really known much about the history of certain dishes or how regional cuisines are impacted by elements like climate and the availability of certain ingredients. Sure, I’ve taught myself to make many traditional Italian dishes or stir up a few Asian ingredients, but it wasn’t until Module 3 at ICE that I took a deeper look into iconic dishes from across the world.
While it would be ideal to travel to as many foreign regions as possible to learn first-hand about global cuisine, the curriculum at ICE prepares students with a knowledge of the core techniques and ingredients that form the foundation of various international styles of cooking. Over several weeks, my class dove into the flavor profiles of France, Italy and Asia through articles and texts, as well as hands-on experiences in the kitchen. For many of us, it was an introduction to ingredients we’ve never seen before and techniques that go beyond “traditional” kitchen training.
By Kathryn Gordon—Co-Director, Center for Advanced Pastry Studies
World-renowned pastry chef Anil Rohira has earned some of the industry’s most prestigious titles, from Pastry Chef of the Year to the winner of “Best Sugar Showpiece” at the Coupe de Monde in Lyon. Today, his grounded perspective and dedication to the craft has earned him a position as the Corporate Chef at Felchlin Switzerland, a world leader in premium chocolate production. This spring, we’re thrilled to be hosting a three-day seminar featuring Chef Rohira’s finest techniques.
You’ve remarked that you believe in the “heart, head and hand”—would you mind elaborating on what this means to you as a pastry chef?
Well, that is my philosophy about our craft, trade and a career in baking and pastry. The first thing that you must have is “heart,” meaning a strong interest, passion and love for the craft. If you do not, you won’t go very far. The industry is too demanding for you not to be committed to it.
Second is that this is as much an intellectual and creative process as it is physical. Just going through the motions of making pastry is not enough. You must be open in your way of thinking about what and why you do things. Making desserts is just the last step in the process. The intellectual creation of a plan for your dessert—flavor, texture and appearance—is the most important part. This effort, in addition to constantly reading or taking classes to upgrade your knowledge, forms your “head,” which comes before the “hand,” meaning your technical skill.
This weekend, ICE received the ultimate nationwide honor from the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP), winning the 2015 Award of Excellence for “Culinary School of the Year” at this year’s Annual IACP Conference in Washington, D.C.
The IACP is a forum of 3,000 professional food and beverage members from 32 countries engaged in and committed to excellence in all aspects of the culinary industry at the local, national and global level. Each year, the IACP Awards pay tribute to notable culinary professionals or institutions that have made significant and lasting contributions to the culinary industry.
At the IACP Conference, ICE won a second award as Culinary Arts Chef Instructor Chris Gesualdi was named 2015 “Culinary Educator of the Year.” During Chef Chris’ 10 year tenure at ICE, he has made a lasting impact on thousands of students through his unyielding commitment to excellence in the kitchen. Prior to a career in education, Chef Chris worked at some of New York City’s best restaurants, including Le Bernardin, Tonic and Montrachet (where he received 3 stars in the New York Times and a James Beard Award nomination for his work as executive chef).
Before she attended ICE’s Culinary Arts and Culinary Management programs, alum Denisse Oller was already a media powerhouse, working as a news anchor for networks like Telemundo and Univision. Combining her newfound culinary talents and television skillset, Oller has since appeared on Throwdown with Bobby Flay, The Today Show, Martha Stewart’s radio show and even a national campaign for “MiPlato” (MyPlate) initiated by First Lady Michelle Obama. We spoke with the media mogul to learn more about her decision to attend culinary school and how it has transformed her career.
How did ICE help you find your culinary voice?
When I first enrolled at ICE, I had no cooking experience. How brazen of me to dare enroll in the professional culinary program! But my interest was real—I had collected more than 200 cookbooks, which I used every day.
I decided to enroll at ICE to learn more, and boy, was I in for the challenge of my life—surrounded by students that knew so much more that I did. It was intimidating, but not for long. Slowly, but surely, I found a way to express my culinary aesthetic and my interpretations of Latin favorites—both classic dishes and modern, healthier versions of traditional recipes. The instructors were key in my professional culinary growth. I am so privileged to call so many of them my friends today.