By Shay Spence
Every so often, I am presented with a life-affirming reminder of why I decided to pursue my culinary career in New York City. One of these moments came late last month, when I was given the opportunity to be a culinary volunteer at the NYC Wine and Food Festival. Yes, the Wine and Food Festival. The Super Bowl of gastronomic delights.
In previous years, I have spent this same weekend glued to my twitter feed in a jealous rage, following along as my favorite celebrity chefs hobnob with each other, posting blurry cell phone photos of beautiful, unattainable plates of food all along the way. Why can’t that be me? I’d wonder, as I visited the festival website for the billionth time, hoping that, by some miracle, the price tag had dropped ten thousand percent. Not this year, though. This year I was determined to get in on all of this glamorous action. When ICE sent me an email saying that the festival was looking for volunteers, I knew this would be the perfect opportunity to get my foot in the door, literally.
By Virginia Monaco
Thanksgiving—arguably the biggest day of the year for home-cooked meals—is fast approaching, and aspiring home chefs will find themselves in the spotlight yet again. To provide the adventurous cooks among us with some culinary inspiration, ICE invited Master Butcher Rudi Weid to demonstrate the infamous turducken.
If you are unfamiliar with the term, a turducken is a deboned chicken stuffed into a deboned duck, which is then stuffed into a partially deboned turkey. Each layer is traditionally separated with stuffing or sausage, creating a layered effect when the bird is sliced after roasting. Culinary students may recognize similarities between a turducken and a ballontine, a deboned poultry leg that is stuffed and rolled.
One of ICE’s celebrated alumni, Marc Murphy, is lighting up the New York City dining scene with a new restaurant, Kingside in the Viceroy Hotel on West 57th Street. Murphy says of the unique feel and location, “It’s a restaurant located in a hotel, but we’ve created a space that has a downtown vibe and a really great neighborhood feel.”
On the day we visited, Murphy himself was working the Chef’s Counter. It’s a large area in the center of the restaurant where guests can watch the chefs in action. That night, diners watched Murphy churn out unique combinations, like hay-aged pecorino, ricotta and truffle honey toast.
By Tom K. Voss
Over the past few years, a trend has arisen in hotel management regarding new and innovative solutions for guest registration. As an experienced hotelier, it has been unclear to me what the motive is for managers to change this process. In theory, using technology could save on labor costs or possibly speed up the process. However, I’d argue that the most useful alteration would be the addition of a human touch.
- Photo Credit: Holiday Extras
Presently, the majority of hotels follow the traditional procedure of having guests register with a friendly, knowledgeable staff member. After all, isn’t that what we do when guests visit our homes? We don’t have an electronic kiosk to greet them at the door and show them to their rooms. In this way, our sense of hospitality has remained the same since ancient times, rooted in the belief that one should treat his or her guests better than him or herself.
This week, ICE made an appearance on Rocco DiSpirito’s new Food Network show Restaurant Divided. The episode, which first aired on November 14th, was titled “Against Da Grill”. It followed a struggling Staten Island restaurant of the same name and its philanthropic management team. Chef Rocco learned one reason the restaurant wasn’t profitable was that food costs were too high. So he sent co-owner Kurron Mangin to the Institute of Culinary Education for help.
Director of Culinary Development, James Briscione, met with Kurron to share a few money saving tips and tricks. In particular, Kurron had been buying pre-cut chicken wings for the restaurant’s fried chicken, so Chef James taught him how breaking down a whole chicken was much more cost efficient. A native Southerner, Chef James also helped Kurron up his fried chicken game, crafting a new version of the dish that Kurron is now serving on his menu.
When Michael Laiskonis got hired for his first job, scooping ice cream in Detroit, he never imagined that one day he would be one of the nation’s top pastry chefs, instructing ICE Pastry & Baking students in 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.
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.
By Liz Castner
My first thought on day one of my Culinary Management class was, “Oh boy.” As in—oh boy, eleven textbooks is kind of a lot. Oh boy, this is a room of people I’ve never seen before. Oh boy, this is the thickest packet of all time. Oh boy, I have a lot to learn.
By contrast, my thoughts on the first day of Pastry class were something along the lines of: “Yay! Finally!” A month into management, the contrast between my passion-driven approach to pastry and my practicality-driven attitude towards management still exists. And I’m okay with this. In fact, it would be quite jarring for me to realize at the age of 24 that I have an unrealized fire raging in my heart for econ or finance.
Following day one of Culinary Management class, we dove right into the material. We started by discussing restaurant concepts, and brainstorming possible menus for each. The majority of the class was split in terms of the type of restaurant concept they wanted to pursue, with myself and two other women interested in a bakery or pastry shop concept. Over the course of the next few classes, we examined different aspects of our chosen restaurant concept. We learned how just one misstep, like a poorly chosen location or the ability to only operate at certain times of day, can lead to going out of business. We went on two field trips to two very different locations. The first was to a somewhat random location in the city, and the second was to the flagship location of Mangia. For each, we were asked to think about what type of restaurant concept we would try there based on the information we had learned.
This month, more than fifty guests gathered at ICE for a book signing with internationally renowned pastry chef Francois Payard. Most notably, the evening featured a recipe demonstration from his latest cookbook, Payard Desserts, which celebrates the chef’s signature desserts from more than twenty years in the industry.
A third generation pastry chef, Payard is no stranger to the rigor of superior production. At the beginning of the demonstration, he explained that while he may be perceived as stern, it is only with the utmost precision that the staff at his twelve international shops can provide consistently outstanding products. And despite his straightforward style, it was clear that Payard has a certain passion for teaching, explaining that the demo was “not about showing what [he] can do, but about what you (the audience) can do.” It is with that spirit that Payard authored his latest book, requiring rigorous testing to ensure that his signature recipes could be reproduced at home.
By Chef Jenny McCoy
When it comes to making pumpkin desserts, I love the slightly more starchy quality and super bright orange color of kabocha squash. Roasted alongside sugar pumpkins for your next Thanksgiving pie, I think you’ll agree. After extensive testing, I now use a 50/50 blend of freshly roasted sugar pumpkin and kabocha squash puree in my recipes—it has a thicker consistency and a much more intense flavor. Simply swap it in for the fresh or canned pumpkin puree called for in any of your favorite fall recipes, or give my pound cake a try!
By Shay Spence
When you hear terms like “modernist cuisine” or “molecular gastronomy,” it brings to mind visions of mad scientist-like chefs using fancy machines to create concoctions that you’re not sure if you’re supposed to eat or see on display at the Museum of Modern Art. But for Chef John Bignelli of the East Village hot spot Alder, modernist cooking is anything but. Instead, he crafts playful takes on classic, comfortable flavor, creating dishes that are brilliant and fascinating, but still familiar.
This October, I was lucky enough to attend a recreational cooking class with Chef Bignelli at ICE, which featured his signature dishes. Pasta that tastes like a pastrami on rye? New England clam chowder with “oyster” crackers made from a puree of actual oysters? Yes, please.