By Chefs James Briscione & Michael Laiskonis
- Anytime you set out to do something that has never been done before, you can expect some people to react with confusion and fear. Especially if that involves messing with something that people have deep and personal opinions about, like food. To say the least, when first introduced to the concept of a computer creating their meal, it isn’t uncommon for people to be skeptical. The fear, confusion and excitement all hinges on one critical word: recipe.
In our process, neither the chef nor Watson are exclusively responsible for creating the recipe of any particular dish. It begins with the inputs from the chef, who determines what he or she wants to create. Using the cognitive cooking system to input parameters for the dish (such as cuisine type and a key ingredient), Watson sifts through the quintillions of possible ingredient combinations, selecting the best options in terms of the novelty and pleasantness of the pairings. It is then up to chef to sift through that list and select the set of ingredients that looks most intriguing.
By Carly DeFilippo
At ICE, our students come from a variety of different backgrounds and have a broad range of goals. The man or woman standing next to you in class could be a concert pianist, doctor, recent high school or college graduate, plumber, florist, marketing executive or stay-at-home mother. Yet among the many fascinating life stories we’ve come across at ICE, alumnus Sharon Folta’s is particularly memorable. After graduating from ICE, she has both pursued a career in healthful cooking as a Personal Chef/Cooking Instructor and authored a memoir, Little Satchmo, about growing up as the daughter of famed jazz trumpet player Louis Armstrong.
What were you doing before you enrolled at ICE?
I was working in sales for WNEW FM radio as a Account Executive. I graduated from Iona College with a BA in Communication Arts eight years prior and worked my way up from Receptionist to Sales Assistant to Account Executive.
What was it specifically that attracted you to the program?
I’ve been passionate about food since my childhood and always enjoyed cooking and entertaining. I always wanted to study cooking professionally, but wasn’t able to go to school full time. When I heard about Peter Kump’s New York Cooking School (the school’s name was changed to ICE in 2001) and started taking recreational classes at the original location on the Upper East Side. A few years later, in 1998, I enrolled in the professional Culinary Arts course that was given on nights and weekends, and 6 years later, I enrolled in ICE’s Professional Culinary Management course that was given on nights and weekends.
By Virginia Monaco
ICE was delighted to recently host a cooking demo with one of New York’s true culinary phenoms, Chef Alex Stupak. Although only in his early thirties, Chef Stupak already has twenty years of industry experience under his belt. His professional career started in Chicago, where he worked at the award-winning, four-star restaurant Tru. Following his time in Chicago, Stupak went to work at The Federalist in Washington DC, and later, landed at Clio in Boston, where he gained national acclaimed for his talent as a pastry chef.
In 2005, Stupak was tapped by Grant Achatz to serve as the Executive Pastry chef of Alinea, widely considered to be the best restaurant in the country. His beautiful and innovative creations naturally lead into his next job as Pastry Chef of wd~50, New York’s own experimental kitchen. Yet in 2010, Stupak surprised his fans and colleagues by leaving the world of high-end pastry to open two of his own restaurants – Empellón Taqueria and Empellón Cocina – to wide acclaim.
It obviously seems surprising that a chef with such a strong career in modernist pastry would choose to open a fine dining Mexican restaurant. However, in doing so, Stupak feels he is filling a gaping hole in the New York food scene. Despite being the “culinary capital” of the US, Mexican food in New York City lags behind that of other major cities, rarely going beyond tacos, guacamole and margaritas. For someone like Stupak, who frequently visits Mexico and loves Mexican cuisine, this is a travesty. The goal of Empellón is to expose New Yorkers to the unique flavors, ingredients and techniques of Mexico and transform their appreciation of this under-appreciated cuisine.
By Liz Castner, Student, Pastry & Baking Arts and Culinary Management
Since the coining of the first celebrity chef, there have been many professionals in the culinary and pastry fields that new students can look up to as role models. There are, of course, a number of brilliant pastry chefs here in New York City—and around the world—whose work inspires the artist in me. But while the question of who I look up to changes and expands as I learn, one person who has held my attention as an incredible role model is Alison Robicelli.
I look to her and her husband Matt as successful examples of people who are real, people who work with their spouses every day, people who have started their own business several times, and people who have created delicious, luxurious, unusual recipes (shared with us through Alison’s naturally humorous voice in their new cookbook, Robicelli’s: A Love Story with Cupcakes). Needless to say, taking a class with the Robicellis at ICE was as exciting as I had hoped. In person, the Robicellis are cool, funny people who love to make and eat cake.
By Liz Castner
Every year, ICE Culinary Management students are exposed to some of the greatest entrepreneurs in the business. These industry leaders generously take time out of their busy schedules to share their stories and offer advice to the next generation of restauranteurs.
Most recently, my class was lucky enough to visit Chef David Bouley’s whimsical TriBeCa restaurant, Bouley Botanical. Filled with window gardens, a gleaming kitchen, film equipment and every type of new culinary gadgetry you can imagine, Bouley Botanical is a culinary fairytale of sorts. Chef Bouley has clearly succeeded in creating a foodie fantasy.
Bouley Botanical’s success should come as no surprise, as Chef has a long history as an innovator in the restaurant business. He has studied in France under some of the most masterful chefs in the world and is credited with opening Montrachet, which revolutionized New York City Restaurant culture. His success is largely attributable to his attention to detail and devotion to exceptional service. He shared with us the importance he places on a well-crafted tasting menu, as well as investing time in understanding what his guests like to eat. This enables him to provide patrons with the best meal possible, his primary goal as a chef.
By Andrew Gold, Dean of Students
Last May Nick Malgieri, ICE’s Director of Pastry and Baking Arts and author of Perfect Cakes, A Baker’s Tour and many others, traveled to Turkey to learn about Turkish pastries from experts in Istanbul and Gaziantep. He brought these traditions back to the states and recently shared them during a demonstration at ICE.
During the demo, Chef Malgieri demonstrated multiple types of savory pastries made from yufka, an ancient Turkish version of phyllo dough that is rolled as opposed to stretched. To begin, we watched original footage of Turks in action, including clips from a “modern” factory that makes sheets of dough for baklava and other delicacies.
By Virginia Monaco
ICE Pastry & Baking Arts Chef-Instructor Vicki Wells brings an enormous amount of experience with her into the kitchen. She has worked in some of the country’s finest kitchens, including Sarabeth’s, Hotel Plaza Athenée, Maxim’s, Montrachet, Le Bernardin and Trattoria Dell’Arte. In 2000, she took over the pastry department at two of Bobby Flay’s restaurants—Mesa Grill and Bolo—and later, Bar Americain. Vicki also served as Bobby Flay’s sous chef for all five of his victories on Iron Chef America. After working with Bobby, Vicki held the title of Executive Pastry Chef at Buddakan before eventually joining ICE as a Chef-Instructor.
When Vicki was first starting out in the industry, pastries were French by default. It wasn’t until she had gained some professional experience and started traveling that she became interested in the sweets of other cultures. Being ethnically Italian, Vicki was particularly interested in studying the flavor profiles and techniques used in Italian sweets. Unlike French pastries, Italian desserts tend to be strongly flavored with espresso or gianduja (chocolate-hazelnut paste) and are much more free-form and organic. Her culinary trips to Italy with fellow ICE Chef-Instructor Gerri Sarnataro inspired Vicki to become co-owner and Executive Pastry Chef of L’Arte Della Pasticceria, an Italian-inspired pastry shop in Ramsey, New Jersey.
By Chef Scott McMillen, Chef-Instructor, Pastry & Baking Arts
Our culinary and pastry students are faced with a number of challenges on a daily basis. First and foremost, they’re asked to learn recipes and techniques with foreign names and to reinforce that learning after class with homework and library assignments. While striving to produce professional quality work, they must also uphold the highest standard of efficiency and cleanliness. And as their lessons progress, students are expected to do additional fieldwork outside of ICE, which includes trailing (short term stints in commercial kitchens) to plan and prepare for their externships.
For a program that is relatively short in duration—a mere twelve weeks to nine months of in-class work—this is a rigorous course load. So the last thing our students needed to juggle on top of it is a stack of textbooks. That’s why ICE is proud to provide each of our professional students with their own iPad, preloaded with their course curriculum and textbooks. This technology offers our students and faculty a powerful tool that can help organize notes, record lectures and demonstrations and photograph dishes at every stage of preparation.
By Chef James Briscione
This whole thing started off as a crazy idea that I didn’t completely understand—and frankly, I was a bit skeptical. A computer that was going to help me cook better? I had my doubts. Yet two years and countless hours in the kitchen later, the culinary team at ICE and researchers at IBM have produced dozens of surprisingly delicious recipes.
All of that work has led to this moment. As we cross the floor of a Las Vegas convention center, all around us vendors are busy setting up their booths, display screens, and computing demos. We walk in with crisp chef coats slung over our shoulders, carrying knife rolls, and I can’t help but ask myself the same thing I suspect everyone around me is asking: “What the heck are we doing here?”
As we hit the center of the convention floor, it becomes clear. There it is, our home for the next few days: the IBM Food Truck. Parked in the center of the world’s largest conference on cloud-based computing is the mobile kitchen that will help us erase all questions of why we’re here—and all the doubts I and others have had about the role of computers in the kitchen.