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By Carly DeFilippo 

It’s not every day that a student gets to return to his or her alma mater, to walk the halls as not only an alumnus, but also a teacher. ICE Culinary Arts graduate Charles Granquist has more than earned his place among our faculty, with a resume that includes such diverse experience as the fine dining kitchens of Blue Hill NYC and the fast-paced food media world of the Food Network.

chef charles granquist culinary school

When he first arrived in New York, Charles wasn’t the most obvious candidate for the culinary profession. He didn’t grow up in a family of cooks, and his education in music and economics at Bates College hadn’t prepared him for life in the kitchen. But when his first job at a sound branding company didn’t pan out as planned, the thought of escaping the cubicle for the kitchen began to sound increasingly enticing.

“If there was anyone in my family who sparked my interest in food, it was probably my grandfather,” Charles explained. “He was originally from Bogota, Columbia, but he spent a significant part of his life in Paris. He couldn’t cook at all, but he would regale us with stories of meals he had in France or Gstaad.” Those stories, paired with a few summer jobs at fish markets and grills during his college years marinated in Charles’ mind, forming the foundations of a professional calling.

His curiosity sparked, Charles knocked on the door of Chanterelle—then, one of the most innovative fine dining restaurants in NYC. Offering his services for free got his foot in the door, and within the first few days in the kitchen Charles was certain cooking was the career for him. From there, he moved on to the Savoy, where he was hired as garde manger. But the longer he spent in professional kitchens, the more Charles realized he would benefit from formal schooling.

chef charles granquist culinary school kitchen

So in 2002, Charles enrolled in the morning Culinary Arts program at ICE, while continuing night shifts at Savoy and Fleur de Sel. Immediately, he found a mentor in Chef Ted Siegel. Charles explains, “I don’t think I would have gotten very far in the industry if it weren’t for him. He was tough on all of us and actually got us ready for a restaurant. Specifically, having him for the fifth and final module of the program…that really made me feel ready to enter the industry.”

For his externship, Charles chose to work under an equally rigorous chef, Dan Barber, at Blue Hill in Greenwich Village. He arrived at the restaurant at a fortuitous time: right before Barber opened Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, New York. “It was amazing because we closed down Blue Hill NYC for a few months, and the entire crew went upstate to help with the opening. We knew we were on the cutting edge of something, and getting to work with Dan Barber and other chefs like Mike Anthony (now the executive chef of Gramercy Tavern) and Juan Cuevas was an incredible learning experience.”

At the time, Blue Hill was still in its infancy, but Barber’s mission and vision shaped the way Chef Charles cooks to this day. “Chef Dan was a very cerebral guy. He was tough and demanding, but he also made you think really carefully about what you’re doing and where your food is coming from. My cooking style remains hyper-seasonal to this day—even in my home kitchen. My wife might think it’s ridiculous, but I genuinely like to work with what’s in season because it tastes the best and because working with restrictions is the best way to challenge yourself.”

chef charles granquist culinary school kitchen

After the opening of Stone Barns, Chef Charles returned to Blue Hill NYC for another two years. As he moved his way through various stations—from garde manger to saucier—the restaurant continued to evolve, eventually earning a rave three-star review from The New York Times.

Working at one of New York’s finest restaurants didn’t offer much flexibility, so at the request of his newlywed bride, Charles began investigating kitchen positions with more normal hours. Dan Barber personally helped Charles in his search, putting in a call to the Food Network, where Charles landed a position as a food stylist.

“Working as a food stylist at the Food Network is totally different than in other parts of the industry. If you’re styling a turkey for Emeril, you might prepare a turkey in six different stages of the cooking and plating process. Every detail needs to be carefully planned out in advance,” Charles notes. After about a year and a half, Charles was promoted to culinary producer, which involved cross testing the talents’ recipes, developing a run of show for every shoot and working with the talent to ensure everything ran smoothly on set.

Working in food media did leave Charles missing the heat and camaraderie of the kitchen, so when the chance to work on new business opportunities for the network arose, he jumped at the opportunity. Working with the Delaware North company, Charles’ role was to build out a flagship Food Network concession stand at Yankee Stadium. After three years, the project was such a success that it expanded to 22 stadiums across the country.

“Working in large-scale food service was something I had never done before,” explains Chef Charles, “so there was a learning curve—in terms of what people would want to eat, how to do local or sustainable sourcing in a stadium setting, etc.” Charles was also recruited to develop two Food Network restaurant concepts for the Fort Lauderdale and Atlanta airports—each with an open kitchen and a menu that reflected local culinary flavor.

chef charles granquist culinary school

After years at Food Network, something was still missing for Chef Charles. He took a year off to follow his passion—spending a week in Chef Mike Anthony’s kitchen at Gramercy Tavern, training in charcuterie at Artisan Meat Share in Charleston and eventually, taking a job at Dickson’s Farmstand Meats as an apprentice charcutier and in-house chef for the shop’s prepared foods.

“After a year back in real kitchens, I knew that I wanted to continue in a place where I was cooking actively,” says Charles. “I had always liked training the staff at the restaurants I had opened for Food Network, so when I saw an opportunity to teach at ICE, I knew that would be a meaningful next move.”

Though only in his first weeks of teaching, Chef Charles is already shaping the career paths of the next generation of chefs. “Initially, a lot of students are interested in my work with the Food Network, but even if food media is your professional dream job, it would be a major mistake to leave culinary school and not spend at least one year in a professional kitchen—the very best kitchen you can find. No matter where you go after that, you are going to need that foundation. At Food Network, the people who rose through the ranks quickest were invariably those with restaurant experience. And yes, that first year might be the most terrifying career choice of your life, but you will be a much better candidate for any job after that.”

Get to know Chef Charles in person. Click here for free information about ICE’s Culinary Arts program.

By Carly DeFilippo

As the pastry chef behind jewelry-inspired bakery Mini Melanie, ICE Culinary Arts alum Melanie Moss serves up some of the most stylish treats in NYC. But before she was catering the city’s most chic parties and designing cakes that are almost too pretty to eat, Melanie trained in some of the country’s most famous restaurant kitchens. We checked in with this innovative alum to learn about the training that prepared her for a dynamic career as a culinary entrepreneur.

Did you have another career before working in food?
I went to college at Northwestern University, where I was an English and French major. During college, I interned at Hachette Book Group, where I found a job in publishing after graduation. I always thought I’d have an office job, but once I was behind the desk for a year or so, all I could think about was cooking, so I started a private chef business. Around the same time, I took a tour of ICE, and I just knew that this industry was for me, so I enrolled as a part-time student in the weekend program.

What was it that attracted you to ICE?
I had zero restaurant experience, and the beautiful, sprawling kitchens at ICE—filled with excellent equipment—seemed like the boot camp I needed to prepare myself for restaurant life. I fell in love with the library, too, as I’ll always be a bookworm! I spent hours looking through the stacks of old Gourmet magazines and ICE’s beautiful cookbook collection. It seemed like the perfect spot to learn and grow right in New York City.

cake drizzle mini melanieHow did you end up working in pastry?
It ironically started with meat fabrication. Chef Ted Siegel (one of my all-time favorites!) was an amazing instructor, but I couldn’t seem to get the cuts right. So I reached out to Pat LaFrieda, asking if I could watch his butchering team one night, and he wrote back straight away, inviting me in for a tour. I started working for Mr. LaFrieda, and I finally got the hang of how to butcher. At some point, he kindly gave me the phone number for the kitchen at Babbo.

The next day, I knocked on Babbo’s door and begged for an externship. Chef Frank Langello made time for a quick chat but said nothing was open on the line. I left disappointed, planning to follow up in a month or so. Then, before I knew it, Chef Frank was chasing after me! He remembered that his James Beard Award-winning pastry chef, Gina DePalma (who is also an ICE alum!), had a member of her team on vacation and needed someone to fill in for two weeks. Suddenly, I had an externship in pastry at Babbo, which turned into a full-time position.

What was your path from Babbo to Mini Melanie?
My time at Babbo was incredible. I’d never worked in a restaurant before, and Gina taught me everything—sometimes the hard way—but it paid off a million times over. Patience, practice and perseverance: that was my mantra each day.

Eventually, I became interested in working for a very different kind of kitchen, so I left Babbo for Blue Hill at Stone Barns. It was thrilling but complicated—I had to move to Westchester in my twenties! I started as Blue Hill’s pastry line cook and, within a month, became the pastry chef for the Stone Barns café, which meant that I was also baking bread for the restaurant.

At Blue Hill, my role continued to grow: teaching classes, developing desserts for Chef Dan Barber and working on special projects such as the Blue Hill yogurt brand. It’s impossible to gauge just how much my time at Blue Hill affected my career, because I learned that much. I was working all the time, but I had incredible freedom, resources and guidance to experiment and grow as a pastry chef. That experience gave me the confidence to begin testing recipes for Mini Melanie.

mini melanie treatsWhat was it like to launch your own business, and why did you choose to work with a start-up incubator program?
When I decided to launch Mini Melanie, I had a culinary background but no business experience—but I wasn’t going to let that stop me. In fact, it’s a wonderful thing to launch a food business in 2015. There’s an app for every type of service, social media is king and you can Google many of the questions you have.

Working with Hot Bread Kitchen Incubates—a program that supports NYC culinary start-ups—appealed to me because, in addition to finding affordable commercial kitchen space, you get so much more out of it. The program directors regularly share marketing opportunities, and I learned so much just by mingling and collaborating with other entrepreneurs.

What might people be surprised to learn about your career?
I originally thought I wanted to be a food journalist, and I had no idea how to navigate a restaurant kitchen when I started!

What advice would you give to students who are interested in launching their own business one day?
Research is so important, you have to get a sense of the competition and what products/services already exist in your market. I also recommend listening to podcasts and reading business books—that’s what I did! You’ve got to have the passion and drive to keep things moving forward each and every day.

Eager to launch your own company? Sharpen your skills with an ICE diploma in Culinary Arts.

By Ted Siegel—Chef Instructor, School of Culinary Arts

In today’s food culture, ingredient-focused or “farm-to-table” cuisine has become so commonplace that many young chefs can’t remember a time before it existed. Before the dawn of Instagram, food blogs and YouTube videos, a generation of chefs willed this movement into existence through a series of earth-shattering cookbooks. Those books—most importantly, Cooking the Nouvelle Cuisine in America and the Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook—reshaped the culinary landscape and have since paved the way for such famous chefs as Thomas Keller and Mark Ladner.

california cuisine cookbooks

In the late 1960s, the nouvelle cuisine revolution shook French cuisine and culture to its core. As more and more Americans began to travel abroad after the war, it was inevitable that this movement—characterized by fresh ingredient-focused cooking and artistic presentation—would have a profound impact on modern American cuisine. The result was an equally innovative shift on American soil: a regional cooking revolution that began with what the media dubbed “California cuisine.”

In 1979, two young American cooks, Michèle Urvater and David Liederman, published a text called Cooking the Nouvelle Cuisine in America. This book was one of the first cookbooks available in the U.S. that comprehensively explained the principles and techniques of nouvelle cuisine and made them accessible to American cooks. As a young chef, I had more than one epiphany while reading this book, and today my copy is quite dog-eared after many re-readings.

In Cooking the Nouvelle Cuisine, Urvater and Liederman spoke eloquently about how the culinary principles codified by such French chefs as Ferdinand Point had turned the classical cuisine of Escoffier and Carême on its proverbial head. In short, Point realized that, after the war, the old school style of cooking no longer fit into the lifestyle of contemporary French people. He preached that chefs should be more creative with their menus and that their dishes should reflect what was immediately available in the marketplace.

Within the guidelines of nouvelle cuisine, menus also became smaller and more manageable, reflecting the need to change with the seasons and the ability to work with smaller kitchen “brigades.” From a technical perspective, Point preached eliminating starch thickeners from sauces. Instead, chefs could create sauces of a much lighter quality based on a series of reductions (a technique called “stratification” based on the work of Andre Guillot). To complement this change, Point recommended that chefs emphasize lighter and quicker cooking techniques such as sautéing, steaming and poaching. He recommended simpler plated presentations to highlight the natural integrity of the ingredients. If you’ve eaten at an upscale restaurant in New York City recently, you’ll have seen all of these principles in action.

california cuisine plated plating

A few years later, a second nouvelle cuisine-minded text furthered this movement: the Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook by Alice Waters. I could write a whole doctoral thesis on the significance of Waters’ impact on the history of American cooking. Together with other leaders of the California cuisine movement, Waters radically altered the manner in which culinary professionals produce, grow, prepare and present food—both on the plate and on a menu.

In addition to the principles of nouvelle cuisine, Waters was profoundly influenced by the ancient principles of Japanese cooking. Benefitting from the abundance of agricultural resources in California, the staff at Chez Panisse captured the imagination of a whole generation of American cooks and chefs.

What the Declaration of Independence was to colonial Americans in the 1700s, the introductory chapter of the Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook was to 1980s American chefs. Called “What I Believe About Cooking,” it was truly a culinary “shot heard ’round the world.” Waters explained how alienated and alienating our experience with food and cooking had become since World War II. In particular, Waters’ greatest contribution was in the idea that, “No cook, however creative and capable, can produce a dish of a quality any higher than that of the raw ingredients.”

california farmer's market

Produce at the San Francisco farmer’s market

I was lucky enough to work under Waters at Chez Panisse. One of my most endearing food memories includes the first time that I smelled fresh, earthy, piney chanterelle mushrooms from the Pacific Northwest. Or when I tasted Waters’ famous baked goat cheese salad with baby lettuces that were locally grown in the Berkeley Hills. Each week, the kitchen staff would anxiously await the printing of the next week’s menu—a so-called “gazetteer” that featured small, local producers.

Other chefs may name other books as the ones that defined their careers, but for the students who ask about my formation as a cook, I always recommend they read these two texts. While it’s important to stay up-to-date on modern trends in food, learning about the roots of contemporary American cooking can both further young chefs’ understanding of current kitchen culture and spark their personal creativity.

Further reading:

Wish you could study with Chef Ted? Click here to learn more about our Culinary Arts program.

Green Omri Director of Special Projects USHG

By Carly DeFilippo

As the director of special projects at Union Square Events, the catering and venue hospitality division of Danny Meyer’s celebrated Union Square Hospitality Group, ICE alum Omri Green is working at the pinnacle of the food and beverage industry. “It’s crazy to think I’m entering year 13 with this company,” says Omri. “Without a doubt, I wouldn’t be where I am today without that fundamental background [I received at ICE] in both Culinary Arts and Culinary Management.”

Yet working in the food industry wasn’t always Omri’s professional goal. Upon graduating from the University of Wisconsin in 1997, Omri worked on New York City film sets, eventually in a full-time position at Miramax Films. There he gained extensive experience in business affairs and post-production, until he realized that furthering his career in film would require a move to the West Coast. “I’m a born and raised East Coaster, and I wanted to have a career that would keep me closer to home. So I decided to explore something that was always a passion for me: the culinary industry.”

Omri enrolled in ICE’s double diploma program in Culinary Arts and Culinary Management, where he quickly found mentors in Chef Ted Siegel and Management Instructor Brian Buckley. He also found himself inspired by the guest lecturers who visited his management classes, notably Mark Maynard-Parisi, who was then overseeing the launch of Blue Smoke Catering at Danny Meyer’s famed barbecue outpost. Upon graduation, Omri took a position as a host/reservationist at Blue Smoke while learning the catering trade. After about a year, he moved to catering full time.

After three years managing Blue Smoke Catering, Omri received an offer to work with Hudson Yards Catering, a company within the USHG family. Two years later, he became the operations manager for Hudson Yards Catering (now Union Square Events), overseeing all catering operations for the company. As the business expanded rapidly, it became clear that there was a need for support of new business—someone to help handle the development of long-term ventures and consulting opportunities. That person was Omri.

Union Square Events Omri Green Interview

Photo courtesy of Union Square Events; photo credit Nicole Franzen

It’s incredible to think that someone could have these varied experiences under the guise of a single restaurant group—especially in an industry that is known for diversified resumes and high turnover rates. Yet Omri notes that, “USHG is different from other big companies out there. It’s like working for family. They really take good care of you, and working for a larger operation offers the benefit of a centralized backbone for operations, from legal to marketing, IT and more.” (For those interested in positions at Union Square Events, click here to see a list of opportunities.)

Today, we’re thrilled to have Omri back at ICE as a new instructor in our Culinary Management program. In fact, he’s currently co-teaching with his early mentor, Brian Buckley, and is eager to inspire the next generation. “I love starting with folks who don’t have a lot of business knowledge and teaching them the essentials. I remember what it was like being at ICE and not knowing what was in store for my career. What’s more, as a career-changer, I know what it’s like to switch industries and work your way back up, so I think I have a lot to share.”

Ready to follow in Omri’s footsteps? Click here to learn about the double diploma program at ICE. 


By Lizzie Powell—Student, School of Culinary Arts and Culinary Management 

It’s been two months since I started class at ICE, and from butchering nearly every type of protein, to learning how to properly sauté, grill, roast, poach and steam, to exploring the financial side of culinary business, I can confidently say I’ve learned a lot.

But I’m not just learning how to do all these things. I’m learning the why behind everything as well. No matter what my question is (and I ask quite a few!), the teachers at ICE are incredibly knowledgeable about the topic at hand, and every task we take on in class has a strategic educational purpose. For example, in Module 1 of Culinary Arts, my classmates and I joked that Chef Ted had an encyclopedia for a brain—ask him any question and he knows the answer to it and more. The same goes for my Culinary Management instructor, Steve Zagor. He has an endless supply of industry stories that provide tangible lessons about running a culinary business—making our classes a series of hilarious and informative parables!

Ted Siegel - Steve Zagor - Institute of Culinary Education - Douple Diploma - Culinary Arts - Culinary Management

ICE Instructors Ted Siegel and Steve Zagor

Learning how to cook professionally and manage the business side of restaurants at ICE has taught me more about efficiency and waste than I ever thought possible. Take my home cooking habits as an example. Since starting school, I’ve learned I wasn’t cooking nearly as efficiently as I could’ve been in my own kitchen. Sure, I would think through cooking times and what ingredients I needed, but I never made a mise en place list or production schedule before I turned on the stove or oven. As obvious as it may sound to some, doing these simple things has helped me transform into a more strategic, efficient and methodical home cook.

Yet this education goes far beyond reinventing my own home cooking strategy. I’ve discovered that successful restaurant management (see: keeping the rent paid and the lights on) depends on the business skills of the back-of-the-house (BOH) staff. This is because the BOH must help control “food cost,” an essential formula that guides the strategy of any restaurant management team. In simple terms, food cost is the difference between the amount it costs a restaurant to make a menu item and the price a customer pays for that item. If the kitchen knows how to use every bit of edible food that is bought for production, the management team gets more bang for their buck and, in turn, more money is generated to invest in the restaurant’s future.

Salmon Fabrication - Culinary Arts - Institute of Culinary Education

In short, this means that cooks can’t just show up to work and use the prime cuts, the pretty carrots, etc. A good cook—and certainly a chef—is a smart, efficient worker who has mastered strategies for reducing food waste. As a practical example: the other day, I had the chance to fabricate a whole salmon. The goal was to get eight fillets from the whole fish, but even after fabricating the fish, there was still some salmon meat left—called “edible trimmings.” For any food business, the smart thing to do is to take those edible bits and make, say, salmon tartare, turning that potential waste into an elegant appetizer (and a moneymaker!).

Salmon - portioned - Institute of Culinary Education - Fish- Fabrication - Butchery

At this point, you may be wondering just how I’ve learned this much in just two months. While ICE offers flexible schedules for students who are still working full-time, I’ve been pursuing a full class schedule at ICE—meeting every weekday afternoon for Culinary Arts and three mornings a week for Culinary Management. What’s great is that the course times allow me to complete both programs at once, which means I can finish my diplomas and start my new career in food as soon as I possibly can.

It’s a lot of hard work and takes a lot of commitment, but I wouldn’t change a single thing about taking this leap into culinary school. Just like ICE is teaching me how to work efficiently in the kitchen, they’ve taken the same approach to their curriculum. For a career changer, the fact that I can gain both kitchen and business skills in only seven months is key, and I know I’ll be able to hit the ground running after graduation.

Click here to learn more about ICE’s “double diploma” in Culinary Arts and Culinary Management.

By James Briscione, Director of Culinary Development

I’ve been thinking about flavor a lot lately—from my work at ICE on IBM’s Cognitive Cooking project and menus for upcoming special events, to a new book I’m writing about how chefs develop flavor and create exciting new combinations of ingredients. Yet even outside of work, flavor is at the front of my mind. In fact, it’s the way I remember my vacations.

Chiccory and radish, on sale in a Puglian greenmarket

Chiccory and other greens, on sale in a Puglian greenmarket

I don’t need an over-priced souvenir or a slew of photos (though I take them anyway); I remember the places I’ve traveled by the unique tastes I experienced there. From past trips to Italy, I can recall the perfect wild strawberry—bright red and absolutely bursting with flavor—eaten straight from the carton at a small market on the streets of Venice. Or a revelatory dessert in San Gimignano—pears poached in locally produced Vernaccia and served with a tangy, salty ice cream made from Pecorino cheese.

Recently, I was lucky enough to return to Italy and experience a whole new range of ingredients and flavors from the Southern part of the country. First in Puglia, where the ladies run the kitchen, I spent an afternoon with Maria Valentini, learning to coax flavor from the simplest of ingredients. The first sign that this would be an edible experience to remember? At Maria’s masseria, Ottava Piccola, my family was greeted by her four-year-old granddaughter. offering up  eggs that their chickens had just laid.


Fava beans grow all over Puglia and the spring bounty is dried and saved to be enjoyed throughout the year. Maria taught me to simmer one small potato with a pound of dried beans, the base for an unusually silky, rich purée—finished with the oil her son makes from the olives grown on their property, of course. In traditional pugliese style, we paired the purée with leaves of chicory, sautéed first over blazing heat, then slowly finished with more olive oil and garlic.

Dried fava beans in the market; the Puglian specialty of "fave e cicoria"

Dried fava beans in the market; the Puglian specialty of “fave e cicoria”

The distinct taste of these simple elements will stay with me for a long time. They serve as an important reminder—as we continue to push for bigger, better and more complex food—of just how delicious simple, perfectly cooked ingredients can be. Beyond the fave e cicoria and hand-rolled pastas for which Puglia is famous, I will remember amazing produce: ripe peaches, figs as big as my hand (that only grow for two delicious weeks a year) and green almonds, eaten directly off the tree.

fig and almond

Giant fresh figs and green almonds

From Maria’s kitchen on the gorgeous eastern coast of Puglia, we drove across the “heel of the boot” to the emerald shores of Maruggio. Here, olive groves and vineyards nearly run into the ocean, so it’s no surprise that the (abnormally salty) sea and the creatures found in it dominate the local cuisine. Again, I had the pleasure of going behind the kitchen doors, this time at Masseria Le Fabriche, as beautiful as any exclusive property you might find in Napa Valley.

Just like at Ottava Piccola, simplicity reigned in the kitchen of Le Fabriche with flavors that I will never forget. We learned to cook orata, a broad-bodied white fish, similar to what we would call sea bream or dorade. Simply baked under a layer of breadcrumbs, garlic, herbs and top quality olive oil, it was very reminiscent of a dish that professional students at ICE prepare in their study of Italian regional cooking.

For a small antipasto, we enjoyed the most perfect sformatino I have ever tasted. In Rome and northern parts of Italy you’ll find sformatini of silky smooth vegetable purées, mixed with egg and baked like a flan. In Puglia, they were coarse and rustic—the freshest possible squash and eggplant were pulled from garden, grated and mixed with sweet, slowly cooked onions, parmesan and just enough egg to hold them together. Before going in the oven, each cake was topped with strips of smoked scamorza.

Preparing "Pasta alla Nonna"  in a rustic Puglian kitchen

Preparing “Pasta alla Norma” in a rustic Puglian kitchen

As for our main dish, I knew that orecchiette (a pasta named for its shape, resembling “little ears”) originated in Puglia, but I didn’t realize that it is often prepared with a dense rolled pasta called pizzarieddi. At Le Fabriche these two regional shapes of pasta were the base for a local version of the Sicilian classic, Pasta alla Norma. The sauce for the pasta begins with cubes of eggplant, sautéed until tender in olive oil with garlic and chiles. Next—where the recipe breaks with Sicilian tradition—cream is added and reduced by half before adding a simple tomato sauce. The result is a deep pink sauce studded with purple chunks of eggplant—sweet, spicy and rich all at once. Once the pasta is added to the sauce (and the texture adjusted with a touch of leftover pasta water), finely grated pecorino is added—balancing the sauce with its signature sharp, salty flavor.

Needless to say, our luggage returned to the States full of packages of orecchiette and pizzarieddi. We’ll be recreating the dish whenever we need a taste of vacation, though we may never quite succeed in recapturing those flavors. Even if we miss perfection in our best Pasta alla Norma efforts, its okay…we’ll just have to return to refresh our memory.

Craving more Italian culinary adventures? Read about Chef Ted Siegel’s recent trip to Rome.


By Carly DeFilippo

3 stars in the New York Times. Sous Chef to Thomas Keller. ICE Chef Instructor.

ICE - Meet the Chefs - Chris Gesualdi - Thomas Keller Quote Header

From the Beatles to Lucille Ball, Charlie Chaplin to Oprah Winfrey—some of the greatest success stories come from unlikely candidates who were told they would never “make it.” But if ICE instructor Chef Chris Gesualdi was once an underdog, you’d never know it today.

ICE - Meet the Chefs - Chris Gesualdi

Growing up in Connecticut, Chris’ first encounter with the culinary industry was as a dishwasher—a job he picked up to help pay for his motorcycles. But when the chefs were absent, Chris had to fill in, so by the time he finished high school he had already worked as a cook in two restaurants.

As part of his culinary education at the CIA—where he studied alongside fellow ICE chef instructors Ted Siegel and Mike Handel—Chris externed at several sites. At the first restaurant, the chef told Chris he would “never make it,” a pivotal moment that only motivated the young chef to work even harder.

It was during this period of externships that Chris learned his work ethic (notably, his ability to truly enjoy working 80-hour weeks) made him distinct from other cooks.  Even today, as a chef instructor, Chris balks at the idea of taking long vacations. He’s happiest at the stove—and when he’s not teaching at ICE, he’s typically trailing, doing stages at such acclaimed restaurants as Per Se, wd~50 or Blue Hill. “Nowhere in my life am I comfortable,” he says, “This is what I do for a living—I learn.”

ICE - Meet the Chefs - Chris Gesualdi

After graduating from school, Chris soon landed in New York, working his way into the kitchen of one of the country’s most buzzed about restaurants: La Reserve. Thomas Keller was at the helm of the kitchen, and Chris volunteered to work for free (while sustaining another full-time kitchen job) until Keller gave him a paid post.

For the next seven years, Chris was Keller’s “right hand man” and sous chef, from La Reserve to Rakel and Restaurant Raphael. At times, those back of the house teams were just the two chefs and a dishwasher. When Keller moved west to open the now-renowned French Laundry, Chris had a standing offer. But he knew he wanted to strike out on his own.

“The years I worked at La Reserve, Raphael’s and Rakel were some of the most formidable of my career and Chris was there every day. His commitment, dedication and work ethic were unmatched and continue to be an example today. I am blessed to be able to call him a colleague and friend, and our profession is in a better place because of chefs like Chris who truly understand what it takes to be a chef.” – Thomas Keller

The pinnacle of Chris’ ambitious career came at Montrachet, where he started as sous chef and was made Chef de Cuisine within a mere six months. Eventually named Executive Chef of the restaurant, Chris collaborated with legendary restaurateur Drew Nieporent, earning a 3-star New York Times review from Ruth Reichl—noted as one of the “best reviews” the writer ever penned. At a time when Tribeca had zero restaurant scene, Montrachet was one of the city’s first great downtown restaurants, serving fine-dining fare in a relaxed bistro setting. From the Daily News to the Observer to Zagat, Chris received the highest marks. In GQ magazine, his truffle-crusted salmon was named one of the “10 best dishes in the US”.

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Yet unlike many chefs of his generation, Chris wasn’t looking for the fame and the spotlight of the media. He says the kitchen is his escape from the pressures of life, where cooking in and of itself is the reward. In our age of celebrity chefs, Chris’ perspective is remarkable, an uncompromising dedication to cooking. And it’s that very passion that has transformed a man who has Thomas Keller and Drew Nieporent on speed dial into one of ICE’s most beloved and respected chef instructors.

In Chef Chris’ kitchen, things run with the smooth efficiency of a traditional French brigade system, but discipline alone can’t turn a hodge-podge team of future chefs into a well-oiled machine. Chris takes his students’ performance personally, and it’s that level of investment in each individual that transforms eager students into professional cooks.

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It’s hard to imagine a chef more inspiring or a teacher better suited to our diverse community of students. His famous tagline—“make it beautiful”—doesn’t just apply to the final plate. Every task—from washing dishes to crafting a sauce—has equal value. You don’t just learn technical skills in Chris’ class; you learn to respect yourself as a cook.


Click here to read more about Chef Chris.


By Liz Castner

One thing that certainly draws people to culinary school is the fact that the emphasis is on learning, not letter grades. At ICE, this also holds true in our business-focused programs, like Culinary Management, which is essentially a small, college-level seminar for the restaurant industry.

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That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lot of work to be done, however. As a class, we just finished taking our ServSafe certification test and are awaiting our results. Here in New York City, the NYC Food Handler’s license may reign supreme, but the great thing about ServSafe is that it is recognized throughout the US. Even if you end up staying in New York, passing the ServSafe test means you will have no difficulty getting your NYC Food Handler’s license.

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ICE instructor Stephen Zagor leading a culinary management lecture

Being ServSafe certified means that you have been trained in food safety and have a certificate documenting that training. This process is essential if you want to be a manager in the food service industry, as food safety is far more complicated than just learning to wash your hands. We studied the various viruses, bacteria, parasites and fungi that can cause food-borne illness, and learned how to properly train staff about preventing contamination. Culinary Arts Chef Instructor Ted Siegel also taught us about safely receiving and storing meat and fish, as well as how to determine if the animal protein in question is in good condition. Finally, we learned how to purchase the best equipment to ensure food safety.

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Culinary Management student presentation

After learning these skills, I feel like I have a lot more restaurant industry knowledge to help me as I move forward in my career. For example, did you know that unless a countertop deep fryer has legs, you can’t use it? Or that there’s a type of bacteria leading to food-borne illness that can trigger a miscarriage in a pregnant woman? Knowing about these types of issues is essential for those in the food service industry, as it ensures customers’ safety.

While safety is key, the Culinary Management program covers a number of other important topics as well. Our four-hour classes are each broken into two-hour segments. During the second half of class, we have been focusing on marketing—which actually encompasses more than you might think. In addition to learning about advertising, public relations and promotions, we have also been learning about opening strategies, following trends, creating a brand promise and a positioning statement, and performing a competitive analysis.

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While learning all of these facts takes a lot of focus, the task I’m working on lately is the most challenging of all: completing a marketing plan outline. It’s one thing to learn cold facts, but applying them to your own hypothetical business is another level entirely!

So here I sit, staring at my laptop, wondering how to devise an opening strategy for a wine bar. While I won’t get a grade for this assignment, the pressure is still on—because better than the feeling of any “A+” is knowing that I’m fully prepared to open my own business.


By Cindi Avila


The average career of a football player is only said to be a little more than three years. So what is a player to do after his days on the gridiron are over? Many want to open a restaurant and some even want to open their own hotel. With all that in mind the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) hosted 21 current and former  professional football players for a NFL Hospitality and Culinary Management Workshop. On May 6th the players (and some of their wives) gathered to learn from the best in the business. Steve Zagor, the dean of ICE’s Business Management programs led the all day program. Zagor says “it was a great opportunity to give NFL players a preview into life after  their pro football careers, as a restaurant owner or investor/operator in the hospitality world.”

21 current and past NFL players attended the Culinary and Hospitality Management Workshop.

21 current and past NFL players attended the Culinary and Hospitality Management Workshop.

Current players including Jason Avant (Eagles), Terrence McGee (free agent) and David Caldwell (Giants) and Jahri Evans (Saints) took part. Five of the participants were past Pro Bowl level players. Chef-Instructor Chad Pagano led one of the demonstrations for the players and said they were like “kids in a candy store. I was truly amazed by their level of participation. The quality of their questions was extraordinary.”

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Will Smith and Jason Avant listen intently to Stephen Zagor’s introductory presentation.

ICE culinary instructors, including Vin McCann, Kate Edwards, Anthony Caporale, Ted Siegel and others, all experts in their respective fields, gave the players a taste of what diploma students at ICE learn.  Overall, the focus was more on the business and management side of restaurants including location, leasing, concept development, marketing, customer service, catering, controlling food costs, and how to be profitable.


Part of ICE’s management program is offer a steady stream of guest speakers and experts. NFL day was no exception. President and CEO of Rosa Mexicano, Howard Greenstone, was one of the keynote speakers. Greenstone entertained and educated the players with anecdotes from his long career path which has lead to the present, where he runs a 16-unit national restaurant group with over $75 million in revenue.

Howard Greenstone shared his industry expertise with the NFL players in attendance.

Howard Greenstone shared his industry expertise at the workshop.

In the morning, the group briefly heard from Rick Smilow, ICE’s President / CEO since 1995. As an entrepreneur with broad insight into restaurants and other businesses, Smilow made the point “ that while certainly opening and running a successful restaurant was a challenge, it is still the type of enterprise where one can walk-the-floor and control.  That contrasts with so many other types of businesses, where your business success or failure is so dependent on factors you cannot control.”


Some of these players were also interested to hear what it takes to run a hotel or lodging establishment. This is the focus of ICE’s newest diploma program, Hospitality Management. The guest speaker for this segment of the day was John Moser, Chief Marketing Officer for the 15-unit Denihan Hospitality Group.

Chef Instructor James Briscione shares his seasonal recipe for succotash with Babatunde Oshinowo and Adalius Thomas.

Chef Instructor James Briscione shares his seasonal recipe for succotash with Babatunde Oshinowo and Adalius Thomas.

ICE Chef-Instructor James Briscione says he was impressed with the passion and excitement from the players over the course of the day. He commented that “their passion and questions would make one think they were full-time students here.”  Briscione also thinks the players have what it takes to succeed in this growing industry, “they are used to long, hard hours. They aren’t afraid to work hard, and on top of that, they know about team-work.”


For the NFL, this day at ICE was part of a bigger initiative to offer current and past players insight into career options after football.  Past workshops have been in other fields include real estate, acting and broadcast / media.


After the program, players filled out evaluations on their day at ICE.  One participant wrote: “The program literally has turned my perspective and approach as to how I will invest and run my business. The course gets an A+ !”



By Carly DeFilippo

6:10 PM

Moving from savory to sweet, Chef Chad Pagano demonstrated the difference between making dessert at home and for a crowd. Inviting Martin Rucker and Herb Taylor to whip up a batch of chocolate mousse, he added gelatin and simple syrup to the standard recipe, and explained the persuasive power of pastry in a restaurant’s marketing plan.

Chef Chad Pagano whips up chocolate mousse with Martin Rucker and Herb Taylor.

Chef Chad Pagano whips up chocolate mousse with Martin Rucker and Herb Taylor.

5:40 PM

To finish up the long day of learning, we treated our NFL guests to a duo of cooking demos with Chefs James Briscione and Chad Pagano. James recruited Babatunde Oshinowo and Adalius Thomas to help him revive his southern roots, preparing a seasonal succotash dish.


Chef James Briscione prepares southern succotash with Babatunde Oshinowo and Adalius Thomas.

5:10 PM

For the day’s final lecture session, our entire Culinary Management faculty came together for a passion-filled panel and Q&A session. The core message was this: “Don’t be comfortably mediocre.” Define the mission statement of your business and invest time in recruiting staff who live and breath those core values. “Think about the team you were on that most motivated you. Those qualities are the same that will make a positive work environment in the service industry.”

The ICE Culinary Management faculty join forces for an end of day panel.

The ICE Culinary Management faculty join forces for an end of day panel.


4:20 PM

Shaking things up, resident ICE mixologist, Anthony Caporale, shared the secrets behind “shrinkage”—in particular, bar theft. A veteran bartender, Caporale has witnessed every scam in the trade, from over-pouring to padding the tip jar. When it comes to hiring staff, he warned, “What I want in a bartender is someone who can count. If he/she can’t count, than that person isn’t a bartender, but a drink mixer.” To ensure the message hit home, Caporale recruited players to run a simple bar scam.


Anthony Caporale teaches former NFL linebacker, Eric Alexander, how to run a bar scam.

3:40 PM

After lunch, Hospitality Consultant John Moser presented an overview of the hotel industry. The NFL players were shocked to learn that, due to the labor set-up in hotels, pricey room service creates very little or no revenue. They also gained perspective on roles that are often under-appreciated, such as that of maid service, which Moser called one of the most difficult jobs in America.

John Moser shares his insider perspective on the hospitality business.

John Moser shares his insider perspective on the hospitality business.

2:15 PM

During a delicious lunch, prepared by ICE Chef Instructors (and football fans) James Briscione and Chad Pagano, our NFL students were treated to a keynote speech by CEO of Rosa Mexicano, Howard Greenstone. A veteran of the restaurant industry and former college athlete, Greenstone shared his successes and failures on and off the field. Of his many resonant points, two stood out in particular. First, don’t micro-manage your staff. Referencing Chef Ted’s earlier demo, Greenstone, stated, “You shouldn’t be in the kitchen chopping up steaks unless you’re the chef.” He also reminded players that, while it’s great to love the business, ultimately those who are successful are in it to make money as well.

Howard Greenstone shares his professional wisdom with NFL workshop students.

Howard Greenstone shares his professional wisdom with NFL workshop students.


Chef Instructors James Briscione and Chad Pagano prepared a delicious lunch for our guests from the NFL.

1:08 PM

In the morning session, the players learned about the four major products of any restaurant business—food, service, design/environment, and “sizzle”—and considered the different types of business opportunities available in the culinary and hospitality industry. They then dove into the details of financing a restaurant and elements of a successful business plan.

Terrence McGee and Larry Tripplett with Dean of Culinary Management Stephen Zagor

Terrence McGee and Larry Tripplett with Dean of Culinary Management Stephen Zagor

Switching things up, the players headed to our demo kitchen, where they learned about the economics of food waste with Chef Instructor Ted Siegel. To demonstrate his point, Chef Ted broke down a boneless beef loin, one of the most expensive cuts of meat.

Chef Instructor Ted Seigel shows Jason Avant and Will Smith how to break down a boneless beef loin.

Chef Instructor Ted Seigel shows Jason Avant and Will Smith how to break down a boneless beef loin.

10:11 AM

This morning, we welcomed 21 current and past NFL players and their wives to ICE for a one day Hospitality and Culinary Management Workshop. From attendees already working in the culinary industry—one retired player owns his own wine label, while another works as a chef—to current players getting a head start on a future career, the group represented a diverse range of interests and passions. Introductions revealed the extracurricular talents of the group, from photography to writing to music, with enough brass players to form a formidable horn section.

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Martin Rucker, Vincent Rey and Babtunde Oshinowo listen to Stephen Zagor’s lecture.

ICE Dean of Culinary Management, Stephen Zagor, kicked things off with a quick restaurant quiz. Players were surprised to learn that it isn’t a “love of food” that launches most culinary management careers – rather, it’s the fact that working in the food industry “looks like fun”. Undercapitalization is the biggest pitfall for new restaurants, whereas guests rate cleanliness as the most important aspect of a food business. As for the fabled statement that “90% of restaurants fail in their first year”, Zagor revealed that, in fact, 50% of restaurants survive their first two years of business.

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Will Smith and Jason Avant learn the ins and outs of financing a food business.

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