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.
By Michael Laiskonis
Since the very beginning of my career as a pastry chef, I have always tried to keep one foot in the classics, while simultaneously pursuing new techniques and flavor combinations. While there are certainly a number of pastry chefs who have legitimately invented new techniques, I’m not one of them. If I had to apply a label to what I do, it might be ‘new’ or ‘inventive’ interpretations of classics—embracing the challenge of pushing ideas through my own filter and perspective. As time has progressed, I’d like to think my desserts have continued to become more mature, refined, and to the point. At the end of the day, all that matters is taste.
Lately, I’ve enjoyed returning back to “basics” but viewing them through a “modernist” lens. My process is an effort to rework and better understand the building blocks of pastry by focusing on the technique—refining processes, while simultaneously introducing newer ideas, ingredients and techniques. The concept of ‘traditional’ or classic’ must be elastic and allow for new ideas to be incorporated into the ever expanding and evolving canon of fundamentals.
By Liz Castner
One of the most important aspects of both the culinary and pastry programs takes place outside the classroom—trailing. Indeed, I learned a tremendous amount about technique and working in professional kitchens through my trailing experience. However, if you had asked me several months ago what “trailing” was, I would have assumed we were talking about hiking. In fact, a friend recently told me that she thought I had been misspelling “trials” when posting about my trailing experience on Facebook. While my spelling was accurate, my friend was not far off in her interpretation of the word.
A trail is a combination of a job interview and a trial work shift. Basically, it’s an interview that can last anywhere from 6 to 10 hours. This is how every person cooking in a kitchen gets a job, and how ICE Culinary Arts or Pastry & Baking Arts students get their externships. For an externship, you only have to go on one trail, but as you progress in your career and are applying for more competitive jobs—for example, Sous Chef or Executive Chef—you will likely go on more than one trail at the same restaurant.
By Virginia Monaco
ICE was thrilled to host Executive Pastry Chef Joseph Murphy for a demonstration and discussion of his desserts at 3-Michelin-star restaurant Jean Georges, or simply “JG”, as he calls it.
Chef Murphy is a Brooklyn native and a life-long New York City chef who has been through many of the great kitchens in the city, including La Cote Basque, Lespinasse, Park Avenue Café and Gotham Bar and Grill. He has developed a personal style over the years that relies on fresh, seasonal ingredients, restrained sweetness and classic technique.
- The class opened with an enlightening run-down of a day in the Jean Georges kitchen. The renowned kitchen boasts no less than sixteen pastry cooks who pull off a huge amount of work. The restaurant goes through around 4,000 petit fours each day, and has its own chocolate enrobing line for the thousands of bonbons made by hand weekly. Chef Murphy has his hands in all aspects, from designing the elaborate plated desserts, to making ganache by the barrel-full for bonbons. He confessed that, every year, he loses sleep worrying that Jean George’s flagship restaurant might lose one of their coveted 3 Michelin stars, but that of course has yet to happen, and they maintain their perfect record year in and year out.
By Virginia Monaco
Last week, ICE was honored to have a true living legend visit our school – Chef Alain Ducasse. Along with his long time collaborator and Corporate Chef Sylvain Portay, Chef Ducasse came to debut and demonstrate his new app – My Culinary Encyclopedia : Recipes and Techniques by Alain Ducasse.
Alain Ducasse was trained in some of the best European kitchens, notably Moulin de Mougins under legendary chef Roger Verge, where he learned Provençal cooking, now his trademark. The list of Chef Ducasse’s accomplishments during his career is long and groundbreaking. He was the first chef ever to have three restaurants in three cities with three Michelin stars each at the same time. He is currently at the helm of 22 restaurants with a total of 17 Michelin stars.Culinary Education is key for this chef. In keeping with his values, he established Ducasse Education, the mission of which is to educate the next generation of top international culinary professionals with exceptional global standards, rigor, innovation, and creativity.
By Cindi Avila and Stephen Zagor
For the past two weeks, The Institute of Culinary Education has had international students walking its halls. Students from ICE’s Russian campus were in New York City to learn the tricks of the trade from some of ICE’s best culinary management instructors. A year after ICE first opened its doors at its new school in St. Petersburg, Russia, fifteen students from the school traveled more than 4000 miles for the chance to train with instructors such as Stephen Zagor and Vin McCann. Most of the students are in their mid-twenties, and speak both Russian and English fluently.
The students, most of whom hope to own or manage their own restaurants back in Russia, spent their two-week visit soaking in the sights and sounds of New York City, enjoying trips to Eataly and Blue Smoke, and spending time with ICE staff, students, and instructors.
By Maya Narula-Liao
Celebrated sommelier Michael Madrigale grew up in an Italian-American family in Pennsylvania. His first job was in a butcher shop, followed by a stint in marketing, which conclusively taught him that he wasn’t one for a desk job. From there, he sought employment as a waiter, which enabled him to learn more about food. When he finally fell upon a position at a Burgundy-only wine shop in the West Village, he embarked on his lifelong love affair with wine.
By Cindi Avila
One of our favorite tools in the kitchen? A blender! So when one the biggest appliance companies in the country needed an expert opinion on their latest blender technology, they came to ICE.
The new KitchenAid Diamond Blender was put to the task by our …
By Grace Reynolds
On Tuesday, October 8th, ICE welcomed Guittard Chocolate Company’s Regional Sales Manager, Laura Tornichio-Vidal, and Harney and Sons’ Vice President, Michael Harney, to teach participants the art of a unique pairing: tea and chocolate. While some might deem these two an unlikely couple, an afternoon with Vidal and Harney could convince any skeptic.
Tea and chocolate, much like wine and cheese, can complement and enhance each others’ flavors when properly paired. Vidal and Harney walked us through a tasting to demonstrate this point. The tasting, which consisted of six different chocolates paired with six different teas, clearly showcased the brilliance of the tea-and-chocolate tango.
By Shay Spence
If you can’t control the heat, get out of the kitchen. A month and a half into my Culinary Arts program at ICE, this is undoubtedly the most important concept that I feel becoming ingrained in my being on a daily basis. “Are you checking your heat?” Chef will holler to the class every five minutes. “Remember: YOU control the heat; the heat does not control you!”