What would it feel like to prepare a truly life-changing meal? Just ask ICE Culinary Arts alum and hospital nutrition expert Pnina Peled. As the senior executive chef at New York Presbyterian and the former executive chef at Memorial Sloan Kettering, Pnina has spearheaded the dramatic transformation of New York City’s hospital food over the past five years.
Before she was customizing nutrient-dense menus for sick patients—and even before she worked in some of NYC’s top kitchens—Pnina’s circumstances were just like the average ICE student. Raised by a family of restaurateurs, her weekend wake-up call was literally, “Time to make the donuts!” She dreamed of pursuing a career in medicine, but her family encouraged her to stay close to home, so she did and earned her college degree in business management. Initially, Pnina made rent by working in the accounting department at a law firm. While she excelled at her job, she knew accounting wasn’t her calling, so she enrolled in ICE’s evening Culinary Arts program to launch a new, creative career.
Read on to learn how Pnina became an executive chef at two of the country’s top hospitals.
By James Briscione, Director of Culinary Development
Throughout the past 20 years, the “food scene” has emerged as an integral part of popular culture. Chefs have gone from hiding behind closed kitchen doors to serving as the restaurant’s main attraction. Gone are the days of dinner and a show. Today, dinner has become the show. Restaurant reservations are badges of honor and every year, more and more sauté pans flash and sizzle on your television screen. Even feature films are increasingly set in the kitchen!
In my personal experience as a chef, the public’s growing interest in food has created professional opportunities that I never imagined when I started cooking in 1996—from appearances on competitions like Chopped! to teaching America cooking tips on the Today Show. However, for those entering the industry as newcomers, these shows often fail to reveal the day-to-day grind of the kitchen, a slow and steady process of career growth that takes years—not merely 12 episodes. Today, as a chef and a culinary educator with one foot firmly in both the pre- and post- television food scene, I’d like to share a few thoughts on choosing a career in the kitchen.
When developing a restaurant concept, it’s essential to think through every detail of the guest experience. Will they be seated at long communal tables or café-style two-tops? Will there be white tablecloth service or a more casual approach?
Choosing dinnerware that reflects your restaurant concept is another essential part of great service. Watch as ICE restaurant management expert Kate Edwards walks you through the process of building a tablescape that fits your brand, featuring products from Front of the House.
To learn more about the craft of plating, visit ICE.edu/FOH.
By Grace Reynolds, Culinary Management Student
As a general rule of thumb, the anticipation of a new experience comes with a heavy dose of expectations. Be it your first trip to a foreign country, a new job or a first date, it’s easy to construct a romanticized notion of “what could be” before even setting foot in the airport, office or restaurant. But how often does reality actually meet our expectations?
Personally, I try not to get too excited about new opportunities. My optimistic daydreams have resulted in disappointment on many occasions, some worse than others. So in the days leading up to September 29th (my first day in ICE’s Culinary Management program), I made every effort to keep my expectations in check. Even as ICE alums raved to me about their experience in the program—how it helped them reach their professional goals, changed the way they think, gave them the tools to succeed in the restaurant industry—I tried to stay pragmatic. If this program was really the professional game-changer they suggested, it would still have to prove itself to me first.
By Carly DeFilippo
In the case of Brooklyn native Christian Souvenir, it took many years in the military before the desire to attend culinary school took hold. The switch from government intelligence work to cooking may seem like a drastic change, but Christian’s disciplined background is serving him well in the kitchen. Since graduating from ICE’s Culinary Arts program in 2011, he has worked in some of Brooklyn’s most innovative new restaurants, including Nightingale 9 and French Louie, growing his love for a new kind of service.
But to achieve his goal of owning and operating a restaurant of his own, he realized his management skills needed a boost. Click through to hear why Christian found himself as an ICE student for a second time.
The words energy and determination only begin to describe the curious, enthusiastic force that is ICE alum Eden Grinshpan. Aspiring to work in food television from a very young age, Eden currently hosts her own show on the Cooking Channel, Eden Eats, and has another exciting project in the works for this fall.
By Michael Laiskonis, ICE Creative Director and Pastry and Baking Arts Chef Instructor
When I was a full-time chef, there were brief moments of the day in which a profound sense of inner happiness would sweep over me. It’s often these fleeting, seemingly random instants that are most meaningful; they remind those of us in the culinary world why we do what we do.
As a restaurant chef, one of my favorite moments was watching the arrival of the kitchen staff first-thing in the morning before their shift. These cooks look like they rolled right out of bed and into the train, because, well, that’s what you do. The early arrivers are those who treasure those few minutes of silence, the only time you actually notice the hum of the lowboy coolers, or the whine of the exhaust hoods as they’re turned on. They like to have the first pick of their mis en place—everything they need for the day—grabbed in one efficient pass and crammed into a hotel pan to take back to their station. Their timeliness earns them the right to flat sheet pans, a fresh stack of towels, that favorite whisk or ladle. While I only got to witness this daily ritual once or twice a month (when I happened to find myself at work by 6:00 am), I always got quite a kick out of being first in the kitchen to watch it unfold.
By Jessica McCain—Student, School of Culinary Arts
Most of us spend our childhoods answering the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The fact is, we all become adults some day and have to do something…but what we want to do and what we end up doing isn’t always the same thing.
All of your life experiences push you in a certain direction: they influence the choices you make, define who you are and what you choose as a career. But why just choose a career when you can choose your passion? It took me 25 years to figure out the difference between the two, and now here I am, a student at ICE.
However conclusive and easy that sounds, it wasn’t an easy journey. I didn’t just wake up one day with everything falling into place. If we go back seven years ago, you find me at age 18—the youngest of four in a hardworking military family. I did what any normal kid would do: went to college, just like the rest of my siblings. The only difference? I hated it! I was so concerned about what I thought my parents wanted that I ended up a first-year nursing student with an overloaded nineteen-hour course schedule, as a new sorority pledge, an ROTC cadet and an intramural sports enthusiast.
Read on to learn why Jessica chose to start her culinary journey at ICE.
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.
Like all fine arts, the presentation of food is based on theory and best practices. From texture to shape, composition to balance, join ICE Creative Director Michael Laiskonis on an exploration of the philosophy of plating.
Featuring contemporary plate styles from the Front of the House dinnerware portfolio, Chef Michael’s tutorial unveils the many ways chefs can express their creativity.
For more instruction on the art of plating, visit ICE.edu/FOH.