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.
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. 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.
By Virginia Monaco, Department of Student Affairs
Over the past 10 to 15 years, the cuisine of Spain has experienced a meteoric rise in the global ranks. Among the peninsula’s most popular culinary exports has been the wide range of traditional charcuterie; from chorizo and lomo to jamón of endless varieties, Spain is definitely a country that embraced all parts of the pig long before America’s recent “whole hog” craze.
To initiate students into the wide range of Spanish charcuterie, ICE invited Chef Jeffrey Weiss to speak about his new book, Charcutería: The Soul of Spain—the first exhaustive work on the subject to be written in the English language—and Master Carver Hiraldo Regalado, of Foods from Spain, to demonstrate the carving of jamón ibérico, possibly the single-most revered Spanish culinary delicacy.
By Ted Siegel—Chef-Instructor, Culinary Arts
At least once every decade some culinary pundit or self-appointed expert on cuisine and gastronomy makes a grand pronouncement declaring the “death of French cuisine”. This has been an ongoing trend in culinary journalism since as far back as the late 19th century. Whether it was the fall of the classical grande cuisine of Carême, Escoffier and Du Bois or end of the nouvelle cuisine revolution that shook France after from the 1950s to the 1980s, the state of French cuisine has always been ripe for debate.
However, upon a recent trip to Paris, it was apparent that the death notices (as usual) are premature. The wild card in the whole discussion is the profound influence—encoded in the DNA of the French people—of the cuisine bourgeoise: the cooking of French housewives and grandmothers, rooted in the terroir of local ingredients and traditions. In the context of restaurants, this cuisine has transformed itself into a movement labeled bistronomie, a trend that snubs the grande luxe dining palaces with their fine china, sterling silver place settings, starched linens and snooty waiters, maitre’ds, and sommeliers (who act as if the customer is there to serve them, not the other way around). Here the cuisine of grandmère and maman rears its beautiful head—in simple preparations based on a market-driven cuisine with an emphasis on seasonality, solid culinary technique, unpretentious presentations and friendly, relaxed knowledgeable service.
By Stephen Zagor, Dean of Culinary Business
Is the announced demise of Crumbs—the 50-unit national cupcake chain—a culinary earthquake whose accompanying tsunami will now wipe out cupcake shops across the country? Yesterday, papers and business blogs immediately proclaimed the end of the cupcake trend as the obvious explanation. “Cupcakes are over,” shouts a pundit. “Too much reliance on a single product,” says another expert.” “Simply a ginormous calorie bomb,” comments another. Even “too expensive” was listed among the many of the chain’s cupcake crimes.
Should cupcake businesses everywhere throw out their muffin pans, burn up the liners and make plans to become the next salad bar? Maybe, if you believe these supposed “experts.” But let’s all hold on a minute before proclaiming the end of an entire segment of the pastry business and dig a little deeper into the real reason businesses fail.
By Carly DeFilippo, Culinary Arts Student
Beyond mise en place, butchery and learning various techniques to build rich flavor, one of the most fascinating parts of culinary school is, quite simply, discovering new ingredients. It could be something as simple as chervil (a faintly licorice-flavored relative of parsley) or as strange as sweetbreads (a cut of offal derived from an animal’s thymus gland). Every new discovery is just a drop in the endless sea of flavors and ingredients available to the contemporary chef.
Yet of all the unexpected ingredients I’ve discovered as a student, there is none so bizarre—and cool!—as caul fat. A natural, thin membrane that surrounds the internal organs of animals such as cows, sheep and pigs, this spiderweb of fat is most often harvested from pork. In an industry that increasingly celebrates snout-to-tail or “whole hog” cooking, this natural casing for stuffed roasts adds moisture and flavor that will literally melt away while helping your dish keep its shape.
By Virginia Monaco
James Peterson is a legendary culinary figure. He has just published his fifteenth cookbook, the most recent in a line of impressive and important publications. His writing has addressed such vast topics as Sauces or Vegetables, all while keeping a focused and grounded view of his subject matter. Not only does Chef James (or Jim, as he prefers to be called) spend enormous amounts of time researching and recipe testing for each book, but he also does all his own food styling and photography, making each book a true labor of love. In addition to garnering a slew of IACP and James Beard awards, his work has also provided him with a devoted following of chefs, cooks and amateurs.
Yet, while Jim has admiration and appreciation for all kinds of cuisines and techniques, his heart always returns to the rich and comforting flavors of classic French food. For his recent cooking demonstration at ICE, he thoughtfully chose to demonstrate squab salmis over a cassoulet of fava beans and foie gras.
By Michael Laiskonis, ICE Creative Director
One of the many hats I wear as creative director is that of a guest lecturer. Perhaps my favorite task at ICE is leading our professional Pastry & Baking students’ introduction to dairy products during the very first days of their program.
If you know me, then you know that I have become a bit of a dairy nerd, always looking to better understand the composition, structure and function of milk and all of its derivatives. And while I present a great deal of technical information during my dairy lecture—in addition to offering a tasting of some two dozen products—my goal is simply to present this humble, common ingredient in a new light. Retaining every specific fact and figure isn’t as important as getting our students to start thinking about all ingredients in an analytical way—in other words, what they bring to a recipe and how they affect its final outcome.
By Virginia Monaco
At ICE, we’re always thrilled to celebrate the successes of our graduates, and, in particular, to invite them “back to school” to share their stories and expertise with our current students. Most recently, we invited two outstanding alumni—Miguel Trinidad and Kamal Rose—to demonstrate some of their signature dishes and impart industry advice from their years of experience after ICE.
In addition to introducing the audience to new techniques and flavor combinations, Chefs Kamal and Miguel also shared valuable career advice based on their own professional careers. Both stressed that ICE provided them with a solid culinary foundation, but that learning never stops when you work in the kitchen. For students nervous about trailing or beginning their externships, they recommended three tips: write everything down in a notebook, work enthusiastically and be inquisitive but humble. While admitting that kitchen work can be very demanding, they stressed the pride in a job well done and the sense of satisfaction they feel at the end of the day. Their final take-away? Success is in the hands of each student, and a culinary career is one where you get out what you put in.
How Toba Garrett helped transform American cake design from common buttercream to complex artistry.
By Carly DeFilippo
ICE Chef Instructor Toba Garrett wasn’t always a master cake decorator, renowned for her unusually attractive, skilled, and delicious confections. Her prior careers spanned the fields of theatre, education, and computer science, before she changed her life through culinary education.
Today, juggling the roles of teacher, industry expert, author, and artist, Toba is among the country’s foremost experts in the field of cake decorating and design. She has won more than a dozen international gold and silver medals for her designs, and has been featured in numerous media outlets, including Today Show, InStyle, Pastry Art and Design, Gourmet (and many more). In 2010, Dessert Professional magazine named her one of the “10 Best Cake Decorators in America” and she has even had her work featured by the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C.!