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 Cindi Avila
From growing up in the Caribbean to becoming a student at the Institute of Culinary Education and now into the “big leagues”, the path Kamal Rose has taken is nothing short of remarkable. This week, he’ll be representing the New York Giants at the Taste of the NFL—one of the city’s biggest events leading up to the Super Bowl.
As Kamal prepares for the event, we got the chance to talk with him about his love of food, family and culinary school.
Kamal grew up in St. Vincent, where he cooked with his grandmother from a very young age. He tells us it was “sweet breads on Saturdays, a big pot of callaloo soup with taro root dumplings, and on Sunday, dinner was oxtails with rice, peas and fried plantains.” Rose goes on to say: “My grandmother was always baking or making soup and it just clicked.”
By Anthony Caporale, School of Culinary Management
A keen sense of thirst is critical for our survival. This fact, which we all intuitively know, but rarely consider, leads directly to my Beverage Rule of Seven: since we can survive seven times longer without food than without water, beverage service needs to be seven times faster than food service to feel equivalent. For example, a 30-minute wait for food—which will seem interminable to a hungry diner—is equally distressing as a 4-minute wait for drinks. Ironically, with the advent of the mixology movement, our industry seems to have lost sight of just how large drinking looms in our subconscious.
I tell every new bartender I train what many veteran mixologists seem to have forgotten: bartending is not about making drinks, it’s about serving drinks. All good restaurants have target service times for each course. Fifteen to twenty minutes is common for entrées, and appetizer times are usually under ten minutes. Applying my Beverage Rule of Seven gives a target beverage service time of two to three minutes, which feels comfortable to most guests. Making a great cocktail doesn’t justify pushing that service time to eight, ten, or sometimes even fifteen minutes. Too often, the focus today is on the cocktail and not the guest.
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.
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. This essential food safety training covers far more than just washing your hands. 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.
By Carly DeFilippo
There are people who take years to decide to pursue a career in food, and there are those who know they were always destined for it. Lee Knoeppel, (Culinary Arts ’09) falls in the latter camp. Most recently, he’s made waves as the first ever contestant on The Taste to get voted “Yes” by all four judges—Marcus Samuelsson, Nigella Lawson, Anthony Bourdain and Ludo Lefevbre. Tune into ABC at 8pm EST on Thursdays to track his progress!
What sparked your decision to attend culinary school?
Before I enrolled at ICE I had been cooking for four years as a line cook. I knew I wanted to go to culinary school and was instantly drawn to ICE. I actually grew up 20 minutes from Culinary Institute of America, so it was an easy choice between going to school and living with my parents, or moving to NYC and starting my culinary career on my own. When I took the tour, there wasn’t one specific thing that attracted me to ICE; it was a mix of things. Location, the chef instructors, curriculum and schedule—and the job success rate after graduation.
By Marisa LoBianco, Department of Career Services
Do you love cooking and being around food? Spend hours watching cooking shows and reading cookbooks? Daydream about rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands dirty in the kitchen? Then make 2014 the year you pursue a fulfilling, creative future in food.
The beginning of a new year is a great time to take a step back and reevaluate your professional goals. While choosing a creative path or changing careers may seem daunting, it can also lead to a deeper level of satisfaction in your professional life. A career in food means that you never stop learning, from troubleshooting new techniques to experimenting with exotic ingredients. In addition, it often provides the opportunity to enjoy the tangible results of your hard work and to share the fruit of your labor with others.
By Grace Reynolds
It’s no secret among aspiring culinary professionals that the restaurants within Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG) are world-renowned for their hospitality and staff-training programs. Much like at ICE, USHG demonstrates its commitment to employees through robust internal education programs on topics ranging from cheese, to craft beer, spirits, and of course, wine.
USHG’s Wine Director and certified Master Sommelier, John Ragan, oversees the development of the dynamic wine programs for USHG restaurants. Whether in the dining room at The Modern or pairing wine with barbecue at Blue Smoke, his team’s selections are characterized by thoughtful and interesting choices, exceptional value, and helpful service.
Ragan also leads a ten-week professional wine course, which until now, has only been offered to USHG staff. For the first time ever, in spring 2014, ICE has partnered with Ragan and USHG to launch a groundbreaking collaborative wine class taught from a restaurant perspective.
By Chef Sabrina Sexton
One of my favorite things to teach students is to make mozzarella from scratch. This milky, soft, stretched-curd cheese from Campania is best when super fresh, ideally eaten the same day its made.
Fortunately, it’s easier to make than most people think. You start by making the curd, which is the basis of the cheese, then warm and stretch it to develop mozzarella’s unique texture. Most restaurants buy prepared curd and simply do the stretching themselves, but if you don’t need a large amount, making the curd is easy, too.
By Carly DeFilippo
Over the holiday season, we invited our students to share their latest, greatest creations on Instagram using the hashtag #culinaryvoice. Below are our four finalists! Vote in the comments for your favorite, and the winner will receive a free one-session recreational cooking class at ICE.
Show us your culinary voice! Tag @iceculinary #culinaryvoice on Twitter and Instagram.