By Kathryn Gordon—Co-Director, Center for Advanced Pastry Studies
World-renowned pastry chef Anil Rohira has earned some of the industry’s most prestigious titles, from Pastry Chef of the Year to the winner of “Best Sugar Showpiece” at the Coupe de Monde in Lyon. Today, his grounded perspective and dedication to the craft has earned him a position as the Corporate Chef at Felchlin Switzerland, a world leader in premium chocolate production. This spring, we’re thrilled to be hosting a three-day seminar featuring Chef Rohira’s finest techniques.
You’ve remarked that you believe in the “heart, head and hand”—would you mind elaborating on what this means to you as a pastry chef?
Well, that is my philosophy about our craft, trade and a career in baking and pastry. The first thing that you must have is “heart,” meaning a strong interest, passion and love for the craft. If you do not, you won’t go very far. The industry is too demanding for you not to be committed to it.
Second is that this is as much an intellectual and creative process as it is physical. Just going through the motions of making pastry is not enough. You must be open in your way of thinking about what and why you do things. Making desserts is just the last step in the process. The intellectual creation of a plan for your dessert—flavor, texture and appearance—is the most important part. This effort, in addition to constantly reading or taking classes to upgrade your knowledge, forms your “head,” which comes before the “hand,” meaning your technical skill.
This weekend, ICE received the ultimate nationwide honor from the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP), winning the 2015 Award of Excellence for “Culinary School of the Year” at this year’s Annual IACP Conference in Washington, D.C.
The IACP is a forum of 3,000 professional food and beverage members from 32 countries engaged in and committed to excellence in all aspects of the culinary industry at the local, national and global level. Each year, the IACP Awards pay tribute to notable culinary professionals or institutions that have made significant and lasting contributions to the culinary industry.
At the IACP Conference, ICE won a second award as Culinary Arts Chef Instructor Chris Gesualdi was named 2015 “Culinary Educator of the Year.” During Chef Chris’ 10 year tenure at ICE, he has made a lasting impact on thousands of students through his unyielding commitment to excellence in the kitchen. Prior to a career in education, Chef Chris worked at some of New York City’s best restaurants, including Le Bernardin, Tonic and Montrachet (where he received 3 stars in the New York Times and a James Beard Award nomination for his work as executive chef).
Before she attended ICE’s Culinary Arts and Culinary Management programs, alum Denisse Oller was already a media powerhouse, working as a news anchor for networks like Telemundo and Univision. Combining her newfound culinary talents and television skillset, Oller has since appeared on Throwdown with Bobby Flay, The Today Show, Martha Stewart’s radio show and even a national campaign for “MiPlato” (MyPlate) initiated by First Lady Michelle Obama. We spoke with the media mogul to learn more about her decision to attend culinary school and how it has transformed her career.
How did ICE help you find your culinary voice?
When I first enrolled at ICE, I had no cooking experience. How brazen of me to dare enroll in the professional culinary program! But my interest was real—I had collected more than 200 cookbooks, which I used every day.
I decided to enroll at ICE to learn more, and boy, was I in for the challenge of my life—surrounded by students that knew so much more that I did. It was intimidating, but not for long. Slowly, but surely, I found a way to express my culinary aesthetic and my interpretations of Latin favorites—both classic dishes and modern, healthier versions of traditional recipes. The instructors were key in my professional culinary growth. I am so privileged to call so many of them my friends today.
By Jenny McCoy—Chef Instructor, School of Pastry & Baking Arts
I distinctly remember the first time I tried to establish a relationship with a pastry chef that I really admired. I had just eaten at Trio in Evanston, Illinois and Della Gossett was the pastry chef. Her dessert menu blew me away, and I knew I had to meet her. I called her kitchen and asked if I could spend a week working with her. She agreed.
After a week of making simple recipes and helping with basic prep work, I thought Della and I were two peas in a pod. So about a week after my stage, I decided to call Della, IN THE MIDDLE OF DINNER SERVICE, to ask what her thoughts were about the best flavor pairings to use with pomegranate. I still cringe at Della’s response: “Ummm…pomegranate is out of season. Why are you calling me right now?”
Of course, I was just a silly pastry cook who forgot that a pastry chef might be a bit too busy to entertain my creative whims. Don’t get me wrong; Della was perfectly civilized in her response, but I quickly learned that bothering a chef in the middle of dinner service is not a professional way to build a friendship with a new mentor.
So how exactly do you go about cultivating a relationship with a potential mentor? Read on for five tips.
By Laura Denby—Student, School of Culinary Arts
Hi fellow foodies! I’m Laura, a media professional and current Culinary Arts student. Working full-time during the day while pursuing a life in the kitchen at night is nothing short of thrilling, draining, inspiring and exhausting. Yet despite the obvious challenges, going to school at ICE has so far proven to be one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. Over the next few months, I hope to share some of my experiences and what its like to pursue your passion while holding down a 9-5 job.
I’m sure many of you, like me, struggled with the decision of whether or not to take the leap and jump headfirst into culinary school. But when I found that all I wanted to talk or think about was food, I realized that this passion was something I needed to take seriously. My desire to feed my hunger for knowledge and redirect my life towards a new career completely overrode the exhaustion I thought I would face. And after just two weeks of class, I’m already hooked. Knife skills, fabrication—you name it, I can’t get enough.
By Chef Kathryn Gordon—Co-Director, Center for Advanced Pastry Studies
Summer will be here before you know it, and we’re thrilled to be hosting an innovative ice cream workshop featuring the madcap creations of OddFellows’ Chef Sam Mason on Sunday, April 19th.
What have you been up to since your last CAPS class?
The slower winter months, business-wise, seem to inspire a creative spark. We tend to do a lot of research and development in the cold months—for example, we’ve been working on cocktail popsicles with up to 40% alcohol. We’re also always finding new ways of using liquid nitrogen to help make our kitchen more efficient, whether for “chopping” nuts or adding one ice cream flavor to another.
How do you get inspired for your ice cream flavors and business ideas?
Inspiration can come from almost anything—remembering a childhood event, walking through a grocery store or even sitting on an airplane. My brain has a funny way of arriving at new ice cream ideas. Business-wise, we want to approach ice cream with a unique vision, which means that we don’t necessarily or regularly check out what other companies do. It’s about letting our vision take on its own identity.
Click here to register for Chef Mason’s April 19th class and to see the full schedule of 2015 CAPS classes.
By Alison Mahoney—Student, School of Pastry & Baking Arts
For me, baking started innocently, as all hobbies do: a chocolate chip cookie here; a pizzelle there; a wedding cake for a gluten-free friend. People started to tell me (often) “You should open a bakery.” I laughed it off thinking, “Riiiiight…a musical theatre actor and night owl should definitely get up at 4 am to start baking bread.” Not in this lifetime. Baking was just a sublime obsession, a creative outlet outside of my day-to-day grind of auditions and rehearsals.
Yet, more and more, I found myself day-dreaming at auditions about what kind of baked good I would tackle that night. I would rush home with an hour or two between commitments to bake a cake, macarons or cookies, and then go out for the night. It suddenly became my routine, and boy did I love the challenge. Suddenly, I found myself in the kitchen three or four times a week. Singing had always been my first love, but baking? Baking was quickly becoming the dark horse.
My baking addiction got so out of hand that I actually found myself competing for baking domination on a Food Network show where I was the only home chef. I clearly could not hang with the big boys on national television, but I so desperately wanted to. I am creative and fast and loose in the kitchen, but I quickly learned that, when it comes to baking, a strong foundation in technique is truly what gives a chef freedom. I started researching pastry programs, seeking a curriculum that felt serious but not confining—a course that would teach me how to create something classic, but then encourage me to color outside of the lines. I found that place in ICE.
Chef Mike Handal remembers the first time a restaurant chef ever appeared on the cover of Bon Appetit. “It was 1980 and Chicago’s Jean Banchet [was the first]. Then came a protégé of Bocuse. And then my chef, Jean-Jacques Rachou.”
The 1980s in New York City was the wild west of fine dining. Chefs from abroad—many of them French—were shaping the city’s iconic restaurant style with elegant, old world techniques and innovative ideas. At the center of it all, Jean-Jacques Rachou’s newly opened La Côte Basque was like an Ivy League graduate school for recent culinary graduates. Todd English, Charlie Palmer and Rick Moonen—even Daniel Boulud—passed through his kitchens on their way to stardom. For twelve years, ICE’s own Chef Mike Handal worked alongside them, working every station from soufflé, to garde manger and even sous chef.
“It was just the beginning of the idea of chefs as celebrities. Jean-Jacques, for example, became famous for a new style of plating—painting plates with various colors of sauces and intricate designs. Yet even though chefs were coming into their own, La Côte Basque was a good grounding in the real world, because at the end of the day it was hard, physical work, six days a week.”
Read on to learn more about Chef Mike’s path to ICE.
When Kim O’Donnel traded in her journalism career for a future in food, she never expected that her true calling would mix her two passions. Kim was among the country’s first digital food correspondents, breaking ground as a writer for the original Washington Post website. Since then, she has become one of the country’s most respected food writers, celebrated by the M.F.K. Fisher Awards for Excellence in Culinary Writing and serving on the James Beard Foundation’s Journalism Awards Committee. Read on to learn how Kim made her mark on the industry.
What have you been up to since graduating?
As my ICE externship was ending, I got a call about a job in Washington, D.C. working with the Washington Post and “something called the Internet.” It turns out it was WashingtonPost.com, and they were building their first team of feature writers, including someone to write about restaurants. I was offered the job, but had a crisis of conscience. At the time, I was thinking, “What am I doing taking a desk job after I just finished my culinary training?”
One of my mentors—Gillian Clark, the sous chef at Cashion’s Eat Place in D.C.—told me, “You can always cook. Go see what this is about.” It ended up being the beginning of yet another career path, marrying my writing experience with my culinary training. For the next eight years, I worked on staff producing first-generation cooking videos, hosting a weekly cooking chat and exploring the different ways we could approach internet content through the lens of food. During the same period, as a freelancer, I wrote a daily column called Mighty Appetite, which took my food writing to another level. I’ve since written for Real Simple, USA Today and other publications. From there, I got the bug to write cookbooks. I’ve now spent 17 years in the industry and it has been anything but dull!