By Carly DeFilippo

 

Like many ICE grads, Amy Thielen spent time in New York City’s top restaurant kitchens after graduating from our Culinary Arts program. But after seven years working for such chefs as David Bouley, Daniel Boulud and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Amy’s Midwestern roots came calling. Today, she is a rising star on the Food Network and a James Beard award-winning cookbook author, exploring her all-American heritage and helping to redefine the field of modern Midwestern cooking.  

Midwestern-Table

What were you doing before you enrolled at ICE?

I was living in Minnesota—in a cabin in the woods—growing a garden, canning and working part-time as a breakfast cook at a diner on the main street of my hometown. ICE seemed like the right fit for a number of reasons. First, it was less expensive that other schools, and I was still paying off my college loans. Second, it was in New York City. Plus, I just liked the feeling of the school.

 

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.

fig and almond

 

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 masseriaOttava 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.

ICE - Cooking Demo - Jeffrey Weiss - Mario Hiraldo

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.

Fresh seafood at a French market

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.

Photo Credit: Judith Doyle

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 DeFilippoCulinary Arts Student

 

Beyond mise en placebutchery 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.

caul fat

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 Orlando Soto, Pastry & Baking Arts Student

 

On our first day of class in Kitchen 501, Chef Gerri Sarnataro shared several indispensable truths about the food industry. One of them really struck me as odd: “There’s always a back door.” Meaning, there’s always more than one way of doing things, especially in cooking. I thought this was ironic, given my initial perception of pastry: we follow recipes to the gram in an effort to deliver consistent results. But of course, Chef Gerri’s words rang true throughout the program, and never more so than in cake decorating.

floralcake2

Professional cake decorating elevates the common, spongy dessert from ordinary to memorable. It’s an opportunity for the pastry chef to tune directly into the desires and expectations of a client. A cake is a canvas to delight the sense of sight, as much as the sense of taste. Not surprisingly, it’s the details make or break a cake. If you want to create flowers, for example, you aim to make all the petals, leaves and buds look like nature intended. Subtle color gradients and textures bring to life what was once plain, pliable fondant.

 

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.

jpeterson3

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.

Whipped cream, firm peak stage

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.

miguel kamal

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.