By Caitlin Raux

There’s a new school of chefs — those who wax on about ingredients and sourcing; who want to elevate or demote the act of dining out; who want to change the way we eat. Ashley Merriman (Culinary Arts ’04), co-chef of Prune, does not belong to that school. She’s a rare breed of chef nowadays, one who’s passionate about the job mostly because she loves the actual work — the sound of the ticket machine; the chopping during prep; the firing up of grills; the rush during service; and the cleaning — lots and lots of cleaning, as anyone in the industry knows. Ashley’s experience “on the line” dates back to high school, but ICE handed her the keys to the world of fine dining in New York, where she’s had the opportunity to work with some of the city’s great chefs.

I caught up with the former Top Chef competitor on a Monday afternoon before the crush of dinner service (yes, even on a Monday, the house at Prune is full). Ashley and I chatted about her love of the job of being a chef.

Chef Ashley Merriman

credit: Brent Herrig © 2013

Are you from New York?

I’m originally from New Hampshire, but I’ve spent so much time here that I can’t imagine living anywhere else.

Was food a big part of your family life growing up?

Not at all. My mom was a single working mom. Consequently, there were lots of nights of: Here’s some hot dogs for dinner. I’m not from a big cooking family. It was more about feeding the family without a lot of time — my mom was working and we played a lot of sports and did extracurricular activities.

I got into the restaurant business because of the work. My mom made us get jobs when we were 12 and it was one of the only after-school jobs that I could get. My older brother mowed lawns. The only other job for kids our age was to wash dishes in restaurants. Once I started, I just liked the work.

Did you know that you wanted to continue working in restaurants?

I remember graduating from high school and I wanted very much to go to culinary school. I graduated in 1994 and I guess it was a very different time in our culinary world. It was not something that my mom had any interest in me doing — she didn’t think it was a viable career option, especially since I had gone to a pretty fancy boarding school. So I cooked throughout college and I cooked after college because it was the only paycheck I knew how to get. It was just the work that I liked the best. I thought for a while that I wanted to be an English teacher and I studied English in college. But I just kept doing restaurant work and I loved it. I love cooking and cleaning.

I think there’s a certain personality type drawn to cooking professionally.

Yes, definitely. At some point I took a career aptitude test and my choices were a cop, an EMT or a chef. In all of them there’s a certain level of stress or adrenaline, but also an altruistic side — of serving or helping people.

I would do this work anywhere, and not just at Prune. I would enjoy this work in small town USA, Kazooky’s Bar + Grill.

So you graduated from a four-year college and then went back to cooking?

I worked in a bookstore for a while, but I just liked restaurant work so much that I decided to go to ICE. That’s when I got serious about cooking professionally. I knew how to cook and I had a pretty lengthy resume but I didn’t know anything about food or fine dining. I just knew how to be a line cook at mom-and-pop restaurants. That’s what brought me to ICE — I knew it would be good to add to my resume and to get my foot in the door in New York.

I imagine you went to ICE to learn the technical skills too…

I didn’t know the next level culinary skills. I only knew what had been put in front of me, which was pretty little considering I worked as a line cook in the same restaurant for nine years before and during high school. I didn’t have a deep bench of experience.

What was your first gig after ICE?

At ICE, my very first teacher in Module 1 was Alex Guarnaschelli. She and I hit it off right away and Alex, being the smart person she is, saw that I already knew how to be a line cook. So she asked me to do my internship with her at Butter, which I did. I ended up staying at Butter for years. Then I worked in Seattle for a few years and came back to New York and worked at Butter again. I helped Alex open The Darby. Then I left and was the chef at The Waverly Inn for years. Now I’m at Prune.

I’m not saying this to flatter you, but Prune happens to be one of my favorite restaurants in New York.

Yes, it’s a good restaurant. I had been a regular there for years. I loved Prune so much. Gabrielle [Hamilton] and I are married (laughs) so I love her so much, too. It feels natural for us to be working together.

It seems like a very positive work environment – which you don’t find in all restaurants.

I think it’s one of Gabrielle’s signatures and something that she’s worked really hard to achieve. It’s why she has incredible staff retention and people really want to stay there. Prune is a feeling and it means a lot to a lot of people, not just the customers, but also the people who have worked there for years. It’s partially because of how the people at Prune are treated.

How has your ICE education prepared you to be chef at Prune?

The most important thing that ICE did for me was to expose me to fine dining – food and dining on a serious level. I already knew a lot about how to be a cook in a restaurant. I remember one of the first assignments at ICE was to write a paper about a chef who influenced you. Everyone else was talking about chefs like Daniel Boulud and Eric Ripert and I had no idea who those people were. That’s what ICE exposed me to.

Did you aspire to become part of that fine dining world?

I only ever wanted to be a chef. I really mean this — and I don’t think this is how most people are anymore, though I’m not placing a value on it — I like the work itself much more than I like food. I like the act of coming to work and the ticket machine and the chopping and the lifting and the cleaning and the cooking – the actual act of cooking food. I care about it much more than I care about the ingredient or the product or the, Oh my god, lacto-fermentation. I think that stuff is interesting and valuable and it’s a part of my every day. But I would do this work anywhere, and not just at Prune. I would enjoy this work in small town USA, Kazooky’s Bar + Grill.

It’s more about the physicality and tangible aspects of being a chef.

I do really enjoy the tangible, pragmatic side: bring in the food, break it down, cook it, etc.

That’s rare nowadays.

I think a lot of people forget that every day is cooking and cleaning. I think that in our industry, a lot of people have forgotten about that part of the day, which is remarkable because it’s the biggest part of the day.

You cook every day – where do you look for inspiration?

Honestly, it’s so cheesy, but I’m really inspired by my wife. I think she’s the greatest cook. She doesn’t cook as much in the restaurant anymore, but I’m inspired by what she cooks at home. I’m inspired by our conversations about food. Long before we were married, I loved Gabrielle’s restaurant, before I even loved her. I’ve become a way better cook by working with her.

What does a typical day for you look like?

I’m in the restaurant by 11:30 – 12:00 p.m. I check in with the AM person and the porters and then I start the day. Prune is very small so the chef works the station every single night. There’s no expediting from the pass — you’re at the actual station. I spend the day setting up my station and helping the other cooks set up theirs. Other than that, it’s a pretty typical chef’s day. There’s ordering, receiving, managing, scheduling, actual cooking, running service, shutting down service, cleaning and organizing. Then I write in the log at the end of the night. I usually finish anywhere from 12:30 – 1:00 a.m.

What is your culinary voice?

My culinary voice is about the actual work. You see people with very clear voices and visions. My voice and my vision is about the day-to-day job that we have to do. I think it’s really important. My voice is a factual, objective voice about cooking.

Chef Ashley Merriman

Click here to watch Ashley in ICE’s Find Your Culinary Voice scholarship challenge video

Ready to find your culinary voice? Get more information on ICE’s career programs.

By Brooke Bordelon — Student, Culinary Arts ’17

Chefs are no strangers to the world of charity. In addition to filling hungry patrons’ bellies, superstar chefs use their clout to make the world a better place. Philanthropic organizations that help different groups — from struggling farmers and low-income families to at-risk youth — have flourished, largely due to the support of culinary heavyweights like Eric Ripert, José Andrés and Christina Tosi.

With her organization Emma’s Torch, ICE student Kerry Brodie (Culinary Arts, ’17) hopes to join the ranks of these culinary visionaries in the fight for a better tomorrow. Inspired by the words of the famous American poet and refugee advocate Emma Lazarus, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” Kerry’s organization aims to empower refugees in the United States by training them in the culinary arts to gain employment in the culinary industry.

ICE student and Emma's Torch founder Kerry Brodie

ICE student and Emma’s Torch founder Kerry Brodie

I recently chatted with Kerry to discuss her experiences as a culinary student at ICE and as the CEO of Emma’s Torch.

How did you first come up with the vision for Emma’s Torch?

I’ve always been intrigued by the idea that food and cooking are things that make us human. I’m the child of immigrants and most people I know are descendants of immigrants or of refugees. I’ve always wanted to do something that would engage immigrants and refugees in the food world to use this universal experience of cooking, eating and sharing meals to create social change.

How have the skills you’ve learned and connections you’ve made at ICE helped you launch Emma’s Torch?

ICE has been invaluable for connecting me with people in the food world and showing me what it means to be a culinary educator. I’ve learned so much from observing our teachers and talking to people in various departments at ICE about what’s important when it comes to training. The instructors have been very supportive in connecting me with chefs and showing me how to set up a kitchen. They’ve been so generous with their time — going above and beyond to show me that they value my vision and that they want to see it come to fruition.

Has any particular chef’s career been an inspiration to you?

On one hand, renowned chefs like José Andrés are inspirational. There are also so many chefs who we don’t hear as much about who quietly, in their own businesses and hiring practices, make differences in people’s lives. One of those chefs, Mary Cleaver, is on our advisory board. She was one of the first restaurant owners to say that we have to do good for the world through our businesses. What inspires me most though are the people you never hear about — the dishwashers, the prep cooks — who work tirelessly because they want to make a better life for themselves and their families, and believe that working hard to make beautiful experiences for people in restaurants is part of that American dream. 

How do you balance school with your work for Emma’s Torch? 

One of my favorite quotes from Dr. Seuss is, “You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.” No matter how overwhelmed I feel sometimes with school and trying to get my business off the ground, I am so in love with the opportunities that both endeavors have given me. As much as I want to catch up on sleep on the weekends, it’s hard because I just want to keep working. Even at my most stressed out moments, I consider myself lucky to be doing what I love.

What has the response been like from students at ICE? 

The response has been powerful and positive. So many of the students in my classes are willing to dedicate what very little free time they have to volunteering with Emma’s Torch. The outpouring of support — both moral support when I’m complaining in the locker room and students volunteering at events — has been humbling.

How do you think your experience at ICE has differed from other students?

I think everybody at ICE has a story. There’s got to be something that drove them to come to ICE and something that they’re aiming for in the long term. What I’m trying to get out of my education is different from someone who wants to work in a restaurant. Another thing that has set my experience apart is that I’ve been focused on how we are being taught, not just on what we are being taught. I’m going to do some teaching and recruit other people to teach culinary classes for Emma’s Torch, so I need to learn the building blocks of a well-rounded culinary curriculum.

How can people get involved with Emma’s Torch?

Very easily! They can email me at Kerry@emmastorch.org, or check out our website, emmastorch.org. We’re always looking for new volunteers and partners. We’re small but we’re flexible and eager to involve more people in our community.

Emma’s Torch will be throwing their launch party on December 18 at Brooklyn FoodWorks from 6-8 p.m. Those in attendance can meet the students and taste appetizers and desserts prepared by the first class of Emma’s Torch. All proceeds from the event will support refugee empowerment programs. To get tickets, visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/emmas-torch-launch-party-tickets-29203974875.

Ready to launch your culinary arts career? Click here for information on our career programs. 

 

By Caitlin Gunther

Ben Wiley (Pastry Arts ‘06), co-owner of five successful Brooklyn bars, is on the move. Whether he’s scooting to a jiu-jitsu class in Manhattan or popping into one of his bars for a weekly visit, he’s always headed somewhere—that and a passion for the service industry seem to be his calling cards.

ICE Alum Ben Wiley

From his hometown in northern New Jersey, Ben headed west to the University of Illinois to study Japanese. He then traded the Midwest for Yokohama, Japan, where he enrolled in a master’s degree program through Stanford University. It was during this time that Ben developed a love for baking and craft beer. Motivated by a paucity of good, readily available bread, he spent countless hours in his home kitchen trying to create the perfect loaf. When he wasn’t studying or in the kitchen, Ben was a regular barfly and part-time bartender, which served to improve both his language skills and knowledge of good, craft beer. After five years in Japan, Ben returned to New Jersey, at which point, with visions of a small café or bakery in his head, he decided to enroll in the Pastry Arts program at ICE. After completing an externship in one of the hottest kitchens in New York City, Del Posto, he and his brother hatched a back-of-a-napkin plan to open their own business—a neighborhood bar.

Though transitioning from pastry chef to bar owner seems like a leap, the detail- and service-oriented nature of both are a natural fit for Ben. He took a pause from one of his typical, frenetic days to do the ICE alum questionnaire.

ICE graduation year: Pastry Arts ‘06

Location: Brooklyn, New York

Occupation: Co-owner of five bars in Brooklyn: Bar Great Harry, The Owl Farm, Mission Dolores, Glorietta Baldy and Cardiff Giant

Ben Wiley at Mission Dolores

Favorite sandwich spot:

There is a bodega right on the corner of 27th and 8th Avenue, right by FIT. It’s a standard-issue bodega that probably makes the same wraps as every other one in town, but they know me. I get a spinach wrap with chicken, sautéed spinach and some kind of cheese—I always tell them to pick one for me. It’s perfect. It digests well, and I can work right after. It’s six bucks, and it makes me happy. 

Describe a day in the life.

My wife and I get up around 7:30 a.m. I make her coffee every day. I don’t have to get up early, but I like to. With the dog, I walk her halfway to work, then the dog and I come back. I work from home for about two hours—emailing stuff, ordering beers, working on upcoming events and organizing anniversaries. With five bars you end up having anniversaries all the time. I scoot on my scooter into Manhattan and train jiu-jitsu for an hour. I stop by the bodega, grab my wrap, then I scoot to whichever bar I’m working in that day. I generally pop into each bar once a week. I’ll work for about two hours, then come home to start prepping dinner and walk the dog. When my wife comes home, we’ll have a drink (or not—we take a month off drinking sometimes). Then we hang out, put our feet up and laugh at all the nonsense we’ve gotten up to that day. Or I work out again. We work out a lot.

Mission Dolores Brooklyn

Mission Dolores

What inspired you to go to culinary school?

After I got my master’s degree in Japan, I landed a job as a translator for the Japanese government. They shipped me to Fukui, where I lived for three years doing a “suit-and-tie” desk job. It’s hard to find good bread in Japan. There are amazing French bakeries spotted around the country, but the general level of bread was limited to big, fluffy white bread. I couldn’t find the “healthy” bread that I wanted, so I got into baking. I was making bread in bread machines, then experimenting with 48-hour fermented dough and trying to catch yeast in the air. I bought a ton of books. That’s one thing: if I get into something, I get into it pretty seriously.

After five years in Japan, I came back to the states. I moved into my mom’s apartment in Patterson, NJ, working for a garbage collection company and trying to figure out my life. I realized that I’ve always loved bread, so I Googled and found ICE, located right in New York City. “This could be my ticket to a new life,” I thought. I envisioned opening a small bakery or café one day. So I enrolled. When I graduated, I got an externship at Del Posto when it had just opened.

The key is to treat people well enough that they’re succeeding and happy so that they don’t have to take from you to be happy. I say, “Make the people who work for you win first, and you’ll win later.” 

What got you into the bar business?

After culinary school, I moved in with my brother in Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn. He was working in a job where he was doing well, but not happy and looking to shake things up. The craft beer scene was very small in New York at the time. One night over beers, my brother and I started talking about opening up a bar. I remember sitting in our kitchen, literally mapping things out on the back of envelopes— if we sell 10 beers an hour, open eight hours a day—those types of calculations. We both loved the idea. One night we were out at a crappy little bar at 280 Smith Street (where Bar Great Harry is now), and there was a little old guy at the corner of the bar, wearing a suit. I said to Mike, “What’s a guy like that doing here? He has to be the owner.” When he went out for a cigarette, Mike and I followed him outside. “Is this your bar?” I asked. “We want to buy your bar.” The guy smiled and said, “Really? I want to sell my bar.” Three months later the contract was signed, and we completely renovated the space. That was Bar Great Harry. I bartended every day for weeks and weeks until we could hire more staff.

How did studying pastry arts at ICE prepare you for owning bars?

Culinary school, especially pastry, is all about being prepared. The execution, a monkey could do. It’s how well you prepare and measure everything out, that’s what’s important. That skill set is tremendously important to a small business that’s inventory-based. In a service industry, it’s different, but we have liquid that I sell. Everything has to be calculated—what’s the yield from this keg of beer, how many servings do I get, which size servings, how many do we have to sell. That idea of weighing, measuring, preparation, mise en place—that had a tremendous impact on me and how I manage our business.

Bar at Mission Dolores

Bar at Mission Dolores

Advice for anyone considering getting into the bar business?

It cannot be said enough how important your staff is. In a bar, your staff will make or break you. If you’re successful with one bar, you’re going to open two and three. You can’t be everywhere all the time. As soon as you’re not there all the time, you can have all the checks and balances you want, but people will take from you. The key is to treat people well enough that they’re succeeding and happy so that they don’t have to take from you to be happy. I say, “Make the people who work for you win first, and you’ll win later.” Hire people who you trust deep down. You can train people to make a drink. But when I interview people I think about whether I really trust them and whether they really want to be there.

Where do you see yourself in five years from now?

In five, I’ll still be partners with my brother in the bar business. Maybe we’ll have six or seven bars at that point. I think six and seven will be different from the first five, but not sure what form they will take. Hopefully doing something a bit different from before. We’re also looking for houses up the Hudson River.

Ready to launch your new career? Find out more about ICE’s career programs. 


ICE’s 
Center for Advanced Pastry Studies (CAPS) is excited to announce our upcoming course on September 12-13, Ideas in Food: Gluten-Free Baking Science and Technique, led by Aki Kamozawa and Alex Talbot, chefs and creators of the award-winning blog Ideas in Food. In this new course, Chefs Aki and Alex will share the ingredients that are vital to creating gluten-free desserts, as well as gluten-free bakery and restaurant techniques. Participants will roll up their sleeves and learn to create a handful of tasty desserts, sans gluten. 

In anticipation of this upcoming course, we interviewed Chefs Aki and Alex to get their thoughts on gluten-free baking, plus a sneak peek of what to expect in the classroom.

GlutenF-Free Flour Power

Alex, you met your partner in crime, Aki, while working in the kitchen of Boston restaurant Clio—what was the catalyst for your transition from the kitchen to food media? 

I suppose the catalyst was the creation of our blog Ideas in Food in 2004, though I’m not sure I’d call it a transition. Food, the kitchen and the exploration of delicious things have always been our driving forces. And these days we have Curiosity Doughnuts in the Stockton Market in Stockton, NJ, that keeps us united with the kitchen.

Have you seen any recent shifts in jobs in the food and restaurant world?

The greatest shift is the growth of smaller off-the-beaten-path jobs. When we were at Keyah Grande in 2004, the idea of a restaurant in a mountain setting on a 4,000-acre ranch in the middle of nowhere—Pagosa Springs, Colorado—was crazy. Nowadays, these restaurants and jobs are idolized.

Your most recent cookbook is titled “Gluten-Free Flour Power” and your class here at ICE will focus on gluten-free baking. What ignited this gluten-free flame for you both?

Gluten-Free Flour Power grew out of our consulting business, where chefs needed a support system for their guests. We wanted to make a handbook of delicious gluten-free recipes. What is equally exciting and oft missed is that our recipes work gram-for-gram for both gluten-free and all-purpose flour.

What has been your biggest challenge in the realm of gluten-free baking?

The biggest challenge with gluten-free has been the stigma of “gluten-free.”

Which recipe are you most proud of?

The kouign-amann is pretty special.

What is your main goal for your class here at ICE?

The goal for the class is to break down a few walls and open the door to what is possible in the gluten-free kitchen.

If you had to state your overall food philosophy, whether on eating or producing, what would it be?  

Make it delicious.

Click here to reserve your spot in Chefs Aki and Alex’s course today!

Each year, ICE’s Center for Advanced Pastry Studies offers a variety of single and multiday continuing education pastry courses for working baking and pastry professionals taught by master chefs and critically acclaimed artists from all over the world. At CAPS, you will refine your skills, learn new and innovative techniques, and expand your current repertoire with hands-on classes among peers. What’s more, all CAPS classes are approved for American Culinary Federation certified education hours.

Classes have a limited enrollment and fill quickly. ICE alumni receive 15% off!

By Caitlin Gunther

One of the great things about studying at ICE is the wealth of experience that each instructor brings to the curriculum. Culinary Management instructor Alan Someck is no exception. As general manager of two perpetually packed Long Island restaurants for decades, Alan developed an understanding of what makes a restaurant not only successful but an integral part of the community. Between this role and his years of consulting work, Alan has the kind of expertise that only comes with time and the opportunity to study changing trends in the industry. At ICE, Alan shares his insights with each aspiring restaurant owner or food business entrepreneur who walks into his classroom.

Alan Someck

A native New Yorker with the restaurant industry in his blood (his father owned a seafood restaurant in Brooklyn), Alan didn’t initially gravitate toward the culinary world. It wasn’t until after college when he moved to San Diego that Alan was inspired to join the food industry. With a shared desire for local, fresh produce, Alan and friends began a food co-op—a small operation where members would assemble in someone’s backyard and handpick their weekly produce. The co-op, which doubled as a community center, grew until it eventually relocated to a larger space that was previously a pool and dance hall. It was during this era that Alan learned to tap into local needs and organize ways to meet them.

Though he loved the Golden State, Alan eventually relocated back east, where he took the helm of two popular North Fork restaurants, both called Millie’s Place. Recognizing that the restaurant space had evolved into more than a place to eat, but rather, an extension of people’s homes, Alan infused Millie’s Place with the same sense of community that he helped to create in the San Diego food co-op.

Alan Someck and student

Alan with ICE graduate

Asked about the lessons gleaned from his time running Millie’s Place, Alan says, “Hook into the community. Get involved and create relationships with customers.” This entails everything from getting to know your customers by name to giving back to the community—Alan’s staff used to cook Thanksgiving dinners for seniors in the area. A second lesson is to observe what’s going on in the industry. Alan explains, “Once a week, I would go out to another restaurant. Go to restaurants and food shows and learn from them. Your food should adapt to the current trends.” Alan’s final piece of advice? Choose the right location. More specifically: a location that fits your concept. This and other vital elements involved in launching a food business or restaurant are the kinds of discussions that Alan has with each of his students. Says Alan, “I start with the premise of, ‘What’s the experience you want to create?’ Let’s work backward from that.”

With New York City as a backdrop for his classes, Alan is also able to incorporate local restaurants and entrepreneurs into his curriculum. From a guest lecture by Gabrielle Hamilton, author and chef/owner of the acclaimed East Village restaurant Prune, to a field trip into the bakery of Amy’s Bread, guided by owner and ICE alum Amy Scherber, Alan ensures that his students receive a comprehensive food business education.

Today, Alan continues to advise restaurant startups, franchises and restaurants aiming to solve operational conundrums. An avid cultural observer, especially when it comes to the way people eat, Alan keeps a constant pulse on the evolving food industry. Whether inside of the classroom or out, Alan is inspiring the next generation of food visionaries and helping to make their lofty business dreams a (profitable) reality.

Want to study with Alan and start mapping out your own food business? Click here to learn more about our Culinary Management program.


By Caitlin Gunther

Picture a culinary school graduate and chances are you imagine a white-toque wearing chef on his or her way into a traditional restaurant setting. Most people wouldn’t think that culinary school could also lead to working in the test kitchen of a food media startup located in Brooklyn’s coolest new creative hub, Industry City. That’s exactly where ICE alum Jiselle Basile (Culinary Arts and Culinary Management ‘14) recently landed—as chef and food stylist for Extra Crispy, Time Inc.’s new breakfast-centric website. Though the Career Services department at ICE set her up with her first food media internship (in the Birmingham-based test kitchen for Cooking Light), Jiselle’s willingness to try something different, leaving both her comfort zone and her hometown of New York City, helped Jiselle land her current gig.

Taking a break from such adventures as making green eggs and ham for grownups, Jiselle hopped out of the test kitchen to complete the ICE alum questionnaire. Unsurprisingly, this ICE alum has strong views on culinary school and where to score the best breakfast sandwich.

Jiselle Basile Extra Crispy

ICE graduation year: May 2014 (Culinary Arts and Culinary Management)

Location: Brooklyn, New York

Occupation: Chef and food stylist for Extra Crispy

Favorite sandwich spot:
I narrowed it down a lot obviously (laughs). One place is Steve’s Pork Store on Bath Avenue in Brooklyn. They make probably the best Italian sandwich I’ve ever had. And for breakfast—because obviously I have an opinion on breakfast—at the bagel shop I grew up with, Bagel Boy in Bay Ridge, they make a power bagel that has sunflower seeds, flaxseed and millet in a whole wheat bagel. I know a lot of people hate whole-wheat bagels, but this one is delicious. I get a sausage, egg and cheese with ketchup on that bagel and it’s a perfect breakfast sandwich.

Describe a typical day in your life.
There’s not a typical day, which keeps it interesting. At Extra Crispy, there’s a startup mentality—within a major company—but it’s still a startup. Most of us take on a lot of different roles so no two days are similar. Usually I’m either researching recipes at my desk; or I can be at a video shoot with a chef; or testing and styling in the kitchen. Tomorrow, I’m going to be making Scotch eggs with an ostrich egg on Facebook live. I have to pick up ostrich eggs at Union Square Market at 8:00 AM, so I’ll start here whenever I get back.

Where do you look for recipe inspiration?
Food & Wine, Lucky Peach, Bon Appetit…I also read a bunch of food blogs. Or if I really like something I eat at a restaurant, I’ll try to recreate it. I research a bunch of recipes and then try to make something that’s my own. My family is also a big inspiration. Everyone in my family cooks, so I grew up trying to learn from them, though that’s mostly Italian food.

How did ICE prepare you for being a chef and food stylist at Extra Crispy?
I am where I am today because of ICE. If it weren’t for [ICE Career Services Advisor] Tessa, I never would have known about the internship with Time Inc. in Alabama. To be completely honest, I didn’t even know this kind of job existed before attending ICE. Both programs definitely prepared me for working as a chef/food stylist. The Culinary Arts program provided me with the necessary technical skills and I gained an understanding of market trends in Culinary Management. The recreational classes were also a great way to build on a particular interest.

Chef Jiselle Basile

What is your culinary voice?
I’m still trying to figure that out. Right now I want to make delicious food that makes people feel good, or that brings back a memory or a specific moment in time. That’s why I like working for Extra Crispy—there’s so much comfort and emotion tied to breakfast.

Wired recently released a video with David Chang of Momofuku and in the video he talked about his success. He said a lot of things I love, but one thing in particular was that he tries to evoke nostalgia in his dishes, but not in an overtly obvious way. So the dish one person is brought back to won’t be the same dish that another person is being brought back to. I’d love to be able to do that but I have a lot more to learn.

What inspired you to go to culinary school?
It was always something I thought I wanted to do. When I graduated from high school, I thought I wanted to go to culinary school but I ended up going to college and getting a communications degree. I didn’t know where I wanted to go from there. At some point I realized that cooking had always followed me—no matter where I was, I was always finding a way to cook. Even in college I took cooking classes when they were offered. Eventually I realized that it was what I wanted to pursue as a career—something I always loved doing.

Where do you see yourself five years from now?
On my way toward starting something that will be my own. I don’t know if that will happen in five years because I need more restaurant experience first. So whether I’m back in kitchens or on the management side of things so I can learn how the FOH works, hopefully I’ll be on my way to owning my own restaurant.

Thoughts on the current culinary landscape?
The whole foodie culture thing is having an impact. People are either talking about things more than ever or social media is having an impact and brought to life how much people talk about it. People are more aware of their food; I’ve seen restaurants focusing more on where their food is coming from and I guess it’s in part because people are so much more concerned about the surrounding issues. It’s also interesting how owners and chefs now look at how social media affects their restaurants. Nowadays a lot of people, before they set foot in your restaurant, will see if you have an Instagram and check out what your food looks like, which has a huge impact on whether someone will eat in your restaurant.

Click here to discover how you too can earn a double diploma from ICE in Culinary Management and Culinary Arts or Pastry Arts.


By Caitlin Gunther

Where do you see yourself in ten years? That’s the question Chloe Vichot (Culinary Management ’15) heard when she was interviewing for admission to business schools after graduating from high school. Though she didn’t say it aloud, in her head the answer was clear—owning a restaurant. A successful career in finance and an ICE Culinary Management diploma later, the Paris native is on the cusp of realizing that dream in New York City. This fall, she will open the doors to Ancolie, a Greenwich Village grab-and-go eatery, where glass jars will be the eco-friendly packaging of choice. Serving fresh takes on the seasonal, home-cooked meals she grew up eating, Chloe is sharing her culinary voice with downtown Manhattan.

Ancolie_Chloe

In the midst of juggling the roles involved in opening a restaurant, Chloe sat down with us to answer the ICE alum questionnaire.

ICE graduation year: July 2015 (Culinary Management)

Location: New York, New York

Occupation: Founder of Ancolie, a restaurant with a grab-and-go concept that will open in the fall of 2016. It’s going to be in Greenwich Village in the NYU area. I chose this location, rather than midtown, because I wanted to be close to the student life. And people will come in the morning, evening and weekends.

Favorite sandwich spot: Tartinery in Nolita. They have open-faced sandwiches that I love…and there’s also a location in ICE’s building, Brookfield Place.

Describe a day in the life.
My life changes every day—one day I’m cooking for an event, another day I have to deal with the contractors and construction, another day I have to talk to my interior designer and make sure the plans are on track. Other days I have to take care of social media. There’s a lot of multitasking and wearing different hats in a single day. Then I’m also trying to plan ahead for all the things we’ll need once the store opens, which is challenging.

Did the management program at ICE prepare you for making these decisions?
Absolutely! Being with professionals from the industry who have done this for more than 20 years was fantastic. I was able to learn from professionals who have seen a lot of concepts and know the industry trends. I could pitch them my concept and get valuable feedback. And with three professors, I had more than one opinion.

What is your culinary voice?
I took recreational culinary courses, but I never considered myself a chef. I considered myself a businesswoman and someone who wanted to create a new concept, with a goal to touch people through food. Originally, I thought I would have a professional chef at Ancolie, but as the days went by, I realized that I was going to be the chef…it’s been an interesting transition.

My culinary voice comes from what I grew up eating and what my mother and grandmother taught me. I was lucky not to have to worry about what I was eating growing up—because my family was always cautious about picking the right ingredients and in the right proportions. So I’m trying to bring this culture to the U.S.: to enjoy food and find a balance.

Ancolie_Sharing

What or who inspired you to go to culinary school?
I always dreamed of having a restaurant. I started with an amateur cooking course, and at the time I wasn’t even considering quitting my job in finance. The course made me so happy and excited that I realized I wanted to switch from finance to the food world. When I decided to take the Culinary Management program at ICE, I think I had just had a fight with my team at work, and it made me consider what I wanted to do with my life. I was married and going to have children at some point, so if I was working and had kids I wanted to make sure I was doing something I was passionate about, and I knew finance was not that. So I started thinking—could I do something in food, but something more daytime-oriented for when I have a family? I started the ICE program knowing I wanted to do something in food but not sure what. The program helped me confirm that the food business is what I wanted to do and that I could do it by myself.

After graduating from ICE, I worked in a restaurant in front of house for a couple of months. I thought I’d have to gain a couple years’ experience, but then I realized it was time to just to do it. I’d never be totally prepared to open a food business, so I decided to jump in the water and do it.

Thoughts on the current culinary landscape?
I’m very inspired by what’s happening in the current culinary landscape, especially the focus on eating locally and seasonally. Dan Barber is an inspiration – he is trying to reuse things that are typically thrown away.
I think the culinary world needs to take the next step and focus on packaging. Ancolie is going in the right direction by using glass instead of plastic. Every time I talk to a restaurateur, they think I’m crazy and wasting money, but I think more people will start using glass and reusable packaging.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
In five years, I would really love to have a couple of Ancolie stores in the city and an operation that is successful. To me, success means making a difference in the local community and the environment—which is why I’m using glass, so people don’t need to throw away their packaging. Success also means making sure my investors are happy with their investment. And of course, I want happy customers. I feel like I’m finally on track to realizing my dream.

Ancolie_Food

Ready to start your own food business? Check out our Culinary Management program and find your culinary voice.

Ed Behr - Natalie Stultz - Interview

Photo Credit: Natalie Stultz

 

By Carly DeFilippo

In 2014, Ed Behr earned one of the food industry’s most prestigious honors: an induction into the James Beard Foundation’s “Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America.” Over the past thirty years, he has grown his publication, The Art of Eating, from a simple newsletter into a respected quarterly journal. For aspiring food media professionals, artisanal producers and culinary professionals inspired by the ethical and aesthetic questions of our time, Ed’s uncompromising vision and entrepreneurship stands as a model of excellence. We caught up with the publisher (and new cookbook author!) to learn more about his inspiring career path.

What were you doing before you enrolled at ICE? And what sparked your decision to attend culinary school?
I was working as a carpenter and builder, which I did for about a dozen years. I decided I wanted to open a restaurant, and to do that I felt I had to go to cooking school, not because I wanted to cook in the restaurant, but because I knew I didn’t know enough to recognize and hire a good chef. In the end, I never opened a restaurant. Since 1986, I’ve been writing about food and wine as the editor and publisher of The Art of Eating.

What accomplishments are you most proud of?
First and foremost, my book: 50 Foods. It represents ten years of work—though you could say 30 years, since it draws on everything I’ve ever learned about food. I aimed to produce a book of permanent value, one that would remain in print forever. It’s a practical guide to deliciousness, one of only two or three books ever written about the broad connoisseurship of food. I’d like to think that anyone who loves food will feel they have to have it.

On a different plane, the most important thing I’ve done was to write the article “The Lost Taste of Pork: Finding a Place for the Iowa Family Farm.” It appeared in The Art of Eating in 1999, and it may have been the first article written for a non-agricultural audience about humane methods for raising pork. It was certainly the first to link methods, breed and taste—to explain each and how they are connected. I happened to choose the subject of pork without realizing where it would lead. After Steve Ells, head of the Chipotle chain, read the article, he switched from buying conventional pork to buying humanely raised pork. In doing so, Chipotle provided the first major market for pig farmers—specifically Paul Willis and others selling through Niman Ranch—who were doing the right thing. Last year the company bought 135 million pounds of naturally raised meat—pork, beef and chicken. I realize “naturally” is an imprecise word, but in this case it represents a huge leap forward from conventional practices. I’m proud to have inspired a few people to open idealistic food businesses and related projects. I’ve also given some good writers their first break in print.

Art of Eating - Ed Behr - Interview - Editor - Food Writing

 

Briefly describe a day in your current working life.
Like so many other people, I spend most of my time looking at a computer screen. I try—but rarely succeed—to devote the morning to my own writing. My days are a mix of editing, writing and emailing (writers, editors, photographers, illustrators and people who can help with research). Actual interviews, in which I might quote someone, I normally do over the phone or in person. Now and then I look up something in an ink-on-paper book, as most of what I want to know is still not anywhere online. I also spend a fair amount of time on the nuts and bolts of publishing.

What might people be surprised to learn about your job?
The unfortunate thing is that there isn’t that much time for cooking, although it’s part of the foundation of my work.

Where would you like to see yourself in five years?
Spending more time writing. I’ve promised to write two more books. They’re underway.

Click here to learn more about creative culinary careers outside the kitchen.

pnina peled hospital food senior executive chef
By Carly DeFilippo

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.

From the get-go, Pnina stood out from other students because of her familiarity with the restaurant business and her passion for learning. “I’ve always taken initiative and risks in my life,” says Pnina. “But I’ve also been one to self-educate. All my life, if I wanted to know more about something, I would read about it and try it. From cooking to nutrition, I’ve been able to accelerate my learning that way.”

As part of the Culinary Arts program at ICE, Pnina secured an externship in the kitchens at Becco and then a full-time position in the kitchens at Eleven Madison Park under Chef Kerry Heffernan. “Working at EMP was an awesome experience. They started me as garde manger and one week later, the sous chef approached me saying, ‘I’ve never seen a newbie work this station as quickly as you.’ From then on, he had me working fish or sides on the hot line.”

About a year after she started at Eleven Madison Park, Pnina received a call from the general manager of a new Mediterranean restaurant in Chelsea. “He asked me to be the executive chef,” says Pnina, “and honestly I didn’t know if I was up to it! But my family is Israeli, and the restaurant was Greek, so I know the food from that region of the world well. It was an incredibly ballsy move, but I took a risk, and it made me incredibly successful.”

The restaurant was called Nisos, and under Pnina’s guidance it quickly became one of the hottest tables in town. “The concept was to reimagine Greek food with French techniques. I was there for two years, and the restaurant was so successful that we were packed every night. During brunch, there was always a crowd.”

Nisos attracted the attention of other restaurateurs, and soon Pnina was brought on as the executive chef of Aleo, another Mediterranean restaurant in Gramercy. “The investor behind Aleo wasn’t from the industry—he was a Wall Street guy. Thank god I had worked in accounting, because I ended up running everything, from the kitchen to the front of the house [and more].” After one year, that restaurateur offered Pnina a stake in the business and she became an operating partner.

During and after her time at Aleo, Pnina also picked up freelance catering and consulting work for a number of small restaurants in the city. Eventually, she was hired by an Italian hotel chain—Jolly Hotels—as the executive chef for the Cinque Terre restaurant on 38th and Madison. There, she received three stars from the New York Times.

Pnina continued working in hotels, including the New York Helmsley, but something shifted when she gave birth to her first child. “I started reading all these books about nutrition and nursing,” explains Pnina. “That sparked a huge interest for me in how food relates to your health.” So when she saw a job opportunity at Memorial Sloan Kettering, Pnina knew she had found her match.

Watch Pnina’s featured interview with Rachel Ray:

“Sloan Kettering was a whole other ball game. It required me to bring together all my experience in various parts of the business. I was in charge of in-room patient service, cafeterias that fed about 3,000 people a day, food sold in the gift shop and adjacent cafes—you name it.” Under Pnina’s leadership, MSK scored in the 99th percentile of all American hospitals for its food quality, temperature and service. What’s more, Pnina implemented food cost measures across the hospital’s culinary division, dramatically increasing revenue for the hospital’s food and nutrition department. In fact, Pnina’s name became so synonymous with a revolution in hospital food that she received a dedicated feature in the New York Times.

Even with these thrilling figures, what inspired Pnina most wasn’t the opportunity to brandish her exemplary business skills. “A body can’t recover from sickness without proper nourishment, and the opportunity to customize meals for sick children to fit their preferences and needs is the most rewarding part of my work. I’ve had patients or their parents call me before they’re admitted and say, ‘I’m looking forward to ordering your food while I’m in the hospital.’ That’s incredibly motivating.”

After five deeply satisfying years at Memorial Sloan Kettering, Pnina moved to New York Presbyterian’s Columbia campus. There she serves everyone from celebrities and politicians in the VIP amenities unit to the catering, food service and retail for the rest of the campus. Four senior-level chefs report to Pnina to help bring this incredible task list to fruition each day. In just a year and a half, she has been able to cut down on food waste, improve the quality of the food and boost food service revenue considerably.

“As someone who wanted to be a doctor as a kid, it’s incredible that I’ve been able to bring this into my life,” adds Pnina. Her prescription for chefs interested in the health care sector? “You need to have experience in every part of the business—catering, fine dining, business management, recipe development, etc. If you can bring all of that, you’ll be much more in demand.”

Ready to launch your dynamic culinary career? Click here to learn more about ICE’s Culinary Arts program.

By Carly DeFilippo

In 2014, when Saveur ranked Brooklyn as their #1 food destination worldwide, guess which of the neighborhood restaurants became the “cover girl” for the borough’s inimitable flavors? That’s right—Emily. The brainchild of ICE Culinary Arts grad Matt Hyland and his wife Emily, this new Clinton Hill eatery has captured the creative minds and palates of the world’s most discerning pizza lovers—and the pair has just added a second restaurant, Emmy Squared, to their pizza empire. So we knew we had to talk to the man behind the pies and learn a little bit more about his path to becoming a professional pizzaiolo.

Matthew and Emily Hyland in from of their pizza shop. Photo courtesy of pizzalovesemily.com.

Matthew and Emily Hyland in front of their pizza shop. Photo: pizzalovesemily.com. Photo credit: Jill Futter.

What were you doing before you enrolled at ICE? What motivated you to enroll at that time?

I had just finished my information science degree at Roger Williams University, and I was working as a part-time garde manger cook in a fine dining restaurant. I was commuting a long way everyday for this job and knew I wanted to be in the culinary world, but I hadn’t pulled the trigger on going to school. Through my research, I knew I wanted to be at ICE. One day, I was wearing my chef pants on the train, and the man who sat down across from me asked if I had gone to culinary school. I said no and he gave me his card. It turned out he was a recruiter for ICE. I really took that as a sign and enrolled just a few days later. I’m so glad I had that encounter!

Where was your externship? Did it help you make any particularly meaningful connections in the industry?

My externship was at Public. I worked the hot appetizer and garde manger station, and after my externship, they hired me for the pastry station. It was a solid foot in the door and a great restaurant to have on my resume. They also wrote me a great recommendation letter, which was helpful as I started looking for other jobs.

What have you been up to since graduating? 

I have worked in various capacities in the culinary world over the past decade. I have done everything from pastry, to salad, to cooking on the line, to working on the administrative team for the opening of April Bloomfield’s The Breslin. (As a current business owner, the experience of working on the opening of someone else’s restaurant was a great learning experience.) I was also on the opening team of Sottocasa— the pizza place in my neighborhood—which was where I got my hands in the dough and realized it was the path I wanted to take.

Are there any professional milestones, accomplishments or awards of which you are particularly proud?

Taking the chance to open my own establishment. First, I opened a pizza spot called Brooklyn Central, in Park Slope, with other partners. Yet, once we opened, we learned we had very different visions. I left there just six weeks after the opening, which felt like a real defeat. However, it afforded me the chance to try again on my own—and with a ton of experience under my belt. I now own EMILY restaurant with my wife, so I have full creative control of the menu. This time around, the vision is easier to implement because we share it together.

ICE Alumni Interview: Matthew Hyland of Emily Pizza – Pizzas from @pizzalovesemily Instagram – ice.edu

Eyes on the pies: a collection of photographs from Emily’s Instagram, @pizzalovesemily.

Briefly describe a day in your current working life.

Normally, I get to work around 11AM and get a big project started, like duck ragu. Then, I check in with my daytime porter on the orders we anticipate receiving. I do computer/administrative work from around 12PM-4PM, and then I get ready for service, as employees start to filter in over the course of the afternoon. Finally, I run the staff meeting during family meal (20 minutes before service begins), and then I expedite and cook pizza during service.

What might people be surprised to learn about your job?

This is an easy one. The most surprising thing culinary students who aim to be chef-owners of a restaurant might learn is that, daily, I do more administrative tasks than cooking. I am the executive chef and oversee all aspects of the kitchen, but my main job during service is to expedite, and my focus during the day is to pay bills, fight with vendors and work on spreadsheets.

Where would you like to see yourself in the future?

I would like to see my restaurant sustain itself. I realize very much that this is a day-to-day journey and that all restaurants have life spans. I hope EMILY can continue to be a strong fixture in NYC’s pizza scene and allow my wife and I a little more balance in our lives as time goes on. We are also really hopeful that we can expand or open another concept in the future. But the first year of opening a restaurant is such a whirlwind that it’s hard to think of what comes thereafter!

ICE President Rick Smilow (right) greets Matthew at the 2014 City Harvest Bid Against Hunger, where Emily was one of the featured restaurants.

ICE President Rick Smilow (right) greets Matthew at the 2014 City Harvest Bid Against Hunger, where Emily was one of the featured restaurants.

How would you describe your “culinary voice” – in other words, your culinary perspective or style?

I really believe in simple, real ingredients. Almost all of our produce comes from farms we know across New England, and all of our meat comes from trusted, small farms and butchers. I think it is important to be true to the integrity of the ingredients and create dishes that highlight them. We mix all of our dough by hand and make our mozzarella and ricotta fresh, in house, everyday.

My culinary voice, I suppose, is that there has to be love, passion and integrity in the preparation of food. In terms of pizza, my perspective is that it should be fun! Everyone in this city is so particular about pizza—sometimes in a really intense way. To me, there are no wrongs or rights in terms of toppings or styles, as long as you have a fun dining experience.

Last but not least, what’s your current favorite pizza at Emily?

Our secret off-menu pizza, “The Matt,” is my favorite. I won’t reveal anything about the toppings—you’ll have to come and see for yourself!

Don’t wait for a stranger on a train; click here to find out more about ICE’s Culinary Arts career program.