Chef Anthony Ricco, ICE alum and executive chef of The William Vale, has a passion for feeding people — very well. The Brooklyn-native and former executive chef at Jean Georges’ Spice Market combines his culinary training and his unique style in every delicious dish that he creates. Though his roots are Italian, his culinary voice comes from a different part of the globe — watch the video to discover the inspiration for Chef Anthony Ricco’s culinary voice.

Find your culinary voice with ICE — learn more about our career training programs.

By Caitlin Raux

In a city like New York, where restaurants are as abundant as rents are high, getting diners in the restaurant door is only one side of the coin. The other side, getting return customers, presents another set of challenges. At Villanelle, a veggie-forward newcomer to the Greenwich Village restaurant scene, first-time restaurant owner Catherine Manning (Culinary Management ’15) has found a balance between casual elegance and exceptional food, and the result is a steadily growing roster of regulars. With dishes like crispy octopus with charred cucumber, green curry and mint, the food is tasty, fresh and feel-good. While there are plenty of delicious reasons to overdo it, chances are you won’t leave feeling like you did. It’s all part of Catherine’s goal of providing great, highly repeatable dining experiences.

Catherine Manning

Catherine Manning, owner of Villanelle

Villanelle

The restaurant’s name, Villanelle, comes from the eponymous 16th century Italian poem, traditionally performed by song and dance. The name captures Catherine’s spirit of hospitality as a form of entertainment. To dine at Villanelle is to experience a series of pleasant surprises. From the moment you walk in from East 12th Street, just two blocks from the bustle of Union Square, you find a surprisingly charming yet laid back space that looks less curated than it is. From the bare, wood tables and the grey-washed pine walls to the pristine marble-top bar (that seems perfect for Instagram’ing their gourmet cocktails), it’s the kind of setting that invites you to cozy up and stay a while.

Villanelle’s true entertainment, however, comes from the kitchen. The chefs take simple ingredients and prepare them with impeccable techniques and unique flavor pairings — like the macerated brussels sprouts with cheddar, cashews and rye. “I like taking familiar dishes and reworking them so people feel excited. It’s familiar food, but when you see it, it’s not what you expect,” explained Villanelle’s sous chef Christian Grindrod, an alumnus of ICE’s Culinary Arts program (’16) and the critically-acclaimed, recently closed Betony. “Then you bite into it, and it’s exactly what you wanted.” Take, for example, the composed cheese dish: what appears to be a sweet slice of pumpkin pie with a tuft of whipped cream is actually a savory slice of squash topped with tangy cloumage cheese — a trick of the eye and a delight for the palate.

Catherine Manning

Christian Grindrod

Christian Grindrod, sous chef and ICE alum

Perhaps coincidentally, before Villanelle, Catherine led a successful career as a producer of visual effects and animation for commercial projects. “In a way, running a restaurant isn’t that different because it’s still production,” said Catherine. “You’re making food instead of TV commercials, but you have crews, schedules and budgets. The skill sets match.” With four daughters and a frequently full dinner table, she and her husband spent years as hobby cooks who loved entertaining. “Those were some of our happiest times,” Catherine recalled. “And an important reason why I did this — hospitality, a good meal and the conversation that ensues while having a good meal.” At some point, it occurred to Catherine that she might like having her own restaurant some day. When Catherine decided it was time for a career change, she enrolled in ICE’s Restaurant & Culinary Management program.

The menu at Villanelle holds true to the farm-to-table claim. Most of their entrées feature thoughtfully chosen meats like Berkshire Pork Loin and Green Circle Chicken, and with the Union Square Greenmarket a short stroll uptown, chefs frequently pop by the market to hand-pick the season’s best produce. Despite the ubiquity of the term, staying farm-to-table can be trickier than it seems. Chef Christian enjoys the challenge. “It’s all about anticipating what’s going to be good this season and working on recipes for those ingredients. When they become scarce, you have to be quick on your feet and change it up,” Christian explained. “That’s part of the fun of working here.” For her part, Catherine mapped out the business side of owning a farm-to-table restaurant during her time at ICE. “The business plan component [of the Restaurant & Culinary Management program] was really helpful for me — to go through the entire process and put together projections,” explained Catherine. “It helped me crystallize what it was I had in mind.

After developing her restaurant concept with the help of ICE’s expert food business instructors, Catherine was as prepared as possible for opening her first restaurant. Still, her status as rookie lends the restaurant a sort of start-up vibe, for better or worse. What they lack in experience, they make up for with energy and ambition: staff are motivated to work harder because they know their contribution makes a difference; communication is paramount; voices are heard. “None of us have been fully responsible for opening a restaurant before,” said Catherine. “We’re all on the same team. It’s exciting to build a business and everyone feels that.”

With a write-up in the NY Times and glowing customer reviews, Catherine and Villanelle are already making waves downtown. “We’re still figuring things out as we go, but I think our customers are pleased with what we’ve done so far.” Jumping head first into NYC restaurant ownership may have been a bold move, but with her preparation and a passion for hospitality, Catherine is successfully navigating the transition. On a personal level, Catherine is enjoying her new career in the restaurant industry. “What’s not to like about bringing something that makes people happy into existence? If you serve people a great meal and they have a great experience, that’s a great business to be in.”

Learn more about ICE’s Restaurant & Culinary Management program. 

 

 

Gail Simmons knows great food. The Top Chef judge (for 15 seasons and counting!) and ICE Culinary Arts graduate has a taste for adventurous eating and the passport mileage to prove it. But what does she cook when she’s in her own kitchen? Which recipes does Gail rely on again and again when she’s on her home turf? Readers will discover Gail’s time-tested and totally doable favorites in her new cookbook, Bringing it Home: Favorite Recipes from a Life of Adventurous Eating. We couldn’t think of a better gift to give the food lover in your life. But still, we were curious — what is the Toronto-native gifting the people on her list? As it turns out, food isn’t the only thing Gail knows well — check out her great gift recommendations. 

Gail Simmons

Photo by Johnny Miller

For the kitchen gadget whiz: Joule by ChefSteps

I’m not a big gadget person — I’m more a basic tool person — but one thing in the gadget category that I have totally fallen in love with is the Joule. It’s a really sleek, tiny immersion circulator tool. You can clip it on the side of any pot, set the app on your phone to the exact degree that you want to cook and sous vide almost anything. It is so easy and amazing. I used to scoff at the idea of a sous vide machine for the home cook and how modern chefs are so crazy for them, but I found so many great uses for the sous vide. It’s also a great way to cook with kids because they can’t burn themselves and it is easy to understand and use with them. I have made everything from poached lobster, steak and chicken to crème brulée with the Joule.

For the ace baker: Supernatural Kitchen Baking Products

Right now I am really obsessed with a new line of all-natural baking products just launched by Supernatural, a company created by a friend of mine. They make coconut sugar, which I love and use in all of my baking. Don’t get me wrong — it’s still sugar, but it has a lower glycemic index than regular refined sugar and I love the flavor. The other product that I recommend for bakers is Supernatural’s line of natural, plant-derived food coloring. They are vibrant, gorgeous, amazing colors and there is nothing bad in them; there are no artificial colors or preservatives. They have this amazing color called Magic Blackberry, which is a really deep blue. It can become almost black, but you can also adjust the amount so it becomes pinkish. It is great for baking with kids, obviously, because it is all natural, but they also do sprinkles and sequins in all natural colors, star confetti [“starfetti”] and rainbow sprinkles.

For the curator of beautiful things: Ceramic Pitcher (That Doubles as a Vase)

I love beautiful ceramics that are functional — like a beautiful ceramic pitcher that can also be used as a vase, so it is very multi-purpose.

For the host(ess) with the most(ess): Marble and Copper Monogram Boards

For friends who are entertainers, I would get a beautiful marble slab from Williams Sonoma. Their version has a copper monogram on it, so it’s a nice personalization. It’s also great for taking pictures of your food on.

The cookbook collector: Bringing It Home: Favorite Recipes from a Life of Adventurous Eating by Gail Simmons

So my book, I think it’s the best possible gift. I worked really hard on it. It was two years in the making but really a lifetime. It has recipes that are meant for the real home cook. It has recipes that I actually cook all the time, for all levels of cooks. There are some ambitious recipes, but there are also a lot of simply delicious dishes that anyone could make — that’s what I look for in a cookbook. There are over a hundred recipes that I have created and developed from my lifetime of traveling the world and cooking with some of the greatest chefs. It was a real labor of love.

It’s also perfect for the holiday season: there’s a whole chapter in the book called “Party Time,” which is all snacks and food that I love serving when I have people over, but not for a seated meal. I do different dips like muhammara, a Syrian-inspired dip with roasted red peppers, walnuts and pomegranates. Then there’s a great basic hummus that I serve with preserved lemon and fennel seed. In that same chapter, I have amazing fried pickles and crispy baked chickpeas. Or my latke Reubens, which is what I will be serving for Hanukkah this year. I used my mom’s latke recipe and then I make a great play on Russian dressing with spicy sour cream and I serve it with pastrami slices and a really fresh, bright apple-celery slaw on top.

For the in-law who you will impress this year: Food-Inspired Jewelry from Delicacies

I try to get my in-laws something that they wouldn’t necessarily get themselves. My father-in-law is tricky, but he’s a sports guy so hockey tickets are what I generally go with. Hockey tickets or a really nice pair of gloves. For my mother-in-law, there is this jewelry company called Delicacies that makes elegant, food-inspired jewelry, and gives a portion of their proceeds to hunger-related charities; until the end of this year, they are donating a portion of the proceeds from all purchases to City Harvest. They make these beautiful, diamond-encrusted eggs that are pendants for necklaces or bracelets, or they have gold and silver eggs, too. I love the egg because it’s a beautiful symbol for its shape and it’s symbolic of fertility and renewal and the New Year. They also do a line of pasta-related jewelry, which are really fun. I have a farfalle necklace that I wear all the time — that would be perfect to give my mother-in-law.

Wildcard: Essrum Egg Cups

Speaking of eggs — because I love an egg and I think they are a fun gift to get people: little egg cups. I collect egg cups and not a lot of people own them. I have a great recipe in my book for soft-boiled eggs with buttery soldiers that I serve with two different kinds of butters — these egg cups could be great for that.

Interested in learning where a Culinary Arts diploma can take you? Learn more about ICE’s career program.


Looking for the ultimate gift for the food lover in your life? Try a gift card for a cooking, baking, wine or mixology course at ICE. From homemade pasta and creative macarons to Tuscan wines and New Orleans–style cocktails, there are so many courses to choose from. Even better: when you buy a gift card, you’ll get a gift card worth a 20% discount. Then maybe you and your loved one can make something delicious together. 

To redeem this offer, enter the code ICEHOLIDAY17 during checkout.

This promotion is available beginning at 12am on December 15th and ending at 11:59pm on December 26th. This code is not valid for previous orders and cannot be combined with gift card orders.

At ICE, we make it our mission to help students find their culinary voice — that creative drive within each of us that determines how we express ourselves through food. Whether it’s a career training program, a recreational course in pie crusts or a special event featuring handmade pasta, we’ll give you the tools to hone your culinary creativity. Join us as we ask some of today’s leading food industry pros to share their culinary voice.

If you’re trying to figure out where the cool kids in New York are eating or just looking for delicious, DIY home-cooking inspiration, look no further than the Instagram feed of Eden Grinshpan (Culinary Management ’08), aka @edeneats. With a voracious appetite and a contagious sense of humor, the Chopped Canada judge and ICE graduate has a unique culinary voice, inspired in large part by her experience delving into food cultures around the globe.

“I’ve spent a lot of time backpacking through India, southeast Asia, living in Israel,” says Eden. “Even by living in New York City, there are so many cultures and different restaurants I go to all the time, which really inspire the dishes and the food I make at home.”

Watch as Eden Grinshpan shares her culinary voice.

Find your culinary voice with ICE — learn more about our career training programs.

By Caitlin Raux

In the words of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, “If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat.” When Andrew Massetti (Hospitality Management ’14) was offered a position as Community Manager at Spotluck, the rapidly expanding restaurant app that solves the age-old diner’s dilemma, “Where should we eat dinner tonight?” he didn’t hesitate — he got on board. “We launched in New York with 250 Manhattan restaurants. Now, 8 months later, we have over 100 more, and we’ve expanded to Brooklyn, Queens and Hoboken,” Andrew tells me one afternoon at ICE. With a broad smile that rarely turns off, it’s pretty clear that Andrew is fueled by his job. Andrew’s willingness to take a risk on an idea he believed in, combined with his ICE education in hospitality and all things restaurants — from food production and kitchen management to sales and marketing — made him uniquely qualified for this burgeoning area of the startup world.

Andrew Massetti

Andrew Massetti, Community Manager of Spotluck

The idea behind Spotluck is simple. In a city like New York, where you can’t Uber a block without passing a slew of restaurants, the decision of which restaurant to choose can be a challenge. Spotluck provides a sort of restaurant roulette: take a spin on the mobile-friendly wheel and score a discount for the restaurant where you land. Andrew comes in at the point of access between the restaurants and the app — he introduces Spotluck to restaurant owners, explains to them how it works and shows them how it can improve their businesses. “Every restaurant in New York City has been acquired the same way — by personal touch. I’ve been to every single one and they know me by name,” says Andrew. Rather than chains or corporately owned restaurants, they focus on local, family-owned businesses, where the service they provide can actually make an impact. But it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. “I work with each restaurant independently, because each has different needs,” Andrew explains. “If they have higher food costs, then I work with them on the discount amount. We want to bring in as many people as possible, but make sure it’s smart for each restaurant.”

Andrew wasn’t always on the hospitality path. The Long Island native received a business degree from SUNY Oneonta, and for a time, considered a career in finance. His mother was a banker and his father a teacher, and as his twin brother had already gone the teaching route, the finance world seemed logical. After college, however, Andrew started seriously reflecting on where his passions lay. “I loved restaurants, I loved traveling, so I figured I’d do something that took everything I loved and combined it into one.” He decided to research hospitality programs, which led him to ICE. “It wasn’t too long, it wasn’t too expensive, it wasn’t a Masters program. It was just the right amount of school to give me a basis in the industry.” Andrew enrolled in the hospitality program at ICE, where he started laying the foundation for the dynamic career ahead of him.

I loved restaurants, I loved traveling, so I figured I’d do something that took everything I loved and combined it into one.

When he started at ICE, Andrew was sure about one thing: he wanted to work in hospitality. But as he progressed through the Hospitality Management program, he was able to home in on where in that vast industry he wanted to be. Through his externship and class field trips to notable New York hotels, Andrew realized that he wanted to work in a “lifestyle” property — a hotel that offers high quality service in a more casual setting. “Our class took a trip to the Ace Hotel and I thought, ‘This is somewhere I can see myself working.’” With that in mind, he landed his first post-graduation position as a guest services agent at the Refinery Hotel, a hip boutique hotel housed in a former millinery factory and tea salon. There he cut his teeth on front-of-house operations, gaining experience doing something that seems to come natural to him — interfacing with clients. He knew, however, that his long-term goals were in another part of hospitality. “I used my front desk experience to propel me into sales and marketing,” says Andrew, who transitioned to a role as sales and marketing coordinator at the Knickerbocker Hotel, the famed hotel originally constructed by John Jacob Astor IV. It was an ideal position, and one he had no plans of leaving, until he was approached with the opportunity to join Spotluck. The Maryland-based startup was on the brink of expanding into the New York market and needed a person on the ground to form relationships with local restaurant owners. Andrew believed in Spotluck’s mission and took a leap of faith.

Spotluck

Spotluck in action

During his school days, Andrew took inspiration from ICE’s campus — New York City. “I loved being in the city, loved being in the hustle and bustle. I would walk around the hotels and see what restaurants were around. I was learning about the industry from just being there.” Today, a large part of Andrew’s role as Community Manager is hitting the pavement. “I’ve put in a lot of miles. I’ve walked probably every street in the city,” Andrew says with a laugh. Perhaps not every city street (Ed. note: figures estimate around 120,000 blocks in the five boroughs of New York), but he’s done an impressive amount of firsthand research on each neighborhood where Spotluck has a presence. He figures out what the needs are and combines those observations with his knowledge and training from the hospitality program to help local restaurants to bring diners in. “During the restaurant operations class, I learned about food costs, revenue per seat hour and all the math involved in operating a restaurant. For every restaurant, their goal is to fill each seat and turn each table as many times as they can. I learned that at ICE.” In a time when more and more customers are opting for delivery services, convincing diners to forego Netflix and takeout for a traditional restaurant experience is more challenging than ever. That’s why the service provided by Andrew and Spotluck is so valuable — to restaurants and diners alike.

A key player in a growing restaurant startup may not be where Andrew expected to be, but in retrospect, each step prepared him for the next. And he seems nothing if not thrilled with where he ended up. For him, the intersection between startups and hospitality is the perfect fit. “It’s a unique job. If I go out today and add another restaurant to the app, we’re doing good for the restaurant and for the community,” Andrew tells me. “The most rewarding part for me is knowing that what I do every day is having a direct impact on the company.” Oh, and the perks. Of course, there are excellent perks: “Our restaurants are great — they love to feed us.”

Ready to get on the path toward your dream career? Learn more about ICE’s career programs. 

 

To celebrate the release of her highly anticipated cookbook, My Rice Bowl, James Beard Award nominee Chef Rachel Yang will visit ICE on November 10. She and co-author Jess Thomson will reflect on their careers, provide insights for culinary business owners and discuss the process of getting a cookbook published. Attendees will have the chance to win a free copy of the book, which features 75 recipes based on Rachel’s deeply comforting Korean fusion cuisine. Below, Rachel shares one of her favorite recipes from My Rice Bowl.

By Rachel Yang, ICE Graduate and Chef-Owner of Joule, Revel, Trove and Revelry

For me, the best moment of cooking the food we cook is catching a customer trying to figure out what’s happening in their mouth. They take a bite and chew thoughtfully, but they either don’t find the flavors they expected or they can’t identify what they’re tasting. They take another bite and in a storm of discovery, they chat with their fellow diners about what’s happening. By this point, they’re already hooked — there are smiles and nods and reaches for another bite.

umami-packed potatoes

These potatoes are a prime example of a dish that creates that kind of experience. Tossed with a blend of Kalamata olives and soy sauce, they look like they’ve been coated in barbecue sauce, but somehow the combination of salt and butter with the deep umami flavor comes across like dark chocolate in the first bite.

But don’t take my word for it — try making them yourself!

Hot Potatoes with Black Olives and Soy Sauce
Serves 4 to 6

For the potatoes

Ingredients:

2 pounds fingerling potatoes
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon whole coriander
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 bay leaf

For the sauce

Ingredients:

½ cup Kalamata olives, pitted
½ cup soy sauce
¼ cup mirin
1 tablespoon Korean chili flakes

For serving

Ingredients

3 tablespoons canola oil
½ stick (¼ cup) unsalted butter, divided
½ cup Thai basil, leaves picked and packed

Preparation:

  • Cook the potatoes. Put the potatoes, salt, coriander, peppercorns and bay leaf in a large pot. Add cold water to cover, bring to a boil, then cook for 10 to 12 minutes, or until a fork easily pierces the fattest potato. Drain the potatoes, halve lengthwise and spread on a baking sheet, flesh sides up, to cool.
  • Make the sauce. In a blender, whirl together the olives, soy sauce, mirin and chili flakes until smooth. Set aside.
  • Fry the potatoes and serve. Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add 1 ½ tablespoons of the oil, then half of the potatoes, cut sides down, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until browned and crisp. Turn the potatoes and cook for another minute, then pour off the excess oil and add 2 tablespoons of the butter. When the butter has melted, add about half the sauce and cook, stirring and turning the potatoes, until the sauce has reduced and the potatoes are well coated. Stir in half the basil, transfer the potatoes to a serving plate, wipe out the pan, and repeat with the remaining oil, potatoes, butter, sauce and basil. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Reprinted with permission from My Rice Bowl: Korean Cooking Outside the Lines, by Rachel Yang and Jess Thomson.

To register for Rachel’s talk on Friday, November 10, contact: rec@ice.edu or call ICE Customer Service at 212-847-0770.

Interested in studying the culinary arts at ICE? Learn more about our career training programs.

By Danielle Page

It’s no new news that New York City is known for its incredible eats. Manhattan’s restaurant scene is a constantly evolving mix of avant garde concept restaurants, storied and respected, high-caliber eateries and hidden, hole-in-the-wall gems. And while each borough offers up something unique, every few years or so a new section of the city experiences a fresh wave of restaurants, bringing a resurgence of inventive new fare to the area.

New York City’s latest restaurant hotspot? The East Village. No longer are the village’s best eats limited to the quick, cheap grub on St. Mark’s Place. With restaurants opening by seasoned and up-and-coming chefs alike, getting a reservation in the East Village is quickly becoming a challenge.

Not surprisingly, many chefs and owners behind the latest and greatest East Village openings got their start at ICE. Here are just a few ICE graduates who are at the helm of these noteworthy eateries in the neighborhood.

Simone Tong

Simone Tong, chef and owner of Little Tong Noodle Shop
Culinary Arts, Restaurant & Culinary Management ’11

Little Tong Noodle Shop, Simone Tong’s first restaurant, opened in the East Village this March. “After traveling to source international inspiration from countries like Moscow, Copenhagen, Brussels, Shanghai and Taipei, it really hit me that Chinese culinary stories and cuisines still remain largely underrepresented in the western world,” she says. Tong embarked on a three-month long culinary research trip through the Yunnan Province, which is the cuisine Tong’s restaurant is devoted to — specifically Mixian, a type of rice noodle.

“I spend my days mostly in the kitchen and dining room – preparing dishes, coming up with new dishes, getting to know our customers and interacting with them,” says Tong. “I am always thinking about ways to offer special new dishes and make seasonal updates to each of the Mixian noodle bowls, which pay homage to the beautiful Chinese province of Yunnan.”

Why the East Village for her first venture? “The East Village is a fun, vibrant neighborhood with an inimitable energy and bustling restaurant scene,” says Tong. “There is a younger demographic here full of students, artists, musicians, young professionals, young families and foodies – which Little Tong Noodle Shop really resonates with. Like Little Tong Noodle Shop, the East Village has a humbleness and authenticity to it that we appreciate.”

As for her advice to ICE grads looking to open up shop in the East Village, Tong says to seize the opportunity this neighborhood has to offer. “ICE grads considering locations in the East Village shouldn’t be afraid to look outside of their day-to-day cuisines and at dishes that aren’t often seen in the city and find ways to approachably introduce them to a willing East Village audience,” she says.

Catherine Manning, owner of Villanelle
Restaurant & Culinary Management ’15

Manning opened her artisanal New American restaurant, Villanelle, in the East Village this past March – which had many advantages for this ICE alum. “First, it was important to me that my restaurant be near my home so I could always be available on short notice,” she says. “East 12th Street is situated in a busy commercial, educational and residential corridor with plenty of foot traffic, which was very appealing. We are a vegetable-forward establishment using local and ethically sourced ingredients, so having the Union Square Greenmarket in our backyard has been a fantastic resource for us as well. The multiple subway lines coming into Union Square make it very convenient for our guests and staff to reach us.”

Manning oversees all operations of the restaurant. “The beauty of this business is that there are infinite opportunities to innovate and create and push the envelope with the reward being smiling guests who return regularly,” she says. “It’s very gratifying to work with the team we have who share this same goal. We live and work for those smiles.”

While you’d think that having many businesses competing in one space wouldn’t be the recipe for supportive neighbors, Manning says the East Village has been very welcoming. “It’s a very nice community to work in,” she says. “We know our neighbors by name and we help each other out. I think there are unique opportunities to grow and learn and participate in building something that comes with the types of establishments, like ours, that proliferate here.”

Guy Vaknin

photo courtesy of Beyond Sushi

Guy Vaknin, executive chef and owner at Beyond Sushi
Culinary Arts ’07

Being a resident of the East Village prior to opening his restaurant made this location an obvious choice for Guy Vaknin. “I lived in the area for seven years prior to opening and was always drawn to the neighborhood and its community,” he says. “I opened the first location of Beyond Sushi five years ago on East 14th street.”

Vaknin’s day-to-day duties include creating menus, running the operations of the company, overseeing food quality and managing the chefs. “Our specialty is vegan sushi,” he says. “It’s also a fast-casual concept that focuses on clean eating, using fruits and vegetables as star ingredients.”

Why does Vaknin think the East Village has become the new restaurant hotspot? “The East Village is a dynamic place to be,” he says, “[with] diverse residents, and it’s always changing.”

 

Chef Miguel Trinidad

Miguel Trinidad, executive chef and owner at Maharlika Filipino Moderno and Jeepney Filipino Gastro Pub
Culinary Arts ’07

Miguel Trinidad grew up in the East Village, which he says made it a logical location to open his restaurant. “I opened the restaurant with my partners eight years ago,” he says. “The East Village has always been a mixture of great food. It is the perfect place to showcase a new cuisine.” While there are plenty of diverse restaurant offerings in the area, Trinidad says the fact that there aren’t many Filipino options in the East Village also gave this location appeal.

Trinidad’s daily duties include everything from menu development to kitchen management and administrative tasks. One piece of advice he has for ICE alums interested in opening up shop here? Get used to tight quarters. “Make sure your skills are honed as you will be working in small kitchens,” he says. Despite the minimal work space, there is still plenty of room for opportunity in this lively NYC neighborhood.

Ready to carve out your space in today’s vibrant culinary scene? Learn more about ICE’s culinary and hospitality career programs.

By Caitlin Raux

Miguel Trinidad didn’t plan to create a mini-empire of Filipino cuisine in New York City. “I thought when I graduated ICE I would cook Italian food,” says Miguel, who grew up idolizing PBS chefs like Lidia Bastianich. After graduating from culinary school, he landed a gig as executive chef at a popular restaurant in Soho. That’s where he first met Filipino-American Nicole Ponseca, the restaurant’s general manager who was looking to open an eatery that served the foods she grew up eating, like kare kare (oxtail stew) and chicharon buklakak (deep-fried pig fat). At the time, there was hardly a taste for Filipino cuisine in New York. Miguel had sampled Filipino food before and was intoxicated by the combination of bold flavors. So he hedged his bets and joined Nicole’s mission. Today, Miguel and Nicole helm two critically praised restaurants, Maharlika and Jeepney, and they’re in the works on a cookbook, due in early 2018.

Chef Miguel TrinidadOn a recent afternoon, I caught up with Miguel at Jeepney. On the wall hangs a photo of two hands tenderly cradling an egg — it’s the famed Filipino dish balut (a fertilized, fermented duck egg). And yes, it’s on the menu. The interior — vibrant colors, mismatched tables, the occasional pineapple and nods to Filipino culture — matches the chef’s style: loud but thoughtful. Miguel and I chatted about Filipino cuisine, cooking at the James Beard House and the rise of fine-casual dining.

How was your experience at ICE — did you enjoy being a student?

I loved being a student at ICE. By the time I started with classes, I had been cooking for a long time. I knew a wide variety of ingredients and I had the opportunity to use that knowledge and do things with it. But there were a lot of things I didn’t know, like [the five French] mother sauces and advanced techniques. I got to refine a lot like plating and timing.

I remember in Module 2, during our practical [exam] with Chef Ted, we had an hour to cook a steak, pommes frites and green beans. I was sitting there, watching everyone and Chef Ted said, “Miguel, what’s wrong?” I told him I didn’t need an hour to do it. He said, “Really? You think you can do this in how long?” I told him 15 minutes. He said he would time me, and if I didn’t do it in 15 minutes, he’d fail me.

Wait, like beginning from raw potatoes?

Yes! We had practiced this. You dice your potatoes, put them in cold water, bring it up to a boil, once it comes to a boil, you drain them and put them in the cast iron pan with parsley and oil, and let it cook. At the same time, you’re cooking your steak. Medium rare? Sure, that takes less than 12 minutes. Beans, you blanch them and pop them in a hot pan with garlic and butter. I almost failed, because I was a little too confident. But I did it in under 15 minutes.

When did you discover Filipino food?

I tried it for the first time when I was 19, and again when I met [my business partner] Nicole Ponseca after I graduated from ICE. I was working at a Southern restaurant in Soho called Lola and she was the general manager. I became executive chef after two months of working there. Nicole wanted to start a Filipino restaurant but couldn’t find a chef who believed Filipino food could become mainstream. We teamed up and went to the Philippines to backpack through the country for three months.

Jeepney NYCDid you hit up the grandmas and grandpas for their secret recipes? 

I learned a lot of recipes from Nicole’s dad. I spent time with the yayas, which are housemaids, and the lolas and lolos, which are grandmas and grandpas. I also spent time with some of the top chefs in the Philippines like Claude Tayag. I absorbed as much as I could, and then when we came back, we created a menu and started as a pop-up restaurant in the East Village in 2011. We just did brunch. We did that for eight months until we earned enough money to start Maharlika.

Our first day, we had five people. Our second day: 10 to 15. Someone wrote an article about us in Time Out New York. Then the third weekend there was a line around the corner. We went from 15 covers to 120 to 170 to 200 — all served within a three-hour period.

And then the New York Times listed you as a Critic’s Pick — that must have kept the momentum going.

We’ve been very fortunate with press. Maharlika won Metro New York’s Best New Restaurant. We’re Michelin-rated, Zagat-rated. Jeepney received two stars from the New York Times, three stars from Time Out New York. Condé Nast Traveler named Maharlika on their list of Where to Eat in the World.

What do you love, and what do you think people love, about Filipino food?

Filipino food is like a punch in the mouth. It’s big, it’s loud and it takes you on a journey. You have sweet, salty, sour — it all comes together. We approach our food like a glass of wine. We want it to hit you on the nose, all over the palate and have a strong finish. Even when you’re stuffed, you still want to take another bite because it’s so delicious.

Has it been challenging introducing Filipino cuisine to New Yorkers?

People are open to trying it. The flavors can be polarizing, but for the most part people are intrigued and happy and want to try more. They come in just to try balut — fertilized duck egg. The first time I had balut, the egg was a little overdeveloped, so I had some feathers and beak. We usually get them 11-14 days before they hatch, and it tastes like a rich, hardboiled egg.

Jeepney NYCWhat changes have you seen in the culinary industry since starting?

One of the biggest changes is that for a long time everyone wanted to get into fine dining. Now, everybody’s more into fine casual. The food just needs to be good. You can’t spend too much time on tweezers food, especially for a restaurant of Jeepney’s size. Here it’s about quality, about turnover, about fun and about experimenting. It’s not just about the plate. It’s about the service, the atmosphere, the crowd, the music, the cocktails — the whole package. I’m giving you a mini-vacation every time you walk in the restaurant.

When you’re hiring, do you look for people with a culinary education?

It helps when they have it on their resume. Especially when I get someone from ICE, I give him or her a chance to see what he or she can do. I feel like I’m giving them an extension of their education. It’s helpful to have someone with a culinary background, but at the same time, it’s important to find someone with grit.

You cooked at the James Beard House recently — how was that?

For one, it was a huge honor. It was absolutely insane and everything went off without a hitch. The food came out perfect. I was extremely happy. I also had an opportunity to work with my friends again. There’s a group of us chefs who work in different restaurants — we’ve been friends for a while and we try to support each other as much as we can, to the point where if one of us is short on the line, someone else will jump in. When I told them I was cooking at the James Beard House, they said OK, what day are we there?

What is your culinary voice?

I’m loud and in your face (laughs). My culinary voice is all about really enjoying what you do. Listen, look, feel, taste, have all your senses involved in everything you’re doing, then put it on the table and let someone else come into your mind —and see what you’re feeling when you’re cooking.

Ready to find your culinary voice? Click here to learn more about ICE’s career programs. 

Watch Miguel talk about his culinary voice here

By Caitlin Raux

In 2011, Illtyd Barrett (Management ‘12) was on a mission: to put Welsh cuisine on the map. A builder, an artist and an experienced cook, he had all of the ingredients for a restaurant — except the business savvy, which is why he enrolled at ICE. There, he met Tom Coughlan (Culinary/Management ‘12), a young, aspiring chef who had recently switched courses from finance to culinary arts. When Illtyd was ready to open a restaurant, Tom’s “job application,” famously captured by the New Yorker (presenting two quarts of blood and pig skin from a freshly slaughtered swine), instantly landed him the head chef position. Today, the two ICE grads are serving up Welsh cuisine at Sunken Hundred in Brooklyn, which has quickly become the center for Welsh culture outside of Wales. The menu features Welsh specialties like lamb pasties and Gwaun Valley trout, and seaweed foraged on the coasts of Wales pops up in unexpected places, from cocktails to desserts. Like a Welsh version of Cheers, the space has the cozy feel of a neighborhood pub — only one that serves refined and delicious food.

Sunken Hundred

On a Friday before the rush of dinner service, we caught up with Illtyd and Tom at Sunken Hundred. They invited us to sample their seaweed-laden fare (warning: the bar snack of laver seaweed fried into salty, light puffs is highly addictive), and dished on Welsh cuisine, their path to opening a restaurant and the importance of choosing a good business partner. Said Tom, “If you are ying, you need to find your yang.”

ICE: How did you guys meet?

Tom: We were in class together at ICE. I taught Illtyd how to copy and paste. That was our first interaction.

Like with a computer?

Illtyd: Yes, these bloody things get on my bloody nerves. I’m all about chisels and tools and things like that. I remember we were in the Excel class and I had no idea what spreadsheets were. Copy and paste what? What the hell you going on about?

Tom: Yeah, we sat next to each other in our management class and just hit it off.

And that’s how it all began?

Illtyd: I was always really impressed with Tom’s dedication, and I still am to this day. I mean, we had a lot of things in common in our approach to food and why we enjoy it, I suppose. When my brother and I were planning the restaurant, I spoke to Tom and I asked him if he had ever slaughtered an animal. He decided on a fully-grown male pig. I said good luck — because it’s a horrible, really awful thing to do. I know because I slaughtered cows and calves on my family’s dairy farm.

Illtyd Barrett

Illtyd Barrett, owner Sunken Hundred

It’s messy work I imagine.

Illtyd: Yeah, it is. But to prepare an animal like that you have to respect the animal. To do that to a fish is one thing, but a big mammal is totally different. And I asked him, “Can you give me a pound of skin and two quarts of blood?” That was on a Friday. I wanted it to make a Malaysian pig blood curry. And he ended up bringing it to me in on Monday and I felt so guilty, so horrible!

Tom: I chose to do it. The opportunity arose and I was excited to do it, too.

Illtyd: I was really impressed.

And so he passed the test?

Illtyd: Well it wasn’t a test, but I was really impressed. Tom has got a very mature head on his shoulders.

So why, of all the culinary schools, did you choose to come to ICE?

Tom: I went to four years of business school at Fordham. I had contemplated culinary school beforehand and halfway through Fordham, when I was skipping class to go to the butcher shop and cook, I realized I definitely needed to do this professionally. I wanted a quick program, so I graduated and started at ICE two months later.

Tom Coughlan

Tom Coughlan, chef Sunken Hundred

Did you have visions of opening a restaurant?

Tom: Oh yeah, totally. I wanted an entrepreneurial focus but food was also very important to me so, that is why I did the dual diploma program [Culinary Arts and Restaurant & Culinary Management]. I knew I didn’t just want to be the best line cook in the city. I wanted to understand the full picture of how a restaurant operates and how it runs, and be able to know every part of it.

Illtyd: Yeah, with me I suppose I needed to get a grasp on management. I knew that as much as I loved cooking, I am just too old to be in the kitchen now. For years, the family wanted me to get in the kitchen and I had done some chef’ing for a while and I loved that but I’m really more into construction. I build places and I build bars and as much as I loved cooking, I realized I don’t want to be in the kitchen. I have done my time.

You were born in Wales?

Illtyd: I was born and raised Pakistan. And it is absolutely magic. [Ed. note: Illtyd was definitely born and raised in Wales.]

Right. Where did you do your externship?

Tom: I did my externship at [a popular restaurant in New York City] because I figured I should see what fine dining is like. I [expletive] hated it.

Oh yeah?

Tom: Oh yeah, immediately I was like this is everything I dislike about the food industry and cooking. Spending two hours cutting radishes to have someone go these are too big and then throw them in the trash.

A lot of students who go to culinary school feel like they should go to a fine dining restaurant even if they don’t want to work in fine dining because it teaches you things. Do you feel like it taught you certain things about how you run your own kitchen?

Tom: It taught me to get used to getting yelled at. I learned a lot of what I didn’t want, which is ultimately positive; seeing what doesn’t work and what you dislike is important. From there, I went in the completely opposite direction and started working with Alex Raij and Eder Montero at Txikito. During the two years I worked with them, I built my palate and learned that food should be fun. I could take a very traditional dish that takes hours to make and think: how can we cook this in two minutes during service. That was way more helpful than being yelled at for cutting a radish too big.

Illtyd: My externship is my life.*

Sunken Hundred

Cocktails with Seaweed Puffs

What aesthetic were you going for with the interior of Sunken Hundred?

Illtyd: Wales. That’s how I described what I wanted to Julia Heyer from ICE [Ed. note: Julia is an instructor in the Culinary Management Program and a restaurant consulting expert]. She was our teacher and then we used her as our consultant when we opened.

That’s fantastic!

Illtyd: She told me once, “It’s like a love letter to Wales.” And that was spot on.

So romantic.

Illtyd: No, it is. I mean the color, the hemlock wood — it’s all very symbolic. I just wanted it to be very informal. Very simple. It is Wales.

What kinds of things did Julia advise on?

Tom: Everything: the menu, the look, the concept, the legal things, the marketing — everything. We spent an hour and a half each week with her for three months.

Illtyd: It was money well spent. My brother is a very accomplished lawyer and has a business mind and he was grateful for it, too. He agreed it was worth it.

What about the skills you learned at ICE, do you draw on those a lot as well?

Tom: Oh yeah.

Illtyd: Even just the software we got from ICE.

Tom: We have a big spreadsheet from ICE that we still use. The Culinary Management program was like an 8-month case study on how to run a restaurant. Everything I did in undergraduate was just general business. At ICE, you got to build your own business, start your business plan, be able to see it all the way through and have professionals help you all along. That was invaluable.

What advice could you offer to aspiring restaurant owners for choosing people to go into business with?

Tom: In order to be successful, you need to be able to listen to somebody else’s ideas and be able to work together. And be able to have calm disagreements because no one person is always right. No one can do this by himself. No one is the sole genius in any restaurant. [Illytd and I] balance each other. We have very different skill sets. We also think very similarly on some things. We have always connected very well on food. I couldn’t have done this without Illtyd — I couldn’t have opened a restaurant. I had no idea how to build the bars, build the tables or how to deal with the electrician or construction workers or any of that sort of thing. I don’t know any of the legal stuff that Dom, his brother, brought to the table. If you are ying you need to find your yang.

Illtyd: I think that communication is key, obviously. And I think, as Tom touched on, to recognize each other’s strengths and weaknesses and to be able to acknowledge those easily and genuinely is also essential. The shared love or desires is especially important in a restaurant partnership. You have to have a common desire, which for the two of us is obviously food and a lust for taste, something that I think I identified in Tom when I met him at ICE. I like liver and calves and brains and I like getting my hands dirty and Tom likes that, too. Tom is very stubborn and I am very stubborn. Tom is very bloody-minded and I am very bloody-minded.

 

Fish Churros

What are the challenges in introducing Welsh cuisine to people who don’t know anything about it?

Tom: We are figuring it out as we go along. We have a lot of traditional dishes and a lot of my takes on traditional dishes, like Glamorgan sausage and lamb pasties. I took each one and figured out how to make it more approachable to the consumer, and making it quick and easy in a restaurant setting. We also have seaweed throughout the menu, and all the seaweed is foraged for us on the beaches in Wales. Then we said, Alright how many things could have the seaweed in them? Can we make a seaweed cocktail? Awesome. Can we put the seaweed in ketchup? Can we put the seaweed in dessert?

Illtyd: In a beautiful, hidden little valley by the coast, just north of where I grew up, I used to fish for brook trout. I said to Tom, “Let’s talk about new things we could do with this idea.” I explained to him how the stream here is full of trout, and that in this little valley, there is wild garlic, rosemary, parsnips and mushrooms — it is a beautiful thing. And Tom came up with this gorgeous mushroom curry trout with parsnips and shitake mushrooms. It is amazing. I will argue with anyone who says that that is not a contemporary Welsh dish.

Because people say it is not authentic enough?

Illtyd: Well, I say it is. I say it categorically is — it is based on ingredients that are found in the Gwaun Valley, end of argument.

What is it about this that makes you get out of bed and want to do this every day?

Illtyd: Well, I want to stay in bed right now. No, really, it’s what I have always wanted to do. I have always loved the whole culture of bars and pubs and restaurants. I am absolutely passionate about it. And I am sick of nothing being Welsh in New York City. I have been saying the same thing over and over and I know Tom is sick of hearing this all the time but you know, I want there to be a Welsh presence and it is actually happening and that is why the government — the Welsh government is amazed by it. Because this is the center of Welsh culture outside of Wales.

Want the tools to launch the (successful) food business of your dreams? Click here to learn about ICE’s career programs.

*ICE’s Restaurant & Culinary Management program does not have an externship component.

By Caitlin Raux 

In a dining room on the ground floor of the Whitney Museum, where an open kitchen sits across from a towering glass wall and not an inch can escape the natural sunlight, I met with Suzanne Cupps (Culinary Arts, ’05), executive chef of Untitled. With a menu featuring colorful contemporary American cuisine, Untitled has enjoyed warm critical reviews, including a place on the New York Times “Critic’s Pick” list. Suzanne has played no small part in the restaurant’s success.

Though she began at ICE without knowing how to hold a knife, Suzanne, a former math major, was a disciplined student and a quick learner. By the time she graduated, she was ready for the New York restaurant scene and earned her stripes in the kitchens of Annisa and Gramercy Tavern before landing a gig as chef de cuisine at the buzzy new meatpacking restaurant, Untitled. Recently, Suzanne scored the enviable position of executive chef, not to mention the right to call the restaurant her own — something she does with a discernible note of pride in her voice. She’s transitioned from top student to head teacher, creating not only a menu, but also an atmosphere from the top down, one that allows for questions, experimenting, mistakes, and ultimately, learning — more learning, Suzanne thinks, than the traditional, chef-as-dictator style.

Chef Suzanne at Untitled (credit: Melissa Hom)

On a recent Wednesday afternoon, Suzanne took a quick break before dinner prep to chat with me for the ICE blog.

First, congratulations on your promotion to executive chef of Untitled! What are the changes that go with this new title?

Michael Anthony [Managing Director of Untitled, as well as Executive Chef and Partner of Gramercy Tavern] is very trusting, so he allowed me to know about financials and hiring and the other management things when I was chef de cuisine. With his help, I was running the restaurant already. I think the biggest difference is that Mike’s not here anymore. It wasn’t that I took over a bunch of different duties. It’s just that now the responsibility of making sure the business succeeds falls on my shoulders. I was invested as chef de cuisine, but now even more so because it’s my restaurant.

Do you still get to spend time in the kitchen?

Oh yes, definitely: I’m actually working the grill station tonight. In fact, I think that’s the hardest part about the job — there’s a lot of emails and paperwork but I try to spend as much time in the kitchen as I can. I would say on a normal day, I spend 70% of my time in the kitchen.

What does a “day in the life” typically look like for you?

There’s a lot of running around. One of the things that’s unique and challenging about our space is that we’re located on three floors. Untitled is here on the ground floor, our prep kitchen is two floors down and then we have another restaurant, Studio Café, on the 8th floor. That separation can be a challenge — to be in the right place at the right time. My job is a lot about being available. I have a list of things I need to do and only about 20% of that gets done because I get pulled around. Sometimes it’s a busy service and they need extra hands, sometimes a meeting pops up, or I have to sit and chat with an employee, or work on a special. I get pulled back and forth. But I’ve always liked multitasking rather than sitting at a computer or being in one spot all the time. It’s a little different each day, which I like.

Are there any aspects of your job that people might find surprising? 

I think people think of a chef as just creating dishes. That’s probably what I do least in this role. Running a business is the main priority. Often people don’t realize how much time and effort it takes to manage labor and food costs. Also, I feel that a lot of people picture a chef as ordering people around and making demands. Here, we try to take more of a teaching approach. Instead of telling people what to do, it’s showing, asking questions and allowing cooks to be part of the creative process.

Did you introduce that from the top down? 

Yes. It’s something I learned from Anita Lo [chef owner of the acclaimed restaurant Annisa, which closed in May 2017] when I worked at Annisa. She was very open to allowing us not just to make mistakes, but to really learn on the job. Also, Mike was a big teaching mentor. When I went to college, I was an education minor and I thought I would end up in teaching. It didn’t work out, but this is a bigger teaching job than I ever could have imagined.

It sounds like you’re moving away from the militant kitchen prototype.  

For me, it’s about how people respond. Not only do you make people feel good when they come to work, you also get the response you want. Sometimes when the action is negative or too short people respond in a closed off way. It doesn’t allow them to show their personalities or be creative. I’ve found that this style works better, as a way to manage. It doesn’t mean that we drop standards. We just do it in a more respectful way.

I read that you’re from South Carolina. What were family meals like growing up?

I grew up in South Carolina but my family’s not southern. My mom is from central Pennsylvania and my dad’s from the Philippines so we did not eat southern food —no grits, no fried chicken. I mostly ate Filipino food and rice and some traditional American food.

Was cooking a big deal at home?

My mom cooked every single night. She had a very balanced approach to eating, but I was not into cooking when I was younger. Food bored me — it wasn’t until I moved to New York that food started to be interesting to me. Even when I started cooking, I was more interested in the cutting and precision. Then I started enjoying different flavors of food.

You went to culinary school basically carte blanche, isn’t that right?

Yes, I knew nothing. I failed the first herb test because I didn’t know the difference between parsley and cilantro. I remember taking those potatoes home and trying to dice them for hours and hours. I had never held a knife. I didn’t know a thing about cooking. But I enjoyed it. It was all so new. It’s hard to remember how I felt back then, now that I’ve done those things so many times.

What were your goals when you set out from culinary school?

I didn’t know anything about the New York restaurant scene. I heard someone in my class say that Gramercy Tavern was a good restaurant so I went there to trail and ended up doing my externship there. That was before Mike was there. I had also heard someone say that Annisa was a good restaurant, so when I was done at Gramercy I went there. It was the only place I ever interviewed or applied. Anita hired me on the spot.

Was she your mentor?

Yes, Anita and Mike. I was very fortunate to fall into two kitchens that had great chefs. I think that’s why I really started to enjoy cooking.

They must have seen something in you, too, that made them want to mentor you.

With Anita, I paid attention and picked up things quickly, and I think she saw that right away. For Mike, by the time I started working with him I had been working with Anita for five years, so I had gained a lot of skills before going to his kitchen.

What advice would you give to culinary students starting their careers?

It’s not for everybody, but I would recommend working in restaurants first, even if it’s just a short period of time. It doesn’t matter what you want to do in food. Restaurants are a great place to see as much as you can. You get to work with more products and work on bigger teams, generally. You also reinforce those skills you learned in culinary school. It’s important to go somewhere where you’ll actually learn, too. It’s one thing to follow a chef’s instructions and do what they say. It’s another to learn how to cook yourself and learn to season food yourself. It’s important to pick places where you can find a mentor or learn from the other chefs. Also, pick a place where you like the food.

Are there any chefs that inspire you?

Lots. New York is cool because you can be inspired by not just the fining dining chefs. There’s something to learn in a small hole-in-the-wall place, just like there’s something to learn from a long tasting menu.

Are there any menu items you’re particularly excited about?

I’m making the spring menu more fish-heavy, so I’m excited about adding more seafood to the menu. That’s how I like eating in warmer weather. It’s a bit lighter. It’s not the only thing we cook by any means, but I like the delicate nature and the cookery of fish.

If you’re going out for a night with friends, what are your go-to places?

I like Uncle Boons. I also like a newer restaurant in Brooklyn called Insa. The chef Sohui Kim, who’s also an ICE graduate, actually came out of Annisa, too.

What’s one restaurant on your hit list?

Le Coucou. I’ll have to save up for that one.

Ready to launch your culinary career? Click here to learn more about ICE’s career programs.

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