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.


By Caitlin Gunther

Julie Resnick (Culinary Arts) didn’t start the feedfeed with the goal of creating a behemoth crowdsourced food Instagram account with a following of over one million enthusiastic foodies. Her initial motive was simply to swap recipe ideas and to find inspiration for ways to use her weekly allotment of CSA (community supported agriculture) goods. Something like, How about a new way to prepare those sweet potatoes? But her education from ICE — which helped give her the ability to recognize truly good food and innovative preparations of it — along with her background in digital marketing, led to the creation of a community that self-selected foodies and talented photographers were clamoring to join. Luckily, the barrier to entry was easy — simply tag #feedfeed in your Instagram photos. Feedfeed seemed to fill a void in the food media realm. It was a call to action for home cooks and food photographers to share gorgeous images of meals made with vibrant, seasonal ingredients.

We were thrilled that Julie took the time to chat with us for the ICE blog, to reveal what it’s like running a massively popular Instagram account and website, and to disclose her “worst nightmare” of a meal (a bowl of cereal).

Julie with husband and co-founder Dan (credit: Lindsay Morris)

Julie with husband and co-founder Dan (credit: Lindsay Morris)

When did you decide to study at ICE?

It was right after September 11. I was trying to decide if I wanted to make a career change. That sparked my interest in ICE and going to the weekend program. It was for nine months on the weekends, so I was working full time and going to school on the weekends.

That seems like a big commitment. You have to really want it.

It was competitive because most people were professionals who were in that same state of trying to decide or had made a decision to no longer be an accountant or a lawyer or dentist. Also, everyone was a little older than the typical student age because they had already had a bit of a career.

What was your weekday job?

I worked at a digital agency, which I had founded. My background was in digital marketing. After college, I started out at a big agency that was one of the first to build websites, back when e-commerce websites were just starting up. That’s what ultimately led me to create feedfeed. I was one of the only people in my culinary school class who didn’t end up making the career change. I was super excited to finish the program and graduate with my classmates, but by the end, my career in digital had taken off, and the agency where I was working was doing exciting things.

I continued cooking at home. I went on to get married, had kids and then we moved out of the city to Amagansett. I started changing the way that I cook and the way that we eat when we became part of the local farms and CSAs where you get a weekly share from a farm. So I basically stopped going to the grocery store. Each week you get a bag with onions, carrots, sweet potatoes, chicken and having to work with just those ingredients is what inspired me to start feedfeed. I was using the same ingredients week after week, and with three kids you want to make sure everyone is excited about dinner and not just like, Mom, I don’t want to eat sweet potatoes again. That was what ultimately led me to connect with other people on social media who cook the way I cook and who were using local and seasonal ingredients in their day-to-day cooking. It helped me get ideas for ways to cook instead of leaning on major food publications. Because really, how deep are they going to go with ideas of what you can do with sweet potatoes. I came back to food through a need I had and a connection with other people through social media.

I came back to food through a need I had and a connection with other people through social media.

How did the feedfeed start? With the Instagram account or the website?

It started on Instagram as a call to action. Initially, I began posting pictures of my own food and then asked people to share what they were making by also tagging their food with #feedfeed. That started to develop that community of people who were cooking the way I was. So I was connecting with people from all over the world. Maybe I would do a search for sweet potatoes and find some really cool sweet potato dishes, and I would follow those people and engage with them and comment on their posts. Then I would say, Hey, by the way, don’t forget to add #feedfeed to what you’re cooking and that way we can all share with each other. It was my need that was driving it. It took off from there. That was back when no one else was tagging. Now I feel like everyone is tagging and asking people to tag whatever to be featured. As more people started sharing with the hashtag, it became obvious that the content was amazing, and I didn’t want it to disappear in feeds and get forgotten. If someone makes something really amazing with sweet potatoes, why shouldn’t we catalog that and organize it on our website? Once we had a lot of content on the hashtag, we decided to start the website — to catalog all of the great recipes by ingredient or by topic.

The feedfeed seems to have been one of the first to utilize hashtagging. Then you have others like Infatuation, but that’s a different audience.

The hashtag #eeeeeats existed as a hashtag and was out there before we were, but because we didn’t live in the city, I wasn’t aware of them when we started feedfeed. Later we realized they were doing the same thing but on the restaurant side.

With all the different editors and types of feeds — from vegan to cold soups to French food to sandwiches — how do you manage to control the aesthetic and the content?

First, we reach out to people or they reach out to us because they have a passion or expertise, like brownies or chocolate or Spanish food. We use those people to help us find really good posts. Then once everyone sends in their selections, we have an internal team vetting the content and making sure it’s meeting our standards. Molly [Adams], who works for me, also went to ICE (she graduated from the Culinary Arts program in 2009). I found her by reaching out to ICE Career Services and asked them to post a job. At the time she was working as a private chef and reached out to me. It’s hard to find people who really get food. They cook but not at the level of someone who attended culinary school. So that was really important to me from the beginning — to find someone else who could look at a recipe or a picture and say, That’s really good and interesting and here’s why. Molly looks at everything and we have a couple of other people on our internal team who help us.

Right, because there are a lot of things that are popular, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re good. Like if I see another picture of a rainbow bagel…

That’s a good example — if we were to post a rainbow bagel, we would find one that we think is interesting or a story behind it. Like the person used freeze-dried blueberries and beets to dye the dough. That’s the other thing about us as a publication: When we look for something to post on our website or Instagram, we think, What is it that makes this unique? Would you have ever thought to make this? A recent dinner post was a good example of that: BBQ pulled spaghetti squash sliders. I’m not sure that other major publications would invest in having a writer and recipe developer going through the process of testing out a vegan spaghetti squash slider. But we have amazing vegan cooks in our community who are pushing the boundaries. We see that post as an opportunity to tell people that they can do more with spaghetti squash than treating it as an alternative to pasta.

I guess you could say you have more freedom because you don’t have bottom lines to think of as much as a big publication under a larger media company.

We’re looking at content and creativity. Obviously the visual, too: The photos have to be at a certain level to post it. Often we’ll see something we love but the picture isn’t at the level we need it to be. We’ll remake it and develop a recipe for something we saw on our feed.

Did you have a social media strategy or has it been an organic process?

Definitely organic. My career has been in helping brands to translate their real-world brand into the digital space, and as digital developed into social, I’ve figured out social media strategies for brands. I think like most startups, we look at what’s working and do more of that, and look at what’s not working and think of ways to make it work better. Our main focus from the beginning has been making connections and building a community of people who really enjoy each other’s food content and like to share.

Growing up, was food a big part of your family life?

Yes. I grew up in Texas and my mom made dinner every night. I always loved to eat, I love good food. When people ask, what do you hate, there’s really nothing I can think of. I helped my mom in the kitchen quite a bit. Then when I went to college, I couldn’t eat the food in the dorm, and I wasn’t one of those people who would say, Oh I’ll just have a bowl of cereal for dinner. That’s my worst nightmare. If our kids are in trouble — all of our kids love to eat — we’ll say to them, If you don’t listen, you’re going to get cereal for dinner, and they’re like, Noooo! That’s how I was, too. I need something savory and delicious. So in college, I started cooking as a necessity.

How did ICE prepare you for your current role as founder of feedfeed or other aspects of your life?

It helped me with the ability to throw together a really nice meal quickly. Having the basis of the techniques, plus knowing the flavor profiles and pulling them together. Another thing: I’ve always had an idea for a restaurant — especially living out here, because we don’t have a lot of options. When we go to the city, I always say Let’s have Indian, or let’s have some Korean food or Thai, because we don’t have those types of restaurants out here. At home, one night I’ll make something more Middle Eastern, and then the next night I’ll make something more Thai-inspired. I always have coconut milk, ginger and a good harissa on hand. One thing you learn in culinary school is that all the cuisines are using the same ingredients for the most part, but the end results are so different. That’s what I like to do in my own home cooking and I would love to do the same in my own restaurant: Use the same ingredients the whole week but every night try a different cuisine. Show people that you can get by with pretty much the same ingredients and completely change the dishes based on the preparation.

For our readers that are trying to build their brands via social media, what advice can you offer?

First, I would say that it’s important to be active on social. Don’t just spend time composing a beautiful, well-lit shot, posting it and then logging out of Instagram or whatever social media platform you’re using. Spend the time looking at what people you follow are posting, like the content and comment on the content. I think there’s also this perception that you shouldn’t be following too many people — I disagree with that. If there are people out there who are putting out nice content that you’re interested in, follow them, engage with them and get to know the people behind these accounts. Read what these people are writing, don’t just look at the pictures. It’s about relationship building.

Interested in studying culinary arts at ICE? 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. 


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 Carly DeFilippo

The words energy and determination only begin to describe the curious, enthusiastic force that is ICE alum Eden Grinshpan. Aspiring to work in food television from a very young age, Eden currently hosts two shows on the Cooking Channel, Eden Eats and Log On And Eat with Eden.

 

What were you doing before you enrolled at ICE?

I enrolled at ICE when I was 22; before that I was traveling through India, South East Asia, and lived in London and Tel-Aviv.

When I was in high school I became completely obsessed with the Food Network. I didn’t grow up cooking or baking; the passion came from watching the network. I could not get enough of Ina Garten’s buttery cakes or Jamie Oliver’s colorful culinary masterpieces (he was on Food Network Canada). I was hooked, so I started playing around in the kitchen.

When it came time to apply for University, I knew where my head was at…so culinary school it was. I enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu for the “grand diplome” in both pastry and cuisine. What a funny and incredible experience. I was so nervous my first day; I didn’t know anyone and my knowledge in the kitchen was minimal. But I quickly made friends with the students and the chefs and accepted my new calling in life: food. During my time studying in London, I took advantage of the opportunity to travel to neighboring countries in Europe. It was then that I realized another passion of mine, travel, and that the best way to explore a new country and culture was to dive right into their cuisine and to try and live like a local.

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After graduating culinary school, I was not ready to settle down, so I enrolled in a course that took me on an adventure to the north of India—probably one of the most incredible experiences of my life! I didn’t know that much about India, but soon found out that it was one of the most colorful, warm and exciting countries I have ever been too. I ended up spending almost a year backpacking and exploring, while taking cooking courses, volunteering and just simply bonding with the locals and other people who were backpacking and traveling across this magical country. After India I continued my travels through Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Israel.

Following these amazing, worldly experiences, I was itching to get cracking on my career—so, what better place to start than the culinary mecca of NYC? I moved to New York around 5 years ago. My younger sister just got into NYU, so I decided to follow her here and start my new adventure. The first thing I did was enroll at ICE for the Culinary Management program. I knew that one day I would want my own restaurant, and ICE was the place to learn that skill set. I had such a great time in the program. I met so many people from all walks of life that were just as passionate as I was about food and the culinary industry. The school gave me a great platform to learn about the service industry and also allowed me to network and meet great people in the industry. Since graduating from ICE, I have been able to pursue my dream of food television and I am very fortunate to the Cooking Channel for taking me under their wing and believing in me and my shows.

What attracted you to the Culinary Management program?

What attracted me to ICE was the school’s reputation and the great management program they offered. I had a great teacher and the speakers they brought in told us their stories and facts about their businesses. Having so many people come in really inspired me and I got some really great ideas from that course. It’s also so much fun meeting people that are as obsessed about food and the culinary industry as you are—they’re a very special group.

eden

What have you been up to since graduation?

Through ICE, I was introduced to many people in the field that have helped me along the way with my career. Since leaving ICE I have worked on “Eden Eats,” a show that I created with my business partner Samantha Schutz, and am currently working on a brand new show for the Cooking Channel, “Log On And Eat with Eden,” which will be premiering this September…very exciting!

Briefly describe a day in your working life.

Every day is very different since I am traveling all over the country, meeting different people and featuring different foods in every segment. When we get to a new restaurant, we usually learn all about the dish that we are featuring on the show, make the dish, try the dish and try a bunch of other dishes that the restaurant is famous for, while speaking with the person I am interviewing.

What might people be surprised to learn about your job?

I think people would be surprised how much time and work goes into one episode. I was so surprised to find out what goes on behind the scenes—so cool! I love how creative everyone is.

5 years ago, did you ever think you’d be doing what you’re doing now?

I’ve always dreamt of having my own food television show, but you never know. As much as it is about networking and persistence, there is also luck that goes into it. I am so fortunate to do what I do and I am thrilled to be a part of the Cooking Channel family.

What’s next?

Well, I am working on a new show for the Cooking Channel, and I hope to continue working in television (I love it). But, one day I would love to take advantage of the skills ICE taught me and manage/run my own restaurant.

 

By Carly DeFilippo

When Kim O’Donnel traded in her journalism career for a future in food, she never expected that her true calling would mix her two passions. Kim was among the country’s first digital food correspondents, breaking ground as a writer for the original Washington Post website. Since then, she has become one of the country’s most respected food writers, celebrated by the M.F.K. Fisher Awards for Excellence in Culinary Writing and serving on the James Beard Foundation’s Journalism Awards Committee. Read on to learn how Kim made her mark on the industry.

Kim O'Donnel - Food Writer - InterviewWhat were you doing before you enrolled at ICE?
Originally, I worked as a reporter for about five years before exploring a culinary career. Once I realized I wanted to work in food, I pursued a job under James Beard Award winner Ann Cashion in Washington, D.C. It was in the days of pre-Internet communication, so I typed her a note (on an electric typewriter) asking about openings at Cashion’s Eat Place for rookies, like myself, who wanted to learn. Ann came to be one of my mentors, and what I learned on the job in just five months really set me up for culinary school.

What was it specifically that attracted you to the program?
The program at ICE felt long enough to dive in, but short enough to get back to my life, or a new version of it, quickly. I wasn’t interested in two-year programs.

Where was your externship? Did it help you make any meaningful connections in the industry?
I started out in a high-end seafood restaurant in Philadelphia, but that was not a good fit for me, to say the least. I felt as if I was a working in a factory—the focus was all about how much we could get done and how fast we could do it. So I switched to the kitchen at MANNA, a nonprofit in Philly that prepares and delivers meals for people who are homebound with HIV and other chronic illness. I learned a great deal about dietary restrictions and food as medicine, and I loved the mission of the organization.

What have you been up to since graduating?
As my externship was ending, I got a call about a job in Washington, D.C. working with the Washington Post and “something called the Internet.” It turns out it was WashingtonPost.com, and they were building their first team of feature writers, including someone to write about restaurants. I was offered the job, but had a crisis of conscience. At the time, I was thinking, “What am I doing taking a desk job after I just finished my culinary training?”

One of my mentors—Gillian Clark, the sous chef at Cashion’s Eat Place—told me, “You can always cook. Go see what this is about.” It ended up being the beginning of yet another career path, marrying my writing experience with my culinary training. For the next eight years, I worked on staff producing first-generation cooking videos, hosting a weekly cooking chat and exploring the different ways we could approach internet content through the lens of food. During the same period, as a freelancer, I wrote a daily column called Mighty Appetite, which took my food writing to another level. I’ve since written for Real Simple, USA Today and other publications. From there, I got the bug to write cookbooks. I’ve now spent 17 years in the industry and it has been anything but dull!

Kim O'Donnel - Meatless - Cookbooks - Interview

Are there any professional accomplishments of which you are particularly proud?
As far as awards, I earned second place in the 2014 M.F.K. Fisher Awards for Excellence in Culinary Writing, awarded by Les Dames d’Escoffier International. I’ve also been featured in the 2013 and 2014 editions of Best Food Writing, an annual anthology, and sit on the Journalism Awards Committee of the James Beard Foundation.

On a more personal level, my two cookbooks, Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook and Meatless Celebrations aim to help meat lovers (like myself) dial back and make a little more room for plants on their plates. Additionally, for the past three years, I’ve been honored to teach cooking classes at Rancho La Puerta, a spa in the Baja peninsula of Mexico. We cook from the school’s six-acre organic garden, which is my idea of heaven.

But truly the most rewarding part of my work is when I hear from readers (who share their kitchen reports about trying one of my recipes) or see the look of amazement of one of my students who gets the hang of a technique or dish once deemed too difficult. Those are moments I’m most proud of.

How would you describe your “culinary voice”?
I primarily cook by the season, even if I’m craving strawberries in January. As part of that effort, I do a lot of preserving (I founded a group called Canning Across America in 2009), so my pantry is full of jars of berry jam, pickled carrots, jalapenos and cucumbers and tomato sauce. Having a preserved pantry really helps to “extend” the growing season, which is so gratifying.

Overall, my cooking style is quite simple, not too fussy. I love creating layers of flavor through spice blends in Thai, Vietnamese, Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines.  Because we live in Seattle, we eat a lot of wild salmon, which is quite affordable and top quality.

As for my writing, I aim to teach the simple pleasures of cooking at home, one crumb at a time. There’s no need to worry about “mastering the art” of anything or cooking your way through an entire recipe collection. The goal is just to cook as often as you can. From all the time I’ve spent on the road for book tours, I’ve learned that many folks are not cooking—not because they don’t want to, but because they don’t know how. My mission, going forward, is to push that needle and get more of us bellying up to the stove.

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

By Carly DeFilippo 

With experience in the kitchens of Jean-Georges, Heston Blumenthal and Floyd Cardoz, ICE alum Jody Eddy has rubbed shoulders with some of the world’s top chefs. So it’s no surprise that her first book, Come In, We’re Closed: An Invitation to Staff Meals at the World’s Best Restaurants, secured Jody’s reputation as a respected storyteller among chefs. Since then, Jody’s career has taken off and she’s busier than ever. Read on for an inside look at the dynamic life of one of the industry’s most ambitious writers.

jody eddy - interview - headshot - What attracted you to the program at ICE?
I liked that the externship requirement took place at an actual restaurant [or other culinary business], because I was looking for real world experience to complement my time in school. I also frequently volunteered as an assistant for classes in ICE’s School of Recreational Cooking, which proved to be an invaluable experience.

Where was your externship? Did it help you make any particularly meaningful connections in the industry?
I externed at Jean-Georges in New York City and also at Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck in Bray, England. I really enjoyed my externships, and I made lasting relationships with fellow externs and chefs that I still count as some of my closest friends and food world colleagues. When I was at The Fat Duck, I also experienced their incredible family meals, which inspired me to co-write my book Come In, We’re Closed: An Invitation to Staff Meals at the World’s Best Restaurants. I traveled to 25 different restaurants to experience their staff meals during the course of the writing process, and the most poignant, of course, was returning to The Fat Duck, the place where it all began.

What have you been up to since graduating?
I worked as a cook at Floyd Cardoz’s restaurant Tabla before assuming the position of Executive Editor at Art Culinaire for three years. From there, I published Come In, We’re Closed. Then, last September, my first cookbook, North: The New Nordic Cuisine of Iceland, was published by Ten Speed Press.

On the heels of North, I’m launching a line of artisanal food products from Iceland and am working on several other cookbook projects. I also freelance for such publications as The Wall Street Journal and Food & Wine, and I do occasional recipe development for major food corporations. In the summers, I sometimes lead culinary tours of Iceland and teach cooking classes at various culinary schools around the US, and I organize the Chef’s Garden Roots Conference (the next one will take place in September 2015). I’ve learned over the years that one of the most important things you can do as a freelancer is to keep yourself busy!

Jody Eddy - Come In We're Closed - Staff Meals - Restaurants

A photo of Andoni Aduriz’ kitchen at Mugaritz from Come In We’re Closed.

Are there any accomplishments, awards, etc. of which you are particularly proud?
I was happy that Come In, We’re Closed was nominated for a James Beard Award. The writing and travel requirements for that book were a bit daunting, so it felt good to have our hard work recognized. I’m also proud to be a member of the New York Women’s Culinary Alliance and the New York chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier.

Briefly describe a day in your current working life.
I relocated to Ireland recently, and when I’m home and not traveling for work (which I do about 50% of the time), my day begins by going for an early morning run in the woods near my house to jumpstart my brain. I then write for several hours in the morning and reserve the afternoon for phone calls, interviews for books or articles and recipe development. The evenings are spent working on other projects such as conference planning and the execution of our Icelandic food line. As a freelancer, your working day or week never really comes to a close, but I prefer it that way.

What might people be surprised to learn about your job?
Because I travel so much, I think some people assume I am on a permanent vacation, but traveling for work can be grueling. I often find myself meeting deadlines or strategizing about projects on planes or in hotel rooms in the middle of the night. I frequently have conference calls at 3am because the time zone I’m in is so out of sync with the people I need to talk to. Being on the road can be exhausting, but I love it too.

Jody Eddy - Interview - Saffron Harvest - Kashmir

A photo from Jody’s research on the saffron harvest in Kashmir.

Where would you like to see yourself in the future?
I hope to continue to write cookbooks and articles, as well as to plan conferences. I have a few new projects in progress for 2015 that I hope will lead to impactful and meaningful work. I love working in the food world and feel the possibilities it affords are endless, dynamic and incredibly diverse.

How would you describe your “culinary voice”?
There are endless narratives in food just waiting to be told—but even more than this, I believe there is so much potential to make a meaningful impact. Food is one of the few things that every single person in the world is affected by and if we, as food industry professionals, strive to make the right choices, uncover the stories that need to be told, and engage with people interested in doing the same, we can collectively make a real and lasting difference.

Click here to learn more about careers in food media and other opportunities outside the kitchen. 

By Carly DeFilippo

ICE graduates Eric McIntyre and Scott Fagan are among a number of alumni couples who enrolled together with the hopes of owning their own business. Today, they’ve transformed a successful catering company—Tip of the Tongue—into a café storefront in their Brooklyn neighborhood of Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. We recently caught up with Eric to gain some perspective on their first year of business.

Eric McIntyre - Tip of the Tongue - Bakery - Brooklyn

 

What were you both doing before you enrolled at ICE?
Prior to ICE, I was working as legal recruiter for the contract and permanent placement of attorneys, paralegals and legal secretaries. Scott was working as a health and food writer, developing stories and production for DiscoveryHealth.com, as well as recipes for The South Beach Diet and The Zone Diet. Prior to that, he was the producer of “Ask Doctor Weil,” a health website produced through Time Warner.

What was it specifically that attracted you to the program?
We were attracted to how comprehensive the curriculum was and that the final part of the program was an externship within the industry. We had looked at a few schools and ICE seemed to be an excellent value. I had a hard time deciding between the pastry and culinary programs but in the end I decided to go with the Culinary Arts program to get what I felt would be a broader range of training and education, even though I was most interested in pastry.

Where were your externships? Did they help you make connections in the industry?
Scott externed at Chanterelle, and I externed at Blue Fin. Personally, I made several connections through Joe Murphy (now executive pastry chef at Jean-Georges), who was the pastry chef at the time. ICE also helped me get my first job—at Eleven Madison Park. I met Nicole Kaplan (then the executive pastry chef) at an ICE career fair.

What have you been up to since graduating?
I worked at Eleven Madison Park from May 2002 – December 2005. During that time, Scott had been doing freelance catering work and then started his own catering business. In August 2005, things started to pick up and he leased a commercial kitchen. I left Eleven Madison to begin working with him in January 2006. For years, while we were working on catering for events, we talked about opening a brick-and-mortar bakery/cafe. After looking at many spaces in many neighborhoods (mostly in Brooklyn), we decided to open a shop in the neighborhood where we live, Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, in May 2013.

Which accomplishments make you the most proud?
I’m happy to still be in business. As many of us know in the food industry, margins are tight and managing costs is a challenge. We’re happy to still be doing what we love.

Tip of the Tongue - Alumni Interview - Eric McIntyre - Brooklyn

Tell me about a day in your current working life.
Our day begins getting our 3-year-old son to school (which takes a notable amount of time, between getting dressed, breakfast, packing lunch and actually getting him out the door!). On Mondays, we have a meeting with our barista and pastry managers to review the current menu, changes that need to be made, staffing issues and exploring any new ideas for the cafe. Scott and I also try to spend a good amount of time on the cafe floor to maintain a personal connection with our customer base. We then move onto administrative tasks such as bookkeeping, P&L reports, scheduling, vendor ordering and paying bills.

What might people be surprised to learn about your business?
I think the biggest misconception about owning a small shop is that, while we are very busy most of the time, managing the bottom line and actually turning a profit is a major challenge. Even if you are steadily busy, the cost of running a small business is very high. Our customers regularly comment on how we must be doing so great, but the first year has been difficult and challenging, and we’re trying to figure out how to make a sustainable living for the long-term.

Where would you like to see yourself in the future?
We’re considering a second cafe or another type of shop—maybe even a wine shop.

Tip of the Tongue - Bakery - Brooklyn - Eric McIntyre - Scott Fagan

You’ve hired a number of other ICE grads to help run your shop. How has that been a meaningful part of your story?
With other ICE grads, there is always an immediate connection and everyone loves sharing stories of their experiences with the same chef instructors. On a practical note, Scott and I have often taken recipes from school and re-worked them into something that fits our own style—and since we experienced the same curriculum, these recipes and the techniques we reference are things that ICE grads are familiar with. That said, we also like hiring chefs from other schools, as they do bring a different perspective and experience that can be refreshing.

How would you describe your “culinary voice”?
Our food and style is very “tangible,” which is to say we prepare foods that are familiar, never too fancy or esoteric. We like to keep it simple with seasonal foods that people recognize and are drawn to. At our core, we’re “meat and potatoes” kind of guys.

Click here for more stories from alumni entrepreneurs.

 

By Carly DeFilippo

With more than 11,000 graduates in the industry, ICE’s alumni network is a hotbed of food and hospitality talent. In turn, it’s no surprise that many of our graduates have found success working together in the field. In the case of Cristian Quiroz and Ilse Herrera, sous chefs at Txikito, La Vara and El Quinto Pino—restaurateurs Alex Raij and Eder Montero’s trifecta of celebrated NYC restaurants—they may have met on the job, but they get along just like classmates.

isle and cristian resized

What were you doing before culinary school?

Cristian Quiroz: I worked as a waiter at a place called The Crepe Café back in Chile. It was my first restaurant job and I would always bother the crepe cook to let me make the crepes. He kept saying no, until one day he got tired of me and just let me do it. Soon I was able to manage the station on my own. That’s when I decided I wanted to learn back of house skills, to hopefully open up my own restaurant one day.
Ilse Herrera: I was studying singing in a conservatory in Guadalajara, Mexico. I moved to New York just one week before starting classes at ICE.

What specifically attracted you to the programs at ICE?

IH: I liked that ICE offered immersion into the world of cooking within a short amount of time. The modules were well rounded and the program was affordable. Being in New York City was definitely a big plus.
CQ: The length of the programs (Culinary Arts and Management). I had considered CIA because of its reputation, but my father suggested that I would probably benefit more from a shorter, hands-on program, than a traditional 2-4 year degree. I think he was completely correct. In the end, it depends on the learning style of the person.

What have you been up to since graduating?

CQ: I worked at Txikito for a year and a half and then helped opened La Vara in Cobble Hill. After Alex received two stars in the New York Times for El Quinto Pino, we helped open the restaurant’s new dining room, “El Comedor.” Currently, most of my time is spent at Txikito, but I occasionally work at the other two spots as well. As a personal project, I planned a sold-out Chilean food pop-up last September, which I’m considering developing into my own spot in the coming year.
IH: I was garde manger at Lupa during school, and later moved to The West Branch where I was quickly promoted to the pasta station. After a year, I left New York to spend two months in Italy, and upon my return I got a job at Txikito through a former co-worker. I started off as a lunch cook and then became the morning sous-chef. I also helped with research and development and staff training for the opening of La Vara in Brooklyn, and worked with Cristian on the expansion of El Quinto Pino, where I currently run the kitchen.

What are your proudest accomplishments?

IH: The critical acclaim in the press has been very gratifying in the five years that I have worked for Alex and her husband, Eder. I have also cooked at the James Beard House on two different occasions with Alex and have had the chance to cook my own Mexican dinner at Txikito for one of their “txokos” (a dinner series inspired by Basque private gastronomical societies), mainly focusing on food from the states of Michoacán and Sonora.
CQ: I’m very happy with the job I’ve done in Alex and Eder’s restaurants. In addition to helping achieve two stars at both La Vara and El Quinto Pino, the whole experience of starting two new restaurants from scratch is personally very gratifying and entertaining.

What is a day like in your working life?

CQ: My day typically involves quality control during dinner service, expediting, ordering, creating specials and maintaining food safety. Training staff is a big part as well.
IH: I get in at 9:00am and take a quick inventory of the kitchen. Then I check the morning production list, take on some prep tasks, and manage quality control for the team throughout the day. When the night crew comes in at 2:00pm, I communicate with the supervisor about any new specials or menu items. I have a lunch break from 3:00-4:00pm, then prep is continued until around 5:00pm. Finally, I do inventory of vegetables, fish, meat, dry goods, etc. and place any necessary orders before I go home.
CQ: Working with Isle has been amazing. Both times we helped open new restaurants (La Vara and El Comedor), it would basically be Isle in the morning, then I’d come in for lunch and dinner service. She would train prep cooks and maintain quality control prior to opening, while I would do the same during service. I remember hearing somewhere that chef/owners normally need two close and very trustworthy cooks to rely on to run a restaurant—it’s definitely been true in my experience.

What might people be surprised to learn about your job?

CQ: I wasn’t looking for the “celebrity chef” life when I got into the business, but I’ve met a lot of people who got into the job thinking it was going to be a piece of cake. You should be ready for long hours and hard work. Certain kitchens and staffs are more pleasant than others. One chef will think screaming is an essential part of his job; others are laid-back and don’t care—but you should show up ready for anything.
IH: There is more to being a cook than just cooking. A lot of discipline, respect for others, teamwork, cleanliness and speed are required. It’s not the way it looks on television. You have to truly be passionate about food in order to be happy in this field.

How would you describe your “culinary voice”?

IH: I would describe my culinary voice as clean and simple. I believe in staying true to the flavor of each ingredient and searching to complement it in unexpected ways. I have been taught (the Basque way) to get rid of black pepper as a staple seasoning. A little bit of olive oil and salt are all a great ingredient needs. As far as plating is concerned, I like natural-looking food that can make it to the table without looking ruined. I don’t oppose the modernist approach, but I love the example of a chef who once said to me: “Imagine a light breeze brought your salad over to the plate, and… ahh,” while letting the greens fall naturally.
CQ: The way I understand food is entirely influenced by Alex and Eder. I have far more experience working with Spanish food—and some Middle Eastern flavors at La Vara—than any other cuisine, but currently I’m excited to develop a Chilean restaurant concept. Chile is a country whose cuisine has been defined by the immigrants and colonies that have arrived there, especially Spanish, German and Italian. I’m looking to maintain the authenticity of traditional Chilean flavors, but present them in a more creative, appealing way.

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