By Carly DeFilippoCulinary Arts Student

Whether you’re a professional cook or just an eager eater, we all have an intense, multi-layered relationship with flavor. There are tastes that remind us of childhood, foods that terrify or intrigue us with their strangeness, and flavors we crave time and time again. But how as chefs do we harness flavor? Where does it come from?

Elio and steak

Of all the significant sources of flavor, the first (and possibly, most important) is the fond. This word, which literally means “the base” in French, refers to the brown bits created when you heat foodstuffs and they stick to the bottom of your pan. While many cooks mistake the fond for an inconvenience best removed with a bit of elbow grease, savvier cooks learn to deglaze the pan and capture that flavor. That’s right—add just a little wine, stock or other liquid to your pan and those brown bits loosen up, forming the flavor-forward base for a delicious sauce.

But the fond is not the only source of flavor. Proteins can be fried, deep fried, grilled, roasted, and prepared in a wide range of different fashions, all that build flavor in their own distinct way.

Take frying for example: the secret here is, as Chef Chris likes to say, “goooolden brown.” In fact, Chef insists there “is no other color in dry-heat cooking.” But anyone who has ever made chicken cutlets knows how hard it is to get even coloring. The simple tip here is basting—using your spoon to toss the hot oil onto the light-colored spots on your crust. Maintaining high heat is also key to keeping that layer of breading nice and crunchy. On the other hand, if you’re game to submerge your protein entirely, deep-frying (again, at a hot, consistent temperature) is perhaps the easiest way to get that even-colored golden brown.

Basting a fried cutlet to achieve the perfect golden brown crust.

Basting a fried cutlet to achieve the perfect golden brown crust.

Another high-heat cooking method that builds flavor? Grilling. We all know and love those little black cross-hatches, that inimitable charred flavor. After just a few minutes on a grill, a thin little piece of chicken paillard becomes a juicy, earthy, healthful meal. If you’re stove-top grilling, it’s likely you’ll also do a little fire-fighting. Keep things hot. Keep your protein lightly oiled, and above all, don’t pour oil directly onto the grill. (Brush or dab it on.) Otherwise, you might as well just incinerate your food in a fire pit.

 

Marinating pork chops before they hit the grill.

Marinating pork chops before they hit the grill

Now with any of these techniques, the magical combination of salt and fat are essential. Salt helps bring out the inherent flavors of your food, so using it during the cooking process—not just at the end for finishing—is essential. Sprinkle a little salt on freshly fried foods, and it melts right into the piping hot crust. Toss some salt on your steak before it hits the grill, and you’re sure to get that satisfying sizzle. (Moreover, contrary to popular opinion, the amount of salt used in restaurants is hardly harmful. It’s processed foods that will do you in.)

Fat helps lubricate your cooking surface (preventing proteins from sticking and burning) and the wide-ranging flavors and smoke-points of butter and oils help shape the form of your final dish. A little canola goes a long way in grilling, helping you get those gorgeous cross-hatches on everything from zucchini to salmon. Finish your pan sauce with butter, and it will thicken right up. Deep-fry your foods in peanut oil and they’ll not only be crispy, but also have an added nutty flavor.

Building flavor with a lobster shell-based stock.

Building flavor with a lobster shell-based stock.

It’s not just heat, salt, and fat that build flavor. Don’t forget the power of infused liquids, like stock. Having the right stock can transform your sauce from mundane to masterful. Veal stock, in particular, is one of the key ingredients that make French pan sauces so delicious. And, as mentioned before, without liquid to free it, your fond would just be stranded little bits of wasted flavor.

Herbs, aromatics, and spices can also elevate a dish from basic to delicious. A crust of parsley, butter, and breadcrumbs boosts the juicy appeal of rack of lamb. A spicy wet rub of chilies and oil brings bold spice to a pork chop. And a dash of crispy sage brings out the best in a roasted sweet potato.

Layers of flavor: ground cumin, paprika, tarragon, mustard

Layers of flavor: ground cumin, paprika, tarragon, mustard

In short, it’s not just about the quality of our food or how well we prepare our mise en place, it’s also about how we “manage our energy” (i.e. the heat), as Chef Michael Garrett likes to say. It’s when we add the salt. Which and how much oil we use. That extra clove of garlic or snip of parsley. All these disparate steps work together to bring out the best in our food, and, as future chefs, we’re learning to use them to our advantage, one dish at a time.

 

By Carly DeFilippo

3 stars in the New York Times. Sous Chef to Thomas Keller. ICE Chef Instructor.

ICE - Meet the Chefs - Chris Gesualdi - Thomas Keller Quote Header

From the Beatles to Lucille Ball, Charlie Chaplin to Oprah Winfrey—some of the greatest success stories come from unlikely candidates who were told they would never “make it.” But if ICE instructor Chef Chris Gesualdi was once an underdog, you’d never know it today.

ICE - Meet the Chefs - Chris Gesualdi

Growing up in Connecticut, Chris’ first encounter with the culinary industry was as a dishwasher—a job he picked up to help pay for his motorcycles. But when the chefs were absent, Chris had to fill in, so by the time he finished high school he had already worked as a cook in two restaurants.

As part of his culinary education at the CIA—where he studied alongside fellow ICE chef instructors Ted Siegel and Mike Handel—Chris externed at several sites. At the first restaurant, the chef told Chris he would “never make it,” a pivotal moment that only motivated the young chef to work even harder.

It was during this period of externships that Chris learned his work ethic (notably, his ability to truly enjoy working 80-hour weeks) made him distinct from other cooks.  Even today, as a chef instructor, Chris balks at the idea of taking long vacations. He’s happiest at the stove—and when he’s not teaching at ICE, he’s typically trailing, doing stages at such acclaimed restaurants as Per Se, wd~50 or Blue Hill. “Nowhere in my life am I comfortable,” he says, “This is what I do for a living—I learn.”

ICE - Meet the Chefs - Chris Gesualdi

After graduating from school, Chris soon landed in New York, working his way into the kitchen of one of the country’s most buzzed about restaurants: La Reserve. Thomas Keller was at the helm of the kitchen, and Chris volunteered to work for free (while sustaining another full-time kitchen job) until Keller gave him a paid post.

For the next seven years, Chris was Keller’s “right hand man” and sous chef, from La Reserve to Rakel and Restaurant Raphael. At times, those back of the house teams were just the two chefs and a dishwasher. When Keller moved west to open the now-renowned French Laundry, Chris had a standing offer. But he knew he wanted to strike out on his own.

“The years I worked at La Reserve, Raphael’s and Rakel were some of the most formidable of my career and Chris was there every day. His commitment, dedication and work ethic were unmatched and continue to be an example today. I am blessed to be able to call him a colleague and friend, and our profession is in a better place because of chefs like Chris who truly understand what it takes to be a chef.” – Thomas Keller

The pinnacle of Chris’ ambitious career came at Montrachet, where he started as sous chef and was made Chef de Cuisine within a mere six months. Eventually named Executive Chef of the restaurant, Chris collaborated with legendary restaurateur Drew Nieporent, earning a 3-star New York Times review from Ruth Reichl—noted as one of the “best reviews” the writer ever penned. At a time when Tribeca had zero restaurant scene, Montrachet was one of the city’s first great downtown restaurants, serving fine-dining fare in a relaxed bistro setting. From the Daily News to the Observer to Zagat, Chris received the highest marks. In GQ magazine, his truffle-crusted salmon was named one of the “10 best dishes in the US”.

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Yet unlike many chefs of his generation, Chris wasn’t looking for the fame and the spotlight of the media. He says the kitchen is his escape from the pressures of life, where cooking in and of itself is the reward. In our age of celebrity chefs, Chris’ perspective is remarkable, an uncompromising dedication to cooking. And it’s that very passion that has transformed a man who has Thomas Keller and Drew Nieporent on speed dial into one of ICE’s most beloved and respected chef instructors.

In Chef Chris’ kitchen, things run with the smooth efficiency of a traditional French brigade system, but discipline alone can’t turn a hodge-podge team of future chefs into a well-oiled machine. Chris takes his students’ performance personally, and it’s that level of investment in each individual that transforms eager students into professional cooks.

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It’s hard to imagine a chef more inspiring or a teacher better suited to our diverse community of students. His famous tagline—“make it beautiful”—doesn’t just apply to the final plate. Every task—from washing dishes to crafting a sauce—has equal value. You don’t just learn technical skills in Chris’ class; you learn to respect yourself as a cook.

 

Click here to read more about Chef Chris.

 

By Vin McCann

 

Last week, restaurateur Drew Nieporent, founder of the Myriad Restaurant Group, offered a generous dose of advice to ICE students. As he led students through the development of his career as an entrepreneur—built on the success of long-running restaurants like Montrachet, Nobu, and Tribeca Grill—he recounted a world of rents and entry costs that sounded more fantastical than historical in today’s competitive market.

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In 1985, he opened the door of Montrachet in Tribeca on a $150,000 investment with a monthly rent of $1,500. The restaurant rose to critical acclaim under the helm of such noteworthy chefs as Brian Whitmer, Debra Ponzek and current ICE Chef-Instructor Chris Gesualdi. For more than 20 years, Montrachet was one of the city’s most beloved eateries—an epic run in New York City years.

 

In classic a colorful, yet efficient story-telling style, Nieporent outlined the principles that attributed to his success, validating many of the conceptual underpinnings of the Culinary Management program. In particular, he emphasized the importance of real-world restaurant experience as a means to gain confidence as a manager. He also pointed out that, in order for a restaurateur to find the right niche, he/she must be able to recognize his/her strengths and interests, as well as the “fit” of potential employees within that niche.

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Tribeca Grill, courtesy of Myriad Restaurant Group

Despite his relationships with a number of celebrated chefs, Mr. Nieporent also made it abundantly clear that restaurants are businesses first and foremost. Financial stability facilitates creativity, rather than the other way around. And when it comes to enduring success, attention to detail is also a crucial point. To demonstrate this concept, Nieporent provided a comic recount of his clever efforts to identify New York Times dining critic Bryan Miller. (In short, he discovered the critic went by Mr. Benson at another New York restaurant, and when he first opened Montrachet, ensured that anyone named Benson received exceptional service. The plan paid off, yielding 3-star results.)

 

He also cautioned students against “trying too hard” (a veritable epidemic in today’s restaurant world), pointing out that many presently popular operations are running on transient, trendy appeal, as opposed to solid restaurant fundamentals. His prediction: these establishments won’t be around in a year or two.

Nobu

Yellowtail Jalapeno at Nobu, courtesy of Myriad Restaurant Group

Nieporent’s final point was simple, yet often overlooked: food isn’t always enough. Differentiation, accessibility and consistent execution provide the glue that hold good operations together and keep customers coming back. Thirty years ago, at Montrachet, he offered great food in a casual, yet elegant downtown establishment for less than half the price of haute cuisine counterparts in Midtown. Today, looking at the number of restaurants serving exceptional food without the fancy white tablecloths, it’s clear that Mr. Nieporent has always been a forward thinker.

 

As for the growth of Nobu and the Myriad group, Nieporent failed to mention that famous and wealthy partners can certainly improve a restaurant’s chances of success. Then again, he didn’t have to—riding on others’ reputations was not the root of his success. The rich and famous investors only followed his lead after the initial success of Montrachet; smart money bets on a winning formula.

 

By Danamarie McKiernan

 

Throughout my time at ICE, I knew there would be “ah ha” moments when I learned something new about food. But I didn’t expect that the first time this happened, it would come in the form of a tomato.

Photo Credit: Joe Schlabotnik

Photo Credit: Joe Schlabotnik

On “Tomato Day”, we started off with dozens of fruits. Chef Chris explained how they do not need to be perfect tomatoes, bruised tomatoes are beautiful too. We chopped away all morning, without knowing what we were going to make. The tomatoes were then dropped into a VitaMix—one of Chef Chris’ favorite tools—and blended into a silky tomato puree.

 

I was then sent to the stove, where I was instructed to patiently bring the puree to a boil in a 4 quart pot. Chef Chris then showed us how to completely strain the puree using a chinoise with a linen towel as a lining. Tomato water was the end product. Tomato water! Amazing! It was completely delicious and the aroma filling the room reminded me of summertime in August when my family and I jar our own tomato sauce.

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Tomato water

The tomato water was clear with a hint of red. Alone, it tasted like light tomato broth, which I would have loved to pour in a tea cup and sip all day. But in cooking, there are endless possibilities for tomato water: from tomato vinaigrette to sauces and dressings—my personal favorite is to boil pasta in diluted tomato water to add extra flavor. You can also add other ingredients to adjust the spice or seasoning of tomato water. For example, Chef Chris explained how he enjoys adding jalapeños to the tomatoes prior to straining, to create a spicier broth.

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Leftover tomato puree, to be dried out for tomato powder.

Once I calmed from my excitement over tomato water, we moved onto the next phase of tomato day: tomato powder! I wasn’t sure how this could be made or used, but I was immediately intrigued. Making use of the leftover strained puree, we spread it on a half sheet pan. The pan was then put into the oven at 150 degrees overnight (12 hours).

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Tomato powder

In the morning, we found dried tomato crackers. Again, we blended these in the Vitamix, producing a potent, brick red powder—and again, I was amazed at the possibilities. Tomato powder is essentially just another spice to add to your pantry. One of my favorite uses thus far is to sprinkle it over fish or steak; I love the tang it leaves on my palate.

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Homemade farfalle with tomato powder dough

That day, I left school with so many ideas. My first was to make pasta dough with the tomato powder, substituting it for a half cup of flour. Studded with specks of colorful flavor, I rolled out this dough to make farfalle. When cooked, it made for a tangy, slightly salty and balanced little bows, with a texture that held on to my mushroom-thyme butter sauce perfectly. The first, but certainly not the last, of many tomato recipes to come.

chefchrisheadshotBy Carly DeFilippo

Chef Chris Gesualdi is no slouch. Last night, he whipped 16 novice chefs into shape, prepping a 10-course New Year’s Eve hors d’oeuvres menu in just under three hours. Not only was it one of the most organized cooking classes I’ve taken, it was also one of the most intriguing.

Gesualdi is not only a veritable fountain of culinary wisdom (he’s logged serious kitchen time with Thomas Keller, and worked at some of New York’s most renown restaurants), but a genuinely curious cook. Called “The Scavenger” by his colleagues, he enjoys working with odd bits leftover from other classes. Parsley stems? Throw them in “sachet d’épices” to season your broth. Organ meats? Turn them into such delicacies such as a foie gras terrine. And when it comes to troubleshooting a broken mayonnaise or keeping your mousse from deflating, Chef Chris is your guy.

When learning from a great teacher, it’s the tips that aren’t in the recipe packet that stick with you. Sure, we made a killer tarragon emulsion last night, but – more importantly – we learned how to properly care for the chinois through which it is strained. I couldn’t be more excited to whip up another batch of brandade, but if my guests aren’t big salt cod fans, I can also substitute a combination of sole, lobster and scallops. And that immersion blender I was so keen on purchasing? I’d actually get a smoother puree in a high-quality blender like a Vita-Prep.

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Students shred pork for one of Chef Chris’ cocktail snacks.

In short, with Chef Chris, we didn’t learn how to follow a recipe – we learned how to cook. So tonight, when I’m assembling these hors d’oeuvres to share with my New Year’s guests, I won’t have my eyes glued to a piece of paper. I’ll taste, season and combine ingredients instinctually, because – as Chef Chris humbly insisted – it’s all up to the preference of the chef.

Foie Gras Mousse – Garnished with Minced Black Truffles

IMG_0150Recipe by Chef Chris Gesualdi

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds foie gras terrine
  • 2 sheets gelatin
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • Minced black truffles, as needed
  • Pre-baked pastry shells (or toasted, sliced baguette)

Instructions

  1. Place gelatin sheets in water to “bloom”.
  2. Puree foie gras in food processor.
  3. Remove gelatin from water, squeeze out extra water. Place in a small sauce pan with 1/4 cream to gently heat and dissolve.
  4. When gelatin is dissolved, gradually add cream mixture to (running) food processor.
  5. Gradually add 1/2 cup heavy cream to food processor.
  6. When evenly mixed, remove foie mousse from processor, and refrigerate until chilled.
  7. Pipe mousse into pre-baked pastry shells or onto toasted baguette slices.
  8. Garnish with minced black truffles.

Notes
To lighten recipe, you can use veal or duck stock instead of cream.

Hydrocolloids

This week, ICE Chef Instructor Chris Gesualdi led a hands-on demonstration on the nature of hydrocolloids and how these common ingredients can transform the texture of everyday foods. This class was the first of its kind for our recreational cooking classes, continuing on ICE’s modernist cooking curriculum for our career training students.The class taught everyday cooks how to use innovative techniques and modern technology to create a unique spin on well-known dishes in their own kitchens at home.

Chef Chris helped students unlock the mysteries of hydrocolloids and demonstrated how these ingredients can be used in the home and applied in a variety of cooking techniques. More…

Well, it finally happened. After nearly a year of being a skeptical observer Chef Chris Gesualdi dragged me kicking and screaming into the big, scary world of Hydrocolloids. After poking and prodding around for a bit I realized something — it turns out it’s not so scary after all.

Hydrocolloids need a better publicist or an image consultant at the very least. They don’t have a flashy name or a description that rolls off the tongue. But those are things better left for someone smarter than me. There is a lot of necessary fear around “chemicals,” especially when it comes to food. So what are hydrocolloids, and why does everyone call them chemicals with a hint of terror in their voice?

The fact is that hydrocolloids simply refer to a category of substances that form a gel in the presence of water. What does that mean? Here are some examples of hydrocolloids and chemicals you might find in your own kitchen: Hydrocolloids commonly found in the kitchen are flour, cornstarch, pectin and gelatin. To assuage any fears you have, “chemicals “commonly found in the kitchen are baking soda and baking powder. More…

The International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) hosted their annual conference in New York this past weekend. Each year, the conference brings together culinary professionals from across the globe to meet, network and learn the latest trends and developments happening in the culinary community and industry. Starting last Thursday and running through Monday, the conference was an incredible series of classes, seminars and lectures. Held in a different city each year, this year brought thousands of professionals to New York City to share their passion for food in the culinary capital of America. This year, ICE was a sponsor of the conference. From volunteering to teaching classes, our students, alumni and staff participated in all aspects.

The theme of this year’s conference was The Fashion of Food — Where Food, Fashion and Media Connect. Speakers such as Grant Achatz, Dan Barber, Melissa Clark, Amanda Hesser, Adam Rapoport, Ruth Reichl, Marcus Samuelsson and Kim Severson met to discuss topics such as The Fashion of Food, Is Farm-to-Table Just the Latest Fashion, and Why Isn’t Cooking Enough?.

In addition to these featured sessions, the weekend was filled with smaller, more focused and intimate sessions with an astonishing range of professionals discussing incredibly diverse topics. The classes included How to Write for Online Magazines, Food Festivals as Dynamic Marketing Tools, and The Evolving Pleasures of Chocolates. There was truly something for everyone and endless opportunities to learn more about all aspects of the food industry. More…

Fermentation

ICE Chef Instructor Mike Schwartz Leads a Session on Fermentation

The past four days have been a very exciting weekend for the culinary community. The International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) hosted their annual conference in New York. Starting on Thursday, the conference has been packed full of events, seminars and lectures with amazing culinary professionals from all aspects of the food world.

One of the highlights of the conference was a full day of classes here at ICE. This morning the classes with ICE Chef Instructors included Vegetable Proteins: Seitan and Tofu with Peter Berley, Perfecting Your Macaron Skills with Kathryn Gordon, and Fermentation for the 21st Century with Mike Schwartz. Classes with guest chefs included How to Make an Awesome Cup of Coffee with Jonathan Rubenstein of Joe The Art of Coffee, and Whole Animal Butchery with Matt Jennings of Farmstead and Adam Tiberio of Tiberio Custom Meats. More…

More and more ICE students are interested in learning the modernist techniques that are becoming so popular in restaurant kitchens across the world. Last night, one of ICE’s resident experts, Chef Instructor Chris Gesualdi, taught a class on how to use hydrocolloids, or gums, in the kitchen.

In this hands-on class, Chef Chris taught alumni and current ICE students about how to use xanthan gum and carrageenan, as well as perform spherification and reverse spherification. For example, to start the class he blended water with precise weights of xantham gum measured by percentage to demonstrate the different textures the gums could create. More…