By Virginia Monaco

ICE Pastry & Baking Arts Chef-Instructor Vicki Wells brings an enormous amount of experience with her into the kitchen. She has worked in some of the country’s finest kitchens, including Sarabeth’s, Hotel Plaza Athenée, Maxim’s, Montrachet, Le Bernardin and Trattoria Dell’Arte. In 2000, she took over the pastry department at two of Bobby Flay’s restaurants—Mesa Grill and Bolo—and later, Bar Americain. Vicki also served as Bobby Flay’s sous chef for all five of his victories on Iron Chef America. After working with Bobby, Vicki held the title of Executive Pastry Chef at Buddakan before eventually joining ICE as a Chef-Instructor.


When Vicki was first starting out in the industry, pastries were French by default. It wasn’t until she had gained some professional experience and started traveling that she became interested in the sweets of other cultures. Being ethnically Italian, Vicki was particularly interested in studying the flavor profiles and techniques used in Italian sweets. Unlike French pastries, Italian desserts tend to be strongly flavored with espresso or gianduja (chocolate-hazelnut paste) and are much more free-form and organic. Her culinary trips to Italy with fellow ICE Chef-Instructor Gerri Sarnataro inspired Vicki to become co-owner and Executive Pastry Chef of L’Arte Della Pasticceria, an Italian-inspired pastry shop in Ramsey, New Jersey.


The transition, however was far from a “cakewalk”. Chef Vicki experienced a steep learning curve as she went from plating elegant restaurant desserts to filling the display cases at a pastry shop. She quickly learned that success in a walk-in style setting such as L’Arte Della Pasticceria requires a much different strategy than at a sit-down restaurant. First, most pastries need to be sold the day they are made or they will quickly lose quality. This means you often need to get inventive and repurpose unsold treats. For example, Chef Vicki often crumbles mocha cookies to form the crust of a cheesecake, a delicious way to use left-over cookies that are starting to harden.


Secondly, Chef Vicki discussed the importance of changing up your pastry display case frequently. She says she is constantly designing new and interesting ways to present her pastries in the display window to entice customers to buy. Lastly, Chef Vicki pointed out that all pastries and food sold at a shop like L’Arte Della Pasticceria must be made available to-go. Consequently, she reworks traditional recipes so that they can either be held in-hand or fit beautifully in small to-go cups.


After her talk, Chef Vicki treated the audience to a flight of small Italian sweets, including torta caprese al limone, chocolate ricciarellis and gianduja cheesecake. All three were both delicious and distinctly flavored. Although these desserts were made using universal pastry techniques, their classic Italian flavors and more rustic presentation made their Mediterranean origins clear.


Chefs Vicki Wells’ path to specializing in Italian pastries is proof that education and innovation never stop in the pastry and baking industry, even for the most skilled veterans. It was a true treat to hear Chef Vicki’s insights and taste her inspired sweets. Without a doubt, she will be wowing our taste buds for years to come!

From rustic biscuits to elaborate desserts, iconic Italian dishes to classic Japanese technique, our students traveled the globe this week at ICE.

biscuitsStudents reminded us of the beauty of a simple biscuit in Chef Gerri Sarnataro’s Pastry & Baking Arts class.

sushiChef Sabrina Sexton’s students, after a rigorous tour of Italy, jumped continents, serving up Japanese sushi.

gnocchiChef Erica Wides’ students celebrated la cucina povera, whipping up handmade pasta like this simple, satisfying gnocchi.

lemon tartThe renown pâtissier Carême likened pastry to architecture. Chef Sim Cass’ students’ plated desserts – like this lemon curd tart – suggest his theory to be true.

cannoli2There are certain pleasures almost everyone enjoys, and a sugar-dusted cannoli is surely one of them. Chef Gerri Sarnataro’s class made the ICE staff drool with these iconic Sicilian beauties.

As the holidays approach, the food world gets busier. The same is true for our students, many of whom add to their course load as volunteers for the wide range of special events we host at ICE. Whether in class or after hours, we’re excited to share the delicious plates they served up this week.

On Wednesday, ICE students volunteered to prep and cook for a Hurricane Sandy fundraiser dinner hosted by Chef Rick BaylessThese sopes rancheros were one of three passed appetizers students prepared alongside Bayless, his Chef de Cuisine, Andres Padilla, and ICE Chefs James Briscione, Andy Gold and Virginia Monaco.

After late nights come early mornings. Culinary Arts students perfected the infamously difficult art of egg poaching in this traditional eggs benedict.

Chef Sabrina Sexton’s class cooked their way through the many regions of Italy, celebrating their final lesson with a magnificent Sicilian feast. Swordfish involtini was one of the many delicious regional dishes.

Chef Erica Wides’ class has been exploring the wild world of gamey meats. Here, they pair duck breast with cippolini onions and a fried polenta cake.

Take your pick of these pies! From lattice topped fruit to pecan and pumpkin, Chef Gerri Sarnataro’s class has the perfect pie for every sweet tooth.

By Carly DeFilippo

From rustic to sophisticated, savory to sweet, the students of ICE’s career division never fail to impress our taste buds. Here’s a sneak peek:

Chef Sabrina Sexton and her Culinary Arts students cooked their way through the foods of Italy. Carciofi (artichokes) with peas and pancetta are typical of Northern Italian cuisine.

This pancetta wrapped branzino was another stunning, rustic dish prepared by Chef Sabrina’s class.

Chef Erica Wides and her students have been cooking up seasonal meat dishes, like this venison with butternut squash puree, chestnuts and a red wine reduction.

Chef Gerri Sarnataro instructed students in the art of French pastries, like this blueberry frangipane tart.

The pastry floor filled with the scent of chocolate, as Chef Scott McMillen and students prepared beautiful chocolate génoise cakes.

Students! Did you know ICE is on Twitter and Instagram? Share your favorite photos from class by tagging @ICECulinary.

Neal from Admissions, Melissa from Career Services, Susan from the Recreational Division, Hillery from Admissions and Jordan from Special Events Enjoy the Party with Guests

Last Friday, ICE held a party like no other at the annual ICE Ball. While the party is usually held in January to celebrate the new year, this year the team celebrated the renewed energy of spring. The reoccurring celebration took over four floors of the school’s 43,000-square-foot facility. During the party, the entire ICE staff and guests enjoy drinks, food and dancing throughout the school.

Needless to say, if ICE is going to throw itself a party, there will be great food. This year, the line-up included four ICE alumni who are all working as chefs or chef-owners of their own business, three ICE Chef Instructors, and two ICE staff members. Here’s what they made: More…

Last night, ICE participated in Careers through Culinary Arts Program’s (C-CAP) annual benefit at Pier Sixty on the Chelsea Piers. Over 36 chefs from around NYC came out to support this unique charitable program. C-CAP is designed to encourage high school students who show interest and aptitude in the culinary arts to turn their young passion into a long-term career. ICE President Rick Smilow is on the program’s board of directors.

Maurice DuBois of CBS served as the evening’s emcee, introducing President/Founder of C-CAP Richard Grausman who spoke about C-CAP’s mission to provide culinary employment opportunities for youth. After Grausman, the event’s honoree, Michael Lomonaco gave an inspiring speech about life in the industry. Lomonaco has worked in many of New York’s top restaurants, including Le Cirque, Windows on the World and Wild Blue. Now, he heads up the kitchen at Porter House New York. He has also appeared on NBC, CBS, ABC, Travel Channel and Food Network and contributed to numerous publications such as Gourmet, Food & Wine, New York Times and Travel & Leisure. His support of C-CAP dates back to his time at the 21 Club and Windows on the World, where he hosted Awards Breakfasts where C-CAP students are awarded culinary scholarships. More…

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