By Chef James Briscione — Director of Culinary Research

Ready to take this weekend’s cookout to the next level? Let’s talk ribs. The secret to the best ribs ever to come off your grill is… your oven! Slow roasting your ribs in the oven before finishing them on the grill is the best method we’ve found for juicy, falling-off-the-bone ribs that don’t require an expensive smoker or low temperature grilling set up. But before your ribs hit the oven, they need a little bit of prep.

Grilled Ribs

First, remove the membrane from the bone side of the ribs. This tough sheet of connective tissue can not only leave your ribs chewy, but also prevents the meat from absorbing the seasoning and spice of the rub.

Ribs James Briscione

Now, about that rub. We’ve been through many different formulations here and have settled on the below recipe. Smoked salt and paprika enhance the flavor of the finished meat, but you could use regular salt and paprika if necessary. The sugar in the rub is crucial. Think of it like micro-brine; the sugar works with the salt to help retain more moisture. The bottom line: sugar in the rub makes your ribs juicier.

  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper 

James Briscione Ribs

Perfect Ribs

To prep the ribs for the first stage of cooking (in the oven), lay them over a large sheet of aluminum foil, fold up the sides and pour in 1.5 fl oz (3 tablespoons) of cider vinegar. Then seal the foil, leaving enough room for the packet to fill with steam as it cooks. The vinegar helps tenderize the meat, while keeping it moist. Cook in a 325˚F oven until the meat is tender, about 90 minutes.

Remove the ribs from the oven, open the foil and allow the meat to cool. Baste the meat occasionally with the juices collected in the foil as it cools. Cut the ribs into potions and reheat on the grill, brushing with BBQ Sauce as they cook.

Grilled Ribs

Want to study the culinary arts with experts like Chef James? Click here for more information on ICE’s career programs. 

By James Briscione — Director of Culinary Development 

There’s always something new to learn — that is my usual response when people ask me what I like most about being a chef. I could spend the rest of my life in the kitchens here at ICE and learn something new everyday, continuing to better understand the ingredients I use on a daily basis. Sometimes, however, you’ve got to get away to gain new culinary perspectives.

Recently I had the opportunity to travel to Brazil with my wife, Brooke, and our two kids. We spent two weeks immersed in the food and culture of Bahia, a state in northeast Brazil on the Atlantic Coast. Our home base was the incredible UXUA Casa Hotel and Spa in the town of Trancoso. Each day of our trip was spent in the kitchen with local chefs, learning traditional dishes — moqueca, the traditional fish stew of Bahia; bobó de camarão, a creamy dish of shrimp and coconut; acarajé, black-eyed pea fritters — all while drinking more than a couple caipirinhas.

Now that we’re back in New York, we can share these amazing flavors with students. This past weekend, we welcomed 16 students into the kitchens at ICE for a new recreational cooking class: The Foods of Brazil. For a little glimpse of our adventure in Brazil, check out the video below.

Ready to broaden your culinary horizons with Chef James? Click here for more information on ICE’s career programs.

By James Briscione, Director of Culinary Development 

Gifts are the best and worst part about the holiday season. Receiving = the best. Finding that perfect something-they-don’t-already-have gift for the special person on your list = the worst. For the foodie on your shopping list, we’re here to make your gift search a painless victory. Though stores and online catalogs are filled with hundreds of “must-have” kitchen gadgets, only some of them are actually worth it — others not so much. To help you cut through the clutter and find the best of the best, the following is my list of recommended essential kitchen gifts.


Anova Precision Cooker

For the foodie who has (almost) everything: Sous vide

Sous vide has long been a favorite technique of top chefs across the globe. Sous vide helps chefs prepare Michelin-quality meals night after night. At home, the sous vide method delivers the most perfectly cooked steaks, chicken, veggies, eggs and more, and with much less effort than you’d expect. For years, sophisticated sous vide equipment carried a price tag that made it inaccessible to home cooks, but today they’re less expensive than a stand mixer. There are many options out there for sous vide cooking, but my favorite is the Anova Precision Cooker. It is literally plug and play (or rather, plug and cook) and you can even control it with an app on your phone.

Bonus gift: Should you or your special someone want a little extra info on the art of sous vide cooking, register for Intro to Sous Vide taught by yours truly at ICE!

sous vide steak sandwiches

Sandwiches with Juicy, Sous Vide Steak

The whipping canister: It’s for more than just dessert

You might know the iSi Whipping Canister as a whipped cream maker, but it is oh-so-much more! In the kitchens at ICE, we use whipping canisters to turn silky vegetable purées into delicate mousses in professional plating classes. It can also be used to create rapid infusions like instant pickling or to make your own customized gin (combine vodka in a canister with juniper, rosemary and coriander, and infuse). They can even be used to make a cake in under a minute.

This is the piece of equipment that pro chefs are freaking out about right now.

For the exhibitionist

Polyscience is the first name in modern cuisine equipment. Venture into any top kitchen in the U.S. and you’re likely to find a piece of their equipment occupying prime real estate. One of my favorites is their Smoking Gun. It’s the perfect way to add a subtle, smoky flavor to nearly any food — from meats to vegetables to cheese. Plus, the smoking gun creates smoke with “generating,” heat, so it can be used to smoke delicate items like lettuce, chilled seafood, even chocolate or cocktails. It takes seconds to set up and produce smoke and fits into a space smaller than a shoebox. The smoking gun can also be used to create dramatic presentations — simply place an upside-down bowl over your plate, pipe a little smoke into the bowl and carry it to the table. When you lift the bowl, your food will be revealed from under a puff of smoke — foodie magic!

Because everyone loves a sharp knife

A knife might be the oldest of cooking tools, but one company is taking a modern approach to the craft. After raising over $1 million on Kickstarter, Misen is one of the hottest new knife makers. Their knives are praised for their perfect design, with balance that makes them both easy to use and beautiful to admire. Misen knives are made with high-quality steel, meaning a sharper, harder edge so this blade can be a kitchen workhorse. Not to mention, they’re priced well below any other quality knife on the market.

The splurge: The Control Freak

The Control Freak is the latest and greatest development from the folks at Polyscience. This is the piece of equipment that pro chefs are freaking out about right now. It combines the precision of sous vide temperature control with the convenience of an induction cooktop — truly remarkable. The Control Freak simplifies the process for nearly every complicated kitchen process, from poaching eggs and making hollandaise to tempering chocolate and perfectly searing a steak. It’s the top item on my list this year — I hope Santa takes note!

Want to get into the kitchen with Chef James? Click here to learn more about ICE’s Culinary Arts program.

By James Briscione­ ­­– Director of Culinary Development

Sous vide cooking is one of the fastest growing trends in modern cooking, among restaurant chefs and home cooks alike. Despite the fact that sous vide was first used in restaurants around the same time that microwave ovens hit the market for home cooks, it’s still viewed as a very new technology. But one thing that has really changed about sous vide over the past 40 years is the price. Sous vide equipment used to carry a price tag (around $1,000) that put it out of reach for most cooks. Today, the average home cook (or professional for that matter!) could be expertly equipped for sous vide cooking for $200 or less. And once you go vac, you’ll never go back. (See what I did there? Sous vide translates to under vacuum. Vac, vacuum…get it?)

sous vide steak sandwiches

The three main reasons for cooking food sous vide are: precision, consistency and convenience. At its core, sous vide cooking is all about precision temperature control — foods are cooked to the exact temperature of their desired doneness. For example: say you like your steak medium-rare. You could do one of two things: One, throw your steak on a grill that is somewhere around 375˚F and leave it there, watching closely, trying to anticipate the moment when the center of that steak is approaching 128˚F and quickly remove the steak to let it stand while the still-searing-hot surface continues to raise the steak’s internal temperature (aka, carryover cooking). Or, you could heat a container of water to exactly 128˚F, place a steak inside a plastic bag (no need for special equipment, a zip top bag is fine) and cook it for anywhere from 45 minutes to four hours (since the outside temperature is the same as the internal, your steak is never going to overcook). And once you decide your favorite temperature for steak doneness, you can cook it consistently to that exact temperature. Sous vide cooking also eliminates the need to precisely time when things finish cooking. Once cooked through, sous vide foods can be held in the hot water for up to two hours before serving. Or, if properly chilled after cooking and kept refrigerated, foods could be cooked more than two weeks in advance with zero decline in flavor or freshness.

sous vide steak

I have been teaching sous vide cooking to students, professionals and home cooks at ICE for over five years, and my wife and I do a lot of sous vide cooking at home. If sous vide seems like too much effort for a home cook with a full work schedule and a family, let me persuade you to consider otherwise: With a busy schedule and two kids, the convenience and quality cannot be beat. What’s more, the sous vide method is easier than you think.

Additionally, for roughly the same amount of time, I have been part of The Official Jets Cooking School — helping Jets fans (and football fans in general) take their tailgating game to the next level. I’m a lifelong football fan and have always loved a good tailgate. As a chef, I don’t mess around when it comes to the food, which is why I love bringing sous vide to the tailgate. I cook my steak, even bacon — trust me on this — at home a day or two before the game. Then I quickly chill the cooked meat in an ice bath before holding it in the fridge or packing it in the cooler and heading for the stadium.

If you’ve had the pleasure of participating in a proper tailgating experience, you know that sometimes the liquid pursuits at the tailgate can lead to, shall we say, “inattentiveness” at the grill. That’s never the case with sous vide: Because everything is already perfectly cooked, you show up and all you need to worry about is heating things up and learning how to humbly accept all the compliments that will be coming your way. Here, I’m sharing with you my favorite tailgating recipe: Sous Vide Peppercorn Crusted Flank Steak and Bacon Sandwiches — take that, overcooked burgers!





The Ultimate Make-Ahead Tailgate Sandwich: Sous Vide Peppercorn Crusted Flank Steak
Servings: makes enough for 8 sandwiches

Recipe note: Cooking bacon sous vide may seem unnecessary, but if you’ve ever tried to cook bacon over a live fire, you know what a dangerous prospect this could be. Precooking bacon eliminates some of the fat that causes flare-ups and minimizes the time you need to have the bacon on the grill, which reduces your chances of burning it!

For the brine 


1 quart water
¼ cup kosher salt
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
2 teaspoons black pepper, freshly ground


  • Combine the water, salt, brown sugar, smoked paprika, garlic and pepper in a bowl and whisk until dissolved.
  • Transfer the brine to a one-gallon zip top bag; add the steaks, squeeze out any air and seal. Refrigerate overnight or for a minimum of 4 hours.


For the steak


1 piece flank steak, about 2 pounds, cut into 4 pieces
Black pepper, coarsely ground
12 slices extra thick cut bacon
Horseradish cream (recipe below)
Watercress or arugula, as needed
Rolls, toasted


  • Remove the steaks from the brine and discard the liquid. Pat the steaks dry and coat on both sides with black pepper.
  • Return the steaks to the zip top bag. To seal the bag, submerge the bag with the steaks into a bowl of room temperature water, pushing the steaks below the surface of the water to force any air out of the bag. Continue lowering the bag into water until just the sealing strip remains above water. Press the bag closed and remove the steaks from the water — they should be tightly sealed. If any air remains in the bag, repeat the process.
  • Repeat the above-described process with the bacon, sealing the bacon in a separate bag.
  • Heat a water bath to 57˚C (134.5˚F). Add the steaks to the water and cook for two hours.
  • When the steaks are done, remove from the water and transfer immediately to a bowl of ice water to cool quickly. Leave the steaks submerged in the ice water for 30 minutes, then store refrigerated for up to two weeks or frozen for up to six months.
  • Increase the temperature in the water bath to 66˚C (151˚F) and add the bacon. Leave the bacon to cook overnight (8-12 hours). When the bacon is done, remove from the water and transfer immediately to a bowl of ice water to cool quickly. Leave the bacon submerged in the ice water for 30 minutes, then store refrigerated for up to two weeks or frozen for up to six months.
  • To serve, allow the steaks and bacon to reach room temperature (they are safe to sit out for up to three hours since both are fully cooked) or quickly reheat both — still sealed in the bag — in a pan of warm water. Quickly sear the steaks and bacon on a hot grill (about one minute per side for the steaks and just 30 seconds per side for the bacon). Thinly slice the steak against the grain and serve on toasted rolls with the bacon, horseradish cream and watercress.


For the horseradish cream
Servings: makes about 1 pint


1 cup mayonnaise (preferably homemade)
½ cup crème fraîche or sour cream
¼ cup prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
1 tablespoon Sriracha


  • Combine all ingredients and mix well. Season to taste with salt and add more hot sauce if desired.
  • Store refrigerated in an airtight container for up to two weeks.


Want to get in the kitchen with Chef James? Click here for more information on ICE’s Culinary Arts program. 

By James Briscione—Director of Culinary Development


I love the creativity of cooking. Inspiration and culinary discoveries can come from anywhere. Sometimes they’re right under your thumbs. A few nights ago, I was scrolling through Twitter and stumbled across Daniel Gritzer (@dgritzer) talking about an egg white mayonnaise that he and Stella Parks (@thebravetart) had made earlier that day. If you’re not hip to the homemade mayo game, it’s a popular misconception that emulsification requires egg yolks.

The egg white mayonnaise conversation reminded me of a discussion I had with Hervé This a few years ago when he visited ICE to give a demonstration to our Culinary Arts students. In short, his visit culminated in him telling me that he could (though, he insisted, he never would) make an emulsion from his spit! He reasoned that all that is required to create an emulsion, such as mayonnaise, is water and protein—both readily available in human saliva.

Returning to Daniel and Stella’s egg white mayo Twitter talk, reading through the conversation inspired me. My first idea was to substitute the water in the egg white with a flavored liquid—like carrot juice—and use an egg white powder as a source of protein. The next day, I went into the kitchen at ICE and made carrot “mayonnaise” with my students by emulsifying oil into a mixture of carrot juice, fish sauce and lime juice. It worked, and truth be told, it was delicious. As we tasted and discussed, one of my students suggested making it again with tomato—tomayo if you will. I immediately liked the idea and knew where this tomayo should go: on a BLT! After all, a great BLT begins with good bread and mayo, so why not make that mayo out of tomato? Here’s a recipe for tomayo for your next BLT.


Tomayo (Tomato “mayo”)


  • 50g tomato juice
  • 5g sherry vinegar
  • 10g soy sauce
  • 6g egg white powder
  • 225g canola oil


  • Combine the tomato juice, sherry vinegar, soy sauce and egg white powder in a small bowl and whisk until dissolved—the mixture should become a bit foamy.
  • Gradually add the canola oil, pouring in a steady stream while whisking vigorously until the oil is emulsified.

Or, following the same steps as above, try this variation with carrot juice!

Carrot “mayo”


  • 28g carrot juice
  • 5g lime juice
  • 10g fish sauce
  • 5g egg white
  • 265g canola oil

Carrot mayo

Want to study culinary arts with Chef James? Learn more about ICE’s career programs! 


By James Briscione

I’ll spare you the standard “When I was kid…summertime/hot day…watermelon juices dripping down my chin…aww, memories” introduction. Instead, I’ll proudly tell you that watermelon is the first food I ever grew myself. Okay, this might still fall under the category of a “When I was a kid” intro, but bear with me. Nearly 30 years later, I still remember digging a small hole in the sandy lot behind our house in Florida and carefully placing the seeds I had saved from a watermelon that my mom brought home from the supermarket. I also remember the excruciating patience it took seven-year-old me as I watered, watched and waited for that vine to produce my favorite fruit in the world.

Since then, my tastes have not changed. In New York City, I don’t have a backyard for growing watermelons, but you might catch me pushing a stroller down the sidewalk with a watermelon crammed into the seat next to my son (they don’t fit beneath).

While I have been known to simply crack a watermelon open and eat the entire thing with a spoon in a matter of hours, this tactic for watermelon enjoyment ignores the awesome versatility of this summertime staple. If you want to do more with your watermelon than eat it straight off the cutting board in a sloppy mess, read on and we’ll get watermelon into everything on your table, from cocktails to salads.

Watermelon Cocktails

I had you at cocktail, right? Watermelon juice is the perfect mixer for almost every type of drink. In fact, whenever we shake up some watermelon cocktails at home, the kids get their own watermelon mocktails with soda water and a twist of lime. Watermelon juice is incredibly simple to make, but keep in mind that it should be used the same day it was made. The flavor of the juice changes noticeably after just 24 hours. Feel free to make a big batch early in the day and enjoy it that afternoon or evening. If you have any leftover (though I can’t imagine you would), finish it off at breakfast—maybe with a splash of Prosecco!

To make the juice, simply cube or scoop out the watermelon’s pink flesh, making sure to not scoop too close to the rind—the light colored flesh has very little flavor. Toss the watermelon cubes into a blender or food processor and blend on low. Puréeing the fruit at high speed can pulverize seeds making the juice bitter or break down the pulp too much, which could lead to a gritty texture. Once blended, pour through a fine mesh sieve. Mezcal gives this drink a smoky kick and jalapeño adds the spice, but if smoky isn’t your thing, mix it with tequila or vodka.

Pickled Watermelon

With a watermelon cocktail in hand, you might be staring at all the leftover rinds and wondering: what now? Pickles, that’s what. To make watermelon pickles, you need to trim the tough green skin from the rind. A sharp knife is the best way to accomplish this: simply shave down the side of the melon, keeping the white rind. With all the green skin removed, cut the watermelon into slices, then cube them. You’ll want a bit of the pink fruit still on the white rind. From there, make an aromatic pickling liquid and bring the cleaned rinds to a boil to help tenderize them. Then, transfer the rinds and the liquid to clean jars and cool to room temperature before covering with a lid and placing in the refrigerator. Twenty-four hours later, they’re ready to go (plus, they’ll stay good in the fridge for up to one month)! Scratching your head over how to use them? Try out your watermelon pickles with these ideas:

  1. Thai-style salad – Cut pickles into thin slices and toss them with shredded carrots, scallions, sliced cucumbers, peanuts, cilantro and mint. Then dress the mixture with a splash of fish sauce and lime juice. Serve with or without grilled meats.
  2. Straight from the jar – Serve pickles on a platter with cheeses, olives and charcuterie for the perfect summertime cocktail hour nibbles. (Maybe while enjoying a watermelon cocktail?)
  3. With bacon – It’s never a bad decision to add bacon. Wrap the cubes of watermelon pickles in bacon and secure with a toothpick. Then broil or grill to crisp the bacon for a dead-easy hors d’oeuvre.
  4. Taco Tuesday – Thinly sliced or minced watermelon pickles are an awesome topping for tacos—especially grilled shrimp tacos!

Watermelon Relish/Salad

I learned to make this recipe when I was working for Frank Stitt at Highlands Bar & Grill in Birmingham, AL. When Alabama watermelons were at their peak, we would dice them up, add grilled onions, mint, vinegar and olive oil and then spoon it over grilled steak. (Skirt steak is the best option here, IMHO.) It’s a recipe I still make today, beefing up the ingredients a bit to make it equal parts topping and salad (so no meat is required). Go ahead and make it your own by adding even more ingredients: cucumbers, arugula or some cooked and toasted grains could turn this into a full-fledged meal.

Now get out there and show those watermelons some love!

Three Ways to Watermelon:

  1. Spicy, Smoky Mezcal Cocktail
  2. Pickled Watermelon Rinds
  3. Watermelon and Charred Onion Relish

Recipe: Spicy, Smoky Mezcal Cocktail


1 lime wedge
2 slices jalapeño pepper
1 oz. triple sec
1 1/2 oz. mezcal or tequila
2 ounces fresh watermelon juice (see directions above)
Soda water


  1. Place the lime and jalapeño slices in the bottom of a glass; crush with a muddler to release the lime juice and lightly crush the jalapeño.
  2. Add the triple sec, mezcal and stir. Then, stir in the watermelon juice and top with soda water if desired.

Recipe: Pickled Watermelon Rinds


Rind from one half of a five-pound watermelon (approximately 1 pound)
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup water
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 ounces fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick
2 star anise pods


  1. Scoop out the melon, leaving about 1/4- to 1/2-inch of pink flesh. (Use the rest of the flesh for the watermelon cocktail or salad recipes!)
  2. Peel off the outer green rind with a knife or vegetable peeler and cut the rind into 1-inch cubes.
  3. Bring the apple cider vinegar, water, sugar, ginger, salt and spices to a boil over medium-high heat in a medium 2-quart saucepan. Hold the boil for 60 seconds and then carefully add the watermelon rinds. Return to a boil and turn off the heat. Remove the saucepan from heat and cool mixture for 30 minutes.
  4. Remove the pickles to jars. Pour over as much of the pickling juice as possible. Let cool to room temperature and then cover with lids.
  5. Refrigerate overnight and eat within a month. Pickles must stay refrigerated.

Recipe: Watermelon and Charred Onion Relish


2 cups diced watermelon
1 medium red onion, sliced 1/2- to 3/4-inch thick rounds
1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves, torn into pieces
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup olives, pitted and halved
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper


  1. Brush the sliced onions with oil on both sides and season with salt and pepper. Cook on a hot grill until charred on both sides. Remove from the grill, let cool and dice.
  2. In a bowl, combine the watermelon, diced grilled onion, mint, tomatoes, olives, feta cheese, vinegar and olive oil and mix gently. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Serve alone as a salad or spoon over grilled meat.

Ready to study Culinary Arts with Chef James? Click here for information on ICE’s Culinary Arts program. 

By Carly DeFilippo

October is always an exciting time for food events in New York City, and this year, ICE was at the forefront of all the biggest gatherings. From the NYC Wine & Food Festival to StarChefs International Chefs Congress to City Harvest’s annual Bid Against Hunger, our alumni, faculty and student volunteers were rubbing elbows with industry leaders and showing their ICE pride.

ICE's chefs, students and alumni took the city by storm this season. Scroll down for more photos of the festivities the school participated in this fall.

ICE’s chefs, students and alumni took the city by storm this season. Scroll down for more photos of the festivities the school participated in this fall.

At this year’s New York City Wine & Food Festival, not only did 55 student volunteers help headlining chefs serve thousands of festival attendees, but ICE’s own Director of Culinary Development James Briscione was among the featured presenters at the festival’s Grand Tasting event. With the help of three Culinary Arts students, Chef James wowed the crowd with his ancho chili lamb—and more than 2,500 cheddar biscuits.

James also led the charge at StarChefs annual industry conference—with ICE as the event’s official culinary school partner—serving as the opening day emcee for talks with such celebrated chefs as Dan Barber and George Mendes. Alumnus Ryan Farr of 4505 Meats led a “Whole Hog” workshop at the savory stage and wowed the crowds with his harissa smoked chicken, while fellow alumni Marita Lynn of Marita Lynn Catering (and the recently opened restaurant Runa in Red Bank, NJ) was on hand representing the cuisine of Peru. On the sweet side of things, ICE alumnus Tiffany MacIsaac, served the signature macarons, cookies and hand-dipped candy bars from her new D.C. bakery Buttercream Bakeshop. Five additional alumni—Angela Maris, Denise Latella, Dave Nagel, Emily Peterson and Hadar Aviram—worked behind the scenes as prep cooks for the conference’s culinary presenters. Finally, student volunteers were on hand to provide additional help to industry leaders and also enjoyed the opportunity to listen in on the conference’s innovative panels.

“Thank you for the amazing opportunity of working at this year’s StarChefs ICC. It was definitely a great experience and I was able to network with a lot of people who have been in this industry for many years!” – ICE alumnus, Angela Maris 

Last but not least, at City Harvest’s annual Bid Against Hunger charity gala, ICE was proud to stand among the organization’s primary supporters. Moreover, we were thrilled to see such alumni as Marc Murphy (Benchmarc Restaurant Group), Ivy Stark (Dos Caminos), Matthew Riznyk (Great Performances), Kamal Rose (Tribeca Grill), Rick Mast (Mast Brothers) and Matt Hyland (Emily) donating their time and talents to the cause. Our current students also enjoyed the opportunity to network with these inspiring alumni and other successful chefs, all while helping raise $1.4 million for the charity.


For more information about these and other exciting volunteer opportunities for students, click here.





By Casey Feehan

Five decades may have gone by, but Nutella remains as sweet as ever. The beloved chocolate-hazelnut spread celebrates its 50th anniversary this year with a nation-wide, 16-city food truck tour. In light of the tour, ABC News turned to chefs across the nation, including ICE’s own Director of Culinary Development, Chef James Briscione, to develop iconic Nutella desserts that celebrate the local culinary culture of each of the truck’s 16 stops. James chose to reinterpret Bananas Foster, a classic New Orleans dessert invented in the 1950s. It’s difficult to imagine caramelized bananas and rum leaving room for improvement, but a whipped Nutella cream transforms the dish into a celebration-worthy stunner.

Nutella 50th Anniversary - Banana's Foster Tart with Nutella Mousse - James Briscione /

Bananas Foster Tartlet with Nutella Cream

Yield: 4 servings

For the Frangipane:


  • ¼ cup granulated white sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup finely ground hazelnuts or almonds
  • 1 fl oz dark rum
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour


  1. Combine the sugar, salt and butter in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
  2. Add the egg, vanilla and rum; continue mixing until fully incorporated.
  3. Add the ground nuts and flour and fold together until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Excess frangipane may be stored refrigerated up to 2 weeks.

For the tartlets:


  • 4 (4-inch) rounds puff pastry
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • Granulated sugar, as needed
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • ½ cup Nutella


  1. Preheat oven to 375° F
  2. Place the rounds of puff pastry on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Spread the frangipane on the dough, leaving an approximately ¼ inch border. Bake the tart until the crust is risen around the frangipane and lightly browned. Remove from the oven and cool on the pan.
  3. Thinly slice the bananas and tile over the tarts. Spread a thin, even layer of sugar over the tart and brûlée with a torch.
  4. Pour the cream into a chilled bowl and whisk to soft peaks. Place the Nutella in a separate bowl. Whisk half of the whipped cream into the Nutella. Add the remaining cream and fold together until smooth and lightened.
  5. To serve, place the brûléed tart in the center of a plate and top with the Nutella cream.


By Chefs James Briscione & Michael Laiskonis

ICE Chefs Michael Laiskonis and James Briscione consult the Watson system with IBM Senior Engineer and ICE Culinary Arts alumnus Florian Pinel.

ICE Chefs Michael Laiskonis and James Briscione consult the Watson system with IBM Senior Engineer and ICE Culinary Arts alumnus Florian Pinel.

JB: Anytime you set out to do something that has never been done before, you can expect some people to react with confusion and fear. Especially if that involves messing with something that people have deep and personal opinions about, like food. To say the least, when first introduced to the concept of a computer creating their meal, it isn’t uncommon for people to be skeptical. The fear, confusion and excitement all hinges on one critical word: recipe.

In our process, neither the chef nor Watson is exclusively responsible for creating the recipe for a particular dish. It begins with the chef’s input, who determines what he or she wants to create. Using the cognitive cooking system to input parameters for the dish (such as cuisine type and a key ingredient), Watson sifts through the quintillions of possible ingredient combinations, selecting the best options in terms of the novelty and pleasantness of the pairings. It is then up to chef to sift through that list and select the set of ingredients that looks most intriguing.

SXSW attendees lining up for a taste of cognitive cooking

SXSW attendees lining up for a taste of cognitive cooking

Armed with a list of ingredients specifically selected because of their chemical structure and shared flavor compounds, a chef must then go into the kitchen to test applications of the ingredients and interpret the dish using their own unique style. The process is an incredible experiment in creativity, as two chefs given the exact same list of ingredients will likely create two completely different dishes. In this way, the brilliant developers at IBM have accomplished exactly what they set out to do: explore how computers can help humans be more creative. As a chef, I am excited by the incredible creative potential.

ML: On the ground in Austin, one of my cognitively created dishes was the first served: the Vietnamese Apple Kebab. In this dish, the surprise factor is expressed in some of the disparate ingredients the system chose to pair. For example, I would never think to pair strawberry and mushroom, however, they share a common flavor compound—g-dodecalactone—data that Watson used to determine that they would naturally go well together!

Vietnamese Apple Kebab by  Watson + Michael Laiskonis

Vietnamese Apple Kebab by Watson + Michael Laiskonis

On day three, it was my turn again to create a dish, this time a “burrito.” I chose “Austrian” as an input to the Watson system (because that is likely the last cuisine that we associate with Tex-Mex) and “chocolate” (not for its sweetness, but rather for the fact that it is made up of dozens, if not hundreds, of complex flavor compounds). The Watson-generated ingredient list included your conventional ground beef, beans and cheese, but also interesting items like vanilla, orange peel, apricot and cinnamon. I was also intrigued by what the system didn’t give us, such as the all-important heat typically provided by chili peppers and other spices. Presented in the conventional burrito form, the dish was a hit, allowing tasters to focus on the subtle flavor combinations and how they interacted.

JB: When it comes to dishes that we had imagined the crowd voting for, the Canadian national dish—poutine—was certainly not among them. But a very enthusiastic group of marketers and designers lobbied hard for the win, so poutine it was. Reimagining poutine was a nerve-wracking challenge. Before we could even run the dish through the system, ICE alumnus and IBM developer Florian Pinel had to teach Watson what a poutine was. This was done by entering poutine recipes into the database, to establish a baseline understanding of the typical ingredients required to make a poutine.

Poutine by Watson + James Briscione

Peruvian Potato Poutine by Watson + James Briscione

Given how specific poutine’s ingredients are (as opposed to, say, a salad or a soup), I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. When we ran “poutine” through the system, I certainly never imagined cauliflower and cumin as options. Among the more familiar ingredients, tomatoes made perfect sense to me. A southerner born and bred, tomato gravy is one of my favorite toppings for roast quail. That said, I never imagined I’d be standing on the back of a food truck puréeing 5 gallons of tomato gravy with the equivalent a small boat motor. In the end, the poutine was delicious, our Canadian friends were happy, and we were all thrilled to have developed the first ever cognitively created poutine!

Chef James whips up tomato gravy for 600 hungry visitors to the food truck.

Chef James whips up tomato gravy using an industrial-sized immersion blender.

ML: In between talking with the public and helping to plate 500+ portions of each day’s dish, I took to Twitter to try to swing the vote for “pudding”. As a pastry chef, I wanted to make sure that at least one of the dishes we served included dessert. Just in time for one of our last days on the truck, I got my wish—pudding!

Belgian Bacon Pudding by Watson + Michael Laiskonis

Belgian Bacon Pudding by Watson + Michael Laiskonis

While I’m certainly no stranger to pairing sweet and savory elements in desserts, I wondered how the Watson technology might handle the task. The basic inputs were “Belgian”, “bacon” and “pudding”—but even this pastry veteran was surprised when the system returned mushroom and cumin as ingredients, alongside more familiar items such as honey, walnuts, raisins, and dried figs. Our tech-savvy SXSW audience was also intrigued, and we sold nearly 600 portions in record time.

With such a visible public launch of an influential technology, James and I spent much of our time talking with the press. But it was particularly fun engaging with the average eater off the street, explaining how the cognitive cooking system works and how Watson is helping us to be more creative in the kitchen. The palpable excitement that washes over eaters as they learn and taste makes all of the hard work that goes into such an event well worth the effort!

IBM - B-Roll Press2.Still001


By Chef James Briscione

This whole thing started off as a crazy idea that I didn’t completely understand—and frankly, I was a bit skeptical. A computer that was going to help me cook better? I had my doubts. Yet two years and countless hours in the kitchen later, the culinary team at ICE and researchers at IBM have produced dozens of surprisingly delicious recipes.

FoodTruck PR Photo

All of that work has led to this moment. As we cross the floor of a Las Vegas convention center, all around us vendors are busy setting up their booths, display screens, and computing demos. We walk in with crisp chef coats slung over our shoulders, carrying knife rolls, and I can’t help but ask myself the same thing I suspect everyone around me is asking: “What the heck are we doing here?”

As we hit the center of the convention floor, it becomes clear. There it is, our home for the next few days: the IBM Food Truck. Parked in the center of the world’s largest conference on cloud-based computing is the mobile kitchen that will help us erase all questions of why we’re here—and all the doubts I and others have had about the role of computers in the kitchen.

Day 1

Working in a food truck is dramatically different than cooking in the spacious kitchens at ICE. But for such a small space, the truck is incredibly well equipped (despite the fact that the counters that barely reach my waist). We’ve also got an incredible support staff on the ground here in Vegas: the team from Cut and Taste Catering. With their help, the food service has been a great success.


The conference attendees are a little wary of a food truck parked in the midst of a sea of computing displays—even more so when they hear what we’re serving: “A Baltic Apple Pie? What do you mean a computer helped you create it? Pork tenderloin… and vanilla?” We’ve heard “that sounds weird” more times than I can count. Thankfully, the skeptics are a bit adventurous and willing to give our creations a taste. It’s a blast to watch them take their first bites from the window of the truck. Their brows drop, they examine the food as they chew, and then they smile. This is the pay-off for the countless hours we’ve logged in ICE’s kitchens learning how to use cognitive computing to create amazing food: “It’s good! Wow, I didn’t think it was going to be, but this really good.”

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Day 2

By now, the crowd is hooked on the idea of the food truck and cognitively created food. Now it’s their turn to give us feedback. Just as our professional students find their culinary voice at ICE, the crowd is finding their voice by voting on Twitter—and they’ve asked us to make burritos. Since IBM’s cognitive system is all about creating surprise, developing dishes that are inventive, creative and unexpected. We thought, “What if burritos were dessert?” So we recruited the system to help us create a burrito with chocolate.


What followed was a list of ingredients that I’m confident no one has ever rolled up in a tortilla: chocolate, ground beef, apricot, edamame, and cinnamon, among others. We all thought the result was delicious and really interesting. The crowd agreed.  A number of people came to the truck, heard chocolate burrito, and walked away saying they weren’t ready to eat a dessert. We convinced them to come back and try this unusual combination of savory and sweet, and most who did were surprised and delighted. Yet, as with any creative dish at a fine dining restaurant, a few visitors to the truck found the recipe a bit too adventurous.

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Day 3

Today we prepped 600 Creole Shrimp and Lamb Dumplings for our increasingly engaged crowd. Encased in a fried chickpea dough was a mixture of ground lamb, shrimp, tomato, and okra. I don’t know if it was the flavors or the familiarity of the fried dough form, but a number of guests came back for seconds and told us that this was their favorite dish so far. And now that we’ve gotten used to cooking on board the truck, it’s been fun to interact with guests and see how excited their are—not only about the dish itself—but the process we go through to create it.


I’m actually becoming so practiced at speaking about the computer system that people have begun to ask affectionately, “So are you a chef or a nerd?” I’m taking that as a compliment; I am amazed, honored, excited to be a part of this project. To think this whole thing has grown from a few guys huddled around a computer in the kitchen at ICE, to now becoming the premier destination at one of the world’s most innovative technology conferences. IBM runs half the world, and it’s incredibly exciting that they’ve chosen to partner with ICE to reimagine the kitchen of the future.

FoodTruck Pulse Day 1 Feb 23 2014 -9407

Day 4 

As we are getting to wrap up our time here in Vegas, the crowd logged one last vote and asked for a sandwich. We weren’t about to serve up a glorified slider or PB&J—we were determined to make something that everyone would talk about for days to come. Hence, the Portuguese Lobster Roll, an incredible combination of lobsters, pimento, saffron, basil and crispy pork that got everyone outrageously excited. We actually had to cut one guy off after he came up for his seventh “tasting.” It was the perfect dish to end on, with conference-goers texting their friends and coworkers that they better get over to the truck to taste what the chefs from ICE had just cooked up.


The entire event was a huge success. After two years of research and recipe testing with the cognitive system, it was amazing to finally share this revolution in cuisine with the public. But no matter how many pictures we post or stories we tell, there is only one way to truly understand the work that ICE and IBM have done together. You’ve got to eat it. We hope that we’ll have the chance to cook some these dishes for you someday soon! Until then, we’re off to SXSW!

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