By James Briscione—Director of Culinary Development

Tomayo_BLT

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_BLT_2

Tomayo (Tomato “mayo”)

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

  • 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”

 Ingredients:

  • 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

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

  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

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

  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

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

  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 / ice.edu

Bananas Foster Tartlet with Nutella Cream

Yield: 4 servings

For the Frangipane:

Ingredients:

  • 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

Instructions:

  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:

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

  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.

BEAUTY SHOT_Apple

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.”

FoodTruck Pulse Day 1 Feb 23 2014 -9464

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.

Burrito BEAUTY SHOT

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.

FoodTruck Pulse Day 2 Feb 24 2014 -9608

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.

BEAUTYSHOT

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.

BEAUTY SHOT

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!

 

By Chef Chad Pagano, Chef-Instructor, Pastry & Baking Arts

Whether for a competition, special event or mere display, I have constructed many sugar showpieces over the years. These pieces have been inspired by countless themes, ranging from country music songs to classic American novels. As a big football fan, the most exciting to date is the showpiece I created this past weekend for the Taste of the NFL in Brooklyn.

photo[1]

Chef Chad and student Amanda Rondeau carefully assemble the sugar showpiece.

After discussing the theme and the feel of the event with my colleagues at ICE, it was time for me to begin the well-rehearsed design process. This starts with a simple sketch of the piece. In this instance, the design was some what difficult for me because it required one large sculpture and two smaller side pieces. Further, the piece had to feature both the ICE logo and the Taste of the NFL logo. Ultimately, I decided to design the showpiece in the image of the Lombardi trophy.

The next step in this process is to create a Styrofoam model of the pieces. This allows you to see all the parts of the piece three dimensionally. Further, it lets you add color to the piece, helping you decide upon your color scheme.

Unfortunately, because of time constraints, I skipped the luxury of this step. I felt comfortable doing this because the piece itself already had a three-dimensional representation off of which I planned to base the color scheme: the silver of the Super Bowl trophy and the red, white and blue of the NFL. Additionally, the structure of the focal piece was a based on tried-and-true techniques that I had used many times before.

070

A glittering football cast in solid sugar

Skipping the model, I moved on to the next step: drawing out the shapes to scale. After creating these mechanical drawings, I placed them under clear vinyl and used both silicone “noodles” and caramel bars to form the molds of the shapes themselves. After casting all the necessary pieces to form the base, I began making, rolling and cutting out pastillage, which is used in the sugar of the main structure and to form the buildings on the logo pieces. Lucky for me, the talented Chef Kathryn Gordon agreed to help me create the other necessary garnishes—including ribbons, curls and bubble sugar—that I would eventually need to finish the piece once it was created.

The last step was molding the football itself, which would ultimately serve as the major focal point of the piece. To create the most realistic representation possible, I ended up purchasing a cheap rubber football and casting sugar into it. After allowing the sugar to solidify inside, I cut away the ball’s rubber. The result was excellent! The only issue was the heaviness of the piece—about as heavy as a cinder block of pure sugar! To remedy this, I spent a couple of hours hollowing out the ball by slowly melting the sugar inside with a blow torch and pouring off the liquid.

IMG_1259

Chef Chad Pagano (left) and Chef James Briscione (right) at Taste of the NFL Event

With all the necessary pieces packaged and sandwiched between plastic wrap and sheet pans, I loaded them as carefully as possible into my jeep. Then, the slow, nerve-wracking trip to Brooklyn began. I could not believe the condition of our city’s roads; it felt like we hit every pothole between 23rd street and Red Hook!

By some small miracle, my pastry assistant—student Amanda Rondeau—and I made it to the event with all the pieces intact. When we arrived, we unloaded the various parts and our equipment with the help of the Taste of the NFL event staff. We then began to assemble the piece in its totality. This went well for the most part and was only complicated by the glaring halogen lights and the occasional gawkers.

sugarshowpiece

Putting the final touches on the sugar showpiece.

After several hours, Amanda and I had fully assembled the showpiece—just in time to clear the room for the bomb sniffing dogs to sweep through. While waiting outside, Amanda, Chef James Briscione and I passed the time by cracking nervous jokes about the dogs breaking the piece. To our relief, the showpiece was still standing when we cleared security and returned to our booth.

However, as I got closer, I noticed some of the more delicate garnishes had fallen off and shattered on the table. Looking around in confusion, I noticed a Port Authority police officer and his dog quickly approaching. When he reached me, he extended his hand and apologized. I responded that losing a few garnishes was a small price to pay for a bomb-free event, and told him not to worry about it. After all, it’s important to keep your priorities straight.

showpiece

Overall, it was an absolute pleasure creating a sugar showpiece for the Taste of the NFL. As I said at the beginning—it’s my favorite sugar creation yet!

 

By James Briscione, Director of Culinary Development and Culinary Arts Chef-Instructor

For ICE’s recent hands-on cooking event with the New York Jets, I crafted a fun spin on classic chili. Slow-roasted pork carnitas and beer impart a deep, smoky flavor, while the simple addition of beans and broth rounds out the dish. The recipe was a hit at the Jet’s House “50 Yard Lounge” Super Bowl pregame party with player Nick Folk, so it’s sure to be a winning addition for any gameday menu.

carnitas chili

Pork Carnitas Chili & Jalapeno Griddlecakes

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds fatty pork shoulder, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon Tabasco Pepper Sauce
  • 1 beer
  • 4 cups chicken stock, divided
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 15 oz can pinto beans, drained
For garnish
  • fresh cilantro or scallions
  • shredded cheddar cheese
  • sour cream
Instructions
  1. Place the pork cubes in a bowl, add the brown sugar, smoked paprika, chili powder, cumin, kosher salt and Tabasco.
  2. Toss well to evenly coat the meat.
  3. Wrap tightly and refrigerate overnight
  4. The next day, preheat oven to 350˚F.
  5. Transfer the pork to a large, heavy sauce pot.
  6. Add the beer, 1 cup of the chicken stock, onion, garlic, and bay leaves.
  7. Bring the pot to a simmer and cover with a lid.
  8. Transfer to the oven and cook 2 hours.
  9. After two hours, remove the pot from the oven and transfer the pork cubes to another ovenproof dish, leaving any the liquid behind in the pot.
  10. Increase the oven temperature to 450°F.
  11. Place the dish with the pork cubes in the oven, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes, or until the pork is browned.
  12. While the pork cubes are in the oven, place the pot with the liquid back on the stove. Add the remaining chicken stock (3 cups) and bring to a simmer. Skim any excess fat from the surface.
  13. When pork is browned, remove from the oven and drain and discard the excess fat. Allow the pork to cool, then shred it with a fork.
  14. Add the beans and shredded pork to pot of simmering liquid. Stir well and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  15. Divide into bowls and serve with cornmeal pancakes.

Jalapeno and Cheddar Cornmeal Pancakes

Yield: Approximately 20 cakes

Ingredients
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 oz melted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 14 fl oz milk
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
Instructions
  1. Place the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt in a bowl. In a separate bowl whisk together the melted butter, eggs, milk, jalapeno and cheese. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir together until just combined.
  2. Preheat a griddle or cast iron skillet. Lightly oil the surface and drop spoonfuls of the batter onto the heated surface and cook until bubbles form. Flip and brown on the second side.
  3. Once browned, remove from griddle. Serve with chili.

 

By Cindi Avila

 

This week, ICE made an appearance on Rocco DiSpirito’s new Food Network show Restaurant Divided. The episode, which first aired on November 14th, was titled “Against Da Grill”. It followed a struggling Staten Island restaurant of the same name and its philanthropic management team. Chef Rocco learned one reason the restaurant wasn’t profitable was that food costs were too high. So he sent co-owner Kurron Mangin to the Institute of Culinary Education for help.

restaurant divided

 

Director of Culinary Development, James Briscione, met with Kurron to share a few money saving tips and tricks. In particular, Kurron had been buying pre-cut chicken wings for the restaurant’s fried chicken, so Chef James taught him how breaking down a whole chicken was much more cost efficient. A native Southerner, Chef James also helped Kurron up his fried chicken game, crafting a new version of the dish that Kurron is now serving on his menu.

 

If you missed the episode, we won’t ruin the outcome for you—but we will say that we’re rooting for Kurron to succeed in the future!

 

By Carly DeFilippo

Chef James Briscione is more likely to be found wearing a scruffy green baseball cap than a chef’s toque. Yet these are only two of the many hats he’s worn over the past decade, striving with unique ambition to improve his culinary skill.

James, presenting a cooking demo for current and past NFL players, in his famous green cap.

James, leading a cooking demonstration for current and past NFL players at a one-day culinary and hospitality management seminar.

In the beginning, James was just a high school football player from Pensacola, Florida, washing dishes at a restaurant. At first, he bristled at the idea of working in a kitchen, opting instead to study Sports Medicine at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. But after returning to the same restaurant during his summer off from school, James began to discover another side of cooking.

At the beginning of his junior year, James switched his major to nutrition, and pursued full-time employment at the top restaurant in Birmingham, Highlands Bar and Grill. There, under Chef Frank Stitt, James quickly moved up the ranks. After proving his worth as the most reliable person on staff and taking on unexpected tasks such as butchery (when another chef broke his leg), James achieved the rank of Chef de Cuisine at the incredible age of 23. During his tenure at Highlands, the restaurant reigned as Gourmet magazine’s #5 restaurant in the nation.

Instructing students in the essentials of making fresh pasta.

Instructing Culinary Arts students in the essentials of making fresh pasta.

Soon, James sought a new challenge, which he found in the kitchens of Daniel Boulud in New York City. As the Sous Chef for Daniel’s private dining room, James says he felt like he was in the kitchen for the first time, continuously discovering new techniques, skills and ingredients.

James joined the ICE staff as a Chef-Instructor for the Culinary Arts program in 2006, instilling his endless curiosity for cooking in his students from day one. While he did not attend culinary school himself, James acknowledges that, today, it’s increasingly hard to achieve his level of success without formal education. “I started in kitchens when I was 16, which gave me a few years to burn peeling shrimp, chopping onions, etc. Today—nearly 20 years later—kitchens have become much more competitive. It’s hard to survive if you don’t already know what you’re doing. When you learn the basics in school, you can better use your time in professional kitchens to polish and perfect your technique.”

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Despite leaving the exciting pace of the restaurant world behind, James has never been one to slow down or stop learning. “Teaching at ICE has not only allowed me to share my passion and experience with the next generation of culinary talent, but it also affords me the opportunity to continue to grow as a chef. For me, the most important part of the culinary journey is to never stop learning, and the varied projects and programs at ICE allow me to learn something new everyday.” Among the highlights in James’ own continuing education was the chance study sous vide cooking in Venice with European masters of this technique. He has also maintained his competitive edge, as a contestant on the first season of Chopped and Chopped Champions—walking away as the series’ first two-time champion.

Today, James is ICE’s Director of Culinary Development, taking on new challenges and conceptual projects—such as ICE’s collaboration with IBM, which explores the influence of computational creativity on cooking. He has also published a cookbook with his wife, Brooke Parkhurst, called Just Married and Cooking, and maintains a website of the same name.

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James shares his love of football and grilling with students at our recent Grilling Boot Camp with the NY Jets.

Outside of cooking, James remains a passionate football fan, but his primary interest is in spending time with his wife and daughter, Parker. He claims that if he wasn’t a chef, he’d work at an advertising agency, but we doubt they’d be as forgiving of his shabby green cap.

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