By Carly DeFilippo

Wall Street consultant. Macaron master. International pastry competitor. Best-selling author.

Like many culinary professionals, ICE Chef Instructor Kathryn Gordon never intended to work in food. Yet today, this former management consultant is one of ICE’s most celebrated pastry instructors, and one of the country’s foremost experts on the finicky art of French macarons.

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ICE Chef-Instructor Kathryn Gordon

Growing up, Kathryn didn’t have a “home base.”  Her father’s work in the oil business meant that the family was constantly on the move, offering her exposure to various regional cuisines, such as the Creole recipes of New Orleans.  She even spent part of her childhood in Australia and attended high school in London, where she sampled a wide range of ethnic foods.

Before she realized her culinary ambitions, Kathryn completed her undergraduate studies at Vassar College, and later, obtained her MBA at New York University’s Stern School of Business. Her work as a consultant in the high-stakes world of Wall Street trading left her more than prepared for a new career in the fast-paced world of restaurant kitchens. So, after earning an honors certification from L’Academie de Cuisine in Washington DC, it’s no surprise that Kathryn excelled in the kitchens of New York’s “big three” restaurants — The Rainbow Room, Tavern on the Green and Windows on the World — then, the three highest-grossing restaurants in the country.

Among her many contacts in the industry, Kathryn names Kurt Walrath as her most influential mentor. From serving dinner for 700 at the Rainbow Room to Sunday brunch for 2,000 at Tavern on the Green, there were few tasks he challenged her to take on that she did not master. Yet it was at Windows on the World, as Pastry Chef of Cellar in the Sky, that Kathryn realized her primary job responsibility was teaching — instructing a sizable staff of experienced chefs and interns during her time there.

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Chef Kathryn teaching techniques to a class of recreational students.

Shifting her focus, Kathryn was hired as an instructor (and subsequently became the Program Director for the pastry program) at New York Restaurant School, one of the city’s top culinary schools (now closed). During that time, she also collaborated with an American artist who owned a hotel in France to launch a series of culinary tours and French pastry classes for U.S. based industry professionals.

In 2003, Kathryn joined the faculty at the Institute of Culinary Education and has since helped to launch ICE’s own culinary study abroad programs. She has also proved a formidable competitor in National and Regional pastry competitions, and has even been the Master of Ceremonies for a number of pastry events, including the live Carymax World and National Pastry Championships.

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Chef Gordon instructs the class on the art of making the famously finicky French macarons.

Back in ICE’s New York teaching kitchens, Chef Kathryn aims to create extreme scenarios that challenge students to think on their feet. In 2011, she also published a best-selling guide to crafting French macarons — one of the pastry world’s most notoriously tricky sweets. Described by the Wall Street Journal as the most “comprehensive and inspiring” book on macarons in any language, she is now at work on a companion book for Running Press Publishers.

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Chef Kathryn checks on macarons baking in the oven.

Inspired by her attention to detail and determined focus, it’s no surprise that Kathryn’s students have gone on to find their own significant success. Two, in particular — Dana Loia of Dana’ Bakery and Kathleen Hernandez of Cocoamains— have followed in her footsteps, opening entrepreneurial macaron businesses catering to NYC’s latest dessert craze.

Click here to learn more about Chef Kathryn, her macaron classes and work with the ICE Center for Advanced Pastry Studies.

 

By Sharon Ho, Pastry and Baking Arts Student

When people think about culinary school, they often think of a juicy skirt steak or a delicious bowl of fresh pasta. However, at ICE, the true magic happens in the Pastry and Baking Arts classrooms. Tucked away on the 5th floor, the sweet smell of freshly baked bread, cookies and cake fills your nose the moment you step off the elevator. No—it isn’t a savory soup or a meaty pot roast; it’s the sweet stuff.

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That was my experience when I first set foot in ICE for a tour. I reached the front desk and all I smelled was to-die-for freshly baked bread. Walking past kitchen 501, I couldn’t help but stand there and stare at the dinner rolls that were sitting on the kitchen table. I immediately made up my mind: I would enroll at ICE and eventually open a bakery that smelled exactly like the fifth floor of ICE.

It’s been two weeks since my classes started, and I have learned many of the basics so far. There’s been lessons in sanitation, safety lessons and understanding the uses of different ingredients. I have learned countless things I can create out of sugar, chocolate, milk and fruit puree. Learning that much this quickly can be quite overwhelming at times, but in the long run, it’s worth it. Classes are very hands-on, and Chef Kathryn is both an inspiration and an excellent teacher.

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The first time we actually made something on our own was Lesson 4: Gingersnaps. These cookies are simple, sweet and fragrant. We scooped the gingersnap cookie dough onto sheet pans with an ice cream scoop in order to maintain the size and shape of each cookie. While we were making the cookies, Chef Kathryn made us some hot chocolate. She brewed up two kinds—the American kind, made from cocoa powder and milk, and the European kind, made from actual chocolate and cream. She asked us to taste both and then decide which one we liked better. Of course, one was richer than the other. Can you guess which one was the clear winner?

We also worked on some basic math skills that bakers are required to know, mostly multiplying and dividing. There were some rounding exercises and a few recipe exercises, most of which to figure out how much of a certain ingredient would be necessary if the yield was different from the original recipe. It was definitely quite a bit to take in, but these skills are both useful and essential for bakers.

Pate de fruit

Pâte de fruit

Next came Lesson 5: the apricot pâte de fruit. These are essentially little jelly-gummy hybrid candies that taste like apricot. They are made with lots of sugar and some apricot puree. We made them in bonbon molds, then let them set while Chef Kathryn went over different fruit-related ingredients, such as fruit-based wines, syrups and extracts. She also spoke about jams and jellies. I never knew there were so many types of fruit wine or that so many different extracts could be found in my local supermarket.

So far, it’s been an enjoyable and educational two weeks. The ICE community is incredibly helpful and my classmates are very friendly. It’s nice to know we all have each others’ backs. I can’t wait to start my next class!

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 Chef Kathryn Gordon

 

When I was growing up, my dad used to make us pancakes for breakfast on weekends and feed us waffles for dinner when budgets were tight. So for me, breakfast foods are the ultimate in comfort food. This time of year, nothing is better than local apples—even if you can’t get out to pick them yourself, you can find a great variety in the farm markets. Add some bacon, and you might be ready to try eating waffles for dinner yourself!

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Courtesy of Flickr.com by kae71463

APPLE PECAN WAFFLES

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 apple (granny smith or golden delicious)
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • ½ cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup chopped pecans
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar

Instructions

  1. Core and grate apple (do not peel).
  2. Mix apple with egg yolkss, vanilla, vegetable oil, and buttermilk.  Mix in cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt, and pecans until just combined.
  3. Whip egg whites to soft peak, gradually add sugar.  When meringue is medium peak, fold into waffle batter.
  4. Cook in waffle maker according to maker’s instructions.   Serve with maple syrup and apple butter.

CINNAMON APPLE BUTTER

Makes one pint

Ingredients

  • 10 apples (Paula Red, Golden Delicious, Empire, Ida Red, McIntosh, Gala)
  • 1/2 cup apple cider
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • Zest of 1/2 orange
  • 1 pound (2 ½ cups) light brown sugar

Instructions

  1. Core apples, slice in quarters (do not peel).  Place in heavy bottom sauce pan, add cider and cover.  Simmer on low until soft, about 30 minutes.
  2. Press cooked apples through a sieve to remove skins.  Place pulp in sauce pan with cinnamon sticks, orange zest, and light brown sugar.  Stir well to dissolve sugar.
  3. Simmer over low heat, stirring frequently, until mixture is thick, about 20 minutes.

This holiday season, we’ve asked the core faculty of our Culinary Arts and Pastry & Baking Arts programs to share some of their favorite festive recipes. First up is Chef Kathryn Gordon, renown for her work in sugar sculpture, confectionery, petit fours, chocolate and ice cream.

I moved to Australia the week of my 11th birthday and went to high school in London. During those years, I fell in love with spiced fruit desserts. Fruit cake often gets a bad rap in this country, but in Australia and England, it is beloved and the traditional wedding cake! I love steamed plum pudding, too – traditionally served flaming with brandy and a sprig of holly (don’t eat the holly, it’s only a decoration).

In England, my family rented a house with twelve foot holly hedges around it, which were planted one hundred years ago by the original owner John Innes. He was a friend of the Arts & Crafts movement leader William Morris and supposedly invented compost.

Australia was more of an adjustment, since it is summer in December and our thermometer broke at 120°F. The first holiday, we got a canoe on Christmas morning and took off for a pond. Yet there I discovered one of my favorite new treats: fruity mince pies with flaky dough. You can make them larger if you want, but I like them mini because they fit in your hand and you can eat them while enjoying a steaming cup of milky tea.

Tartelette Dough

2 sticks unsalted cold butter
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups cake flour
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
½ teaspoon finely grated orange zest
½ cup cold milk

Cut the cold butter into 1” large pieces and place in food processor with the flours, confectioners’ sugar and salt. Pulse quickly; do not let the pieces get too small. Stop the food processor, add the zest and cold milk when the butter is the size of a cranberry. Mix only until the dough forms.

Pick up a handful of the dough and smear it on the countertop in a sliding, upward motion. Set aside. Repeat until all dough is used up. Gently pat the dough flat in between pieces of parchment paper. Refrigerate one hour prior to rolling. Roll 1/8” thin and cut into (32) 3” disks.

Mince Filling

Note: Traditional mince contained beef suet, but this easy version is vegetarian.

1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup currants
1 cup prunes
1/2 cup dried apricots
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 tablespoon candied ginger
1 tablespoon candied orange confit
2 cups dried apple slices

Working with one fruit at a time, pulse the fruit in food processor until diced small, about ¼”. Place in a wide saucepan and repeat until all types of fruit are cut.

4 cinnamon sticks
6 cloves
4 peppercorns
peel of 1 lemon
peel of 1 orange

Wrap in cheesecloth to make a bouquet garni. Place in saucepan with fruit.

1/2 vanilla bean
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup orange juice
2 cups apple cider
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
2 tablespoons brandy

Split vanilla bean and scrape seeds into the sugar. Add to the saucepan and cook over low-medium heat 45 minutes, until juices are absorbed into fruit. Cool, then remove bouquet garni and vanilla bean.

Assembly and Baking

1 egg, whisked with 1 tablespoon water

Lay the cold dough disks on a piece of parchment, brush with ½ with egg wash. Place 1 tablespoon of cool minced fruits in center, top with second piece of dough. Pinch around edges to crimp with slightly floured fingers, and crimp edges with a fork. Place on parchment lined sheet pan. Brush tops with egg wash. Sprinkle with granulated sugar. Pierce tops to make decorative design.  Freeze 15 minutes to set the shape. Bake in pre-heated 375ºF oven until golden, about 20 minutes.

Every year, Chef Instructor Kathryn Gordon travels with a group of ICE alumni to the Loire Valley in France for the Alumni Cuisine Course in France. The students explore the cuisine and culture of the region, all the way from visiting farms to see food production to fine dining in restaurants.. Keep reading Chef Kathryn’s account to find out all about this once-in-a-lifetime trip.

The Alumni Cuisine Course is always an interesting chance to eat and cook together and get to know, fellow ICE alumni. The trip incorporates a balance of activities for every interest — savory people, baking people, and people who just like learning more about food and wine. Every day includes at least one hands-on cooking class and culinary-related sightseeing adventure to see food at its source.

This year’s course was for eight delicious, activity packed days and nights. For me, this year was my tenth visit to Le Moulin Bregeon. Every year, I try to incorporate some new activities so that I can keep learning about the sources of food, and for anyone who has participated before and wants to come again (this year we had a return visitor — Ed who took the trip for the first time in 2006. He also tested the French meringue method recipes for my book, Les Petits Macarons). For someone who’s worked, cooked and toured with various chefs around the western Loire Valley numerous times before, what were some of my favorite activities this year? More…

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

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

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

Fermentation

ICE Chef Instructor Mike Schwartz Leads a Session on Fermentation

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

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

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream macarons! Last week, ICE Chef Instructor and co-author of Les Petits Macarons Kathryn Gordon, lead the way through four exciting hours of cookie making and ice cream churning.

In this seasonal baking class, we tried our hand at making four delicious flavors of ice cream, including Mango Kulfi and Coconut Sorbet. Typically, macarons are filed with buttercream, ganache, jams, caramel or fruit curds, but who can really argue with indulging in a sweet icy treat on a hot summer day?

After preparing the ice cream, we focused on the more important task at hand — baking perfectly round, well-footed macarons. Many things come into play when making French macarons. To ensure that you get off on the right foot, here are a few essential tips: More…

Well, it’s done. We’ve decorated our fondant cakes and invited our friends and family to our Senior Reception (check out the photos of all our cakes above). Nine months and 100 lessons later, what have I really learned through taking the Pastry Arts & Baking Arts program at ICE? Back when I wrote my very first post, before I knew how to tare a scale, I couldn’t have even imagined that I’d be able to make flowers out of gumpaste. But I also took away a lot more than just recipes and techniques. I agree wholeheartedly with what I wrote then — I did learn much more than what was included in the curriculum. I think we all did.

I asked some of my classmates what they learned, including what they would do differently knowing what they know now. Here is a look at the unexpected lessons my fellow classmates and I gained during our time as pastry students.

Humility
As you can imagine, in a three-night-a-week evening class, most of us held full-time jobs. As a career changer, Ivana was learning a whole new set of skills. She shared, “What a humbling experience it is to start something new after working towards one career for 15 years.” More…