While ICE alum often end up working in some of the world’s top restaurants or using their skills to travel the world, Maria Tampakis is near and dear to our heart. As the daughter of Chef Instructor Michelle Tampakis, Maria has been around ICE since she was very young. After completing the Culinary Arts program, she has since gone on to work in some amazing kitchens and now she is working at Heston Blumenthal’s new venture, Dinner by Heston at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park in London.

As the Chef de Partie at Dinner by Heston, Maria is working in the kitchen of one of the world’s top chefs. She draws on skills she hasn’t had much chance to use since culinary school such as butchery, but also is learning whole new skills such as sous-vide. Maria said, “I know that the guys on my station are continuously working on always staying ahead of the game. Whether I am downstairs in the prep house, or upstairs in service, I am constantly trying to better myself by working faster, more organized and cleaner. It’s not hard to motivate yourself when you’re always happy where you are.”

Being part of the ICE family and having an award-winning pastry chef as a mother has helped Maria in her own career — “I am very fortunate to have a mother who not only is in the industry, but who always pushed me just a little more when I refused to go any further.” Traveling with her mother to pastry and savory events around the world ever since she as a child, Maria has had the opportunity to meet chefs others only dream of meeting. Even as a teenager, Maria knew she was destined for the food world. In high school, she worked at a local pizzeria, busing tables and only occasionally cooking. Every summer, she worked in hospitality related internship and during winter and summer holidays she traveled to places like Las Vegas, working for Paul Edwards at Chef Rubber. More…

This weekend, ICE Chef Instructor Michelle Tampakis was invited by the New Mexico Museum of Natural History Foundation to be a judge at their 19th Annual Chocolate Fantasy in Albuquerque.

The event featured 17 contestants in three divisions, Chocolatiers, Restaurant/Caterers and Schools. Each contestant had to present a showpiece, and 300 candy pieces for sampling. The theme of the event was The Pride of the Serengeti, and all showpieces reflected some African motif.

Chef Michelle and her fellow judges, Kerry Vincent of Food Network Challenge, Paul Edward of Chef Rubber and Mary Jo Stojak of the Fine Chocolate Industry Association, carefully examined each of the contestant’s work. They named Darci Rochau, pastry chef from the Hyatt Tamaya Resort & Spa. Chef Michelle was so impressed with her work, that she recommended the winner attend our upcoming chocolate showpiece class with Vincent Pilon in ICE’s Center for Advanced Pastry Studies (CAPS@ICE).

The evening culminated in a gala dinner and silent auction for 800 guests. This fundraiser generated over $90,000 to benefit the Museum Foundation and their work to further the cultural, educational and scientific programs of the museum.