By Caitlin Raux

There’s a new school of chefs — those who wax on about ingredients and sourcing; who want to elevate or demote the act of dining out; who want to change the way we eat. Ashley Merriman (Culinary Arts ’04), co-chef of Prune, does not belong to that school. She’s a rare breed of chef nowadays, one who’s passionate about the job mostly because she loves the actual work — the sound of the ticket machine; the chopping during prep; the firing up of grills; the rush during service; and the cleaning — lots and lots of cleaning, as anyone in the industry knows. Ashley’s experience “on the line” dates back to high school, but ICE handed her the keys to the world of fine dining in New York, where she’s had the opportunity to work with some of the city’s great chefs.

I caught up with the former Top Chef competitor on a Monday afternoon before the crush of dinner service (yes, even on a Monday, the house at Prune is full). Ashley and I chatted about her love of the job of being a chef.

Chef Ashley Merriman

credit: Brent Herrig © 2013

Are you from New York?

I’m originally from New Hampshire, but I’ve spent so much time here that I can’t imagine living anywhere else.

Was food a big part of your family life growing up?

Not at all. My mom was a single working mom. Consequently, there were lots of nights of: Here’s some hot dogs for dinner. I’m not from a big cooking family. It was more about feeding the family without a lot of time — my mom was working and we played a lot of sports and did extracurricular activities.

I got into the restaurant business because of the work. My mom made us get jobs when we were 12 and it was one of the only after-school jobs that I could get. My older brother mowed lawns. The only other job for kids our age was to wash dishes in restaurants. Once I started, I just liked the work.

Did you know that you wanted to continue working in restaurants?

I remember graduating from high school and I wanted very much to go to culinary school. I graduated in 1994 and I guess it was a very different time in our culinary world. It was not something that my mom had any interest in me doing — she didn’t think it was a viable career option, especially since I had gone to a pretty fancy boarding school. So I cooked throughout college and I cooked after college because it was the only paycheck I knew how to get. It was just the work that I liked the best. I thought for a while that I wanted to be an English teacher and I studied English in college. But I just kept doing restaurant work and I loved it. I love cooking and cleaning.

I think there’s a certain personality type drawn to cooking professionally.

Yes, definitely. At some point I took a career aptitude test and my choices were a cop, an EMT or a chef. In all of them there’s a certain level of stress or adrenaline, but also an altruistic side — of serving or helping people.

I would do this work anywhere, and not just at Prune. I would enjoy this work in small town USA, Kazooky’s Bar + Grill.

So you graduated from a four-year college and then went back to cooking?

I worked in a bookstore for a while, but I just liked restaurant work so much that I decided to go to ICE. That’s when I got serious about cooking professionally. I knew how to cook and I had a pretty lengthy resume but I didn’t know anything about food or fine dining. I just knew how to be a line cook at mom-and-pop restaurants. That’s what brought me to ICE — I knew it would be good to add to my resume and to get my foot in the door in New York.

I imagine you went to ICE to learn the technical skills too…

I didn’t know the next level culinary skills. I only knew what had been put in front of me, which was pretty little considering I worked as a line cook in the same restaurant for nine years before and during high school. I didn’t have a deep bench of experience.

What was your first gig after ICE?

At ICE, my very first teacher in Module 1 was Alex Guarnaschelli. She and I hit it off right away and Alex, being the smart person she is, saw that I already knew how to be a line cook. So she asked me to do my internship with her at Butter, which I did. I ended up staying at Butter for years. Then I worked in Seattle for a few years and came back to New York and worked at Butter again. I helped Alex open The Darby. Then I left and was the chef at The Waverly Inn for years. Now I’m at Prune.

I’m not saying this to flatter you, but Prune happens to be one of my favorite restaurants in New York.

Yes, it’s a good restaurant. I had been a regular there for years. I loved Prune so much. Gabrielle [Hamilton] and I are married (laughs) so I love her so much, too. It feels natural for us to be working together.

It seems like a very positive work environment – which you don’t find in all restaurants.

I think it’s one of Gabrielle’s signatures and something that she’s worked really hard to achieve. It’s why she has incredible staff retention and people really want to stay there. Prune is a feeling and it means a lot to a lot of people, not just the customers, but also the people who have worked there for years. It’s partially because of how the people at Prune are treated.

How has your ICE education prepared you to be chef at Prune?

The most important thing that ICE did for me was to expose me to fine dining – food and dining on a serious level. I already knew a lot about how to be a cook in a restaurant. I remember one of the first assignments at ICE was to write a paper about a chef who influenced you. Everyone else was talking about chefs like Daniel Boulud and Eric Ripert and I had no idea who those people were. That’s what ICE exposed me to.

Did you aspire to become part of that fine dining world?

I only ever wanted to be a chef. I really mean this — and I don’t think this is how most people are anymore, though I’m not placing a value on it — I like the work itself much more than I like food. I like the act of coming to work and the ticket machine and the chopping and the lifting and the cleaning and the cooking – the actual act of cooking food. I care about it much more than I care about the ingredient or the product or the, Oh my god, lacto-fermentation. I think that stuff is interesting and valuable and it’s a part of my every day. But I would do this work anywhere, and not just at Prune. I would enjoy this work in small town USA, Kazooky’s Bar + Grill.

It’s more about the physicality and tangible aspects of being a chef.

I do really enjoy the tangible, pragmatic side: bring in the food, break it down, cook it, etc.

That’s rare nowadays.

I think a lot of people forget that every day is cooking and cleaning. I think that in our industry, a lot of people have forgotten about that part of the day, which is remarkable because it’s the biggest part of the day.

You cook every day – where do you look for inspiration?

Honestly, it’s so cheesy, but I’m really inspired by my wife. I think she’s the greatest cook. She doesn’t cook as much in the restaurant anymore, but I’m inspired by what she cooks at home. I’m inspired by our conversations about food. Long before we were married, I loved Gabrielle’s restaurant, before I even loved her. I’ve become a way better cook by working with her.

What does a typical day for you look like?

I’m in the restaurant by 11:30 – 12:00 p.m. I check in with the AM person and the porters and then I start the day. Prune is very small so the chef works the station every single night. There’s no expediting from the pass — you’re at the actual station. I spend the day setting up my station and helping the other cooks set up theirs. Other than that, it’s a pretty typical chef’s day. There’s ordering, receiving, managing, scheduling, actual cooking, running service, shutting down service, cleaning and organizing. Then I write in the log at the end of the night. I usually finish anywhere from 12:30 – 1:00 a.m.

What is your culinary voice?

My culinary voice is about the actual work. You see people with very clear voices and visions. My voice and my vision is about the day-to-day job that we have to do. I think it’s really important. My voice is a factual, objective voice about cooking.

Chef Ashley Merriman

Click here to watch Ashley in ICE’s Find Your Culinary Voice scholarship challenge video

Ready to find your culinary voice? Get more information on ICE’s career programs.


By Caitlin Gunther

When you speak with Adrienne Cheatham (Culinary Arts ’07), you can hear the tenacity in her voice. As a former sous chef at Le Bernardin and executive chef at Red Rooster, and the subject of a recent NY Times Taste Makers video, Adrienne is mindful of the accomplishments behind her. She’s more concerned, however, with the missions that lie ahead — like leaving her comfort zone (if working 16-hour days seven days a week can be called a “comfort zone”) and branching out on her own. Adrienne balances her time in the kitchen with an activity that calls upon a completely different skill and mindset: dance.

While scoping out locales for a potential forthcoming project, Adrienne took a pause to chat with me for the ICE blog.

ICE Alumnus Adrienne Cheatham

First, congratulations on the Taste Makers piece. What was it like working on that?

They were trying to steer the focus of it to the challenges that a woman faces in the kitchen, and I didn’t support that idea. I didn’t want to be a part of that kind of story. I think that kitchens are the great equalizers — either you can do the job or you can’t. It doesn’t matter if you’re short, tall, your gender, your race, none of that matters in a kitchen. That’s why I was glad they took the focus off of that.

Is it a relevant question anymore: what’s it like to be a woman in a kitchen? Or is that a cliché at this point?

In some ways, it’s cliché because it’s asked so much. At least now people are aware of women in kitchens. And yes, women are still the minority, but you experience the same things that the guys do. Maybe you feel differently about a crass or vulgar joke but that offends some men too. It’s not as much of a gender issue as before when it was novel to see women in the kitchen. Don’t get me wrong — I’ve been the only woman in the kitchen for three to six months at a time. I’ve also been the only black person. But anyone can be the minority. You could be the only blond in the kitchen, but it’s not an issue because everyone’s there to work. It’s a complete meritocracy. You’re judged by whether you did a good job at your station.

When did you realize you wanted to work in restaurants? 

In high school, I told my mom that after graduation I wanted to go to a four-year culinary school and she was so unsupportive. And rightfully so — [having worked in restaurants herself] she had seen a lot of her friends burn out and have nothing to fall back on. She said I could go to a regular four-year school first and then if I still wanted to go to culinary school, I could. She told me, we’re not rich, so if you want to go to culinary school, you’re completely on your own.

So I went to college in Florida. I started majoring in business and finance, and then I switched to journalism and PR during my junior year. Business and finance were cool — those were principles I needed to learn. My mom was pushing me to get a job in finance. She told me to make a lot of money and then cook as a hobby. But I still wanted to go to culinary school, and if I wanted something to fall back on in the same industry, I figured that journalism would be the best option.

Do you do any writing nowadays?

I did the recipe testing and editing of the Avec Eric cookbook with Eric Ripert. Recently, I helped write and test the recipes for The Red Rooster Cookbook by Marcus Samuelsson. I also did the book’s food styling, working with the prop stylist and photographer.

What inspired you to go to culinary school?

It was something I had planned already. I was working for a pastry chef at a resort in Florida, and I thought I wanted to go into pastry. The chef and the sous chef knew I wanted to go to culinary school and they were very supportive. They believed that even if you have been working for a few years, it’s good to back up your credibility with a culinary school education. I figured because I’d worked in pastry for a few years, if I go to culinary school, I’d go to the general program to learn new skills. I thought I’d go back to pastry, but the culinary arts program offered such a different mindset, I ended up liking the freedom and creativity on the savory side.

adrienne_cheatham_alumni_

Is that how you ended up working at Le Bernardin?

I got referred there through a classmate. I’m originally from Chicago and I wanted to do my externship there, so I was holding out for Charlie Trotter’s. I thought, in case it doesn’t work out, I should look for something in New York. One of my classmates was doing her externship at Le Bernardin. She gave me the name of Chef Ripert’s assistant and I stalked her. When I didn’t hear back, I said, “Ok, you and I are about to become best friends.” I showed up at the restaurant to leave another hard copy of my resume. I would email her three times a week and call her four times a week until she finally responded. She owns Ardesia, the wine bar, and the Camlin in Brooklyn now.

Did ICE prepare you to work at Le Bernardin?

I felt comfortable in the kitchen because during all the modules at ICE you’re in a kitchen environment. You learn how to stand out of the way and not be intrusive in someone else’s space when it’s not your kitchen. I had great chef instructors and they had the same temperament and demeanor as the chefs at Le Bernardin.

In the NY Times video, you said, “There’s a point in your career when you have to put yourself out there. I do want to open my own restaurant. I want to develop my own style.” Have you reached a point in your career where you’ve developed your own style?

Yes, I think I have. When I tried to put things on the menu at Le Bernardin, Chef Eric would say, “It’s really good, but the ingredients are a little too humble. We have to elevate the dish a lot more.” So I learned the Le Bernardin style of elevating ingredients, making them more than themselves. Then working for Chef Marcus, a lot of the dishes I put on the menu were too sophisticated because Red Rooster is very casual. So the dishes there were too sophisticated for Red Rooster but too humble for Le Bernardin. Eventually, I started running specials—dishes that I wanted to do, separate from the Red Rooster menu. One day Chef Marcus said to me, “I’m not sure if you’ve had time to focus on your style. I think you’re still in the process of developing your style.” That made me realize that I do have to push myself out there. And I’m not going to do it when someone else says I’m ready. It’s a moment that you decide that you’re ready. There’s always more to learn. You’re always going to be learning from different people, from continuing education classes, magazines, visiting other restaurants. You’re not going to stop learning because you open your own place, but you still have to be confident enough in yourself and what you have to share with people. And you have to want to do it, too. I was perfectly happy working for other people. It’s so safe and comfortable. It’s a guaranteed paycheck and the comfort of knowing what you’re going into every day. But at some point, I had to ask myself: What do I want to convey? What do I want to execute that is my vision every day of the week? Plus, with Chef Marcus, I was working seven days a week, 16 hours a day. If I’m going to kill myself, it’s going to be for me.

What is your culinary voice?

Anybody who works in a kitchen and creates food is a very sense-oriented person. It’s about texture, visuals, flavors, aromas — everything that engages the senses. My voice is a reflection of everything about me: not just what I like to eat, but the kind of person I am. So a dish that I put together is an expression of love, of happiness, of learning. Being from Chicago, having family from Mississippi and a fine dining background, it’s not just those things combined. It’s a reflection of all of my life experiences that have created the person I am, and translating that into the food that I create.

Ready to find your culinary voice? Click here for more information on ICE’s career programs.


By Caitlin Gunther

With the heart of a globe-trotter and a passion for lifelong culinary education, Lourdes Reynoso (“Chef Lorrie”) is always up for an adventure. Whether she’s stationed in St. Petersburg for a three-month teaching residency or exploring the best parrillas in Buenos Aires, Chef Lorrie is continually feeding her voracious appetite for foods and cultures of the world. She shares both her global perspective and her expertise in international cuisines with the culinary arts students at ICE.

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Chef Lorrie comes from a big, food-loving family in the Philippines. Seven of the nine Reynoso siblings, including Chef Lorrie, work in some facet of the food industry. In fact, her sisters, pioneers of their time, founded a culinary school in Manila in the 1960s. Today, the Sylvia Reynoso Gala Culinary Art Studio counts among the most well-known culinary schools in the Philippines. As Chef Lorrie explains, “In Manila, my family is more or less synonymous with culinary school…and good food.” After receiving a bachelor’s degree in world history, Chef Lorrie earned the prestigious Grand Diplôme from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. She remained in Paris to study the French language at Le Sorbonne and art history at the Louvre museum, before returning to Manila to join the teaching staff at her sisters’ culinary school. Her ultimate career path came as no surprise to her family. “Even when I was in high school, I was teaching children’s baking courses during the summer,” says Chef Lorrie. Teaching in the kitchen was her calling from a young age.

Drawing upon the classical French techniques she learned at Le Cordon Bleu, Chef Lorrie taught culinary arts in Manila for several years. When she wasn’t in the kitchen classroom, she was traveling—feeding her second passion for discovering new foods and cultures. The opportunity arose to teach at the New York Restaurant School (now The Art Institute of New York City) and Chef Lorrie jumped on it. Asked about the intercontinental move, Chef Lorrie recalls, “I wanted to be in New York. At that time, it was just becoming the food capital of the world and a true melting pot.” She continued to teach there for twenty-one years, helping to train such prominent chefs as the current executive chef of Nobu, Ricky Estrellado, who considers Chef Lorrie a mentor.

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In 2008, when The Art Institute announced that it would discontinue its culinary program, Chef Lorrie immediately thought of ICE. Since 2009, she’s been part of the ICE teaching staff and has continued her own culinary education by traveling when not in the kitchen classrooms. Her most recent adventure has been her multiple teaching stints in St. Petersburg, Russia at Swissam, a top hospitality and culinary arts school that partnered with ICE in 2012. Though she was hesitant to go at first, Chef Lorrie quickly fell in love with St. Petersburg. “The food culture is extremely advanced. That’s why Swissam was opened. Before it opened, Russia had new wealth and great chefs like Alain Ducasse and Jaime Oliver were going there. But they still had communist-style hospitality schools. The owner decided to establish the best culinary and hospitality school he could.” Chef Lorrie has enjoyed being one of the ambassadors of the ICE curriculum, all while taking in Russian art and culture.

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From sampling the spices in the souks of Morocco to exploring the best parrillas in Argentina, Chef Lorrie has had her fair share of culinary voyages recently. For this lover of international cuisines and passionate teacher, ICE is the perfect place to call her permanent home.

Want to get in the kitchen classroom with Chef Lorrie? Click here to receive more information on ICE’s career programs.


By Chef/Instructor Ted Siegel

Recently my wife Cheryl and I had the good fortune to spend a few days in La Belle Province (Quebec) and visit one of our favorite culinary destinations: the beautiful city of Montreal.

We arrived, exhausted, late on a Sunday night at a time when most restaurants are closed. We knew that we could rely on one excellent spot to be open, so we made the fifteen minute walk from our hotel to dine at one of the most popular bistros in the city—Restaurant L’Express, open until 3 a.m. seven days a week. L’Express has a reputation for serving consistently solid, traditional French bistro fare. Though the menu does not change often, there are nightly off-the-menu specials. Upon placing your order, the server brings a canning jar of cornichons and a crock of Dijon mustard, both left on the table as condiments throughout the meal. We started with one of their famous dishes, octopus and lentil salad: thin slices of perfectly poached octopus dressed with lemon and olive oil arranged in a ring mold around an earthy lentil salad, deftly seasoned with a shallot vinaigrette. Once the mold is removed, the presentation is similar to a savory charlotte. We also ordered pork rillettes, which were impeccably prepared with the right ratio of shredded lean pork and fat, my only critique being that they would have been better served at room temperature rather than chilled.

Montreal_octopus

Octopus and Lentil Salad

Given my love for organ meats, I always order offal if it’s on a menu. Cheryl and I shared an order of crisp veal sweetbreads with chanterelle mushrooms, garden peas and pea tendrils under a cloud of Parmesan foam. Continuing in the “offal” mode, I had rosy slices of quickly seared and sautéed calf’s liver in a light tarragon pan sauce reduction. Cheryl had a creditable hanger steak with pommes frites. Perhaps we should have stopped after the entrees but decided to indulge in an order of ouefs al neige—a giant quenelle of French meringue gently poached in sweetened milk, the milk then bound with egg yolks, flavored with vanilla beans and turned into a silky crème anglaise, garnished with toasted almonds and threads of spun sugar. After a dinner like that, we needed that walk back to our hotel room.

The following day, after taking a riverboat tour of the St. Lawrence River around the island of Montreal, we had lunch at one of our favorite ethnic restaurants in North America: Stash Café, which specializes in homestyle Polish cooking. The tripe soup, pierogies (of any kind) and the perfectly executed pork schnitzel are well worth the visit.

While researching the Montreal dining scene before our trip, one newcomer intrigued me: Le Comptoir Charcuteries et Vin, a restaurant of 40-50 seats serving a contemporary French-Canadian menu of small tasting plates and an extensive list of charcuterie and house-cured meats. It’s a neighborhood establishment where the service transcends warm, friendly and gracious. However, it was the food that left us speechless. We loved our first meal there so much that we cancelled a dinner reservation at another restaurant and returned three nights later. It is hard to find superlatives adequate enough to do justice to the chef and his execution of a very labor-intensive menu. The kitchen opens directly into the dining room and there are only three people working on the line including Chef Ségué Lepage. I highly recommend virtually every dish, as we sampled almost the entire menu during our two visits—easily the best two meals we’ve had in 2016 (and quite possibly in 2015 as well). Though all dishes were memorable, here are my favorites: house-cured porchetta di testa served with goat cheese fritters and ribbons of pickled zucchini; lobster tart on a savory sablé with tomato confit, tarragon crème fraîche, roquette and gently stewed white onions; tataki of seared veal loin with a purée of sage, Marsala wine reduction, fried sweetbreads and marinated radish salad; and wild blue pleurote mushrooms from Ontario with crab mayonnaise, landjäger sausage, wild garlic and dill. Go to Le Comptoir and you will not be disappointed!

Montreal_charcuturie

No trip to Montreal would be complete without paying visits to Joe Beef and Au Pied Cochon. Fred Morin, owner and chef of Joe Beef, and Martin Picard, mastermind of Au Pied de Cochon, have in common both their connection to famed Québécois chef Normand Laprise—the “godfather” of modern French-Canadian cuisine—and their decadent, over-the-top approach to cuisine, gastronomy and life in general—an approach which I fully subscribe to and worship.

Montreal Joe Beef

Joe Beef

Joe Beef promotes itself as a seafood-centric restaurant but it’s really about meat as well. The portions are large, so go with an empty stomach. Prepare to be well fed in a relaxed atmosphere by an approachable staff. The must-tries on the current menu are the appetizer of crispy calf’s head fritters served with sauce gribiche; salade gourmandea large, thick round of country-style terrine topped with a salad of apples and haricots verts and served with a tranche of grilled peasant bread slathered with an unctuous foie gras parfait; roast quail stuffed with lobster sausage in a light jus of the roasting juices; and the lobster spaghetti, which is why anybody goes to Joe Beef in the first place. Chunks of lobster seared in the shell, then stewed with bacon, cream, Parmesan and fresh herbs, and served atop house-made fresh spaghetti with the texture of satin. We also had a perfectly roasted halibut filet with smoked tomato butter. At this point, we moved on to dessert, but should not have, as they were somewhat of a disappointment. Regardless, Joe Beef is a restaurant that deserves at least one if not numerous visits.

Montreal_Joe Beef

Stuffed Pig’s Foot

Finally, there is Au Pied de Cochon, which is consistently rated as one of the top restaurants in North America. We’ve dined there in the past and feel like a trip to Montreal would be incomplete without a visit to Martin Picard’s “temple” of all things duck, foie gras and pork. Be warned: the portions defy any notion of restraint and are not for the “squeamish”—which is a good thing for me!

On our most recent visit we began with three off-the-menu specials: perfectly fried zucchini blossoms with a caper aioli, a totally hedonistic foie gras pizza with prosciutto and cheese curds, baked in a wood-burning oven with just the right amount of char to the crust, and a disappointing yellowfin tuna belly glazed with soy and maple that sounded great on paper but was horribly overcooked. For our entrees, Cheryl and I had their two most iconic menu items: “Duck in a Can” and the Stuffed Pig’s Foot “APC”. The former is a magret de canard (also known as Moulard duck breast), duck leg confit and foie gras preserved in a tin can with cabbage and vegetables, presented and opened out of the can at the table. The latter is a braised pig’s foot stuffed with foie gras and gratinéed with bread crumbs, served on a bed of a silken potato purée whipped with cheese curds, a variation of the famous aligote from the Auvergne region of France, and a sauce prepared from the braising jus. The pig’s foot was big enough to serve two to four people. It was an “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing” moment!

Also not to be missed: the two central food markets in the city, Atwater market in “Little Burgundy” and Jean-Talon market in “Litte Italy.” You can sample the best produce, cheeses, meats, seafood and prepared foods that this lush and fertile agricultural region has to offer. At the Jean-Talon market, be sure to visit the tiny but well-stocked culinary bookstore, Librairie Gourmande, most notably for their selection of cookbooks from top Québécois chefs. We enjoyed a surprisingly great lunch at La Crêperie du Marché in the Jean-Talon market, which specializes in the famous galettes de sarrasin—traditional savory buckwheat crêpes of Brittany, France. We savored a crêpe layered with béchamel sauce, Gruyère cheese and mushrooms as well as one with ham, cheese, spinach and a fried sunny side-up egg.

I’ll be going to Quebec City soon, so keep an eye out for my next (hungry) chef’s tour.

Chef Ted’s Montreal Hit List

Restaurant L’Express
3927 Rue Saint-Denis
http://restaurantlexpress.com

Stash Café
200 Rue St. Paul O
http://restaurantstashcafe.ca

Le Comptoir Charcuteries et Vins
4807 Boul St-Laurent
http://comptoircharcuteriesetvins.ca

Joe Beef
2491 Rue Notre-Dame O
http://www.joebeef.ca

Au Pied de Cochon
536 Duluth Est
http://aupieddecochon.ca/?lang=en

Atwater Market
138 Atwater Avenue
http://www.marchespublics-mtl.com/en/marches/atwater-market/

Jean-Talon Market
7070 Henri-Julien Avenue
http://www.marchespublics-mtl.com/en/marches/jean-talon-market/

Want to study culinary arts with Chef Ted? Check out ICE’s culinary arts career program. 


ICE’s 
Center for Advanced Pastry Studies (CAPS) is excited to announce our upcoming course on September 12-13, Ideas in Food: Gluten-Free Baking Science and Technique, led by Aki Kamozawa and Alex Talbot, chefs and creators of the award-winning blog Ideas in Food. In this new course, Chefs Aki and Alex will share the ingredients that are vital to creating gluten-free desserts, as well as gluten-free bakery and restaurant techniques. Participants will roll up their sleeves and learn to create a handful of tasty desserts, sans gluten. 

In anticipation of this upcoming course, we interviewed Chefs Aki and Alex to get their thoughts on gluten-free baking, plus a sneak peek of what to expect in the classroom.

GlutenF-Free Flour Power

Alex, you met your partner in crime, Aki, while working in the kitchen of Boston restaurant Clio—what was the catalyst for your transition from the kitchen to food media? 

I suppose the catalyst was the creation of our blog Ideas in Food in 2004, though I’m not sure I’d call it a transition. Food, the kitchen and the exploration of delicious things have always been our driving forces. And these days we have Curiosity Doughnuts in the Stockton Market in Stockton, NJ, that keeps us united with the kitchen.

Have you seen any recent shifts in jobs in the food and restaurant world?

The greatest shift is the growth of smaller off-the-beaten-path jobs. When we were at Keyah Grande in 2004, the idea of a restaurant in a mountain setting on a 4,000-acre ranch in the middle of nowhere—Pagosa Springs, Colorado—was crazy. Nowadays, these restaurants and jobs are idolized.

Your most recent cookbook is titled “Gluten-Free Flour Power” and your class here at ICE will focus on gluten-free baking. What ignited this gluten-free flame for you both?

Gluten-Free Flour Power grew out of our consulting business, where chefs needed a support system for their guests. We wanted to make a handbook of delicious gluten-free recipes. What is equally exciting and oft missed is that our recipes work gram-for-gram for both gluten-free and all-purpose flour.

What has been your biggest challenge in the realm of gluten-free baking?

The biggest challenge with gluten-free has been the stigma of “gluten-free.”

Which recipe are you most proud of?

The kouign-amann is pretty special.

What is your main goal for your class here at ICE?

The goal for the class is to break down a few walls and open the door to what is possible in the gluten-free kitchen.

If you had to state your overall food philosophy, whether on eating or producing, what would it be?  

Make it delicious.

Click here to reserve your spot in Chefs Aki and Alex’s course today!

Each year, ICE’s Center for Advanced Pastry Studies offers a variety of single and multiday continuing education pastry courses for working baking and pastry professionals taught by master chefs and critically acclaimed artists from all over the world. At CAPS, you will refine your skills, learn new and innovative techniques, and expand your current repertoire with hands-on classes among peers. What’s more, all CAPS classes are approved for American Culinary Federation certified education hours.

Classes have a limited enrollment and fill quickly. ICE alumni receive 15% off!


By Caitlin Gunther

Picture a culinary school graduate and chances are you imagine a white-toque wearing chef on his or her way into a traditional restaurant setting. Most people wouldn’t think that culinary school could also lead to working in the test kitchen of a food media startup located in Brooklyn’s coolest new creative hub, Industry City. That’s exactly where ICE alum Jiselle Basile (Culinary Arts and Culinary Management ‘14) recently landed—as chef and food stylist for Extra Crispy, Time Inc.’s new breakfast-centric website. Though the Career Services department at ICE set her up with her first food media internship (in the Birmingham-based test kitchen for Cooking Light), Jiselle’s willingness to try something different, leaving both her comfort zone and her hometown of New York City, helped Jiselle land her current gig.

Taking a break from such adventures as making green eggs and ham for grownups, Jiselle hopped out of the test kitchen to complete the ICE alum questionnaire. Unsurprisingly, this ICE alum has strong views on culinary school and where to score the best breakfast sandwich.

Jiselle Basile Extra Crispy

ICE graduation year: May 2014 (Culinary Arts and Culinary Management)

Location: Brooklyn, New York

Occupation: Chef and food stylist for Extra Crispy

Favorite sandwich spot:
I narrowed it down a lot obviously (laughs). One place is Steve’s Pork Store on Bath Avenue in Brooklyn. They make probably the best Italian sandwich I’ve ever had. And for breakfast—because obviously I have an opinion on breakfast—at the bagel shop I grew up with, Bagel Boy in Bay Ridge, they make a power bagel that has sunflower seeds, flaxseed and millet in a whole wheat bagel. I know a lot of people hate whole-wheat bagels, but this one is delicious. I get a sausage, egg and cheese with ketchup on that bagel and it’s a perfect breakfast sandwich.

Describe a typical day in your life.
There’s not a typical day, which keeps it interesting. At Extra Crispy, there’s a startup mentality—within a major company—but it’s still a startup. Most of us take on a lot of different roles so no two days are similar. Usually I’m either researching recipes at my desk; or I can be at a video shoot with a chef; or testing and styling in the kitchen. Tomorrow, I’m going to be making Scotch eggs with an ostrich egg on Facebook live. I have to pick up ostrich eggs at Union Square Market at 8:00 AM, so I’ll start here whenever I get back.

Where do you look for recipe inspiration?
Food & Wine, Lucky Peach, Bon Appetit…I also read a bunch of food blogs. Or if I really like something I eat at a restaurant, I’ll try to recreate it. I research a bunch of recipes and then try to make something that’s my own. My family is also a big inspiration. Everyone in my family cooks, so I grew up trying to learn from them, though that’s mostly Italian food.

How did ICE prepare you for being a chef and food stylist at Extra Crispy?
I am where I am today because of ICE. If it weren’t for [ICE Career Services Advisor] Tessa, I never would have known about the internship with Time Inc. in Alabama. To be completely honest, I didn’t even know this kind of job existed before attending ICE. Both programs definitely prepared me for working as a chef/food stylist. The Culinary Arts program provided me with the necessary technical skills and I gained an understanding of market trends in Culinary Management. The recreational classes were also a great way to build on a particular interest.

Chef Jiselle Basile

What is your culinary voice?
I’m still trying to figure that out. Right now I want to make delicious food that makes people feel good, or that brings back a memory or a specific moment in time. That’s why I like working for Extra Crispy—there’s so much comfort and emotion tied to breakfast.

Wired recently released a video with David Chang of Momofuku and in the video he talked about his success. He said a lot of things I love, but one thing in particular was that he tries to evoke nostalgia in his dishes, but not in an overtly obvious way. So the dish one person is brought back to won’t be the same dish that another person is being brought back to. I’d love to be able to do that but I have a lot more to learn.

What inspired you to go to culinary school?
It was always something I thought I wanted to do. When I graduated from high school, I thought I wanted to go to culinary school but I ended up going to college and getting a communications degree. I didn’t know where I wanted to go from there. At some point I realized that cooking had always followed me—no matter where I was, I was always finding a way to cook. Even in college I took cooking classes when they were offered. Eventually I realized that it was what I wanted to pursue as a career—something I always loved doing.

Where do you see yourself five years from now?
On my way toward starting something that will be my own. I don’t know if that will happen in five years because I need more restaurant experience first. So whether I’m back in kitchens or on the management side of things so I can learn how the FOH works, hopefully I’ll be on my way to owning my own restaurant.

Thoughts on the current culinary landscape?
The whole foodie culture thing is having an impact. People are either talking about things more than ever or social media is having an impact and brought to life how much people talk about it. People are more aware of their food; I’ve seen restaurants focusing more on where their food is coming from and I guess it’s in part because people are so much more concerned about the surrounding issues. It’s also interesting how owners and chefs now look at how social media affects their restaurants. Nowadays a lot of people, before they set foot in your restaurant, will see if you have an Instagram and check out what your food looks like, which has a huge impact on whether someone will eat in your restaurant.

Click here to discover how you too can earn a double diploma from ICE in Culinary Management and Culinary Arts or Pastry Arts.

David Waltuck - Culinary Arts Chef Instructor - Institute of Culinary Education

The Institute of Culinary Education welcomes award-winning David Waltuck as Director of Culinary Affairs

ICE is thrilled to announce the newest addition to our faculty—the celebrated Chef David Waltuck, formerly of Chanterelle, as the school’s first-ever director of culinary affairs. In this new role, Chef David will bring his talent, insight and years of experience to ICE students.

Chef David has enjoyed an illustrious culinary career. During his 30-year tenure as executive chef and proprietor of Chanterelle, he and the restaurant received two James Beard Awards, including Best Chef NYC in 2007 and Best Restaurant in America in 2004 (not to mention another 10 nominations) and two four-star reviews from the New York Times (1987 and 1993). Heralded for its innovative blend of French and New American cuisine, Chanterelle introduced a then-unknown type of fine dining to downtown Manhattan.

Most recently, Chef David has served as the executive chef of élan restaurant, which the New York Times awarded two stars. Prior to that, he served as the Executive Chef for Ark Restaurants Inc., where he opened restaurants for the brand across the country from Las Vegas and Washington, D.C. to Boston and New York City. Outside of the kitchen, Chef David has authored two books: Staff Meals at Chanterelle and Chanterelle: The Story and Recipes of a Restaurant Classic, which won an IACP Award for Best Cookbook: Chefs and Restaurants in 2009. He began his career in the world of science, earning a bachelor’s degree in Biological Oceanography from CCNY and graduating as a member of phi beta kappa.

In addition to his role as chef instructor in ICE’s culinary arts program, Chef David will serve as the school’s first director of culinary affairs. In this role, he will provide mentorship to ICE students as they plan their careers, garner relationships with New York City restaurants to continue placing ICE students in coveted externships, sustain relationships with ICE alumni chefs and provide insight on the school’s culinary curriculum to keep current with restaurant standards. He will also teach in ICE’s School of Professional Development and School of Recreational Cooking.

“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to share the knowledge and experience I have gathered in my forty-year career as a chef with a new generation of aspiring professionals,” Chef David said. “I have chosen to work with ICE because the program is excellent, the new facilities are state of the art and, most important, the instructors and administrators are experienced and deeply committed.”

For its part, ICE is eager for Chef David to join its faculty. “ICE is thrilled to welcome a chef of David’s caliber to the school’s already outstanding teaching staff,” said Rick Smilow, ICE’s president and CEO. “He brings with him the knowledge that comes with 40 years of experience in the restaurant industry, the better part of which was spent working in one of the city’s top restaurants. Our students will absolutely benefit from the lessons and wisdom he will impart.”

To learn about more of ICE’s talented instructors, click here.

By Carly DeFilippo

From 17-year-old high school grads to former doctors, artists and executives, ICE students come from all walks of life. In the case of Brooklyn native Christian Souvenir, it took many years in the military before the desire to attend culinary school took hold.

The switch from government intelligence work to cooking may seem like a drastic change, but Christian’s disciplined background is serving him well in the kitchen. Since graduating from ICE’s Culinary Arts program in 2011, he has worked in some of Brooklyn’s most innovative new restaurants, including Nightingale 9 and French Louie, growing his love for a new kind of service.

Thanks to ICE’s flexible scheduling options, Christian is able to continue kitchen work while pursuing a second ICE diploma in Culinary Management. “I love cooking in restaurants,” Christian explains. “But I saw myself on this path where I could potentially be in charge of people and not have the tools to help them get better. What I’ve learned in management is helping me form what I want in my eventual restaurant, and what I want for myself as a leader. That is so important.”

To learn how ICE’s Culinary Management program prepares grads to own or operate culinary businesses, click here. For more information about the range of active duty, reserve and veteran’s benefits available to ICE students, click here.

By Carly DeFilippo

In 2014, when Saveur ranked Brooklyn as their #1 food destination worldwide, guess which of the neighborhood restaurants became the “cover girl” for the borough’s inimitable flavors? That’s right—Emily. The brainchild of ICE Culinary Arts grad Matt Hyland and his wife Emily, this new Clinton Hill eatery has captured the creative minds and palates of the world’s most discerning pizza lovers—and the pair has just added a second restaurant, Emmy Squared, to their pizza empire. So we knew we had to talk to the man behind the pies and learn a little bit more about his path to becoming a professional pizzaiolo.

Matthew and Emily Hyland in from of their pizza shop. Photo courtesy of pizzalovesemily.com.

Matthew and Emily Hyland in front of their pizza shop. Photo: pizzalovesemily.com. Photo credit: Jill Futter.

What were you doing before you enrolled at ICE? What motivated you to enroll at that time?

I had just finished my information science degree at Roger Williams University, and I was working as a part-time garde manger cook in a fine dining restaurant. I was commuting a long way everyday for this job and knew I wanted to be in the culinary world, but I hadn’t pulled the trigger on going to school. Through my research, I knew I wanted to be at ICE. One day, I was wearing my chef pants on the train, and the man who sat down across from me asked if I had gone to culinary school. I said no and he gave me his card. It turned out he was a recruiter for ICE. I really took that as a sign and enrolled just a few days later. I’m so glad I had that encounter!

Where was your externship? Did it help you make any particularly meaningful connections in the industry?

My externship was at Public. I worked the hot appetizer and garde manger station, and after my externship, they hired me for the pastry station. It was a solid foot in the door and a great restaurant to have on my resume. They also wrote me a great recommendation letter, which was helpful as I started looking for other jobs.

What have you been up to since graduating? 

I have worked in various capacities in the culinary world over the past decade. I have done everything from pastry, to salad, to cooking on the line, to working on the administrative team for the opening of April Bloomfield’s The Breslin. (As a current business owner, the experience of working on the opening of someone else’s restaurant was a great learning experience.) I was also on the opening team of Sottocasa— the pizza place in my neighborhood—which was where I got my hands in the dough and realized it was the path I wanted to take.

Are there any professional milestones, accomplishments or awards of which you are particularly proud?

Taking the chance to open my own establishment. First, I opened a pizza spot called Brooklyn Central, in Park Slope, with other partners. Yet, once we opened, we learned we had very different visions. I left there just six weeks after the opening, which felt like a real defeat. However, it afforded me the chance to try again on my own—and with a ton of experience under my belt. I now own EMILY restaurant with my wife, so I have full creative control of the menu. This time around, the vision is easier to implement because we share it together.

ICE Alumni Interview: Matthew Hyland of Emily Pizza – Pizzas from @pizzalovesemily Instagram – ice.edu

Eyes on the pies: a collection of photographs from Emily’s Instagram, @pizzalovesemily.

Briefly describe a day in your current working life.

Normally, I get to work around 11AM and get a big project started, like duck ragu. Then, I check in with my daytime porter on the orders we anticipate receiving. I do computer/administrative work from around 12PM-4PM, and then I get ready for service, as employees start to filter in over the course of the afternoon. Finally, I run the staff meeting during family meal (20 minutes before service begins), and then I expedite and cook pizza during service.

What might people be surprised to learn about your job?

This is an easy one. The most surprising thing culinary students who aim to be chef-owners of a restaurant might learn is that, daily, I do more administrative tasks than cooking. I am the executive chef and oversee all aspects of the kitchen, but my main job during service is to expedite, and my focus during the day is to pay bills, fight with vendors and work on spreadsheets.

Where would you like to see yourself in the future?

I would like to see my restaurant sustain itself. I realize very much that this is a day-to-day journey and that all restaurants have life spans. I hope EMILY can continue to be a strong fixture in NYC’s pizza scene and allow my wife and I a little more balance in our lives as time goes on. We are also really hopeful that we can expand or open another concept in the future. But the first year of opening a restaurant is such a whirlwind that it’s hard to think of what comes thereafter!

ICE President Rick Smilow (right) greets Matthew at the 2014 City Harvest Bid Against Hunger, where Emily was one of the featured restaurants.

ICE President Rick Smilow (right) greets Matthew at the 2014 City Harvest Bid Against Hunger, where Emily was one of the featured restaurants.

How would you describe your “culinary voice” – in other words, your culinary perspective or style?

I really believe in simple, real ingredients. Almost all of our produce comes from farms we know across New England, and all of our meat comes from trusted, small farms and butchers. I think it is important to be true to the integrity of the ingredients and create dishes that highlight them. We mix all of our dough by hand and make our mozzarella and ricotta fresh, in house, everyday.

My culinary voice, I suppose, is that there has to be love, passion and integrity in the preparation of food. In terms of pizza, my perspective is that it should be fun! Everyone in this city is so particular about pizza—sometimes in a really intense way. To me, there are no wrongs or rights in terms of toppings or styles, as long as you have a fun dining experience.

Last but not least, what’s your current favorite pizza at Emily?

Our secret off-menu pizza, “The Matt,” is my favorite. I won’t reveal anything about the toppings—you’ll have to come and see for yourself!

Don’t wait for a stranger on a train; click here to find out more about ICE’s Culinary Arts career program.

By Carly DeFilippo

In 2014, when Saveur ranked Brooklyn as their #1 food destination worldwide, guess which of the neighborhood restaurants became the “cover girl” for the borough’s inimitable flavors? That’s right—Emily. The brainchild of ICE Culinary Arts grad Matt Hyland and his wife Emily, this new Clinton Hill eatery has captured the creative minds and palates of the world’s most discerning pizza lovers. So we knew we had to talk to the man behind the pies and learn a little bit more about his path to becoming a professional pizzaiolo.

Matthew and Emily Hyland in from of their pizza shop. Photo courtesy of pizzalovesemily.com.

Matthew and Emily Hyland in front of their pizza shop. Photo: pizzalovesemily.com. Photo credit: Jill Futter.

What were you doing before you enrolled at ICE? What motivated you to enroll at that time?

I had just finished my information science degree at Roger Williams University, and I was working as a part-time garde manger cook in a fine dining restaurant. I was commuting a long way everyday for this job and knew I wanted to be in the culinary world, but I hadn’t pulled the trigger on going to school. Through my research, I knew I wanted to be at ICE. One day, I was wearing my chef pants on the train, and the man who sat down across from me asked if I had gone to culinary school. I said no and he gave me his card. It turned out he was a recruiter for ICE. I really took that as a sign and enrolled just a few days later. I’m so glad I had that encounter!

Where was your externship? Did it help you make any particularly meaningful connections in the industry?

My externship was at Public. I worked the hot appetizer and garde manger station, and after my externship, they hired me for the pastry station. It was a solid foot in the door and a great restaurant to have on my resume. They also wrote me a great recommendation letter, which was helpful as I started looking for other jobs.

What have you been up to since graduating? 

I have worked in various capacities in the culinary world over the past decade. I have done everything from pastry, to salad, to cooking on the line, to working on the administrative team for the opening of April Bloomfield’s The Breslin. (As a current business owner, the experience of working on the opening of someone else’s restaurant was a great learning experience.) I was also on the opening team of Sottocasa— the pizza place in my neighborhood—which was where I got my hands in the dough and realized it was the path I wanted to take.

Are there any professional milestones, accomplishments or awards of which you are particularly proud?

Taking the chance to open my own establishment. First, I opened a pizza spot called Brooklyn Central, in Park Slope, with other partners. Yet, once we opened, we learned we had very different visions. I left there just six weeks after the opening, which felt like a real defeat. However, it afforded me the chance to try again on my own—and with a ton of experience under my belt. I now own EMILY restaurant with my wife, so I have full creative control of the menu. This time around, the vision is easier to implement because we share it together.

ICE Alumni Interview: Matthew Hyland of Emily Pizza – Pizzas from @pizzalovesemily Instagram – ice.edu

Eyes on the pies: a collection of photographs from Emily’s Instagram, @pizzalovesemily.

Briefly describe a day in your current working life.

Normally, I get to work around 11AM and get a big project started, like duck ragu. Then, I check in with my daytime porter on the orders we anticipate receiving. I do computer/administrative work from around 12PM-4PM, and then I get ready for service, as employees start to filter in over the course of the afternoon. Finally, I run the staff meeting during family meal (20 minutes before service begins), and then I expedite and cook pizza during service.

What might people be surprised to learn about your job?

This is an easy one. The most surprising thing culinary students who aim to be chef-owners of a restaurant might learn is that, daily, I do more administrative tasks than cooking. I am the executive chef and oversee all aspects of the kitchen, but my main job during service is to expedite, and my focus during the day is to pay bills, fight with vendors and work on spreadsheets.

Where would you like to see yourself in the future?

I would like to see my restaurant sustain itself. I realize very much that this is a day-to-day journey and that all restaurants have life spans. I hope EMILY can continue to be a strong fixture in NYC’s pizza scene and allow my wife and I a little more balance in our lives as time goes on. We are also really hopeful that we can expand or open another concept in the future. But the first year of opening a restaurant is such a whirlwind that it’s hard to think of what comes thereafter!

ICE President Rick Smilow (right) greets Matthew at the 2014 City Harvest Bid Against Hunger, where Emily was one of the featured restaurants.

ICE President Rick Smilow (right) greets Matthew at the 2014 City Harvest Bid Against Hunger, where Emily was one of the featured restaurants.

How would you describe your “culinary voice” – in other words, your culinary perspective or style?

I really believe in simple, real ingredients. Almost all of our produce comes from farms we know across New England, and all of our meat comes from trusted, small farms and butchers. I think it is important to be true to the integrity of the ingredients and create dishes that highlight them. We mix all of our dough by hand and make our mozzarella and ricotta fresh, in house, everyday.

My culinary voice, I suppose, is that there has to be love, passion and integrity in the preparation of food. In terms of pizza, my perspective is that it should be fun! Everyone in this city is so particular about pizza—sometimes in a really intense way. To me, there are no wrongs or rights in terms of toppings or styles, as long as you have a fun dining experience.

Last but not least, what’s your current favorite pizza at Emily?

Our secret off-menu pizza, “The Matt,” is my favorite. I won’t reveal anything about the toppings—you’ll have to come and see for yourself!

Don’t wait for a stranger on a train; click here to find out more about ICE’s Culinary Arts career program.