By Leslie Engel

I never dreamed of becoming a restaurant chef. Coming from a culinary student, this may sound a little strange. Why would someone go to culinary school and not want to join the ranks of great chefs like Alice Waters or Eric Ripert? It’s a legitimate question. Hear me out though, because today there are many paths you can forge with a culinary background.

Like most culinary students, my love for food and cooking began at an early age. I have fond memories of plucking sugar snap peas from my father’s garden and preparing a family meal at the ripe age of 10.

Despite this early interest, I pursued my love of food and cooking in ways that seemed more practical — examining the integral role food plays when it comes to our health. In grad school, I studied public health to better understand why so many people are sick with diabetes and obesity. I discovered that most Americans lack real, nourishing food in their diets — so I set out to change that. I carved out a niche during my time at a non-profit, making grants to support healthy food access and sustainable agriculture.

farmers' market

farmers’ market (credit: Anne Preble)

If I wasn’t in my kitchen or at the farmers market, I was venting to anyone who would listen about how giant food companies were sabotaging our health. I started a blog demonstrating how simple it is to cook healthy, inexpensive meals. I fantasized about culinary school — but always dismissed it as outlandish, one of those things an eccentric relative does.

During a brief and unsatisfying foray into city government, I had reached a crossroads. I’d hoped to shape food policy in this role. Instead, I found myself in endless meetings daydreaming about what I would cook next. Over lunch one day a colleague and I talked longingly about what we really wanted to do with our lives. We both said culinary school. I knew then it was finally time for me move out from behind the desk and into the kitchen.

The very next week I was touring ICE, with many ideas for the next phase of my career. I knew I wanted to provide healthy meals to people — or even inspire people to cook for themselves — but what would that look like? Would I delve into food media or the burgeoning meal kit delivery business, creating and testing recipes? Or would I become a private chef, using my expertise to provide wholesome meals to people short on time? Perhaps I’d take a broader, more public health approach, and join the growing movement to improve the food at institutions like hospitals or community-based organizations. While these options may not be as glamorous as working in a Michelin-starred restaurant, they feel true to how I relate to food. Everyone I spoke with at ICE — from admissions to career services — understood this and offered practical advice on how to reach my goals.

Sustainability Club at ICE

Leslie and another Culinary Arts student at a meeting of ICE’s Sustainability Club

One thing was certain — I would need to upgrade my skills to suit a professional kitchen. In an effort to undo years of questionable knife habits, I spent hours dicing potatoes and attended additional knife skills classes. I honed a variety of techniques from braising to poaching that I hope to translate into new, healthy recipes. I took advantage of networking and volunteer opportunities to meet people in the field and gain a better understanding of the industry. My classmates are a diverse bunch; some already have professional experience, and others are career changers like me. The range of ages, backgrounds and work styles provides an excellent preview of what working in a professional kitchen will be like.

As my time at ICE comes to a close, I look forward to drawing on the whole experience — the lessons, the difficulties and the relationships — as I move ahead with my career. Next month I’ll begin my externship in the test kitchen for a meal kit delivery service. Because why else would I go to culinary school?

Ready to find your culinary voice? Learn more about ICE’s career programs

By David Waltuck — Director of Culinary Affairs

Richard Olney’s book “Simple French Food” is one of my favorites. This exploration of “simple” food has a 40-page introduction explaining in detail what the author means by simple — clearly, simplicity can be complicated. The idea of the book — focusing on preparing simple foods very, very well — was made clear to me during a trip to France, years before I opened my restaurant Chanterelle.

plated sea bass

Like many young, aspiring chefs of the time, I was inspired by La Pyramide, the mythic three-Michelin-star restaurant in Vienne, France, and of its formidable chef Fernand Point, who mentored a whole generation of great chefs and is considered the father of nouvelle cuisine. Point had died long before I made my pilgrimage to La Pyramide in the mid 70s. (He died in 1955, the year of my birth. Coincidence?) But the restaurant, still run by his widow, remained a shrine to his legacy. The style and service at La Pyramide would stay with me throughout my career and influence the way I eventually conceived my own restaurant.

First and foremost, La Pyramide demonstrated the importance of simplicity — with a caveat. Point famously reinvented haute cuisine by focusing on regional dishes, reworking and refining them, and ultimately achieving a seemingly simple perfection: one that was only attainable through much effort. As it turns out, the trick of simplicity is to never let the effort show.

Though considered the height of haute cuisine, La Pyramide was unpretentious in terms of service and style, something I noted in other great restaurants in France. The humility of the restaurant and staff made all of the difference in the experience for the client. This starkly contrasted with many French restaurants in New York in the 70s and 80s, where snobbishness and condescension were a matter of course. Like La Pyramide, my restaurant, Chanterelle, was noted as a place that was welcoming and unpretentious, though quite serious about food and service. This once surprising combination has since become the norm.

Finally, La Pyramide hammered home the value of the kind of expertise that only comes with time. At La Pyramide, everyone from the sommelier to the servers to the chef had been a part of the team for years, so their craft had become second nature. I discovered a profound lesson here: To be really good at anything, you must master technique to the point where you can relax within it. Like an athlete or a dancer, you must become so familiar with the movements of your craft that you’re completely at ease even at moments of great effort. This ease comes with practice and repetition, and in my opinion, relies on simplicity and lack of pretension. When you are confident and comfortable with what you do, there’s less temptation to indulge in showiness or condescension. Your clients will sense that they are in good hands and will want to go with you wherever you take them.

I like to think that the success of Chanterelle was in large part because I embraced the above lessons — humility, expertise through repetition, and the appearance of simplicity. I am sure that some chefs still practice this approach nowadays — though restaurants are going in a million directions, from perfected comfort food to elaborate, modern creations, I’m still a firm believer in stripping away. If something is on a plate, you should be able to give me a reason why. Though substantial efforts may go into each component of a dish, the result should feel simple. Diners can then enjoy the food on its own terms, and though they are on some level aware of the work that went into preparing it, they are not ostentatiously reminded of it.

Ready to get started on your culinary education? Click here to learn about ICE’s Culinary Arts program.

 

By ICE Staff

Entries are officially open for the 2018 #CulinaryVoice Scholarship Contest, and this year, the pot gets even sweeter: scholarship finalists will compete on ABC’s The Chew for the chance to win one of four full scholarships – worth more than $160,000 – to attend one of ICE’s award-winning Culinary Arts or Pastry & Baking Arts career programs.

For this year’s contest, public vote will determine the semi-finalists and the finalists will appear on The Chew to compete for the coveted awards. The Chew’s co-hosts Carla Hall, Clinton Kelly and Michael Symon, will host the finals with four celebrity chefs serving as mentors. Meanwhile, ICE’s chef-instructors will teach the contestants culinary skills and judge the finals.

“We never dreamed that what began as a creative way to award scholarships would become a worldwide sensation. Then, to have some of the biggest names in the food industry – like Marcus Samuelsson, Ted Allen, Duff Goldman and Donatella Arpaia – get behind us, millions of votes and the 26 lives we’ve already changed through these scholarships is very gratifying,” said Rick Smilow, ICE’s president and CEO. “And now having the finals air on the number one food and lifestyle show on TV, takes our scholarship program to a whole new level. The school has helped more than 14,000 alumni find their culinary voice and this year, we’re going to add to that in a big way.”

How to Enter

Entrants upload an original one-minute video to ice.edu/CULINARYVOICE demonstrating their creativity and passion for food, who or what inspires them and what they hope to achieve in the culinary or hospitality industries. They’ll tell the world why they deserve a scholarship and the chance to study at ICE – named America’s best culinary school by The Daily Meal (2016). Entrants can select from two of ICE’s career training programs in Culinary Arts or Pastry & Baking Arts, as well as their desired campus of choice in New York City or Los Angeles.

Entering is easy. Winning is life-changing.

Click here to learn more about the 2018 #CulinaryVoice Scholarship Contest and enter today!

 

At ICE, we make it our mission to help students find their culinary voice — that creative drive within each of us that determines how we express ourselves through food. Whether it’s a career training program, a recreational course in pie crusts or a special event featuring handmade pasta, we’ll give you the tools to hone your culinary creativity. Join us as we ask some of today’s leading food industry pros to share their culinary voice.

The chef behind such creations as a whole, crispy Sasso chicken served on a bed of smoldering hay, ICE alum Greg Proechel (Culinary Arts, ’09) has a proclivity toward bold, flavor-forward dishes with the occasional touch of whimsy. Asked to describe his culinary voice, Greg says it comes down to balance — a simple balance between acid, fat, texture and salt, plus one more essential element. Watch the video and discover the final ingredient in Greg’s culinary voice.

Find your culinary voice with ICE — learn more about our career training programs.


By Caitlin Raux

Chef James Briscione, ICE’s Director of Culinary Research, has a healthy obsession with flavor pairings. So much so that he and wife Brooke Parkhurst, a writer, cook and ICE recreational instructor, teamed up to write, “The Flavor Matrix: The Art and Science of Pairing Common Ingredients to Create Extraordinary Dishes.” Chefs who have gotten their hands on this groundbreaking ingredient-pairing guide are singing its praises. Said acclaimed chef and restaurateur Daniel Boulud, “This comprehensive book is a great tool for any student looking to strengthen his or her knowledge of ingredients, flavors and textures. The opportunity to study and understand the science of these elements is a great advantage to today’s generation of cooks. They should all make use of it!”

Flavor Matrix Cover

In between classes at ICE, where Culinary Arts students enjoy daily face time with ICE’s resident flavor master, we caught up with Chef James to chat about his forthcoming book.

What was your motivation in writing “The Flavor Matrix”?

This project really began right at ICE when we were working with IBM on the Chef Watson project. Through our work with Chef Watson, I started to learn about the critical role aromatic compounds play in creating flavor in food. And further, how these compounds could be predictors for exciting new ingredient pairings. Understanding these concepts helped me grow exponentially as a cook and in my own creativity in the kitchen.

I wanted to continue learning about this science and exploring these, so I set out to find resources for this information and realized that they did not exist. I decided then that I had to create it.

How did your work with IBM’s Watson change your approach to flavor pairing?

Working with Watson gave me the ability to see hidden connections between ingredients created by chemical compounds — links I never would have been able to decipher through simple tasting or smelling. Learning about these connections forced me to put aside all of the preconceived notions I had about what ingredients “go together.” It forced me to start from a completely blank slate. Approaching the cooking process in this way actually fed my creativity, leading me to be more thoughtful about each ingredient and how I used it.

As a chef and culinary school instructor, which cookbooks do you rely on again and again? 

It’s a wildly varied list! I often look to Alfred Portale’s “12 Seasons Cookbook” for seasonal cooking inspiration. Also Paul Bertolli’s “Cooking by Hand” because of the deep, thoughtful and passionate approach he has to cooking, and it’s a rich guide to modern Italian cuisine. Typically, when I turn to a book it is to understand the question of why something is happening in cooking — understanding the why answers dozens of other questions that may come up along the road. My favorite resources for those questions are “Ideas in Food” by Aki Kamozawa and H. Alexander Talbot, and “On Food and Cooking” by Harold McGee.

Tell us about your process — how did you go about planning, testing and writing this cookbook?

It was an incredibly complex process. We set out to create something that had never been done before. This book took nearly two years to create. It began with a deep dive into the physiology of flavor and taste. Then I had to learn the chemistry of flavor well enough to explain it to others.

Next I had to conceptualize how to convey flavor profiles to readers. I finally settled on the Flavor Matrix. The matrix is a visual representation of the aromas that make up the flavor of an ingredient or category of ingredients. I like to describe each matrix as a “fingerprint” of an ingredient’s flavor profile, meaning that each matrix is unique to the specific ingredient and no two are identical.

After creating the template for the matrices, we independently researched each ingredient for basic information like growing season, genetic relations, native climate, taste profile, etc. Next, we created pairings and then scores for each pairing (60-80 per matrix). We did over 4,000 calculations to generate the data for the matrices. Then I worked with a data visualization specialist in the Netherlands to help bring the Flavor Matrix to life.

Chicken & Mushroom Burger with Strawberry Ketchup (c) Andrew Purcell

Surprising Combinations: Chicken & Mushroom Burger with Strawberry Ketchup (photo by Andrew Purcell)

Can you share with us your most unusual / surprising flavor pairing?

Some of my favorites are:

  • Blueberry and Horseradish
  • Chicken, Mushroom and Strawberry
  • Asparagus and coconut
  • Blueberry and cumin
  • Cauliflower and fig
  • Truffle and vanilla
  • Caramel and fish sauce
  • Carrot and coffee
  • Venison and pineapple
  • Oyster and pomegranate

“The Flavor Matrix” will be available on Amazon on March 6, 2018.

Want to study the culinary arts at ICE? Learn more about our career training programs.

By Caitlin Raux

There are several good reasons why Greg Proechel (Culinary Arts ’10), Executive Chef of Ferris, has an octopus tattooed on his right arm. For starters, the former college football player has an octopus-like dexterity in the kitchen, a skill that earned him the nickname “pulpo,” — that’s “octopus” in Spanish — from famed Spanish chef Jesus Nuñez, whom he accompanied on Iron Chef in, coincidentally, the octopus battle. The eight-armed mollusk, which can grow an arm if it loses one, is a symbol of regeneration, a theme that resonates with Greg. Less than a decade ago, he was working a desk job as a financial analyst. Today, he’s leading a new restaurant that’s already garnered praise from the New York Times, the New Yorker, and was named one of Eater’s Hottest Restaurants in Manhattan. His career path 180 began with his decision to enroll in ICE’s Culinary Arts program, where he began with zero professional kitchen experience and ended with a paid position at one of the best restaurants in the world — Eleven Madison Park. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better example of regeneration. And Greg continues to grow and make waves with his honest cooking and cheeky presentations of serious food.

Greg Proechel

Culinary school may have seemed an unlikely destination for a Wesleyan graduate who majored in economics. But to Greg, it was clear that a desk job wasn’t for him. “I need to do stuff with my hands. I always have,” says Greg. “I was a very avid drawer and I was always building stuff. I think I built every piece of furniture in my parents’ house. I knew I’d have to do something tactile.” So, college athlete, artist, carpenter — when did cooking enter the picture? “Cooking was always a big part of my life. All memories of my family revolve around food,” explains Greg. “I really wanted to go to culinary school as soon as I graduated.” To appease his parents, however, Greg worked as an analyst for a couple of years after college, all the while planning his next move. “I kept researching culinary programs, and when I got home from work, I’d practice my kitchen skills.” In 2009, just after ICE won its second IACP award, Greg applied to ICE’s Culinary Arts program — his first turn toward the professional life he truly wanted.

As the restaurant’s website will tell you, “Ferris is an amalgamation of everything Proechel has done in his New York restaurant career.” Greg laid the foundation for that career with his first externship during culinary school. Acting on the advice of ICE Chef Ted Siegel, Greg applied for an externship at Eleven Madison Park, which had just received its four-star rating from the Times. Despite the steep learning curve and inevitable slip-ups out of the gate, the learning experience was well worth it. “In the beginning, I messed up every single day,” says Greg, “but towards the end, I started doing well. And then I was hired.” It was during this time that Greg learned not necessarily what to cook, but how to work. Explains Greg, “To this day, I still use the methods I learned from my sous chef at EMP.” With the methods of a well-oiled Michelin-star machine under his belt, Greg was ready to start innovating in the kitchen.

Ferris Cote de Boeuf

Ferris’ Cote de Boeuf with all the fixings (photo courtesy of Ferris)

Ferris Cote de Boeuf

From Eleven Madison Park, Greg went on to Graffit, a modern Spanish restaurant led by Chef Jesus Nuñez, where he delved into molecular gastronomy. For a fledgling chef in the heyday of El Bulli, it was an exciting place to be. It was also the first place where Greg was given free reign to experiment in the kitchen. “That’s why I picked this career,” says Greg, “because you get to express yourself through food — and that was the first chance I got to do that all the time.” Four months into his stint at Graffit, Greg joined Chef Nuñez on Iron Chef, where they went head to head with Chef Michael Symon in the octopus battle. “That was just 16 months into my cooking career, so it was insane,” says Greg, “but the chef really believed in me.” Then, with a reinforced sense of kitchen creativity and confidence, Greg joined the team at Blanca, the pioneer of extravagant tasting menus in the then up-and-coming Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn. Working alongside chef-owner Carlo Mirarchi, Greg found a warm welcome for his values, like carefully chosen, immaculately prepared products, and his inventive cooking. Together, these experiences prepared him for his ascent to executive chef at Le Turtle, where Greg created a menu of food described as “regularly excellent and at the very worst, interesting,” and set the restaurant world abuzz with his Sasso chicken — the chicken — served in its glorious, crispy skin entirety on a bed of hay. Advancing with a seemingly blind sense of determination, the young chef was already making a name for himself in New York City.

Once the world caught wind that Greg was taking the helm of a new restaurant venture, Ferris, diners eagerly awaited what promised to be a bold menu. Judging by reviews, he has delivered on that promise, with “insistently innovative dishes” emerging from the tiny, five-person kitchen. Greg seems to have taken no small amount of pleasure in channeling his experience and his favorite things into every item on the menu. Take, for example, the cote de boeuf served with “all the fixings” — various iterations of the onion — inspired in part by Eastbound & Down (Danny McBride fans will recall his character’s affinity for feeeexins), and also a nod to the standard procession of plates that come with any meal in nearby Koreatown. “When I go to Miss Korea in K-Town, they bring all of these different plates and sauces — that’s how I love to eat.” In other dishes, like the infamous roasted Sasso chicken, which isn’t on the menu but is served based on availability, you’ll find Greg’s childhood memories of farms in New Jersey, his home state, and his grandparents’ farm in Vermont. In terms of the theatrical element to Greg’s cooking, like the cote de boeuf presentation that brings the entire dining room to a hush as fellow diners look on enviously, it’s impossible to ignore the wink to the restaurant that wrote the book on theatrical dining — Eleven Madison Park.

Asked about the restaurant’s name, Ferris, Greg says it doesn’t have one origin, but rather, evokes a certain kind of feeling: the excitement of a kid on a Ferris wheel; the joie de vivre of the protagonist of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” Greg, no doubt, is excited about food, and that excitement is contagious in his small, subterranean dining room. There’s also the idea of coming full circle, like a Ferris wheel, as Greg has done — from the days of being an analyst with a pipe dream of breaking into the culinary industry to today, an octopus-tatted chef who’s creating delicious dishes that are a joy to eat. It’s a story of hard work, tenacity and regeneration, and it began with a decision to change his life’s course. As the precocious Ferris Bueller once said — Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. Greg isn’t missing it.

Ready to find your culinary voice? Learn more about ICE’s career programs. 

At ICE, we make it our mission to help students find their culinary voice — that creative drive within each of us that determines how we express ourselves through food. Whether it’s a career training program, a recreational course in pie crusts or a special event featuring handmade pasta, we’ll give you the tools to hone your culinary creativity. Join us as we ask some of today’s leading food industry pros to share their culinary voice.

2017 was an incredible year for Vivian Howard (Culinary ’03). While continuing to lead critically acclaimed Chef & the Farmer and the beloved neighborhood oyster bar Boiler Room, she opened a third highly anticipated eatery, Benny’s Big Time, a family-friendly pizza and pasta restaurant in Wilmington, NC. Vivian also racked up an impressive four IACP awards and a James Beard Award nomination for her book “Deep Run Roots: Stories and Recipes from My Corner of the South.” Here, the ICE alum and star of the Peabody Award-winning PBS documentary series “A Chef’s Life” explains how she found that a return to her roots was exactly what her cooking needed.

Find your culinary voice with ICE — learn more about our career training programs.


By David Waltuck — Director of Culinary Affairs

Brandon Chrostowski is the founder and CEO of EDWINS Leadership and Restaurant Institute in Cleveland, Ohio, a restaurant and school that provides culinary training and job placement assistance to formerly incarcerated men and women. Everyone who works there, from the kitchen to the dining room, is a former inmate.

Brandon in the Kitchen at ICE

I met Brandon when he worked at my restaurant, Chanterelle, from late 2005 to 2008, starting as a server, and ultimately becoming an assistant general manager. He originally applied and interviewed with my wife, Karen, for a front of the house job. Though he had no dining room experience, he had been cooking for years in a number of excellent restaurants in the U.S. and France. He explained that he wanted to work with us to learn how the front of the house functions.

From the time Brandon began at Chanterelle, his goal was already to open a restaurant and school to help former inmates with re-entry and to teach them the skills needed to find work in the restaurant industry. I have remained a friend and supporter of Brandon and his project, so I was very happy to have been able to facilitate the dinner prepared by EDWINS at the James Beard House on January 17, 2018, which ICE generously allowed Brandon and his team to prep for in our kitchen classrooms. Brandon and EDWINS are also the subject of Thomas Lennon’s documentary “Knife Skills,” which was screened for students at ICE on January 18th and just received an Academy Award nomination for Documentary Short Subject.

Brandon took a moment from his busy visit to New York to chat with me about EDWINS and some other projects in the pipeline.

David Waltuck: How did you get your start in restaurants and cooking?

Brandon Chrostowski: I got involved after being arrested and then put on probation. I needed to find something that would keep me busy.

Did you have a mentor?

Yes. Chef George Kalergis, a Greek chef from Detroit. He taught me the fundamental techniques of classic restaurant cuisine and that it’s not practice that makes perfect but perfect practice that makes perfect.

The EDWINS Team at ICE

When did you first conceive the idea that became EDWINS?

There were a series of events between 2002-2004 that led to the idea. I kept getting phone calls about people I knew who were killed or re-incarcerated. Also, the contrast of working in fine restaurants and living in poor areas always felt odd to me. I finally wrote a business plan in 2004.

Do you think the restaurant world is particularly accepting of people from varied backgrounds including incarceration? Why?

Yes. Because this industry accepts those who work hard and hard work has no language, and knows no boundaries when it comes to race, gender or ethnicity.

What is the success rate of your students? Do you have any favorite success stories?

Success is subjective. Each student has a life plan and if they make progress towards their goal then that is success — it’s not defined by what society deems success. As far as employment goes, after graduation our students find a job 95% of the time. Recidivism, or rate of return [to prison], for EDWINS students is 1% — nationally, it is over 40%. As an organization, we’re seeing success in these areas for sure. We’ve seen students go on to incredible jobs, from three-star Michelin restaurants to restaurants in Normandy, France. Those are some fun stories to listen to!

What are your plans for the future in terms of EDWINS? Do you have any other projects in the pipeline?

We take it day by day. The first goal is to make sure we assist our students in accomplishing their goals. Next, it’s keeping the restaurant alive and sustainable. Running a school is expensive and unlike other schools, we pay students a stipend. It’s important to have a leaner, more profitable enterprise, in order to offset that cost.

I’m also working on a butcher shop close to our campus. The goal is to provide a place that focuses on butchery, charcuterie and preparation of meats. It’s also located in a neighborhood that has been forgotten and deserves a quality place to eat. And we can sell meats wholesale to the restaurant.

Little by little we are trying to build the best culinary school in the states. Watch out ICE!

Want to study culinary arts with Chef David? Click here for information on ICE’s career programs.

 

By James Briscione — Director of Culinary Research

The Sonicprep Ultrasonic Emulisifer by PolyScience is a piece of equipment that has fascinated me for a few years, but I never had the opportunity to use one. Until now. The Sonicprep is the latest addition to the Culinary Technology Lab here at ICE. The lab’s equipment spans from when man just learned to harness fire (our hearth oven, tandoor and rotisserie) to the most cutting edge cooking appliances in the world (sous vide and precision temperature induction). This latest addition may look more suited to a research lab than a kitchen, but its ability to help ICE chefs and students innovate with food (and flavor experimentation) is exactly why it belongs right where it is.

Sonic Prep

At this point, you may be wondering: What the heck is it? Good question. PolyScience tells us that the “Sonicprep emits ultrasonic sound waves or ‘sonicates’ to extract, infuse, homogenize, emulsify, suspend, de-gas or even rapidly create barrel-aged flavor. By applying low heat vibrations of sound energy, this new PolyScience machine provides you an incredible range of techniques.” (Emphasis added.)

In other words, the Sonicprep is the key to creating, extracting, infusing and developing both flavor and texture in the fastest, most efficient and unique manner ever seen in a kitchen. Sonic waves force interactions between ingredients without the shearing, chopping or breaking that would be caused by a blender, so extracting or infusing flavors can become incredibly precise.

From something as simple as a new stove to an innovative, modern tool like the Sonicprep, there is always a learning curve when working with a new piece of equipment. When testing out a new stove, I always prepare something familiar, like a fried egg, to get my bearings. So for my first run with the Sonicprep, I also chose something I know well… alcohol.

I have long been a fan of infusing alcohol to create unique flavor combinations. For the past few years, in my sous vide courses, I’ve taught students how combining vodka + spices + heat + time = custom-flavored gin. While testing out the Sonicprep, I realized that there was the ability to create these same infusions without the high temperatures used in sous vide, meaning fresh items like herbs and citrus zest could retain their maximum aromas.

For our maiden voyage with the Sonicprep, I decided to transform vodka into gin. I loaded up a jar with vodka, crushed juniper berries, cardamom, coriander, black pepper, fresh cucumber and citrus zest. I set up a second infusion with some of the same spices, but also ventured to ICE’s hydroponic garden to harvest basil flowers to add herbaceous and floral aromas to the mix. The machine was set to run a cycle of just three minutes of constant sonic pulses. Sonic PrepThe speed and quality of the result was like nothing I had ever seen before with any other technique. The aroma of the herbs and spices in the jar became bright and full. Since it was a Friday afternoon, a few taste testers and I were able to sample both batches. The first jar yielded a product quite similar to gin, but more accurately described as gin-flavored vodka, meaning the transformation wasn’t quite complete. The second batch with the garden’s basil had an intense flavor, which wasn’t as reminiscent of gin but was delicious nonetheless. I’d say the latter is a strong front-runner to become my summer drink of choice, topped with sparkling water and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.

Though it was fun to experiment with the boozy potential of the Sonicprep, it’s so much more than a tool to use to up your mixology game. Now that we are more familiar with the machine and its variety of uses, new projects and goals are starting to take shape.

One that is especially intriguing to me is emulsion and homogenization. I hope we can manipulate fats and liquids into formulations to mimic common kitchen products — specifically butter and whipping cream. Imagine the possibilities if you could create your whipping cream from, say, rendered bacon fat or dashi, or make a butter substitute from olive oil or soy milk. Check back on the blog and follow ICE on social media to keep up with the latest developments from the Culinary Technology Lab!

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

 

 

 

At ICE, we make it our mission to help students find their culinary voice — that creative drive within each of us that determines how we express ourselves through food. Whether it’s a career training program, a recreational course in pie crusts or a special event featuring handmade pasta, we’ll give you the tools to hone your culinary creativity. Join us as we ask some of today’s leading food industry pros to share their culinary voice.

If mild flavors are your bag, then Chef Miguel Trinidad’s cooking is not for you. The ICE alum and chef-owner of critically acclaimed East Village restaurants Jeepney and Maharlika is all about bold, flavorful cuisine. It’s no surprise that Miguel was drawn to the cuisine of the Philippines. “Filipino food is like a punch in the mouth. It’s big, it’s loud and it takes you on a journey,” explains Miguel. At his restaurants, Miguel takes diners on a flavor-packed journey with his modern take on traditional Filipino dishes like kare kare (oxtail stew) and pata confit (crispy pork leg). Says Miguel of his preferred cuisine, “[e]ven when you’re stuffed, you still want to take another bite because it’s so delicious.”

Here, Miguel shares his culinary voice and how being a chef is like being an artist.

Find your culinary voice with ICE — learn more about our career training programs.

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