Recently, ICE hosted another successful Career & Externship Fair, where current students and alumni had the chance to meet one-on-one with top employers in the food and hospitality industry — Thomas Keller Restaurant Group, MeyersUSA, Blue Hill, Craft Hospitality Group, Union Square Hospitality Group, Momofuku and more. To build on the momentum, we tapped one of our experienced career services advisors, Tessa Thompson, to offer some pointers for launching a culinary career.

ICE Career Fair

By Tessa Thompson — Career Services Advisor

Starting your culinary career is a thrilling time. You’ve made the big decision to begin culinary school and become a culinary professional. Chances are, you’re filled with a combination of excitement, anticipation, hopefulness and a touch of uncertainty. You’re finally here — so now what? How do you make the most of your time as a student to start your career in the right direction? Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you kick off your successful culinary career.

  1. Educate Yourself. You may have decided to come to culinary school for various reasons, but one thing that everyone has in common at ICE is a passion for food — eating it, cooking it, talking/writing about it, even dreaming about it! Equally important is knowledge of what’s going on in the industry and who the key players are. Today, researching is easier than ever and the Internet has a wealth of information at your disposal. Take advantage of it. And don’t forget to hit the pavement — there are at least 10 great restaurants within walking distance of ICE and at least five sweet spots for delicious hot chocolate in Brookfield Place alone…can you name them? Get to know your surrounding culinary businesses and hit them up for information (and hot cocoa!).
  1. Use Your Resources. ICE has a near limitless supply of resources — from our instructors and alumni, to guest speakers and professional development classes and more. Honing your knife skills and perfecting your pan sauce are necessary parts of your culinary education, but learning how to use your resources will open up endless opportunities for your future. Develop relationships with your instructors, your advisors and your peers. Take advantage of your class credits, attend the Wine Essentials course or be a part of First Fridays here at ICE. Ask questions, volunteer your time, cultivate your curiosity and use all the resources at your disposal to get the most out of your ICE education.
  1. Find Mentors. Support and encouragement from family and friends is an important factor in your success. But finding industry mentors is equally as crucial. Non-industry folks are well-intentioned but may not fully understand the demands of life in the kitchen. “So you’re telling me you want to stand on your feet for 12 hours a day peeling potatoes for minimum wage with a chef screaming down your neck — WHAT?!?! Are you crazy?!” This is the all-too-familiar response from non-industry friends and family. Industry people can assure you what is or is not normal and offer solutions for the many challenges that you will face in your career. Often, just talking to someone who’s been there and understands you will make a huge difference. So, find a chef you connect with or a trusted career services advisor to help support you in your culinary journey.

Spring Career Fair

  1. Enthusiasm: Act Like You Want it. Ours is an industry of hospitality. Chefs, servers and restaurateurs — we all have a desire to be generous and make others happy. But in order to receive the benefit of a helping hand, you must act like you want it! Enthusiasm comes in many forms and no better time to act like the professional you want to be than right now. Take advantage of opportunities to learn. Volunteer and network as much as possible. Show up to class and your trails with a can-do attitude. Make sure your resume is in order, your emails are free of typos and your whites are clean. Communicate and follow up with those who offer help. Act like you want it and you’ll find that the hospitality flows.
  1. Try, Try, and Try Again. If at first you don’t succeed (or even if you do!), starting your career is about trying different things to discover what’s out there and finding the best fit. Trailing is a big part of this process. As part of finding an externship at ICE, you’ll work with your advisor to research and come up with a list of potential sites. Variety is key here, as is a willingness to move beyond your comfort zone. Ask for recommendations, sign up for industry newsletters and discover what’s out there. Trailing, whether for an externship or a job, is a fun process, so take full advantage of it and try out at as many places as possible. 
  1. Reach for the Stars! You’ve chosen to attend one of the premier culinary schools in the world, so why limit yourself when it comes to your externship (or first job)? Whether fine dining is your thing or really tasty Mexican cuisine, build a strong foundation by setting your sights on the best in the field. Don’t know the top sites? Educate yourself, use your resources and ask for help! Work hard and aim high — you’ll find the stars are within your reach!

Ready to launch a rewarding culinary career? Click here for more information on ICE’s career programs.


By Gabby Guarino,
Student, Culinary Arts ’17 

Gabby is a student in ICE’s Culinary Arts program and our newest student blogger. She’s been cooking since before she was allowed to use the stove — making “soup” by using hot water from the sink to “boil” pasta and then throwing in some spices. Before culinary school, she received a bachelor’s degree in communications and human resources management from Rutgers University. She worked in marketing for a stint before launching her blog, “The Semi-Healthy Foodie,” and in October 2016, she finally decided to pursue her dream of going to culinary school and enrolled at ICE. For her first blog post, she takes us through a daunting pastry lesson: Danish dough. 

GabG_1

Tackling Danish dough was one of the most challenging things I’ve had to take on in culinary school so far. When I think of a Danish, I think of buttery, flaky crust with a cheese or fruit filling. I think of the beautiful layers and the soft, chewy dough. Before culinary school, I casually enjoyed a Danish now and again, not thinking much of it. Now that I know the time and effort that goes into making that perfectly layered dough, I have a new appreciation for pastry chefs (and their Danishes) everywhere. There is a certain technique and process that’s essential to get the dough just right. Have you ever wondered how all of those buttery layers of dough are created? It may seem daunting, but with some time, patience and good instructions, it’s totally possible.

Apple Danish

For starters, Danish dough is considered a laminate dough, which means that there are layers of fat encased in dough and each layer remains separate. The laminate dough process is tedious but so rewarding. Before I explain the process, here are a few key words to know: beurrage, detrempe and paton. The fat component of the dough is called beurrage, the dough component is called the detrempe and the act of making the dough and encasing the fat in dough is called paton. Okay, enough with the fancy words — let’s get to it.

  • First, make a basic dough with yeast, sugar and cinnamon, and let it rest for about an hour.
  • Next, make sure your butter is very cold and cut it into thin blocks. Flour the butter and line up the blocks of butter into a rectangle. Pound them together with a rolling pin until they form a sheet that is about 10-12 inches wide.
  • Roll out the dough into a rectangle about one-third longer than your butter sheet. Place the butter sheet on the dough and fold into thirds like a letter. Roll the dough out, turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat the folding and rolling process. Rotate the dough again and repeat.
  • Next, refrigerate the dough for at least an hour. Remove the dough from the refrigerator, roll it out and cut into 4×4 inch squares.
  • When ready to bake, you can fill Danish dough with different fruits, jams or pastry creams.

Once you break down the steps, the process is quite simple and the result is the flakiest Danish. Those layers of butter and dough create the amazing structure that made the Danish famous. With this pastry lesson, not only did I master Danish dough, I also stepped out of my comfort zone, challenged my inner baker and acquired a new appreciation for Danishes and laminate doughs.

Apple Danish

Ready to challenge your inner baker with professional culinary training from ICE? Click here for more information.


Chef James Briscione recently traveled to Bahia, a state on the northeast coast of Brazil. Through daily trips to the market, tasting indigenous ingredients and getting into the kitchen with local chefs, Chef James discovered Bahian cuisine. Here’s one of Chef James’ favorite recipes from his Brazilian culinary exploration: UXUA moqueca — a rich, delicate seafood stew, with white fish, shrimp and creamy coconut milk. Balanced and delicious, this stew’s always in season.

moqueca

UXUA Moqueca
Servings: 2

Ingredients:

6 ounces shrimp
6 ounces firm, white fish (like halibut or cod)
1 green pepper, diced
1 tomato, diced
1 white onion, diced
24 fluid ounces coconut milk
3 red chilies, diced
Fresh parsley and fresh cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons palm oil
Juice of half a lemon
Salt and pepper

moqueca

Preparation:

  • Season the shrimp and fish with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Set aside.
  • Heat palm oil in a large pot. Add the onion, tomato and peppers, cook for a minute, then add the fish and sauté well. Add the coconut milk and simmer for about three minutes. Next, add the shrimp, chili, parsley and coriander. Stir gently and cook for around 10 minutes. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
  • Reserve about 1½ cups of the cooking liquid to make the pirão (manioc cream).
  • Serve with white rice, plantain farofa (the above-pictured dish to the right of the seafood stew — see recipe below), manioc cream and pepper sauce.

Pirão or Manioc Cream

Ingredients:

1½ cups cooking liquid
¼ cup manioc flour

Preparation:

  • Place liquid in a small pot over low-medium heat.
  • While whisking constantly, gradually add manioc flour. Continue to whisk until consistency is firm and creamy like porridge.

Plantain Farofa

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons palm oil
1 tablespoon salted butter
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 small plantain, sliced
1½ cups manioc flour
Salt
Fresh parsley, chopped

Preparation:

  • Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add butter and garlic and sauté for one minute. Add the plantain and sauté for another minute.
  • While continuously stirring with a spatula, add the manioc flour. Cook until the flour is well toasted, about three minutes.
  • Season with salt and finish with the parsley.

Explore the culinary arts with Chef James – click here for information on ICE’s career programs.

This is the third part of a three-part Valentine’s Day menu. Get the first course here and the second course here!

By Robert Ramsey — Director of Advanced Culinary Center

Round out your vegetarian Valentine’s Day with this savory main course. The presentation is beautiful and it’s actually a lot simpler than it looks to create. Plus, the rich buttery crust and truffle-infused mushroom duxelles scream decadence and luxury. If any of the mushrooms are unavailable, you can substitute any type of fresh mushrooms that are available.

mushroom tart

Truffle Mushroom Tart
Servings: Makes about two servings

For duxelles (filling)

Ingredients:

8 ounces button mushrooms
4 ounces shiitake mushrooms
4 ounces oyster mushrooms
1 large portobello cap
1/2 yellow onion
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary
4 ounces white wine
1 ounce truffle oil
2 ounces + 1 ounce butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

  • Clean mushrooms and remove stems. Process mushrooms in food processor, pulsing until mushrooms are finely minced, but not puréed into a paste. Reserve.
  • Finely mince the onion, rosemary leaves and thyme leaves. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and sauté until they cook down to about half the original volume. They should have a very dark color. Add the onion, thyme and rosemary and continue to sauté until onions are soft, about five minutes.
  • Next, add the white wine and continue to cook over medium heat. Allow the wine to reduce and absorb into the mushrooms, about five more minutes.
  • Remove the mixture from the heat, stir in the butter and truffle oil, and season with salt and pepper. Chill and reserve.

mushroom tart crust

mushroom tart filling

mushroom tart egg wash

For the crust

Ingredients:

2 sheets puff pastry
1 egg
Small amount of flour for dusting work surface.

Preparation:

  • Preheat oven to 425° F.
  • Remove puff pastry from the freezer and allow it to warm up slightly at room temperature on a lightly floured work surface. It should remain firm, but slightly pliable, about five minutes.
  • Using the bottom of an 8-inch tart pan, or just an 8-inch plate as a guide, cut two matching circles from the puff pastry. Place one circle on a baking sheet and the other back in the freezer.
  • Next, pile the duxelles filling into a mound in the center of the puff pastry, leaving a one-inch ring around the edges. Transfer back to the freezer for five to ten minutes to re-firm the puff pastry.
  • While the crust is in the freezer, make your egg wash by beating together one whole egg with one ounce of cold water.
  • Remove both the top and bottom crust from the freezer and return to your work station. Before proceeding with the tart assembly, cut a small hole directly in the center of the top crust (the one with no mushrooms on it), about the size of a pencil. Brush the bottom crust (the one with the duxelles filling on it) with the egg wash, covering just the portion of crust not covered by duxelles. Place the now pliable top crust on and press the two sheets of puff pastry together. Be sure to seal the seams tightly — you can really pinch the edges together.
  • At this point you’re ready to decorate the crust. First, using the backside of a paring knife blade, pull the edge of the dough inward at one-inch intervals to make scalloped edges (see photo). Once you have scalloped all edges of the tart, cut curved lines into the tart top with the tip of the paring knife. The lines should connect from the center vent hole to each of the scallops on the edge, making a graceful curve as they go (see photo). The cuts should not go more than halfway through the puff pastry dough.

mushroom tart

mushroom tart

mushroom tart

To finish

  • Brush the entire tart carefully with the remaining egg wash. Make sure it is evenly coated and that there is not excessive egg wash pooling anywhere on the tart or it will burn.
  • Place the tart into preheated oven. The tart will need to bake for about 20 minutes. It should be rotated about halfway through the cooking to ensure even browning.
  • Once the tart is a dark, golden brown, puffed up and shiny, it is ready. Remove from the oven and allow it to sit for at least 30 minutes before cutting.
  • This dish is beautiful served with a simple green salad, dressed with just a little oil and vinegar.

mushroom_8

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

 

What drives you? How do you reach people? When you make your mark on the world, what will it look like? What’s your culinary voice? With the 2017 #CulinaryVoice Scholarship Challenge in full swing, we turned to the judges, ICE’s industry-leading chefs and instructors, and posed them that same question. Here’s a look at their answers.

Culinary Voice ICE Instructors

(Top to bottom, left to right)

Tom Kombiz-Voss, Dean of Hospitality Management: “Inspiring and training each student to reach his or her highest potential in the hospitality industry.”

James Briscione, Director of Culinary Development: “Creative … and never satisfied.”

Sabrina Sexton, Culinary Arts Program Director: “Inspiring future chefs to better their community.”

Kate Edwards, Restaurant & Culinary Management instructor: “Hello! … And every little thing that matters.”

Michael Laiskonis, Creative Director: “Innovation and inspiration.”

David Waltuck, Director of Culinary Affairs: “Sharing 4+ decades of knowledge and experience.”

Anthony Caporale, Director of Beverage Studies: “The art of the drink.”

Steve Zagor, Dean of Culinary Management: “Mentoring, coaching and educating the next generation of the industry.”

Entries and voting are open! Click here to enter or vote for your favorite video. 


This Valentine’s Day, skip the reservations race and treat your special someone to a decadent homemade meal. To help you conquer the most important step — menu planning — ICE Chef Robert Ramsey came up with the perfect, balanced, veggie-forward three-course meal, beginning with a winter citrus salad, followed by fig and ricotta toasts and ending with a rich truffle mushroom tart. The only things missing are a bottle of wine and a good playlist.

By Robert Ramsey — Chef Instructor, School of Culinary Arts

People often forget that citrus comes into season in the winter. This time of year, the fruit is at its sweetest, juiciest and most alluring…perfect for Valentine’s Day. If you can’t find every variety used in this recipe, use any mix of citrus fruit you desire. Here, we top it with a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds, also a winter crop. According to legend, Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, is credited with planting the first pomegranate tree.

Veg_Valentine_3

Winter Citrus Salad
Servings: Makes about two servings

Ingredients:

1 navel orange
1 blood orange
1 ruby red grapefruit
2 tangerines
½ medium red onion
½ fennel bulb
½ bunch fresh mint
Seeds of 1 pomegranate
4 tablespoons good quality extra virgin olive oil
1-2 teaspoons crushed pink peppercorns
Maldon salt for finishing

Veg_Valentine_1

Preparation:

  • Peel all citrus using a paring knife. Make sure all white pith is removed.
  • Cut citrus into various shapes — segments, wedges and slices add visual interest. Toss together in a mixing bowl and reserve at room temperature.
  • Slice red onion and fennel very thinly. I like to use a Japanese mandolin to ensure even cuts. Add the fennel and onion to the citrus mixture. Sprinkle a good pinch of Maldon salt (or any large flake salt) and the pink peppercorns. Toss well and allow salad to sit for 15-20 minutes.
  • While salad is sitting, rough chop or tear the mint, leaves only.
  • Finish the salad by tossing the mint, olive oil, pomegranate seeds and citrus mixture together.
  • Transfer to two plates, finish with a sprinkle of Maldon salt and a drizzle of olive oil, if desired.

Interested in studying culinary arts with Chef Robert? Click here for more information on ICE’s career programs. 


By Caitlin Raux

On a recent Thursday, I had a late morning phone chat with Aaron Fusco (Culinary Arts ’10), sommelier at Daniel. At 31 years old, he’s relatively young to be holding a top rank in the wine program of one of New York City’s most eminent restaurants. Just a couple minutes into our conversation, however, his affable yet polished nature came through. Together with Aaron’s passion for fine dining, it makes sense that he should be managing the expectations of (and schmoozing with) some of the most demanding customers in the industry.

Sommelier Aaron Fusco

Aaron was kind enough to offer us a sneak peak into a day in the life of a sommelier at Daniel, and to answer some hard-hitting wine questions, like whether the best sparklers come from France and if screw-top wines really merit their bad rap.

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

Somewhat. My grandma was a really good cook and we all really enjoyed dinners at her house, though I wasn’t involved in the cooking very much. It wasn’t until after college, when I had time to focus on other things, that I realized I loved cooking. I just enjoyed it — the productivity and the tactile experience of cooking. I started watching Jacques Pepin programs and it went from there.

What did you do before ICE?

I studied economics at McGill University. Then I took a year in between graduating and starting the program.

That’s quite a change, economics to culinary arts.

I was spending summers working in a law firm, getting a feel for the 9-5 corporate life. That was motivation to do something a bit more fulfilling.

Tell me about your decision to enroll at ICE.

I was doing a lot of cooking at home and I wanted to make a transition into the industry. I considered other schools but I thought it would be crazy to enroll in a two-year program. Then I started looking at ICE and a couple other schools and decided on ICE. The main difference was the externship — I thought the externship was a better way to get good experience.

Were there any instructors or modules at ICE that stood out to you?

Yes. Chef Chris Gesualdi was by far the strongest teacher that I had. He had the real experience in terms of working in the best New York restaurants and was very interested in studying advanced techniques. This was a period when molecular gastronomy was a little more en vogue than it is now. I did a lot of recipe testing and extra-curricular work with Chef Chris, which was great.

Was that your first exposure to modern gastronomy and fine dining?

Absolutely. I was very naïve when I started the program. I didn’t know too much about the New York restaurant scene or the leading chefs outside of the celebrity chefs. Chef Chris helped open my eyes to Alinea and WD~50, which were the big places at the time. He was someone who had been in the industry so long but was still invigorated by what was around him.

How did training as a chef translate into working in wine?

I did my externship at Picholine, which was a two-Michelin star restaurant at the time. I continued to work with the chef after my externship and followed him to a couple of different restaurants. After about 15 months, I decided to make the transition to front of house. From there, it took another two years until I discovered wine and really got into it at Daniel.

What was your first job at Daniel?

I began in July 2012 as a busboy and within a year I was promoted to assistant captain. That’s when I started getting into wine. I was working for just under two years before I became a part-time sommelier.

Going from the kitchen to front of house as a busboy is a substantial change. Did you know you wanted to eventually be a sommelier when you began?

I first worked at Tocqueville — they helped me make the transition from back of house to front of house. I spent 9 months there, getting the hang of things, and then I made my way to Daniel. I had the mindset of I want to work in the best place possible. I figured that the learning curve would be higher.

What’s a day in the life like as a sommelier at Daniel?

I arrive at work at 3pm. I say hi to the management team and let them know I’m there. Then I do a little bit of set up in the dining room. I go downstairs to the wine cellar, say hello to my boss, take a look at the reservations for the evening and make a game plan for service itself. Then we usually have a handful of deliveries to put away — wines that need to be checked in and sorted in the wine cellar. Some evenings, we put some wines aside for private events and do restocking. Then we have lunch, a meeting and service. Service entails speaking with guests, opening bottles and keeping an eye on the tables I’m responsible for. At the end of the evening there’s usually restocking to do in the large cellar and smaller fridges upstairs; I say “smaller,” but there’s still a couple thousand bottles. That’s pretty much it. It’s really focused on service — there’s not as many behind-the-scenes tasks. The majority of work outside of the cellar is interacting with clients.

Now for a few wine and industry questions: It seems like the wine industry is changing in that people are having more fun with wine — taking it less seriously. What are your thoughts?

I totally support the idea of wine drinking becoming more casual. I enjoy wines that have a cerebral element to them, but that’s not to say that every glass of wine you drink should be analyzed to death. It’s a visceral and emotional experience, and if you want to dive deeper that can be fun and compelling. But at its surface, wine should just be enjoyed.

What’s your process for learning wines?

When I started, Raj Vaidya, the gentleman who runs Daniel’s wine program, encouraged me to take an autodidactic approach to wine. He told me, Anything you don’t know, go home and look up, and if you still don’t understand, then come ask me. If you do research on your own, it sinks into your brain a lot more than when you’re told something. So that’s what I did. The tasting side is taken care of at work. We have a policy that when we open a bottle, we pour a half-ounce for ourselves, to analyze the wine and make sure it’s in good condition for the guest. In a given night, I taste upward of 30 wines. Then I have a large stack of books and do a lot of reading.

You’re on a date and want to impress someone — what region and year is your go-to?

It really depends on a person’s taste. It’s hard to have an overarching standard. Still, I’d say Champagne is the best way to impress somebody. There are few people who dislike Champagne. I’d recommend getting away from the Roederer, the Krug and the Moët and find a nice grower-producer of Champagne. Then you can talk about how you’re drinking a wine made by a producer family in a small town.

What about a funky sparkling wine from a lesser-known region?

Those are fun, but not always the most refined. I tend toward something refined, smooth and approachable. I’m less interested in rustic wines with sharper edges.

So you’re saying that Champagne makes the best sparkling wine?

Hands-down, absolutely (laughs.) Well, I would say the most complex. If you’re looking for complexity and wines driven by terroir, then Champagne is the answer.

What about screw-tops? Are those always inferior wines? 

I don’t have a ton of experience with screw tops. But you’re placing wine in a 100% anaerobic environment, which overtime could put “reductive taints,” as they call them, into the wine by not allowing for any passage of oxygen into the bottle like a cork would allow. I think for aging wines, it’s not a good thing. But for young, fresh wines, there’s nothing wrong with screw top. Plus, you can get to the wine easier.

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

“Do you have what it takes to work in my kitchen?” asks Marcus Samuelsson, celebrated chef of NYC’s Red Rooster, in the newly released 2017 #CULINARYVOICE Scholarship Challenge video from the Institute of Culinary Education. The video, which also features food heavyweights Ted Allen, Duff Goldman and Donatella Arpaia, marks the launch of the second-ever #CULINARYVOICE Scholarship Challenge. It also signals ICE’s continued commitment to finding the next generation of culinary and hospitality talent.

Launched in 2015, the first #CULINARYVOICE Scholarship Challenge was a roaring success. Over 1.1 million votes were cast and eight lives were changed — by scholarships that opened up a world of opportunities for the winning individuals. For the 2017 #CULINARYVOICE Scholarship Challenge, ICE is upping the ante and giving away $212,000 in scholarships so that 18 ambitious individuals can study at ICE and pursue a career in food or hospitality.

Entering the challenge is simple — upload an original one-minute video to the Scholarship Challenge website that demonstrates your creativity, your passion for food or service or your entrepreneurial flair. In the video, explain who you are, who or what inspires you and what you hope to achieve in the culinary or hospitality industries. Tell the world why you deserve one of 18 scholarships and the chance to study at ICE.

The top 50 #CULINARYVOICE Scholarship Challenge finalists in each category will be determined by public vote, and for every vote, ICE will make a donation to Careers Through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP) to fund even more scholarships. One full scholarship and two partial scholarships will be awarded for each of ICE’s six award-winning career training programs: Culinary Arts, Pastry & Baking Arts, Restaurant & Culinary Management, Hospitality Management, Bread Baking and Cake Decorating.

Check out the video below and head to the Scholarship Challenge website to enter today.

Ready to share your culinary voice with the world? Click here for more info.

By Brooke Bordelon — Student, Culinary Arts ’17

When I first started at ICE nearly six months ago, I could barely contain my excitement at the prospect of everything I would learn in the weeks ahead. From mastering basic knife skills to preparing the perfect Lobster Americain, I was ready to go with guns blazing. However, as I sautéed, roasted and braised my way through modules one through three, I began to feel a creeping sense of unease as our class approached module four: the pastry module.

As many of my culinary-minded classmates could also tell you, baking and cooking are different beasts that require vastly different skills to master. Whereas cooking allows you to throw in a little of this and a pinch of that, baking mandates that you follow the recipe to a T or risk ending up with a disappointing mess. Needless to say, as someone who had always fallen squarely into the cooking camp, I was more than a little wary about the pastry module.

However, six weeks later, with our final pastry exam just around the corner, I am proud to say that not only did this non-baker survive the dreaded pastry module, I even enjoyed it (for the most part). Here are a few critical lessons I’ve learned along the way.

jelly doughnuts

 

1. As much as you want to, resist the urge to get creative with a recipe. 

Unlike cooking, baking is first and foremost a science, so any tinkering with ingredients or measurements can throw off the precise formula of a recipe and ruin your final product. As someone who had grown used to viewing recipes more as guidelines rather than hard and fast rules, this was a lesson I had to learn the hard way. However, with my chef instructor’s urging — “Don’t get creative!”— I learned to stifle that little voice in my head that insisted on improvising and saw a marked improvement in the quality of my work.

2. Weigh out your ingredients for the most consistent results. 

As an ardent eyeballer, weighing out every ingredient seemed incredibly tedious and unnecessary at first — I mean, how much can a few extra teaspoons of butter, flour or eggs really affect a recipe? However, after more flops than I’d like to admit, I realized just how important weighing is to measuring ingredients — cutting corners is out of the question.

While dry measuring cups are easy, they simply can’t provide the accuracy of a scale and can produce inconsistent results. For example, while I plunge a cup measure into flour until it overflows, someone else may carefully spoon the flour into the cup and level it off with a knife. Although technically we both added “a cup” of flour, our final products will be different due to the weight. Once again, this points back to baking as a science. It’s all about precision, precision, precision.

3. Learn to love (and develop) gluten. 

Before starting the pastry module, all I knew about gluten were the evils that my gluten-free friends warned me about. As it turns out, gluten is truly amazing stuff. It’s a strong, sticky protein that forms when wheat flour and water mix, lending baked goods like waffles, pretzels and artisan breads structure and elasticity. However, developing just the right amount of gluten in a recipe is a tricky endeavor.

For example, in order to produce a chewy pizza crust, you want to knead the dough for several minutes to encourage gluten development. When making flaky pastries like pie crusts or biscuits, however, overworking the dough can produce too much gluten development, leaving tough, dense, rubbery results. As a dough-making novice, learning how to develop just the right amount of gluten was a matter of sticking to the recipe and developing a sense for how certain doughs should feel.

4. Using the right tools can make all the difference. 

While cooking, you can usually make do with basic kitchen tools. With just a few good pots and pans, a pair of tongs and a spoon, you can whip up virtually anything. On the other hand, baking requires a more specialized set of tools. I can’t imagine trying to smooth out buttercream frosting on top of a cake without an offset spatula, piping perfect meringue rosettes without a pastry bag or getting tempered chocolate to exactly the right temperature without a thermometer. While relying so heavily on specialty tools was new to me, it taught me the importance of reading recipes in advance so that I know just what baking tools I’ll need.

Ready to find your inner pastry pro? Click here for more information on our career programs.

By Caitlin Raux

In 2016, we cooked, baked, mixed and tasted a ton of delicious recipes at the Institute of Culinary Education. Our chef instructors and beverage pros shared their expertise and gave us step-by-step guides to making some of their favorite sips and eats. To ensure that your final feasts of 2016 are memorable, we came up with a list of our best recipes of 2016. Whether you’re an aspiring food professional or a devout foodie, here’s a dinner party’s-worth of great recipes:

Creamy Sweet Potato Soup

  • Kick off the New Year on a healthy-ish new foot with Chef Jenny McCoy’s Shrub Cocktails — equal parts restorative, digestif and, well, booze.
  • If you’re anything like us, no meal is complete without a couple hunks of bread — fresh out of the oven if possible. Why not ditch the same old baguette and give Chef Sarah Chaminade’s Irish Soda Bread a try? Save some for the morning after and serve with clotted cream and jam for the perfect “treat yourself” breakfast.

irish soda bread recipe

  • If you’re really fixing to impress dinner guests, Chef David Waltuck, our new Director of Culinary Affairs, has the winning recipe: Loin of Lamb with Mini Moussaka, a dish from Chef David’s famed Tribeca restaurant, Chanterelle, that’s as delicious as it is “oooh”- and “aahhh”-inspiring.
  • But let’s be honest: A feast is nothing without an ample selection of tasty sides. Luckily, our resident Southern-cuisine expert, Chef Robert Ramsey, proffered up a few show-stealing Southern sides — like Creamy Sweet Potato Soup With Brown Butter, Sorghum Syrup and Sage Croutons — to add to (or take over) your table.
variety-of-microgreens-at-ice

credit: farm.one

  • And don’t forget the visual and taste appeal of microgreens, like the ones we grow in our indoor hydroponic garden. Sprinkle these tiny, powerful bites throughout the meal (including the cocktails) with abandon.
  • Then comes the grand finale — the sweets. Chef Kathryn Gordon offered us a sneak peek into her newest cookbook, ‘Les Petits Sweets: Two-Bite Desserts from the French Patisserie,’ and shared an easy-to-follow recipe for decadent, delicious Pear-Rosemary Madeleines.
  • But if gluten and your belly are not quite best friends, Chef James Distefano has just the sweet treat for you: Spice-filled Gluten-free Speculaas Cookies.

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Happiest and tastiest holiday wishes from everyone at ICE!

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