By Kelly Newsome — Student, Culinary Arts

When you’re a lunatic like me, food gets you so excited that you want to do everything. After a lesson on India’s curries, I was ready to pack my bags for a sabbatical to diligently tend tandoori ovens and learn from the master chapati makers of the Indian sub-continent. After two weeks learning about the regional cooking of Italy, I was fantasizing about working in the kitchen of an idyllic agriturismo in the Tuscan countryside — perhaps learning the fine art of truffle hunting was in my future? Then there’s my love of writing, cookbooks and teaching — how could that fit into my plans? As tantalizing as these possibilities seem, the reality is equally foreboding — I need to choose one thing, right now, and this decision could determine the direction of my culinary career, forever. It feels like taking the SATs all over again. Adding to this predicament has been my recent experience in Module 4, Pastry & Baking Arts. I’d like to blame it on the butter but the truth is: I love the precision that baking demands. Accuracy, care and diligence almost always result in an excellent final product — and I like that. With all these interesting paths to explore, how should I go about deciding which one to follow?

Like many of my classmates who are nearing the end of their class instruction, the challenges we face are practical: we need to make a living; we need to fend off doubters and naysayers; we’re looking for personal fulfillment in our careers; and health insurance would be nice. With these concerns in mind, I’ve decided to lay out a roadmap of my planned approach. I can’t say it’s the right way, but hopefully it will set me on a path toward career fulfillment — and who knows, maybe it will help others who are facing a similar dilemma.

Culinary Student Kelly Newsome

1. Talk To Your Chef-Instructors

This may seem like the most obvious, but it is absolutely the most important. Our instructors have extensive experience performing at the highest level of the culinary industry — a level achieved by people who work hard and make smart choices. Realizing that I needed some serious guidance, I asked my current instructor, Chef Chad Pagano for his advice to culinary students feeling “overly enthusiastic” and a little unsure about their direction. Here’s what Chef Chad had to say: “First and foremost, stop overthinking it. Listen to your heart. Passion and love of the food industry will steer you in the right direction. Within that, work for the best chef you can find. I don’t care if it’s in the basement of his house. Young cooks need two things: practical kitchen skills and work ethic. You should also be reading, watching videos and immersing yourself in the industry. This would include volunteering and attending any and all demos and events at the school. This will help you fall into the proper direction for your career.” With this advice in mind, I’ve been able to narrow my search for an externship because I know I want to start my career working for the best possible chef that will have me. I was also able to narrow my search because there were certain types of restaurants that intuitively felt right to me and others that didn’t. So follow your heart. It may sound cliché, but the truth is, it will never let you down.

2. Explore All Your Possibilities

I have a vast pool of culinary interests, from working in a fine-dining restaurant to becoming a food editor or cookbook author. The great thing about ICE is that we have the opportunity to explore all of these options through externships and extracurricular courses. I’ve decided to apply for both food media and restaurant externships. I will go on trails at restaurants and interviews in test kitchens. My hope is that, just like a date, the experience will tell me the right choice to make.

Kelly Newsome

3. Get Involved

Volunteering at different culinary events throughout the city has not only given me a flavor of what to expect in professional restaurant kitchens, but it has also exposed me to some of the biggest culinary leaders in the industry. You get a sense of how to behave, what is expected of you and the pace and environment you might be walking into. Not to mention, it’s a chance to make a good impression, learn, observe and explore some of the possibilities.

4. Don’t Stress

One thing that I know for sure, because it has been hammered into my head for four straight modules, is that if you work hard, have a good attitude and the desire to perform at your absolute best, you’re going to be okay. So don’t stress, just smile (when possible), put your head down and do the best work that you can at all times.

The most important lesson that I have learned since beginning culinary school at ICE is that you need to stay true to you. Don’t forget what brought you to culinary school in the first place. There will always be people telling you that you didn’t need to go to culinary school, people who say you won’t make any money, people who tell you that you’re crazy for wanting to cook for a living. It doesn’t matter what they think, because if you felt this was right for you, then you are doing the right thing. Some people even say that the term “passion” is overused and has lost its meaning. I say that if passion for food and the culinary arts is what inspired you, keep being passionate and you’ll find the right direction for you.

Ready to embark on your culinary career path? Learn more about ICE’s career programs. 

By Chef James Briscione — Director of Culinary Research

The role of a chef goes far beyond preparing food. Be it in a restaurant, culinary school, test kitchen or anywhere else, great chefs find a way to educate, inspire and create connections. They may seem secondary to the job of cooking, but these duties of a chef can often be more important than the meals themselves. As Director of Culinary Research here at ICE, I find myself spending more time in these roles than I do behind the stove. Not that I’m complaining — it’s this part of the job that has taken me around the world, and recently brought me back home.

Chef James Briscione

Since its inception four years ago, my wife Brooke and I have hosted The Wharf Uncorked, an end-of-summer food and wine festival on the Alabama Gulf Coast, right next door to our hometown of Pensacola, Florida. It has become a very important weekend to us for multiple reasons. First and foremost, it’s an amazing event that raises money for local charities. Secondly, it’s a fun day at the beach with a talented group of chefs. Finally, it’s a celebration of Gulf seafood — the food that both my wife and I grew up eating. Ever since an oil spill devastated the fisherman of this area, it has become increasingly important to let the world know that the Gulf of Mexico is open for business. Gulf seafood — shrimp, oysters and fish of all varieties — is both clean and delicious. In fact, the seafood from this region is some of the best I’ve ever tasted. But nothing is more tasty and unique than royal red shrimp, a lesser-known species that’s very popular with local chefs.

royal red shrimp riceRoyal red shrimp hit their peak, in terms of flavor, from the end of summer through fall. Unlike brown and pink species of shrimp, royal reds prefer the cool deeper water far from shore. They can be found up to 60 miles off the coast and their flavor is reminiscent of a fellow cold-water crustacean: the lobster. At this year’s festival, royal red shrimp were not only a secret ingredient in the Chef Showdown — a live one-hour cook off between four of the area’s top chefs (luckily, I have retired my competition apron and get to play host, judge and taste-tester for the evening), they were also a feature ingredient for my main stage cooking demo. Below is the recipe that I prepared so you can taste for yourself (sadly, you won’t get to experience all the terrible dad jokes that accompany my live cooking). Don’t worry if you don’t have royal red shrimp at your local seafood market — this dish is delicious with any variety of shrimp. I hope you are inspired to try this Gulf Coast favorite, and if you do, tell us in the comments how it turned out!

Bacon-Basted Royal Red Shrimp with Low Country Rice
Yield: Serves 4

Ingredients:

2 cups long grain rice (like Carolina Gold)
24 pieces royal red shrimp
12 bamboo skewers
Barbecue rub, as needed
2 tablespoons water
8 strips thick cut bacon, sliced into lardons (small strips)
1 yellow onion, minced
2 red bell peppers, small dice
2 jalapeños peppers, ribs and seeds removed, small dice
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
2 cups canned tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
Juice of ½ lemon
Hot sauce, to taste

Preparation:

  • Preheat a grill or broiler.
  • Start by cooking the rice. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rapid boil. Add the rice and stir once to make sure rice doesn’t stick.
  • When the rice is just tender, pour it through a colander and quickly rinse with cold water — this prevents overcooking and separates the grains of rice.
  • Peel and devein the shrimp, leaving the heads on 12 if possible. With these 12, make three small (about ¼-inch deep) incisions on the under side of each shrimp tail. This will allow you to straighten the tail and thread each shrimp onto a skewer so that the tail is completely straight and in line with the head. Lightly dust the shrimp with your barbecue rub of choice and set aside or refrigerate until ready to use.
  • Remove the heads from the remaining 12 shrimp. Chop the tail meat and reserve.
  • To prepare the rice, heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the bacon and water, and cook until the water evaporates and bacon is browned and crisp, about 12 minutes. (Note: cooking bacon in water may sound surprising, but the liquid helps to render the fat and the result is crispier bacon.)
  • Keeping the bacon in the pan, drain all but one tablespoon of the bacon fat from the pan and reserve.
  • Add the onions to the bacon pieces and fat in the pan. Sauté onions until just tender, about three minutes. Add bell peppers and jalapeño and cook two minutes more.
  • When the peppers are slightly tender and fragrant, add the garlic and cook until lightly toasted, about one minute. Add the chopped shrimp meat and cook one minute more, so the shrimp has just turned white on the exterior.
  • Stir in the chopped tomatoes, bring to a boil and cook two minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly, to desired consistency. Finish with the cilantro, butter, lemon and hot sauce to taste. Cover the rice to keep it warm while you prepare the shrimp.
  • Brush the shrimp skewers with the reserved bacon fat and place on a grill over high heat. Cook for two minutes on one side. Just before flipping, brush the shrimp with more bacon fat, then turn and cook for two minutes on the second side. Brush again with bacon fat before removing from the grill. Rest on a rack for a few minutes after grilling.
  • Divide the rice between bowls and top with grilled shrimp skewers (three per bowl). Serve immediately.

Ready to study the Culinary Arts with Chef James? Get more information on ICE’s career programs. 

By Ted Siegel — Chef-Instructor, Culinary Arts

Yannick Alléno may not be a household name in culinary circles in the United States, but he is a chef on the cutting edge of avant garde contemporary sauce-making techniques. He’s the president and founder of Groupe Yannick Alléno, but more importantly, he is the chef-proprietor of Le Pavillon Ledoyen restaurant in Paris, which has been rated as one of the top restaurants in the world in numerous guides and received its first three-star rating in the 2015 Michelin Guide for France. Chef Alléno’s work makes an important contribution to modern French cooking.

Yannick Alléno

Photo courtesy of Four Magazine

I recently came upon two of Chef Alléno’s books: the encyclopedic Ma Cuisine Française, and his smaller, ground-breaking volume Sauces: Reflections of a Chef. Both works introduce his theories and practical work on the subject of sauces. He states that, “Sauce is the verb of French cuisine…it is the only thing able to harmoniously bring together two totally different products to form a coherent dish,” and further, that his “goal is to put sauce in the heart of the debate…it was demonized by the health-based offensive that made us believe that sauces were too fatty and starchy and bad for our health.” Chef Alléno continues that, “If the collective subconscious is convinced of this today it is because sauces were poorly made for years.” To me, this pretty much sums up the four to five hundred years of the history of French sauces, bringing us to the status quo today.

Alléno speaks of the three distinct historical phases in classic and modern sauce-making. First, the classical or grand cuisine era, based on the principles of the “mother sauces” that were finally codified by Marie-Antoine Carême in the early 19th century. Second, the period of refinement of the “mother sauces” and their compound derivatives in the latter part of the 19th century and into the early 20th century, as embodied in the work of Auguste Escoffier. The third phase was the “nouvelle cuisine” of the late 1960s through the early 1980s, the principles of which were laid down by chefs like Fernand Point, Paul Bocuse, Alain Chapel, the Troisgros brothers, Roger Vergé and Michel Guérard. These sauces were prepared with no starch. Rather, the thickening occurs through natural reduction, emulsification, and binding and thickening through the incorporation of final liaisons such as butter, purée of foie gras, animal blood, egg yolks or cream, among many other possible ingredients.

Chef Alléno has spent the better part of his career reinterpreting, for contemporary palates, what he considers to be the four most important sauces: tomato sauce, Hollandaise/Béarnaise sauce, jus de veau (the nouvelle cuisine version of a classic French demi-glace sauce) and chicken extraction.

sauce-making

The techniques that Chef Alléno uses are based on the principles of sous vide cooking: utilizing the process of slow infusion or extraction over very low heat, with temperatures ranging from 84 to 88 degrees Fahrenheit based on the texture and molecular composition of the ingredient, whether it be a vegetable like celery root, Jerusalem artichokes or mushrooms, or a protein like fish bones, chicken carcass or crustacean shells. Once the sauce base has been created, the next stage is a technique known as cryo-concentration. The extracted liquid is placed in a centrifuge, which in turn freezes the liquid. The frozen liquid is then slowly defrosted to extract all the concentrated flavors of the base with minimal water content, which rises to the top during freezing. The remaining liquid with higher water content can then be cryo-concentrated as well. Each individual extraction can be utilized as a “mother sauce” and combined with other extractions to create an unlimited number of variations — for example, lobster and mushroom. The evaporation stage can be done two to three times. This also has the effect of creating sauce bases with a much higher level of clarity as well as more intensely flavored. The cryo-concentration technique is not a recent innovation. It has been a technique used for hundreds of years to produce “ice” ciders and wines, as well as certain types of beers, particularly lager-style beers.

Chef Alléno’s genius is that he has adapted these age-old techniques for the preparation of modern sauces. In Sauces, he lays out the technique for making a modern variation of a classic sauce Poulette — traditionally, a starch-thickened fish velouté finished with a liaison of egg yolks and cream. His method calls for cooking fish carcasses sous vide and as soon as all the albumin is extracted from the bones, use that albumin to make the sauce. This yields a sauce with a very intense, ocean-like flavor, and one that isn’t diminished by the addition of too much starch or fat. The sauce is finished with a liaison of judicious amounts of butter.

Chef Yannick Alléno’s work is just one example of a current culinary approach that defies and dispels the myth that modern French cuisine is dead. The way I see it, it’s still vibrant, organic and constantly evolving.

Ready to study sauce making and more with Chef Ted? Learn more about ICE’s culinary arts program.

By Robert Ramsey — Chef-Instructor, Culinary Arts

Earlier this year, on a trip to Guatemala, I found myself sitting in the secret tasting room of a local mezcal producer in the colonial town of Antigua. My friend Adam and I had walked through a bookstore, which opened into a bar, then crawled through a tiny door in the back and perched on low stools. There, we sampled tastes of the smoky and complex tequila derivative, mezcal, poured by an exceptionally knowledgeable barkeep. Months later, as the summer wanes and the cool autumn temperatures move in, my mind has been wandering back to the colonial charms of Antigua — the tastes and smells of local cuisine, the incredible volcano hiking, and the relaxing and inspiring Lake Atitlan. With each adventure in the beautiful country of Guatemala, new flavors emerged.

mezcal carrot cocktail

Mornings started with local coffee, as this region is known for producing some of the world’s finest. Refuge Coffee Bar offers one of the purest tasting cold brews I’ve ever experienced. For lunch, we hit the city market, where you can find everything from fried chicken to street tacos to hearty, local stews. I couldn’t get enough of the different takes on ceviche, a local specialty served in abundance — with fresh fish, shrimp, crab, chilis, onions, lots of lime and a surprising amount of worcestershire sauce — an interesting local twist. It was both delicious and refreshing in the Central American heat.

At night, the city really comes alive. The market in the city’s Plaza Mayor, or central square, is teeming with vendors offering every variety of local cuisine — tasty horchata, tortas bursting with grilled meats, avocado and spices, pupusas with black beans and tacos, tacos, tacos. The intoxicating smells were accompanied by upbeat music, the sounds of local children playing and the postcard-perfect scenery of Spanish colonial churches framed by ominous volcanoes. In Antigua, every night is a celebration.

My favorite meal of the trip was the least expected. The mission was to reach the top of Vulcan Acatenango, a 13,000-foot volcano with sweeping vistas of Guatemala and its neighboring, active cousin, Vulcan Fuego (the most active volcano in the world). I left Antigua and embarked on a series of rides and transfers on the infamous Guatemalan “chicken buses,” which involved sprinting and hurling myself into a moving bus. I made arrangements to set out from the base of Acatenango with a local named Jaime. We arrived at Jaime’s family’s picturesque and ancient-seeming farm in the rolling foothills of Acatenango. It was here that his mother prepared a simple but perfect meal: scrambled eggs from the chickens running at our feet, homemade tortillas from the maize covering the hillside, and rich, smoky refried black beans with a depth unmatched by any other beans I’ve ever tasted. Slow-simmered over a wood burning stove, I imagined the beans had been continuously cooking for countless generations — at least they tasted that way. It was the perfect, rib-sticking last meal before the two-day hike to Acatenango’s lofty crater.

chicken bus

One of the Guatemalan “Chicken Buses”

Vulcan

Vulcan Acatenango

Chef Robert Ramsey

Chef Robert pictured left with his friend Adam

Inspired by this incredible trip, I developed a subtly sweet, intensely smoky and moderately spicy mezcal cocktail. (Pro tip: It’s best made with Ilegal Joven, the youngest of the mezcals we sampled on that gorgeous night in Antigua.) I approached this recipe as if I were building a dish. I started with the mezcal, which is a little savory and a lot smoky. By infusing the mezcal with the fruity heat of the jalapeño pepper, I created a base that needed balance in the form of sweetness (agave nectar) and sourness (lime), and is rounded out by the earthy, vegetal depth of carrot juice. I call it the “Antigua Elixir.” Each sip brings back memories of cool evenings on the shore of Lake Atitlan, where my last magical days in Guatemala were spent.

mezcal carrot cocktailAntigua Elixir

For the cocktail
Servings: makes 1 cocktail

Ingredients:

3 ounces carrot juice
1.5 ounces Jalapeño-Infused Mezcal (recipe below)
1.5 ounces lime juice
1 ounces agave nectar
Ice
1 lime wheel, for garnish
Smoked Paprika Salt (recipe below), for garnish

Preparation:

  • Rub the rim of a rocks glass with the lime wheel to wet it. Turn the glass over and dip it into the paprika salt to coat the rim. Fill glass with ice and set aside.
  • Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and pour in the carrot juice, mezcal, lime juice and agave nectar. Shake vigorously for 15-20 seconds, until the outside of shaker is frosty. Strain into a rocks glass and enjoy.

For Jalapeno-Infused Mezcal
Yield: makes enough for about 4 cocktails

Ingredients:

1 jalapeño, chopped (with seeds)
1 cup mezcal joven

  • Combine the mezcal and chopped jalapeño in a nonreactive container (a mason jar works well) and let the flavors infuse for at least one hour. Note: you can infuse for longer, but the longer you infuse, the spicier your mezcal will be — taste and infuse to your liking.
  • Strain through a fine mesh cocktail strainer. Reserve.

For Smoked Paprika Salt
Yield: makes enough for about 4 cocktails

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons smoked paprika

Preparation:

  • In a small bowl, mix the salt and paprika until evenly combined. Spread the mixture on a small plate and reserve for cocktails.

Immerse yourself in a global culinary education at ICE — click here for more information. 

By Caitlin Raux

“During the Qin Dynasty, a scholar was studying for an exam. He went to a park on an island to study. The scholar’s wife wanted to bring him noodles for lunch and she had to cross the bridge.” Simone Tong (Culinary Arts, Culinary Management ‘11) was filling me in on the legend behind “crossing the bridge noodles,” also called mixian (mee-syan), the Yunnan province specialty that New Yorkers are eagerly slurping at Simone’s new East Village restaurant, Little Tong Noodle Shop. “She discovered, because she was very smart — smarter than her husband, obviously,” Simone continued, with a chuckle, “that a layer of chicken fat covering the broth would keep the noodles hot while she crossed the bridge. And then she cooked the raw food in the broth once she arrived.”

Ingenuity, it turns out, also finds its way into the kitchen of Little Tong, where Simone’s impeccable technique and reverence for each ingredient is met with her own brand of creativity and humor. The result is dishes like the “Lijiang old town grandma-inspired” Grandma Chicken Mixian: an addictive combination of light chicken broth, tender chicken confit, black sesame garlic oil, tea-steeped eggs, house-made fermented chili and pickles, finished with a smattering of bright flowers. Simone, who cooked with Chef Wylie Dufresne at wd~50 for nearly five years, explained, “I want my food to be seriously tasty, but also have a hint of elegance, a hint of humor and a hint of surprise.”

Simone Tong

Simone Tong during dinner service at Little Tong Noodle Shop (Photos by @caseyfeehan)

On a recent Wednesday morning, while the shutters of Little Tong were still drawn, Simone and I chatted about her path from the kitchens of ICE to wd~50 to her own bustling downtown restaurant.

Little Tong Noodle Shop

Salted Cucumbers with Bang Bang Sauce and Mint

What inspired you to enroll in culinary school?

The first real inspiration came from my mom. My parents are art dealers, so they had a lot of beautiful paintings. My mom had the idea to create a restaurant where they could hang some of their paintings, mostly renaissance period, and she could sip coffee all day. She had no idea what owning a restaurant entailed, so she hired a chef and opened a restaurant called Café Firenze. One day a French chef walked past the restaurant and he thought the restaurant was decorated in good taste, so he wanted to become the chef. I was home from college for the summer, so I helped translate his French-accented English to my mom in Sichuanese. He went into the kitchen and started cooking these beautiful, classic French dishes like tomato concasse. That was my first inspiration.

Then after I graduated from college, I saw a show called “After Hours with Daniel.” Chef Daniel Boulud would visit different restaurants, talk to the chefs and bring his own ingredients. The first episode of the first season was wd~50 with Chef Wylie Dufresne. I was so wowed by it — the combination of art, science, cooking and food. It seemed so fun to be a chef. You get to sit around, drink, talk about food, taste food.

I did extensive research. Where is wd~50, how do I go there, how do I learn what they do? Then I researched the different culinary schools in New York and I visited three of them. I realized I could get two degrees from ICE — Culinary Arts and Culinary Management, which economically made sense. The other big factor was that at ICE, we would do an externship. So I decided to enroll at ICE. I wrote my first cover letter to wd~50 — I knew I was going there.

Where is wd~50, how do I go there, how do I learn what they do?

Did you use what you learned in ICE’s Restaurant & Culinary Management program to open your own restaurant?

The thing about New York is it’s so crazy. I don’t think you’re ever prepared to open a restaurant — you just do it. But if you’ve never been in the industry, you want to learn from a school that draws the best examples of how to run a business. And that’s what they do at ICE.

Banna Shrimp Mixian

Banna Shrimp Mixian

How did you know it was time to open your own restaurant?

I always wanted to open restaurants. But the opportunity came when a mutual friend introduced me to my business partner, Simon Xi. His background is more finance — very numbers-driven, which is a huge contrast to a chef. But we shared a passion for opening a restaurant that served modernized Chinese cuisine, to bring new memories to New York. We wanted to build upon our memories of Chinatown and Chinese takeout and lo mein.

Little Tong is on the same block as Momofuku Noodle Bar – does that draw comparison?

Sometimes. Food writers either say it’s similar but a different style, or they say “good for her for being so close to this legendary icon.” I worked for Chef David Chang briefly, but we also met when he came to wd~50 from time to time. He’s been very generous and very kind to me. He sent me a text to congratulate me and brought beers over.

Little Tong Noodle Shop

Extra Chili Oil

Tell me about your style of noodles.

They’re called mixian (mee-syan): it literally translates as rice threads. It’s from the Southwest region, a Province called Yunnan, which translates as southern cloud. It’s a very beautiful place, almost like a fantasy world. Not many people have discovered it; people in China only started traveling there in the 1990s. Now it’s popular, because people talk about how beautiful it is.

I was born in the Province next to Yunnan, Szechuan, which is known for spicy cuisine. I didn’t truly discover Yunnan until my research last year — I was there for 3 months — but my passion for mixian developed when I was very young. Mixian is like the foster child of Yunnan cuisine. Everybody knows about mixian in the rest of China. Even restaurants in New York, like in Chinatown or Flushing, serve mixian or “crossing the bridge” noodles. It’s a bowl of rice noodles with 20 plates of different ingredients, and you dump what you want in — kind of like Vietnamese pho. In China they add raw chicken, pork, fish or beef; then some sausage, pickles, lots of vegetables, boiled eggs and tofu. That’s what I grew up eating. You can find this in New York, but there’s not as much raw protein because of health department regulations.

I don’t think food should be something just to show off your technique. It should be wholesome. It should make you smile when you eat it.

What do you add to this traditional dish?

All of the dishes on our menu are inspired by dishes from the region and recreated in our own way. A classic example is the Grandma’s Chicken. It’s our most popular, most written-about dish. I discovered Grandma Chicken at a restaurant that only serves chicken mixian in Lijiang, an old town in Yunnan. We spun that dish around and did something new. We cook the broth for 36 hours. We sear the chicken skin so it’s more dynamic in flavor. We add a lot of aromatics and we also make a black garlic oil with black sesame so it’s toasty and aromatic. We ferment our own fresh chili and cook the chicken in its own fat, which is what they did in Lijiang as well. We use antibiotic-free, cage-free chicken. Then we add a tea egg that’s been steeped in tea and spices, and finish with fresh flowers. If you look at the dish, it’s very spring, it’s very Yunnan. But the flavor is reinvented slightly.

Grandma Chicken

Grandma Chicken Mixian

Do you have any advice for people opening their first restaurant?

With millennials, you can’t be hard on them and chastise them. They will just quit. They don’t see value in putting their head down and working. Inspiration is really the thing and a little sense of humor. [Ed. note: a waitress on duty when we visited the restaurant confirmed, “Simone’s hilarious.”] Sometimes you walk into the kitchen and you can sense that everyone is mad at each other — you can feel the passive aggression. How do you turn this passive aggression around? I’ll find myself shouting orders and they’ll delay five seconds in reading them back. Then I realized I need to try to relate to them and say something humorous to bring them out of their own misery. Refresh them. Then let’s get back to work. Sometimes, though, you have to tell them directly what’s the right thing to do. I have no problem being direct.

I think the most difficult part of having a restaurant is managing the people. How do you build a team from strangers? How do you make sure they’re professional? How do you make them do the right thing? How do they carry the spirit of your restaurant and keep the energy up? It’s everyday mentoring. We’ve changed about 12 dishwashers now. It’s crazy how hard it is to find a good dishwasher — someone who consistently shows up to work. That’s a challenge. It’s all about the people and how to get them to produce the same quality every day.

What is your culinary voice?

I used to watch that show “So You Think You Can Dance,” and I always liked when the ballet dancers turned into break dancers and changed the genre. I want my food to be seriously tasty, but also have a hint of elegance, a hint of humor and a hint of surprise. I want to create something more amusing than serious. I don’t think food should be something just to show off your technique. It should be wholesome. It should make you smile when you eat it.

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

By Michael Laiskonis — Creative Director

Jean-Louis PalladinAs a young cook honing my skills in the mid-1990s, I fell into a position at Emily’s, a small restaurant in suburban Detroit led by Chef Rick Halberg. With twenty years’ hindsight, I now look back at my time there as an important educational phase of my career — a cook’s equivalent to graduate school. The food culture we see today was only in its infancy then, and our resources were limited to print — this was well before we could scan social media feeds for instant inspiration and ideas from around the world. Emily’s served as a creative incubator for the cooks who worked there. In our downtime, we swapped the latest books and magazines, mining them for techniques and flavors to infuse into the menus we developed. We looked to Europe, of course, but we were also keenly aware of the rumblings here in the U.S. Then, as now, it was an exciting time to be a cook.

Our research materials included dog-eared copies of Art Culinaire (still publishing and quite relevant today), rare issues of the European import Opt Art and the highly influential series of books Charlie Trotter began writing in 1994. One book, however, stood out among the pack: Jean-Louis Palladin’s Cooking with the Seasons, originally published in 1989. By day we cooked French-inspired classics, but at night we studied Jean-Louis’ modern and sophisticated interpretations, documented in sleek photography. Though highly refined techniques and luxury ingredients jumped from every page, the book also served as a love letter to the ethos of “local” and “seasonal” cooking. I recall one dish that we ended up adapting into our repertoire: a deceivingly simple but elegant terrine fashioned from ultra-thin slices of house-cured salmon, spinach and anchovy butter. As my own path was heading toward a concentration in pastry, I also experimented with the book’s dessert recipes, including Palladin’s traditional clafoutis (a staple of his native southwestern region of France) and a raspberry-studded crème brûlée.

Jean-Louis Palladin

Chef Palladin

Though perhaps eclipsed by chefs who came after (and those who became more ‘famous’), Jean-Louis’ influence on American cuisine can’t be overstated. He was often considered a “chef’s chef.” Cooking styles and aesthetics have changed and few are replicating his dishes today, but his legacy lives on with respect to his insistence on local ingredients. One might argue that most French chefs in the U.S. in the 1970s and 1980s relied on imported ingredients. Palladin, upon arriving in 1979, made it his mission to seek out the best of what was here. His flagship restaurant in the storied Watergate complex in Washington, D.C. showcased these products with impeccable technique to honor them. A compatriot in this cause was Gilbert LeCoze, who opened Le Bernardin in New York; rather than ship Dover sole from Europe, LeCoze walked the stalls of Fulton Fish Market and championed fish from this region’s waters, and in the process changed the way American chefs sourced and cooked fish. And by no coincidence, Eric Ripert, the current chef and owner of Le Bernardin, worked under Palladin when he emigrated from France, just prior to being hired by LeCoze.

Michael Laiskonis

Tribute, 1999, with Chef Michael (top left) and guest chefs Susanna Foo, David Burke, Roberto Donna and Jean-Louis Palladin

I was afforded my own personal introduction to Jean-Louis years later in 1999, when he cooked as a guest chef at Tribute (also in Detroit), where I had recently become the pastry chef. Many lasting impressions came of these guest chef dinners over the years, but few memories top observing Palladin’s confident swagger at the stoves, his missives barked in an impossibly deep voice and thick French accent. Sadly, Jean-Louis would pass away two years later at the young age of 55, still very much in his prime. But since then, I occasionally pull his book from the shelf and contemplate the evolution of cuisine — what has changed and what fundamental ideas remain the same. I will also quiz younger cooks from time to time, to test their knowledge on the influencers who came before us — I can count how many cooks I’ve sent to the internet in search of Jean-Louis and his generation of chefs.

Michael Laiskonis dessert

Chef Michael’s take on raspberry crème brûlée

I was offered an opportunity to come, in a sense, full circle within my own Jean-Louis story, and straight into his old kitchen at the Watergate just last month. At the urging of my friend Paul Liebrandt, I accepted an invitation from current Watergate chef Michael Santoro to celebrate Palladin’s legacy and the 50th anniversary of the Watergate Hotel. An exclusive multicourse dinner also featured D.C. chefs Robert Wiedmaier, Brian McBride and Watergate pastry chef, Kieu-Linh Nguyen. The most difficult decision was which dessert to prepare, but after several days’ deliberation, all I needed to do was flip through Cooking with the Seasons and the inspiration became immediately clear. Upon seeing my old friend — that raspberry crème brûlée — I created a dessert that served as a metaphor for my own evolution: a sphere of vanilla mousse hiding a liquid raspberry center, glazed with raspberry and set upon a shortbread base. Inspired by the original, this dessert represented a culmination of skills acquired in twenty years, yet still clean and deceptively simple — in the manner of how Jean-Louis taught us to cook.

It’s your turn to study pastry arts with the masters — click here for more information on ICE’s Pastry & Baking Arts program.

You haven’t lived until you’ve tried a steaming bowl of moules marinières — with ample crusty bread for soaking up every last drop of the garlicky broth. Lucky for you, Chef Sabrina Sexton shared with us her recipe for preparing this classic, French dish. These simple mussels steamed in white wine make the perfect, easy weeknight dinner.

mussels

Moules Marinières
Servings: makes about 4 servings

Ingredients:

64 mussels, scrubbed and de-bearded
16 fluid ounces dry white wine
2 ounces shallots, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 ounce parsley, minced
2 bay leaves
3 thyme sprigs
Ground black pepper, to taste
2 ounces butter

Preparation:

  • Combine the white wine, shallots, garlic, parsley, bay leaves, thyme, black pepper and butter in a large, tall pot. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cover. Cook for 5 minutes to infuse the flavors.
  • Uncover the pot, return to boil and add the mussels. Cover and cook until the mussels have opened, stirring once.
  • Serve in bowls and spoon a generous amount of broth into each bowl.

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

Tina Ye (Culinary Arts, ’17) is not just our newest student blogger, she’s also one of the 2017 #CulinaryVoice Scholarship Challenge winners. In this post, she shares her path from interaction designer to culinary student at ICE — and how she discovered the superpower of food along the way.

By Tina Ye — Student, School of Culinary Arts

I wasn’t supposed to end up in culinary school. The way I got here was quite by accident. In fact, I started out my adult life very much wanting to be an interaction designer. An interaction designer is someone who makes digital products and services user-friendly. If you looked up directions on your phone today, and it felt as natural as picking your nose, then we did our job right.

I got to be on the path to interaction design because I’ve always been a huge nerd. In the sixth grade, I started building websites for fun, filling them with adolescent treasures like Spice Girls song lyrics, listicles and drawings of Sailor Moon. Eventually, adults picked up on my computer abilities and I was given the opportunity to trade them for money. While my peers toiled away at the local Baskin-Robbins developing asymmetrical bicep syndrome, I made logos at $250 a pop — not a bad rate for a 16-year-old.

culinary student Tina Ye

Food wasn’t really on my mind until college. By then I had gotten it into my head that I wanted to be an artist, but I reassured my mom that I’d be employable by dual-majoring in architecture. Neither turned out to be more than just a degree (I was too naive back then to know that college was for asking questions, not picking a life path), but still, they took up most of my time. To fill the social vacuum that comes from being a closeted dual-major, I turned to cooking with my roommates.

At the time, I was living in a rather unique situation. Four friends and I—one of them my then-boyfriend (now spouse)—decided to move off-campus into a big, creaky colonial house: two stories, a huge eat-in kitchen, and front and back decks for grilling. It was collegiate paradise. My roommates and I felt so adult when we signed that lease. We even had a car that we drove to visit fun and exotic places like…the grocery store!

The five of us were obsessed with grocery shopping—it felt like going to Six Flags. Every Saturday, we would explore the local Costco and load up on cheddar cheese, bacon, orange juice, chicken breast, ground beef, salad, canned beans, bread, bags of onions and potatoes hefty enough to crush a German shepherd, and yes, bulk boxes of Pop-Tarts.

When we got home, we’d drink half the orange juice within minutes, then I’d bust out “The Boston Globe Cookbook,” “101 Fast ‘n Easy Recipes,” or cookingforengineers.com (nerd pride!) and set to work. We made shepherd’s pie, jerk chicken, chili, New England clam chowder, meatloaf, sugar cookies with our own royal frosting, even Caesar dressing from scratch (I’ll never forget that moment my friend Elliot taught me you could eat raw egg). Friends of friends heard about our feasts and “casually” rolled by. My social life bloomed like the rind of a good Camembert. Who needs frat parties? All I needed was a good wooden spoon and the kitchen table of 82 Bristol Road!

Before long, we all graduated and moved on from that first experiment in communal living. But I continued those experiments elsewhere, with other roommates, in other shared apartments. The cooking got ever more ambitious (at one point I attempted to make puff pastry from scratch in 90° heat — poor life decision, turns out). Through it all, I felt a growing sense of comfort, community and pride. I loved having friends over and filling their bellies with food and their heads with conversation. With a stove and a pot, I discovered I could salve a wounded heart, crack open barriers of indifference, create warmth and fill emptiness (even if it was just stomachs). I started to have an inkling that food harbors immense superpowers, and somehow I was able to harness and direct those powers in positive ways.

Eventually, I moved to New York to study Interaction Design at the School of Visual Arts. The rolling snowball of my previous computer-y accomplishments just kept…rolling. I graduated and went from tech startup to tech startup. It all felt very logical, orderly and well-calculated. I had a professional salary even my family could approve of. What could possibly be missing?

I wouldn’t blame my growing restlessness on any one factor. But as I worked on project after project, I began to notice patterns. Tech startups are volatile places to be. The rewards are immense if you succeed, but so are the risks, and every day, teams of dedicated, hard-working people operate in stress-inducing environments of high uncertainty. When people are faced with so many unknowns, one natural tendency is to grasp for certainty. We fall back on assumptions instead of examining facts. We avoid dissent and seek the comfort of those who agree with us. We dig in and harden and stop listening.

I have seen this happen in many tense product meetings and feedback sessions, sometimes to the detriment of the organization’s mission. I began to wonder: in today’s world, where we have no shortage of uncertainty and immense challenges ahead as a society, can we learn to become better listeners, more willing collaborators and more open-minded friends, colleagues and neighbors? I thought back to those moments around the kitchen table, when even a sulking roommate will come out of hiding to check out the soup. Too busy chewing, even the most voracious talker becomes a good listener.

In March of this year, I made a video that posited that we can build bridges with food. I envisioned traveling around the country, learning about the lives of people who are very different from me, and sharing their stories in the form of evocative dishes. I entered the video into ICE’s Find Your Culinary Voice scholarship challenge. To my surprise, people responded with immense enthusiasm, and with the votes of friends and total strangers alike, I was awarded a full scholarship to ICE’s Culinary Arts program. Goodbye, old life of pushing pixels. Hello, new life of…who knows! Anything could happen.

Since beginning culinary school, I’ve been on a whirlwind tour of learning how to think and act like a world-class chef. I considered myself a pretty decent ingredient wrangler before, but now I’m really discovering how to treat these things with finesse and respect. Under the tutelage of chefs Lorrie, Michael and others, my cuts are straighter, my mise en place neater and my heat control more accurate. I am learning not just cooking techniques but also discipline, humility and professionalism. Just as important, I am meeting people from all walks of life in my classmates. (Who knew the hopes set out in my video would so soon be fulfilled?) Though our backgrounds are different, we support one another with tips and stories from our past lives, and cheer each other on through the critiques and exams. If I could convince people to gather around a table before with my slightly overcooked chicken, just think what I can do with these skills and this network after graduating. 

I came to ICE not necessarily to become the next Top Chef, but to answer this question: what is food’s real superpower? And can I harness it to do what I’d always wanted to do as an interaction designer: make a tiny, positive dent in the world? There is much work to be done, but I’m grateful for this chance to train for all the challenges ahead at ICE.

Interested in discovering where a culinary education can take you? Click here to learn more about ICE’s career programs.

 

For 15 years, Kelly Newsome (Culinary Arts ’17) dreamed of going to culinary school. Though her infatuation with food and cooking was sparked during college, various factors (like concerns from family and friends) pushed her off that track and into office jobs. It’s not an uncommon situation, but what set Kelly apart was her tenacity — it drove her to take small steps toward achieving her ultimate goal. First, she enrolled at New York University’s master’s program in food studies and spent three years working full-time while burning the midnight oil between classes and assignments. Then, she landed an attractive marketing position with a food science company, edging ever closer to the kitchen. Finally, at age 38, Kelly decided she couldn’t ignore her true passion any longer, and enrolled in ICE’s Culinary Arts program. “I just realized I’m never going to be happy unless I follow this passion inside me, which is to work in food.”

Why culinary school, instead of diving directly into the kitchen? Kelly explained, “I don’t have the luxury of working my way up in a kitchen at this stage in my life. So going to culinary school will certainly give me confidence when I walk into the kitchen for the first time.”

 

Want to gain kitchen confidence of your own? Click here to learn more about our Culinary Arts career training program.

 

By James Briscione — Director of Culinary Research

The fried chicken sandwich, by law, may only contain bread, chicken, pickles and sauce. Never mind which law that is — the point is this: if you try to put anything more on my sandwich, we are going to have problems. With just four components to build it out, this sandwich is perfect in its simplicity, so each ingredient that goes into it better be perfect, too. Any missteps or half measures are going to stand out big time and completely throw off your chicken sandwich mojo.

Fried Chicken Sandwich Recipe Video - Institute of Culinary Education

Now don’t worry, you have me to take you through it step by step. First, the sandwich components:

  1. The bun: Only a soft potato roll will do. Period.
  2. The pickles: Dill chips are really the way to go (but if you have another preference I won’t fight you on this one).
  3. The chicken: Fried, of course — but also brined.
  4. The sauce: It’s gotta be special.

Now, let’s get to the meat of the sandwich: fried chicken. Two important things need to happen: first brine, then fry. Brining — the process of soaking your chicken in a solution of salt and sugar — is an essential step that helps the meat retain moisture and stay juicy throughout the cooking process. Proper frying at home is easier than you might think. For starters, you don’t need as much oil as you think you do. If the chicken has been butterflied or properly pounded out, you’ll need the oil to be no more than an inch and a half deep in the pot.

And what about that special sauce? Mayonnaise on a chicken sandwich is great. Umami mayonnaise on a chicken sandwich will change your life. Umami — known as the fifth taste (after sweet, salty, sour, and bitter) — is what we think of when something is savory and gives food a rich and satisfying taste. Umami is found naturally in tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, mushrooms, soy sauce and meats. For our chicken sandwich sauce, we build layers of umami with roasted shallots, garlic, shrimp paste (optional) and fish sauce. Trust me: once you have this condiment in your arsenal, you’ll find many more uses for it beyond your chicken sandwich. There’s no law for that.

Pro tips:

  1. The umami mayo can be made in batches and keeps for up to two weeks in the refrigerator.
  2. Frying temperature is crucial: 350˚F is your ideal cooking temperature — if things dip below 300˚F, the chicken ends up a bit greasy. The best way to avoid this is to begin with oil hotter than you need it, around 370˚F; that way when the temp drops after adding your chicken, you’ll land right at your ideal cooking temperature.
  3. After cooking, rest the chicken on a rack, not paper towels. The rack will allow oil to drip away and keep the chicken from getting soggy on the bottom.

The Perfect Fried Chicken Sandwich with Umami Mayo
Makes 4 sandwiches

For the Fried Chicken

Brined Chicken

Ingredients:

1 quart water
½ cup kosher salt
¼ cup granulated sugar
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast filets

Preparation:

  • In a large bowl, combine the water, salt and sugar in a bowl and whisk until dissolved.
  • Butterfly each of the chicken breast filets. Add chicken filets to the brine and leave to brine for at least two hours, or let it brine overnight.

Flour Mixture

Ingredients:

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Preparation:

  • Add the flour, salt, granulated garlic, black pepper and cayenne together in a large bowl, and whisk to combine.

Fried Chicken

Ingredients:

Brined Chicken
Flour Mixture
Salt and pepper, to taste
Oil, for frying

Preparation:

  • Remove the chicken from the brine and pat dry. Season each piece lightly with salt and pepper. Dip each chicken breast into the flour mixture and press to coat well on both sides. Remove the floured pieces to a pan and rest briefly before frying.
  • Heat a pot of oil to 370˚F. Add chicken, working in batches of two pieces at a time, and cook until golden brown, about 6-8 minutes. Remove to a rack to rest and season immediately with salt.

For the Sandwiches

Ingredients:

4 potato rolls
Umami Mayonnaise (recipe below)
16 slices dill pickle or more as desired
Fried chicken

Preparation:

  • Split each roll, spread the bun with umami mayonnaise, add pickle slices and top with fried chicken.

For the Umami Mayonnaise

Ingredients:

1 shallot, cut in half, peeled, root removed
1 head garlic, top trimmed, root intact
¼ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon shrimp paste, with chiles (optional)
Sriracha hot sauce, to taste
2 egg yolks
1 cup vegetable or canola oil

Preparation:

  • Place the shallot, garlic and olive oil in a small pan and cover with foil. Roast in a 350˚F oven for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and, when cool enough to handle, add the shallot and garlic to a blender, squeezing the roasted garlic cloves from the skin, and reserving the oil from the pan for later.
  • Add the fish sauce, Sriracha, shrimp paste (if using) and egg yolks to the blender and process until smooth. Turn the blender to low and slowly drizzle in the canola oil and reserved olive oil until the mixture has emulsified.
  • Umami mayonnaise can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

To learn how you can study with Chef James, click here.