By Brooke Bordelon — Student, Culinary Arts ’17

Chefs are no strangers to the world of charity. In addition to filling hungry patrons’ bellies, superstar chefs use their clout to make the world a better place. Philanthropic organizations that help different groups — from struggling farmers and low-income families to at-risk youth — have flourished, largely due to the support of culinary heavyweights like Eric Ripert, José Andrés and Christina Tosi.

With her organization Emma’s Torch, ICE student Kerry Brodie (Culinary Arts, ’17) hopes to join the ranks of these culinary visionaries in the fight for a better tomorrow. Inspired by the words of the famous American poet and refugee advocate Emma Lazarus, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” Kerry’s organization aims to empower refugees in the United States by training them in the culinary arts to gain employment in the culinary industry.

ICE student and Emma's Torch founder Kerry Brodie

ICE student and Emma’s Torch founder Kerry Brodie

I recently chatted with Kerry to discuss her experiences as a culinary student at ICE and as the CEO of Emma’s Torch.

How did you first come up with the vision for Emma’s Torch?

I’ve always been intrigued by the idea that food and cooking are things that make us human. I’m the child of immigrants and most people I know are descendants of immigrants or of refugees. I’ve always wanted to do something that would engage immigrants and refugees in the food world to use this universal experience of cooking, eating and sharing meals to create social change.

How have the skills you’ve learned and connections you’ve made at ICE helped you launch Emma’s Torch?

ICE has been invaluable for connecting me with people in the food world and showing me what it means to be a culinary educator. I’ve learned so much from observing our teachers and talking to people in various departments at ICE about what’s important when it comes to training. The instructors have been very supportive in connecting me with chefs and showing me how to set up a kitchen. They’ve been so generous with their time — going above and beyond to show me that they value my vision and that they want to see it come to fruition.

Has any particular chef’s career been an inspiration to you?

On one hand, renowned chefs like José Andrés are inspirational. There are also so many chefs who we don’t hear as much about who quietly, in their own businesses and hiring practices, make differences in people’s lives. One of those chefs, Mary Cleaver, is on our advisory board. She was one of the first restaurant owners to say that we have to do good for the world through our businesses. What inspires me most though are the people you never hear about — the dishwashers, the prep cooks — who work tirelessly because they want to make a better life for themselves and their families, and believe that working hard to make beautiful experiences for people in restaurants is part of that American dream. 

How do you balance school with your work for Emma’s Torch? 

One of my favorite quotes from Dr. Seuss is, “You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.” No matter how overwhelmed I feel sometimes with school and trying to get my business off the ground, I am so in love with the opportunities that both endeavors have given me. As much as I want to catch up on sleep on the weekends, it’s hard because I just want to keep working. Even at my most stressed out moments, I consider myself lucky to be doing what I love.

What has the response been like from students at ICE? 

The response has been powerful and positive. So many of the students in my classes are willing to dedicate what very little free time they have to volunteering with Emma’s Torch. The outpouring of support — both moral support when I’m complaining in the locker room and students volunteering at events — has been humbling.

How do you think your experience at ICE has differed from other students?

I think everybody at ICE has a story. There’s got to be something that drove them to come to ICE and something that they’re aiming for in the long term. What I’m trying to get out of my education is different from someone who wants to work in a restaurant. Another thing that has set my experience apart is that I’ve been focused on how we are being taught, not just on what we are being taught. I’m going to do some teaching and recruit other people to teach culinary classes for Emma’s Torch, so I need to learn the building blocks of a well-rounded culinary curriculum.

How can people get involved with Emma’s Torch?

Very easily! They can email me at Kerry@emmastorch.org, or check out our website, emmastorch.org. We’re always looking for new volunteers and partners. We’re small but we’re flexible and eager to involve more people in our community.

Emma’s Torch will be throwing their launch party on December 18 at Brooklyn FoodWorks from 6-8 p.m. Those in attendance can meet the students and taste appetizers and desserts prepared by the first class of Emma’s Torch. All proceeds from the event will support refugee empowerment programs. To get tickets, visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/emmas-torch-launch-party-tickets-29203974875.

Ready to launch your culinary arts career? Click here for information on our career programs. 


By Emma Weinstein—Culinary Management ’17 / Culinary Arts ’17

I have been in love with food from an early age. Growing up in a family where both of my parents worked in the restaurant and hospitality industry, food and restaurants have always been a huge part of my life. At seven days old I was already in my first restaurant, sleeping soundly in my mom’s lap while my parents ate. I am lucky to have been born into a family where food has always been prominent. I have so many wonderful food-related memories, from exploring farmers’ markets in Paris to waking up at the crack of dawn to see the tuna auction at the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo.

ICE Student Emma Weinstein

Emma at ICE’s Fall Career Fair

I attended Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY, where I majored in Art History. Still, I always found myself very involved with food. I wrote restaurant reviews for our local campus chapter of Her Campus, went on road trips to visit local cheese farmers and loved exploring the different farmers’ markets and restaurants in our area. It seemed that a career in food was always my calling, even if I didn’t recognize it yet. After graduating, I worked in several contemporary art galleries in Chelsea before deciding to finally face the music and pursue a career in food. I left the gallery where I had served as assistant director for a year and a half and joined my father and brother to help launch a new restaurant venture—Chuck & Blade, a contemporary steakhouse located in Chelsea.

Prior to this decision, I had some experience working in restaurants but it was by no means extensive. I worked as a hostess briefly in high school and did a pastry internship as well, but that was it. Suddenly I was fully immersed in the world of restaurants and having to learn a great deal of information within a relatively short time frame. I never dreamed I would find myself researching different types of commercial dishwashers or deliberating over what size ice cubes our restaurant should serve. Some parts were much more fun than others. I loved meeting with different vendors, sampling products, touring the restaurant show, developing the menu and beverage program and participating in menu tastings. On the other hand, filling out paperwork for all the vendors, setting up payroll and dealing with the department of buildings was not as exciting. It was a wonderful learning experience, and while I do feel I learned a lot on my own in a relatively short period of time, I felt I would greatly benefit from a more formal education; this led me to ICE.

I started my time at ICE as a Culinary Management student, but just recently decided to pursue Culinary Arts as well. I’m not entirely sure yet what I want to do with my culinary diploma. I love writing and reading about food, and I’m a huge fan of Michael Pollan, Ruth Reichl and Frank Bruni. I also really enjoyed developing the concept of my family’s restaurant and working with my mom to design the interiors. I am eager to soak up as much information as possible during my time at ICE and hope these two programs will help me hone in on what aspect of the industry I would most like to pursue.

Want to learn more about ICE’s career programs? Click here for more info.


By Caitlin Gunther

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

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

Jiselle Basile Extra Crispy

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

Location: Brooklyn, New York

Occupation: Chef and food stylist for Extra Crispy

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

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

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

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

Chef Jiselle Basile

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

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

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

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

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

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


By Caitlin Gunther

Where do you see yourself in ten years? That’s the question Chloe Vichot (Culinary Management ’15) heard when she was interviewing for admission to business schools after graduating from high school. Though she didn’t say it aloud, in her head the answer was clear—owning a restaurant. A successful career in finance and an ICE Culinary Management diploma later, the Paris native is on the cusp of realizing that dream in New York City. This fall, she will open the doors to Ancolie, a Greenwich Village grab-and-go eatery, where glass jars will be the eco-friendly packaging of choice. Serving fresh takes on the seasonal, home-cooked meals she grew up eating, Chloe is sharing her culinary voice with downtown Manhattan.

Ancolie_Chloe

In the midst of juggling the roles involved in opening a restaurant, Chloe sat down with us to answer the ICE alum questionnaire.

ICE graduation year: July 2015 (Culinary Management)

Location: New York, New York

Occupation: Founder of Ancolie, a restaurant with a grab-and-go concept that will open in the fall of 2016. It’s going to be in Greenwich Village in the NYU area. I chose this location, rather than midtown, because I wanted to be close to the student life. And people will come in the morning, evening and weekends.

Favorite sandwich spot: Tartinery in Nolita. They have open-faced sandwiches that I love…and there’s also a location in ICE’s building, Brookfield Place.

Describe a day in the life.
My life changes every day—one day I’m cooking for an event, another day I have to deal with the contractors and construction, another day I have to talk to my interior designer and make sure the plans are on track. Other days I have to take care of social media. There’s a lot of multitasking and wearing different hats in a single day. Then I’m also trying to plan ahead for all the things we’ll need once the store opens, which is challenging.

Did the management program at ICE prepare you for making these decisions?
Absolutely! Being with professionals from the industry who have done this for more than 20 years was fantastic. I was able to learn from professionals who have seen a lot of concepts and know the industry trends. I could pitch them my concept and get valuable feedback. And with three professors, I had more than one opinion.

What is your culinary voice?
I took recreational culinary courses, but I never considered myself a chef. I considered myself a businesswoman and someone who wanted to create a new concept, with a goal to touch people through food. Originally, I thought I would have a professional chef at Ancolie, but as the days went by, I realized that I was going to be the chef…it’s been an interesting transition.

My culinary voice comes from what I grew up eating and what my mother and grandmother taught me. I was lucky not to have to worry about what I was eating growing up—because my family was always cautious about picking the right ingredients and in the right proportions. So I’m trying to bring this culture to the U.S.: to enjoy food and find a balance.

Ancolie_Sharing

What or who inspired you to go to culinary school?
I always dreamed of having a restaurant. I started with an amateur cooking course, and at the time I wasn’t even considering quitting my job in finance. The course made me so happy and excited that I realized I wanted to switch from finance to the food world. When I decided to take the Culinary Management program at ICE, I think I had just had a fight with my team at work, and it made me consider what I wanted to do with my life. I was married and going to have children at some point, so if I was working and had kids I wanted to make sure I was doing something I was passionate about, and I knew finance was not that. So I started thinking—could I do something in food, but something more daytime-oriented for when I have a family? I started the ICE program knowing I wanted to do something in food but not sure what. The program helped me confirm that the food business is what I wanted to do and that I could do it by myself.

After graduating from ICE, I worked in a restaurant in front of house for a couple of months. I thought I’d have to gain a couple years’ experience, but then I realized it was time to just to do it. I’d never be totally prepared to open a food business, so I decided to jump in the water and do it.

Thoughts on the current culinary landscape?
I’m very inspired by what’s happening in the current culinary landscape, especially the focus on eating locally and seasonally. Dan Barber is an inspiration – he is trying to reuse things that are typically thrown away.
I think the culinary world needs to take the next step and focus on packaging. Ancolie is going in the right direction by using glass instead of plastic. Every time I talk to a restaurateur, they think I’m crazy and wasting money, but I think more people will start using glass and reusable packaging.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
In five years, I would really love to have a couple of Ancolie stores in the city and an operation that is successful. To me, success means making a difference in the local community and the environment—which is why I’m using glass, so people don’t need to throw away their packaging. Success also means making sure my investors are happy with their investment. And of course, I want happy customers. I feel like I’m finally on track to realizing my dream.

Ancolie_Food

Ready to start your own food business? Check out our Culinary Management program and find your culinary voice.

jenny mccoy pastry chef
By Jenny McCoy—Chef Instructor, School of Pastry & Baking Arts

Hello, my name is Jenny. I am a former executive pastry chef turned pastry chef instructor. Some might say I’m still in recovery.

I began my career in Chicago, working my way up through the kitchens of Gordon’s, Blackbird and Charlie Trotter’s—true icons in the city’s culinary history. My time in these restaurants—like many culinary school graduates—was my first real introduction to the “yes, chef” culture of kitchens.

The “yes, chef” mentality stems from chefs who worked their way up in grueling environments, once called kitchen brigades. These environments were built for efficiency and excellence: a clear hierarchy, where everyone knew their place. The culture of these kitchens tended towards a sort of masochistic martyrdom where the longer you worked, the better chef you were. Chefs at the best restaurants were expected to put work before everything in their personal lives—including sickness and even sanity—to maintain the restaurant’s prestige.

Now it may sound tough to come of age in this kitchen culture, but it wasn’t so bad. I would liken the “yes, chef” culture to a full-immersion language program: it’s only when communication is a question of survival that we become fluent. Being the new kid at a restaurant full of experienced cooks forced me to be a quick study, and within a couple of years’ time, I became a pretty good cook myself. I was motivated to move up from the bottom of the totem pole, and a large part of my success was learning to live the “yes, chef” ethos.professional kitchen chef brigadeHow does this culture play out minute to minute? In short, “yes, chef” is the reply for every command you are given in a kitchen. It doesn’t matter how you think things need to be done. If you had a question, the time to ask was before your shift, because now there’s a lady at table seven who is waiting on a perfectly medium rare steak. In truth, for the complex choreography of a restaurant kitchen to operate without a hitch, you need a dictator. Chef means chief in French, and in the kitchen, the chef is the boss—period.

A typical conversation in the kitchen:

Chef: “You should use your serrated knife to chop bars of chocolate.”
You: “Yes, chef.” (Translation: “Thanks for the helpful tip.”)

Chef: “Separate 200 eggs and make sure you don’t get any yolk in the whites.”
You: “Yes, chef.” (Translation: “I’ve made this before, I know not to get the yolk in the whites.”)

Chef: “Why did you add the butter to the dough now? I told you to add it last.”
You: “Yes, chef.” (Translation: “Yesterday you told me to add the butter first, so now I’m totally confused.”)

Chef: “Stop feeding the sourdough starter. I did it already.”
You: “Yes, chef.” (Translation: “Actually chef, you started to feed it then got a call and walked away. So I thought I’d feed it because you forgot.”)

That is…until recently. Today, we’re witnessing a rapid cultural shift in professional kitchens. Entry-level cooks are demanding better hours and pay. Culinary students are graduating with kitchen and food business skills. Cooks are no longer interested in being just another pair of hands. They not only want to voice their opinions, but they also insist they be heard.ICE Creative-74As a former executive pastry chef, I’m not sure what to make of this shift. In the industry, many of us are asking: “Why can’t we find any decent cooks? Why won’t these cooks just be quiet and do the work? Why don’t they understand how amazing this restaurant is? Don’t they get it? I spent 10 years slaving away to get where I am. I learned from the best of the best, and all my experience is what makes me the pastry chef I am today. It came at the price of time and dedication, no matter what the sacrifices may have been. Aren’t they listening?”

In large part, the growing popularity of culinary school is part of this change. Over the last two decades, the cooks entering the field have been increasingly educated and eager to express their own creativity. So are we witnessing a planned rebellion of entry-level cooks against executive chefs that were raised in the “yes, chef” kitchen culture? Not exactly.

The majority of cooks currently entering the industry were born between 1980-1995, making them part of the millennial generation. They have extraordinary technical skills and multitask like machines—walking, talking, listening and texting simultaneously. They are not accustomed to the old school, “put your head down” way of working. They are focused on themselves first. And you know what? We can learn something from them. In the classrooms at ICE, I certainly have. It’s been a challenging but meaningful endeavor. I’ve learned to listen more and command a bit less.Culinary School Chef and StudentWhen I started out in kitchens, I remember I didn’t like being underpaid. I didn’t enjoy being told my thoughts and opinions didn’t matter. I didn’t want to work 12+ hours a day. But I did it because I felt like I didn’t have a choice, and I loved the work so much that I was willing to make sacrifices. So when the current generation says they won’t accept being underpaid, working long hours and feeling underappreciated every day, I get it. That “me first” mentality has its perks, but something has got to give. So who has to change? The employees or the employers?

My take on this culture divide is that the people who benefit most from changing are the chefs. Now, I’m not suggesting that chefs let their cooks run willy-nilly or let them talk back during dinner service. But I am suggesting that we all let go of the “yes, chef” culture. The best kitchens have always been a team effort, and it’s high time they became more collaborative—and that includes encouraging the creativity of every cook, even the one who just started last week.

No matter what you’re trying to accomplish—whether preparing a perfectly timed nine-course tasting menu or looking for a set of lost keys—there’s nothing like a fresh set of eyes on a situation. So if we let the before-service conversation evolve to include, “have you considered this, chef?” we all reap the benefits. In short, can we chefs stop thinking of ourselves as dictators and instead become coaches? From food trucks to tipping to composting, the industry is already changing in ways beyond our control. It’s time that chefs give cooks a moment to look up from their cutting boards and a chance to cut their teeth in a kitchen that welcomes open conversation.

Click here to learn more about the culture of restaurant kitchens. Then visit ICE.edu for free information about launching your culinary career.

By Maureen Drum Fagin, Director of Career Services

This fall, ICE hosted the biggest career fair in our 39-year history. Employers from virtually every sector of the food and hospitality industry were on hand, hungry to fill their openings with fresh talent from our kitchens and classrooms. Among the participating employers were industry leaders Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group, Great Performances, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Craft Restaurant Group, Jean Georges’ Spice Market, Thomas Keller Restaurant Group, Union Square Hospitality Group and many more.

The event is an incredible resource for our students and alumni, but—like any networking event—you get out what you put in. Here are ICE’s top tips for mastering any job fair:

1.  Do your homework. There’s nothing more flattering to an employer than a student who approaches their recruiting table referencing a recent review in the Times or an upcoming restaurant launch mention in Eater. Want to work for Union Square Hospitality Group? If you devoured Danny Meyer’s Setting the Table in one sitting, then make that known—it’s a surefire way to have your résumé rise to the top of the stack.

2. Perfect your résumé. The day of the career fair is not the time to revise your work history. Leave ample time for ICE Career Services staff or an eagle-eyed friend to review and proofread your résumé. On the day of the event, print out more copies than you think you’ll need. Nothing is worse than giving out your last copy…and then spotting your dream employer across the room.

3. Come up with a social strategy. If you’re a bit on the shy side, build confidence by gradually working your way up to your top choice employer. That way, you’ve tested your pitch on a few other companies and have shaken off most of your nervous energy.

photo 1

4. Don’t underestimate first impressions. Don’t forget to smile, give a firm handshake and make direct eye contact. Your appearance should be professional and neat. Leave the strong perfume, heavy make-up and showy jewelry at home. These are all distractions to a recruiter—make sure they remember you for your personality and résumé, not your flashy outfit.

5. Follow through. Networking doesn’t end when the fair is over. Review your notes from the event and follow up with the employers that interested you most—that will send a clear signal to the recruiter that you remain eager about the opportunity. Sending a “thank you” email also shows attention to detail and opens a line of communication. And if you were lucky enough to land an interview or trail at the event, be sure to arrive punctually or reschedule well in advance of the meeting.

6. Remember, the industry is smaller than you think. Each connection and conversation you made that day should be viewed as an opportunity, whether it pays off immediately or further down the road.

Looking for more advice on advancing your career? Click here.

 

By Carly DeFilippo

In the realm of culinary careers, food styling has historically gotten a bit of a bad rap. From mashed potatoes standing in for ice cream to marbles boosting the hearty look of a soup, it’s a profession that was once better known for trickery than honest beauty. Thankfully, recent trends in food media are pointing toward the less polished look. Among the media outlets popularizing this more natural approach to food styling? The celebrated source for all things cooking, Food52.

Spaghetti with eggplant and brussels sprouts, styled by ICE students.

Spaghetti with eggplant and brussels sprouts, styled by ICE students.

Yet—however more appealing it may be—this approach to styling isn’t without its challenges. Narrowing your primary tools to good lighting, beautiful props and high quality raw ingredients makes a talented food stylist’s skill—and speed—even more valuable. That’s why ICE was thrilled to offer a food styling workshop with Food52’s own Executive Editor (and ICE Culinary Arts alum!), Kristen Miglore and Freelance Stylist, Kristy Mucci.

A student practices photographing fresh produce; first attempts at still life food styling.

A student practices photographing fresh produce; first attempts at still life food styling.

Tailoring the workshop to a group of current and aspiring culinary professionals, Kristen and Kristy started off with cooking tips for photo shoots, emphasizing that their goal at Food52 is always to make a dish look beautiful, but achievable. The benefit of this home-cooked philosophy? Every dish they style is edible. Here’s how:

  • Start with great ingredients. This is the time to splurge at the greenmarket. Find the most beautiful products you can, as they’re the base on which you’ll build a beautiful plate.
  • Think about how food will change over time. Whether you’re tossing a salad or icing a cake, think about how your ingredients will transform over the course of the cooking process—and how quickly they’ll wilt, melt or dry up while waiting for their close-up.
  • Go easy on the salt. If you’re looking for a golden-brown crust on your steak, salt is your friend. But if you’re sautéing vegetables, wait to season them until after the shot, as the salt will break down their structure as they cook.
  • Give it a spritz. Recapture that freshly-cooked look with a few well-placed drops of olive oil or a light spray of water.
  • The two-part freeze. For objects that melt easily (like ice cream), scoop them into the shape you want, and then put them back in the freezer on a sheet pan. That way, each painstakingly crafted quenelle or spherical scoop will have the longest shelf-life possible. (Added tip: When working under hot artificial lights, professional stylists often sift pellets of dried ice over easily-melted objects.)
  • Don’t be afraid of the mess. Gently place your base components on a plate, then reposition any stray bits and add extra ingredients for texture or color. If you try to individually plate every strand of pasta or salad leaf, your plate will never look natural.
  • Clean without chemicals. Don’t use Windex on perfectly edible plates of food. Clean streaks or fingerprints with cotton balls or q-tips dipped in a solution of white vinegar (or vodka) and water.
A student plates lentils in the "brown foods" challenge.

A student plates lentils in the “brown foods” challenge.

As the class moved through a series of exercises—a still life, a pasta dish, a salad and the ever-challenging category of “brown food”— Kristen and Kristy also shared a few of their theories on what makes (and how to consistently achieve) a great shot:

  • Focus on the food. If your content is all about cooking (or eating, for that matter), then make the food your focus. Don’t be afraid to keep the styling simple or zoom in for a close-up.
  • Shoot raw ingredients and finished dishes separately. As Kristen and Kristy aptly pointed out, there’s a common trend where food stylists use raw ingredients to decorate a shot of a finished dish. Instead, they suggest preparing two separate photographs: a beautiful “before” shot of the raw ingredients and a plated “after” shot to demonstrate the end goal.
  • Explore the negative space. Have you ever eaten something so delicious that you forgot to grab a photo? That’s the idea here. Sometimes crumbs, a leftover streak of sauce or a rumpled napkin tells as much of a story as a perfect-looking plate.
  • Go through the motions. If there are utensils in your shot, think about where you would most naturally place them. (Additional pro tip: Struggling to prop up your fork at a certain angle? Little balls of wax are a perfect non-toxic tool.)
  • Get a safety shot. Does that roasted chicken look pretty good in the pan? Are your pancakes stacked up perfectly pre-syrup? Take the good shot while you have it, and then consider plating your chicken or attempting to get that coveted syrup-pouring shot. If those efforts fail, at least you have that first shot in the bag.
  • Give yourself more than one option. Always have an extra plate, bowl, or utensil or two on hand. Sometimes it takes a few tries to create the perfect shot.
  • Keep your eyes open. Sometimes the best photos aren’t the ones you plan. The more time you spend styling and shooting food, the more you’ll begin to notice the visually stunning moments that are a natural part of the process of cooking.

For more information about food styling and media classes at ICE, click here.  

Kristen and Kristy pose with some of their food styling students.

Kristen and Kristy pose with some of their food styling students.

By Carly DeFilippo

If you like cooking and have access to the internet, chances are you’ve heard of Food52, the brainchild of former New York Times dining writer, Amanda Hesser, and freelance editor/recipe tester, Merrill Stubbs. The two met when Amanda was charged with revising 1,400 recipes for The Essential New York Times Cookbook and over the course of many, many sessions in the kitchen, the pair discovered a mutual dissatisfaction with the state of online cooking resources—which, at that time, focused more on the quantity rather than the quality of recipes.

Amanda shares the story of Food52 with ICE students.

Amanda shares the story of Food52 with ICE students.

The founders had a vision for a website that would provide “everything for your cooking life,” from recipes, to kitchen tools, to servingware and more. Today, after launching with a focus on carefully curated recipes, that vision has been fulfilled, as the site has recently grown to include Provisions, an online lifestyle shop for food enthusiasts.

In the over-saturated world of food blogs and websites, the legions of followers and industry-wide respect that Food52 has garnered is an extraordinary success story. It was, therefore, no surprise that Amanda’s visit to the Institute of Culinary Education was a particular thrill for our students.

Food52's strategy? Get bigger by being better.

Food52’s strategy? Get bigger by being better.

When asked to describe what she believes distinguishes Food52 from other sites, Amanda cited a few specific aspects of their team’s philosophy:

  • A Unique Voice: Amanda believes that what prevents recipe-seekers from feeling loyal to recipe aggregators like Epicurious or All Recipes is the fact that these sites lack a unified perspective or tone. She explains, “[Voice] is what makes people feel they share your sensibility.”
  • A Thoughtful Aesthetic: Just like a beautifully presented plate of food, the understated look of Food52 has far more depth than you could even imagine. Their logo color? Grabbed from a pixelated photo of kale. It doesn’t matter that you didn’t notice—the point is that they’ve thought about it. “When you set a strong voice and aesthetic,” Amanda explained, “it’s like a magnet.”
  • Multiple Levels of Engagement: Only 2% of the Food52 community actually wants to add recipes, but there are many, many more users who want to comment, favorite and share the recipes with their own community. That said, of the 28,000 recipes currently on the site, 98% were provided by the community.
  • Self-Selecting Content: Amanda and Merrill intentionally chose to make the process of adding recipes to the site a commitment, automatically weeding out less-committed cooks from their pool of ad-hoc contributors. To bolster that pool of content, they run specific recipe contests—for example, a contest for burger recipes during grilling season. They’ve also signed on a few of their staff members—including Executive Editor and ICE alum Kristen Miglore—to maintain ongoing columns, like the ever-popular “Genius Recipes” series.
A manifesto for the cooking community of Food52

A manifesto for the cooking community of Food52

Sticking to these principles, Amanda and Merrill have grown one of the most successful food start-ups in the industry. Over time, their staff has grown and business needs have changed, which sometimes means revising the game plan. For example, in the beginning, they never planned to have “featured contributors” from other successful food websites. Yet, over time, they have figured out how to seamlessly celebrate the cookbook launches or other milestones of their community’s favorite DIY celebrities.

In fact, one of Amanda’s most resonant points was that their staff is very keyed in to the voice of the community. From viewing analytics reports to maintaining an unusually high response rate to their audience’s questions and comments, their multi-faceted approach is akin to a master class in Community Engagement 101. The end result is impressive: one of the most civilized web communities on the internet. As Amanda put it, “People [only] misbehave when they feel like there’s no one there [listening].”

Amanda answers students' questions and signs their New York Times cookbooks.

Amanda answers students’ questions and signs their New York Times cookbooks.

Advising those who want to launch their own food start-up, Amanda emphasized that it can be a long and bumpy road. “I have start-up baggage, but I think that baggage is actually good. [Before working at Food52], I made some mistakes without doing a lot of damage.” In short, working for a start-up on someone else’s dime to figure out how the financing and logistics come together might not be a bad idea. And don’t expect to get bought out for millions of dollars like some tech company: “Brands are not born overnight; we were not going for hyper-growth.”

Amanda also had salient advice for other aspiring food writers—namely, that the industry isn’t what it was when she first came onto the scene. “If you’re really interested in food, do something interesting in food,” Amanda says. You don’t need to be a full-time food writer—a role that rarely comes with a sense of financial stability—rather, you can work for a company that furthers your experience and knowledge, helping you to gain credibility.

Amanda with Dean of Culinary Business Steve Zagor and ICE Instructor Kate Edwards.

Amanda with Dean of Culinary Business Steve Zagor and ICE Instructor Kate Edwards.

Last but not least, Amanda shared a bit of insight that can apply to all ICE students, whether future entrepreneurs, bakers, recipe testers or food media personalities: “We’re not in a business of big wins—it’s about small adjustments. Always be ready to adapt.”

For more lectures and discussions with industry leaders at ICE, click here.

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By Carly DeFilippo

Like many ICE grads, Amy Thielen spent time in New York City’s top restaurant kitchens after graduating from our Culinary Arts program. But after seven years working for such chefs as David Bouley, Daniel Boulud and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Amy’s Midwestern roots came calling. Today, she is a rising star on the Food Network and a James Beard award-winning cookbook author, exploring her all-American heritage and helping to redefine the field of modern Midwestern cooking.  

What were you doing before you enrolled at ICE?

I was living in Minnesota—in a cabin in the woods—growing a garden, canning and working part-time as a breakfast cook at a diner on the main street of my hometown. ICE seemed like the right fit for a number of reasons. First, it was less expensive that other schools, and I was still paying off my college loans. Second, it was in New York City. Plus, I just liked the feeling of the school.

Where was your externship?

I did my externship at Danube, which was David Bouley’s Austrian restaurant at the time (in the space that is now Brushstroke). I arrived just before they received three stars from the New York Times and, after the externship, was hired to work garde manger. The kitchen was staffed with great chefs and a bunch of cooks from Michelin-starred European restaurants. I learned an incredible amount. It blew my mind, and from then on, I was hooked on fine dining—I worked in the area for seven years after that.

So what was your path from Danube to The New Midwestern Table?

At the end of my year at Danube, I spent time testing recipes for Bouley’s cookbook, East of Paris, in New York Times writer Melissa Clark’s test kitchen. From there, I worked at Bouley and then on the line at db Bistro Moderne. I was promoted to sous chef at Jean Georges Vongerichten’s Chinese restaurant, 66, and then I worked on the opening team for Cru with Chef Shea Gallante, who I’d known from my Bouley days.

When I got pregnant with my son, I continued to work at Cru on research and development, while also working on a potential cookbook. After my son was born, I stepped away from the restaurant kitchens to freelance in magazine test kitchens, which is something I’d done previously between cooking jobs. In particular, I developed a lot of recipes for Country Living.

Midwestern-Table

When my son was a year old, we moved back to our cabin in the woods of northern Minnesota. That’s where I wrote my cookbook proposal for The New Midwestern Table, which was published in 2013. As it was being published, I was approached about producing a TV show, based loosely on my book, with Lidia Bastianich’s production company, Tavola. We shot the sizzle reel, and shortly after, Food Network picked up the show. Two seasons of Heartland Table have since aired on Food Network.

At the moment, I’m working on a second book for Clarkson Potter—a food memoir.

Are there any accomplishments of which you are particularly proud?

My book, The New Midwestern Table, won the 2014 James Beard award for best book on American cooking! I’d won a previous Beard award in 2011 for some journalistic pieces I wrote for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, but taking home the award for my own book really takes the cake. I’m glad that my hard work paid off and that people in the industry are starting to look at the food of the Midwest—past and present—with renewed interest.

Can you describe a typical workday?

Oh! It varies. I take my son to school and then about half of the time, I go to the gym (essential for professional eaters!). Then, lately, I write all day. If I were working on recipes, I would probably cook all day. If it’s summer, I weed the garden and pick vegetables too. It’s funny, but my best writing comes when I’m working in my kitchen, making something. Somehow, it’s like my arms are my brain’s motor; when they turn, it works better.

What might people be surprised to learn about your career?

It looks from the outside like a lot of fun and games—eating and writing all day—but the deadlines are tough! I stay up very late writing a lot of nights, drinking cold coffee.

Where would you like to see yourself in the future?

I love where I’m at right now. I’d like everything to stay exactly the same—but maybe be 20% less busy. I’d like to have more time to do fun things with our son.

By Carly DeFilippo

At ICE, our students come from a variety of different backgrounds and have a broad range of goals. The man or woman standing next to you in class could be a concert pianist, doctor, plumber, florist, marketing executive or stay-at-home mother. Yet among the many fascinating life stories we’ve come across at ICE, alumnus Sharon Folta’s is particularly memorable. After graduating from ICE, she has both pursued a career in healthful cooking as a Personal Chef/Cooking Instructor and authored a memoir, Little Satchmo, describing her experience growing up as the daughter of famed jazz trumpet player Louis Armstrong.

What were you doing before you enrolled at ICE?

I was working in sales for WNEW FM radio as a Account Executive.  I graduated from Iona College with a BA in Communication Arts eight years prior and worked my way up from receptionists to Sales Assistant to Account Executive.

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Photo Credit: New York Times

What was it specifically that attracted you to the program?  

I’ve been passionate about food since my childhood and always enjoyed cooking and entertaining. I always wanted to study cooking professionally, but wasn’t able to go to school full time. When I heard about Peter Kump’s New York Cooking School (the school’s name was changed to ICE in 2001) and started taking recreational classes at the original location on the Upper East Side. A few years later, in 1998, I enrolled in the professional Culinary Arts course that was given on nights and weekends, and 6 years later, I enrolled in ICE’s Professional Culinary Management course that was given on nights and weekends.

Where was your externship?

I did my externship at Jo Jo’s, Jean-George Vongerichten’s first New York City restaurant. I did make some great connections, and it really opened my eyes to the world of fine dining.

What have you been up to since graduating?

I relocated to Sarasota, Florida where I have been working as Personal Chef, and I’m a volunteer Chef Instructor with Share Our Strength.  I teach the “Cooking Matters” course which is sponsored by our local Food Bank. On a personal note, over the last 6 years, I have written and published my memoir, Little Satchmo,  which tells my story of what it was like growing up in the shadow of my famous father.

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Briefly describe a day in your current working life.

Today my culinary business, Sharon’s Kitchen, is focused on preparing and delivering healthy meals for people with dietary restrictions. This is an under-served audience and a great business opportunity in serving this market.  I also offer cooking classes that focus on diabetic-friendly and gluten-free meals. I’ve discovered so many great tasting dishes that also are good for you.

Where would you like to see yourself in the future?

I’m at my future. My culinary vision has been realized as a Personal Chef and Chef Instructor. The only thing left to do is to continue to grow my customer base for prepared meals, expand into catering and teach a minimum of ten cooking classes per month.