By Caitlin Gunther

Where do you see yourself in ten years? That’s the question Chloe Vichot (Culinary Management ’16) 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 2016 (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.

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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.

 

By Liz Castner, Pastry & Baking Arts and Culinary Management Student

Every year, ICE Culinary Management students are exposed to some of the greatest entrepreneurs in the business. These industry leaders generously take time out of their busy schedules to share their stories and offer advice to the next generation of restauranteurs.

Most recently, my class was lucky enough to visit Chef David Bouley’s whimsical TriBeCa restaurant, Bouley Botanical. Filled with window gardens, a gleaming kitchen, film equipment and every type of new culinary gadgetry you can imagine, Bouley Botanical is a culinary fairytale of sorts. Chef Bouley has clearly succeeded in creating a foodie fantasy.

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Chef David Bouley

Bouley Botanical’s success should come as no surprise, as Chef has a long history as an innovator in the restaurant business. He has studied in France under some of the most masterful chefs in the world and is credited with opening Montrachet, which revolutionized New York City Restaurant culture. His success is largely attributable to his attention to detail and devotion to exceptional service. He shared with us the importance he places on a well-crafted tasting menu, as well as investing time in understanding what his guests like to eat. This enables him to provide patrons with the best meal possible, his primary goal as a chef.

While Bouley’s bio for the Meet The Culinary Entrepreneurs event series only mentions it briefly, the chef emphasized the importance of health and wellness as central to his business. Bouley has dedicated his life to learning anything and everything he can about health in different ways. I really admire this aim, because while many chefs are interested in nutrition, most chefs consider dining out as a departure (as opposed to a central part of) their guest’s nutritional needs. Bouley also is essentially a Mother Nature purist. He views it as his responsibility to take the best that nature can offer and make it even more delicious, while maintaining its nutritional content.

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I consider myself fairly well-educated on the subject of health, but the tidbits he shared with us blew my mind. One fact he relayed to us is one that I had heard before, but never stopped to really examine: each plant food provides our body with nutrients, but the way that we prepare that food can diminish the quality of what it has to offer. Garlic, for example, is one of the healthiest foods we can eat, but according to Bouley, most of us are overcooking it, diminishing the positive health impact of eating it in the first place. Similarly, we are all ruining the properties of green tea, which should never be heated to over 150-160 degrees. With the boiling temp of water at 212, we are basically murdering those leaves every time we heat the kettle to a boil and pour over them.

Bouley also shared some facts that I had never heard before. He explained that our plants have changed, and as a result, the gluten that we develop from our wheat has changed as well. While gluten for wheat used to be primarily water-soluble and easy for our body to digest, it is now mainly fat-soluble, making it more difficult for our body to process. This is why gluten has become increasingly difficult for people to digest comfortably, and helps explains why those without a known gluten allergy still feel better when they forgo eating gluten.

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Inside Bouley Botanical

Trained in pastry, Chef Bouley has been working on using alternative plants to make breads and chips. He gave us a chip made out of kuzu – the leaves of a flowering vine given to the United States by the Japanese – topped with a kind of cheese and truffle oil: simply delicious.

Chef Bouley has educated himself not only on how to best consume all of what nature can give us, but has also studied the ways in which science can enhance what nature provides. He drinks only kangen water, which is ionized to a pH value of 9.5. According to Bouley, water with a pH of 9.5 is the optimum water for human consumption because it does all the things that water is really supposed to do for the human body. It detoxifies and washes away toxins we’ve taken in, it hydrates our cells and it provides us with the oxygen and hydrogen molecules our body needs.

Keeping with the health focus, next on the horizon for Chef Bouley is a plan to educate and help the general population get the most out of natural products. He is filming the production of what he calls “Building Blocks: Ingredients in a Living Pantry” to show consumers how to best use food products to make quality, nutritious and efficient meals at home.

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Examples of these building blocks include showing viewers how to roast fresh garlic to the appropriate “blonde caramel” stage and then use that product to make garlic puree and garlic oils, which can be used in a number of applications. Others examples include demos for parsley water, various applications for vanilla and the many ways to use herbs in cooking. The shorts are beautifully filmed in-house at Bouley Botanicals and are hugely inspiring, showing what a master does to get the best of his ingredients. Bouley sees this living pantry as a way of prepping the mise en place for all your meals, of preserving ingredients that can go bad, and most importantly, of providing the highest amount of nutrients and flavor with the most reasonable amount of effort.

Bouley offered some particularly ingenious examples, including using onion puree to thicken a sauce rather than flour or cornstarch. It’s both healthier for you and delivers far more flavor—sheer brilliance. He also recommends drizzling a tomato with a little garlic oil and vanilla oil, and then taking a bite. I haven’t done it yet, but he claims it will be one of the best things we have ever eaten.

Over the course of his talk, Chef Bouley clearly communicated some sound advice for those of us pursuing a career in food. First: our careers are ever-evolving, so we should never feel boxed in. There is always room for growth and experimentation, both in the kitchen and beyond. Second: it is very important to learn as much as we can about the ingredients we intend to use, whether in a restaurant kitchen or our own home cooking. Even though I plan to pursue a career in desserts, not generally thought of as the “healthiest” part of a person’s diet, Chef Bouley has inspired me to learn as much as I can about my ingredients in order to deliver the best flavor and value to my guests.

By Marisa LoBianco, Department of Career Services

Do you love cooking and being around food? Spend hours watching cooking shows and reading cookbooks? Daydream about rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands dirty in the kitchen? Then make 2014 the year you pursue a fulfilling, creative future in food.

The beginning of a new year is a great time to take a step back and reevaluate your professional goals. While choosing a creative path or changing careers may seem daunting, it can also lead to a deeper level of satisfaction in your professional life. A career in food means that you never stop learning, from troubleshooting new techniques to experimenting with exotic ingredients. In addition, it offers the opportunity to enjoy the tangible results of your hard work and to share the fruit of that labor with others.

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Whether you’re just getting out of school or have spent significant time in another career, you have already developed transferable skills that will help you succeed in the food world. What’s important is to assess your interests, skills, likes, dislikes—and whether your present job is meeting your needs. Reflect on which working styles, environments and activities leave you feeling fulfilled or frustrated, empowered or exhausted—and use this as a guide for your future decisions.

That doesn’t mean the decision is easy. Like any career path, committing to a culinary career involves some sacrifices. You may have to start at the bottom and work your way up, at times committing evenings, weekends and holidays to your job. Remain reasonable and acknowledge that making small sacrifices now will pay off in the future. For those who are truly passionate and determined, there are endless employment opportunities in the culinary industry to fit your personal interests and working style.

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Volunteering with experienced chefs and externing are great ways to build on the foundations of your culinary training and to learn about the industry. These are experiences we facilitate at ICE, so that you can enter the job market with valuable references and industry contacts. In 2013 alone, we placed 498 externs in 292 establishments across the country. But the most important thing you bring to the table is your attitude and willingness to learn—the top characteristics employers say they look for in our graduates.

From sous chefs to cake artists, food writers to restaurant owners, our students have found success in every corner of the food industry. You too can have an invigorating new lifestyle and share your passion, skills, and creations with the world. It’s possible to say “I love my job!” and mean it.

By Rick Smilow

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ICE President, Rick Smilow

When possible, I make the enjoyable effort to have a meal in the restaurants that ICE alumni have opened as executive chef and/or owner. I don’t have to travel far to do this in metro New York. But in late August, I made some trips to visit alumni spots in Seattle, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC—all in the space of 12 days! That lead to the idea to have a long distance “round table” interview with the three ICE alumni chef/owners: Joncarl Lachman (‘02), Tiffany MacIsaac (’02), and Rachel Yang (’01).

In 2013, Chef Rachel Yang’s Seattle restaurant Joule ranked 9th on Bon Appétit’s “Best New Restaurants” in America list—an honor that was soon followed by a spot (two notches up) on Seattle magazine’s similar shortlist. Yang, along with chef/husband Seif Chirchi, was also acknowledged by Bon Appétit as a pioneer in Korean-American fusion cuisine, which they feature at Joule’s sister restaurant Revel.

Executive Pastry Chef Tiffany MacIsaac’s recipes have been featured in Food & Wine and her restaurant Birch & Barley, which she runs with her husband, Executive Chef Kyle Bailey, has been recognized by top critics as one of Washington, DC’s must-eat destinations. A James Beard Award semi- finalist for Outstanding Pastry Chef in 2013, MacIsaac oversees the dessert program for all of Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s eateries which, in addition to Birch & Barley, include: Tallula, Eat- bar, Vermilion, Evening Star Cafe, Columbia Firehouse, Rustico, and Buzz Bakery.

Chef Joncarl Lachman is also no stranger to accolades. His Chicago restaurant Vincent was named one of Chicago magazine’s “Best New Restaurants” in 2011 and his HB Bistro was featured in the prestigious Michelin guidebook. This year Lachman opened his highly anticipated Noord, a “Dutch-American” eatery in Philadelphia, the city where he was raised.

We asked these three impressive graduates to give some perspective and insight as to how they each have blazed a successful trail through what can be a very challenging career path. Here’s what they had to say:

Chef Joncarl

Chef Joncarl Lachman

 

How do the foods and flavors of your childhood fit into your current menu?

Joncarl: I grew up in Southwest Philadelphia surrounded by Italians. When I would go to my friends’ homes, their mothers would be making lasagna and meatballs, etc. I would return home to my own Dutch mother’s boiled cabbage and meat. Needless to say, at the moment, it was not a culinary inspiration. Little did I know I would end up in South Philly again surrounded by Italians, but this time it is me, and not my mother, making Dutch food!

Tiffany: I’m from Hawaii and I find that I tend to gravitate toward fresher, more acid desserts,—often incorporating passion fruit, pineapple and other tropical fruits into my menu.

Rachel: Where I was from and my Korean heritage, definitely influenced the menu at Joule and Revel. That’s what makes our restaurants so unique.

At what point in your life did you know you wanted to become a chef?

Tiffany MacIsaac: When I turned 18 I moved to New York where my first job was as a hostess at Michael’s New York. I had never really experienced food as anything other than a way to fill your stomach. After a few months of working, they invited me in to dine in the restaurant. I fell in love with everything. But the moment I knew I wanted to get into the kitchen was when I tried the beef cheeks. It blew my mind and within a week, I was trailing in their kitchen.

Rachel Yang: It was only after college that I decided to cook. I had an idea of what it is like being a chef and a restaurateur, but never thought that I would be one someday.

Chef Rachel Yang

Chef Rachel Yang

What is the process like to open a second, or third restaurant, versus the first?

Rachel: After a while, you can totally visualize the space and how the flow should work, even looking at the floor plan. You can construct a restaurant from every staff  member’s point of view, whereas in the beginning, you can only see the restaurant from a cook’s point of view.

Joncarl: I have to admit, it almost becomes addicting. I was petrified, when I made the first big step to open my own place. My second restaurant, Vincent, was not an easy experience, largely due to the fact that we brought-in other partners. With Noord, while it was certainly a leap of faith, I had more confidence.

Tiffany: I’d like to say that it gets easier with every opening. But after two restaurants, two bakeries, a doughnut shop and a brewery—I can say that each one presented its own challenges. Every time you do it, you are analyzing how to be better, faster, and smarter. You constantly push yourself to think of new ways to do things. Which certainly keeps you on your toes.

What are some of you “signature” dishes and were you surprised when they became so popular?

Rachel: One of our most popular dishes at Joule is our spicy rice cake. It’s really a great combination of the traditional rice cake dish from Korea and other very non-traditional items. It was my personal favorite when we put it on the menu, but I wasn’t sure how people would perceive it since it’s pretty darn spicy. We haven’t had any complaints that it is too spicy and, surprisingly, it’s been the most popular dish on the menu.

Tiffany: I started doing a cookie plate with kid classics and, four years later, it still hasn’t left the menu. Things like the Hostess cupcake, oatmeal cream pie, and Snickers bars—in a more grown-up version—are very appealing to customers. I knew they would be liked, but I didn’t think they would become such a big thing that they would never leave the menu.

Chef Tiffany MacIsaac

Chef Tiffany MacIsaac

Are there some ideas you thought would be a hit and turned out to be a flop?

Tiffany: I can never seem to get desserts with rice pudding to sell. People tell me all the time how much they love it, but I can’t seem to get them to buy a composed dessert featuring it.

How important—or not—are organic ingredients to your menu?

Rachel: It’s certainly important, but sometimes not the priority. We get organic and/or local ingredients whenever we can, but some ingredients are just really hard to come by or too expensive for us to serve at a decent price point.

Joncarl: I had the opportunity to work under Nora Pouillon, the “queen of organics,” at Restaurant Nora in Washington, DC. While it was a fantastic experience, it certainly affects a restaurant’s price point. We do our best to use locally farmed ingredients. If it is organic, it is a plus, but not a necessity.

Composing a new dish is sometimes simple and other times complex. Do you have a framework or set process when creating a new menu item?

Rachel: Sort of. I often have 2-3 key ingredients that I want to use and try to find an interesting way to connect them. Or I sometimes, I have a dish in mind and see a couple things I can change that would give it our signature stamp. At the end, I look for a “wow” factor in each dish, something that makes it stand out from others.

Tiffany: It’s not like I’ve got a sheet with boxes I check off as I’m developing a dessert. But, if all the components span several textures and temperature and you are able to make sure all the flavors taste distinctly like what they are supposed to, you are at a good starting point. I hate when a dessert doesn’t taste like its core components. Like a green apple sorbet that doesn’t have the right tartness or a ginger marshmallow with no bite. Keeping the balance of salt versus sweet will help the dessert from becoming cloying.

As an estimate, what percentage of your customers are regulars?

Rachel: There are quite a few regulars at both restaurants. Especially at Revel, we have a decent number of customers who come for lunch every week.

Joncarl: I would say 20 percent and growing. I love cultivating regular guests. It is honestly like having friends over to my home for dinner.

Tiffany: That’s interesting. At the restaurants we strive for regulars that come in every couple of weeks. At the bakeries we are trying to make people come in 4-5 times a week. I’d say 25 percent of Buzz bakery customer’s start or end their day here 3- 4 times a week, which is great.

What advice would you give to our culinary students on how to make the most of their first jobs out of school?

Tiffany: Find a chef whose food you are passionately in love with and give them everything you have—they’ll likely give a lot back to you. Don’t ask how much money you’ll make, or how long the day will be. That doesn’t matter at the beginning (or ever for that matter). The money will be low and the days will be long, but you aren’t done learning just because you finished school. Think about the hours as an investment in your future. And never leave your job in under 14 months. It just looks bad on a resume.

Rachel: Especially for the first restaurant job, you really need to put your head down and work. It sounds very boring and passive, but there is a reason why someone is asking you to clean a case of mushrooms or to cut quarts of shallots, brunoise, everyday. It takes time to master simple tasks. As you get used to doing this kind of work and can do it fast, your eyes will simply open up to what else is going on in the kitchen.

Joncarl: Keep your eyes and ears open. You know so much less than you think you do. Volunteer for as many events as possible. Be respectful. Get to know as many people in the industry as possible.

America seems to be experiencing a cocktail craze. Why do you think that is, and is mixology important at your restaurant?

Joncarl: I am incredibly annoyed by trends in general. I think the only other trend that annoyed me more was bacon, bacon, bacon….yawn!

As the restaurant scene continues to grow in your market, it must be more difficult to find—and retain—great staff. What methods do you use to deal with this challenge?

Rachel: The first thing that we want to make sure to do when we hire a cook is to see what the reason is that they want to work at our restaurants. We want to make sure that they have a very strong personal interest in working here. They need to love the food that we cook and be proud of where they are.

Joncarl: We have had the good fortune of keeping employees pretty long term. The type of environment I try to cultivate is very “familial.” When team members are emotionally invested in what we are doing, they tend to stay longer.

Tiffany: It is hard, but as a chef you need to always be looking for good people, then give them opportunities to keep learning and growing.

If you could travel to a foreign country to learn about its cuisine, what country would that be?

Joncarl: One of my life goals was to see as much of the world as possible, before I got serious about opening my own restaurants. I have been to 35 countries and spent some time living in the UK and Spain. I think my favorite place to experience the food was Singapore, and it would be great to re-visit and do more street stall eating. The next trip is back to Amsterdam, to catch up on the burgeoning modern Dutch cuisine that is happening in neighborhoods like the Jordaan and dePijp.

Tiffany: I’ve always wanted to go to Thailand. My husband and I thought we’d go there for our honeymoon, but we unexpectedly got job offers in DC and instead of honeymooning, we opened a restaurant—the opposite of a honeymoon.

Rachel: Maybe China. It would be great to learn about all regional Chinese cuisine and go beyond typical “Chinese flavor” that we are so used to in America.

What do you do to achieve a better or acceptable “work-life” balance?

Rachel: I have two little boys, three and a half years old and one and a half. They totally keep me going after a long day at work.

Joncarl: I think when you are a chef/owner the restaurant actually is your life—though it is good to take a mental health day every once in a while.

Tiffany: (Laughing) Is that a trick question? We still haven’t figured that one out yet. I guess I’d have to say that marrying the chef helps. Our work is our life, so I guess if we work all the time, then we balance it pretty well!

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