By Stephanie Fraiman

When it comes to building a successful restaurant or food business, who better to turn to than the expert consultants and Culinary Management instructors at ICE? In this four part video series, created in collaboration with American Express, we invite aspiring and current restaurant owners to explore the world of restaurant management with tips, advice and insider information that can help ensure your success.

From breaking down menu costs to learning the secrets of preventing bar or retail theft, get a leg up in this highly competitive industry. Offering their expertise are instructors from ICE’s School of Culinary Management: Dean of Culinary Business and Management, Steve Zagor; instructors Vin McCann and Brian Buckley; Director of Beverage Studies, Anthony Caporale; and public relations consultant, Cindi Avila.

Recipe for Restaurant Profits

Cutting corners may initially seem easy and fast, but could you end up losing money in the long run? Discover the number one thing you need to know to make money in the restaurant business.

Restaurant Success: How to Sizzle and Not Fizzle

Does your restaurant have what it takes to thrive, or will it be just a flash in the pan? Learn how proper employee training and learning to interpret customer feedback can help build a stable, profitable business.

Preventing Bar and Retail Theft

Do you trust your staff? Do they trust you? Could security cameras do more harm than good? Master the secrets to preventing beverage, food and retail theft in your restaurant.

Building Your Marketing Plan: Public Relations, Social Media and Advertising

Afraid your food business is getting lost in the mix? Discover your “niche”, learn to build buzz, and boost brand recognition with these PR, marketing and media tips from ICE. 

Have an idea for a food business, but not sure how to get started? Learn how ICE’s Culinary Management and Professional Development programs can help turn your dream of opening a restaurant into a reality.

By Grace Reynolds, Culinary Management Student

As a general rule of thumb, the anticipation of a new experience comes with a heavy dose of expectations. Be it your first trip to a foreign country, a new job or a first date, it’s easy to construct a romanticized notion of “what could be” before even setting foot in the airport, office or restaurant. But how often does reality actually meet our expectations?

Restaurant Consulting Empire State

Personally, I try not to get too excited about new opportunities. My optimistic daydreams have resulted in disappointment on many occasions, some worse than others. So in the days leading up to September 29th (my first day in ICE’s Culinary Management program), I made every effort to keep my expectations in check. Even as ICE alums raved to me about their experience in the program—how it helped them reach their professional goals, changed the way they think, gave them the tools to succeed in the restaurant industry—I tried to stay pragmatic. If this program was really the professional game-changer they suggested, it would still have to prove itself to me first.

Before I continue any further, I should probably tell you a bit about myself (seeing as you’ll be hearing from me frequently over the course of the next seven months). I’ve always wanted to work in the food world. From the time I could spell “reservation,” I’ve been fascinated with restaurants—whether it was eating in them, researching their history, or brainstorming new business concepts. But, despite this obvious passion for the food industry, I’ve never wanted to be a chef. So as I entered adulthood, I dismissed my restaurant obsession as an expensive hobby and decided I would become an anthropologist, psychologist or some other sort of “-ologist.”

Restaurant Kitchen-8

It wasn’t until three years ago that I realized a future in food didn’t have to mean a career in the kitchen. I was a senior in college, researching graduate school opportunities, when I stumbled across the NYU Food Studies program. It was love at first Google search; I applied, got in and packed my bags for New York City. But a year into the program, it became clear to me that academia and business acumen are two entirely different beasts. In order to break into the food industry and put the knowledge I was gaining to use, I needed to learn about the business side of food. But how?

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A year later, I’m six classes into the ICE Culinary Management curriculum and I can say with complete confidence that enrolling in this program is the best professional decision I’ve made to date. We’ve already covered topics like entrepreneurial opportunities in food, finding a good location for your business, menu development, food cost percentages, and promising food trends—and it’s only been two weeks! The amount of food world talent we’ll be exposed to— lectures by representatives from the highly regarded Union Square Hospitality Group, visits to Michelin-starred restaurants like Daniel, discussions with food start-up geniuses like the founder of Chipotle— is mind-boggling. Add to this the caliber and experience of our instructors—restaurateurs Steve Zagor, Andy Pforzheimer and Vin McCann, as well as sommelier Richard Vayda—and the knowledge my classmates and I are sure to gain is staggering.

So was I right to dampen my excitement about the ICE Culinary Management program? In retrospect, no! Yet it has certainly made the rush I feel now all the more intense. Plus, it’s just the beginning, right? There’s still plenty of time to let my imagination run wild, knowing that this program will continue to surpass my expectations and surprise me in the process.

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I’m not entirely sure what the next seven months will bring (A new job? An entrepreneurial opportunity? A business plan for my own restaurant?), but big changes are afoot—I can feel it. As we’ve already learned from the industry experts we’ve met, the path to success is more than a simple ascent—there’s sure to be hard work and some disappointment along the way. But like any aspiring entrepreneur, I’m ready to learn from these challenges, and the skills I learn in the Culinary Management program are sure to help me navigate every step of my professional journey.

Call 888-995-2433 to schedule a personal tour of ICE and learn more about our Culinary Management program.

By Carly DeFilippo

Some of us are just born with the industry in our blood. Tony Trincanello started off as a busboy at 16, and by age 20 was already staging at a winery in Veneto, Italy. After graduating from ICE and externing at the legendary Le Cirque, Tony launched a successful catering company, worked as a wine consultant and eventually became the Food & Beverage Director at Santa Monica’s Huntley Hotel. His latest venture, The Roost at LA Farm revitalizes one of the region’s classic culinary landmarks.

Tony Trincanello 1

Tony poses with his daughter in front of The Roost’s iconic mural.

What were you doing before you enrolled at ICE?
Before enrolling at ICE, I had already been in the service industry for some time. I started out as a busboy at 16 in my uncle’s restaurant, and by age 20 had my first stage in Italy at a winery in Veneto, working in the vineyards and the restaurant. That was really when the bug bit me. Upon returning, I moved to New York City and started working as a bartender and server in some notable restaurants, while also staging in the kitchen to learn and get a feel for it. I just knew early on that I wanted to know about every side of the business.

Where was your externship, and how did it impact your career?
My externship was at Le Cirque and Osteria del Circo. I had known the Maccione brothers for a while and knew I could learn a great deal just by being around them (and Sirio!) in their element.

Photo Credit: LeCirque.com

Photo Credit: LeCirque.com

What have you been up to since graduating?

Immediately after graduating, I started a catering company out of my apartment which became pretty successful. We were doing multiple events each week, from small dinner parties to weddings for 300! After a time, I was no longer seeing eye-to-eye with my business partner, so I decided to see how the “other half lived.” I was hired as a wine consultant for a small, French, family-owned import company. I learned a great deal there, but I longed to be back in the action of day-to-day restaurant operations

I moved to Los Angeles as part of the opening management team for Craft, which is where I met my current partner, Chef Johnny Keenan. I left Craft after about a year and half to open the acclaimed, if short lived, Cache with Chefs Josiah Citrin and Nyesha Arrington. After Cache closed, I took a job as the Food & Beverage Director of The Huntley Hotel in Santa Monica. That’s when Johnny and I reconnected and started looking for opportunities of our own, which led to The Roost at La Farm.

The Huntley Hotel — Photo Credit: LifeofLuxury.com

The Huntley Hotel — Photo Credit: LifeofLuxury.com

Are there any accomplishments, awards, etc. of which you are particularly proud?
My proudest accomplishment is, first and foremost, my daughter, Madelena, who just turned one. But professionally, it would be my certification as a Level 3 advanced sommelier.

Take us through a typical day in your working life.
A typical day begins at about 5:30 am with a quick surf session (I did move out here to live on the beach!) or a trip to the gym. Then I’ll play with my daughter for a bit and head to the restaurant around 10. There, I’ll meet with Chef Johnny, go over the menu changes for the day, reservations, events, check on staffing, then execute a busy lunch service. At lunch service, I’m on the floor almost the entire time, making sure tables are bussed and food is served efficiently. Then I try to sit for quick lunch with Chef and our other partner Laura—but I often get interrupted by someone trying to sell me a new bottle of wine!

Then, before the dinner service, we go over menu changes, service notes and I’ll usually open up a bottle for the staff to taste and discuss. Dinner starts with a pretty busy happy hour in the bar/lounge, so I’ll usually get behind the bar to help out and try out some new cocktails or wines on our guests. Then I’m back to working the floor, talking to guests, selling wine and helping out wherever I’m needed. (I usually just describe my job as a glorified busser!) But, in truth, even when I’m helping bus, it’s because that’s a more natural way to interact with guests, rather than bouncing from table to table asking the hollow question “How is everything”? Then I sit down for dinner around 10, finish the bottle we opened before our dinner shift and head home around midnight. They’re long days, but this is the life I’ve chosen.

Where would you like to see yourself in the future?
I hope the future brings our restaurants to a point where they are running perfectly, even when the chef and I aren’t present. That way we can sneak out for a round of golf once in a while.

How would you describe your “culinary voice”?
Our culinary philosophy is to always keep it fresh. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel, but we do want to be able to introduce a new ingredient or wine—whether it’s something our guests have never had or an old classic that they should try! But most important is welcoming everyone as if they’re visiting us in our home. I always tell my staff that we are hosting 50 different dinner parties for our friends every night.

Click here to learn more about ICE’s Culinary Management program. 

By Carly DeFilippo

In ICE’s Culinary Management program, students learn key aspects of the bar business, including how to prevent bar theft or how overly generous bartenders affect your bottom line. Yet many students have never actually worked behind the bar. Each year, the annual Calvados cocktail competition gives these enterprising students an opportunity to train in mixology and challenge their palates. Competing alongside New York’s top bartenders, students have the chance to test drinks from the best in the business. Better yet, the winner of the New York student contest is given the chance to compete in the brand’s international cocktail competition in France. We sat down with this year’s winner, Ilyse Fishman, to learn what inspired her culinary career path and what crafting cocktails first-hand has taught her about the business.

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What motivated your decision to enroll at ICE?

Before I enrolled at ICE, I was actually a corporate lawyer at a large Manhattan law firm. I’ve always been interested in food and restaurants and, whenever I could, I focused my papers in law school about food and restaurant legislation. I would take breaks by reading every food-related blog or book I could get my hands on. So after interning for a restaurateur in North Carolina (just nominated an Outstanding Restaurateur finalist by the James Beard Foundation!) while earning a Law and Entrepreneurship degree, I realized that I just might be able to make this passion a full time career. I began to work at Per Se, where I currently spend my time while not in class at ICE.

As far as why I chose ICE, the Culinary Management program was the best program offered in New York City for my particular interests and needs. After completing the program, I feel confident I will have the background I need in order to reach my culinary goal: opening a restaurant of my own in Washington, D.C. 

What were you hoping to learn by participating in the Calvados competition?

I’ve always appreciated the craftsmanship that goes into craft cocktails and thought that the Calvados competition could be a great chance to learn a few pointers in order to make better drinks myself. I figured that I had nothing to lose by submitting a recipe to the competition! For all of us who participated, ICE Instructor Anthony Caporale has been a fantastic mentor and did an excellent job preparing us for the competition. He ran two group sessions to help us buff up our technical skills and improve our presentations. He also took the time to answer all our questions and was there every step of the way through the competition.

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What was the inspiration for your drink?

Barney Stinson, the character played by Neil Patrick Harris on the television show How I Met Your Mother. Our instructions were to identify someone you think embodies the masculine or feminine ideal and then create a drink inspired by that person. I wanted to have fun with this project and thought that Barney could be a great example of a masculine ideal. At first impression, Barney appears to be a simple, one-dimensional guy who enjoys suits, cigars, laser tag, womanizing, magic and accepting challenges from his friends. As the show progresses, however, Barney reveals a bit more complexity and demonstrates that he has a softer side. The “Wait For It” similarly reveals its complexity the longer you sit with the drink and allow it to open up. Initially, you are likely to identify orange and floral notes from the orange twist and Grand Marnier. As the drink sits, however, the apple from the Calvados comes through. Then, the baking spices from the Carpano Antica, whiskey barrel bitters and clove garnish become apparent. This drink is ultimately a variation on a Manhattan, which felt appropriate as New York City plays a prominent role in How I Met Your Mother.

How was competing in France different than in New York? 

The competition in France literally took place on a much bigger stage, complete with two hosts who interviewed the participants, bright lights, several cameramen, a large audience and a photo shoot of our cocktails.Traveling to the competition with so many ingredients also created logistical challenges, but gave me the chance to improvise and improve with Anthony’s help. We also had a practical exam as part of the competition in France, which tested our knowledge about Calvados. Then there was the language barrier to account for, as many of the organizers and participants spoke exclusively French.

Additionally, I loved the tour of the Calvados distillery and all of the opportunities that we had to interact with Calvados producers and representatives. The ability to conduct a side-by-side taste comparison of a wide array of Calvados gave me a much better understanding of how age and terroir affect its flavor profile, and the opportunity to direct my questions toward the very people who produced that Calvados gave me unique insight into what each brand seeks to achieve.

More generally, I was surprised to learn that the European palate tends to prefer cocktails that are much sweeter than those to which we are accustomed. In the US, we use bitters and acidic fruit juices to create what we consider a more “balanced” flavor profile. In France, many of the winning cocktails in the competition were exceptionally sweet by our standards. So, ironically, while Americans may eat sweeter foods than our European counterparts, our cocktails are decidedly more bitter.

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Ilyse and Anthony Caporale with renowned New York bartender Pamela Wiznitzer.

What has this competition experience, in combination with your ICE education, taught you in regards to your future career?

There are so many wonderfully talented and passionate people in this industry to learn from. You never know who you will meet and what unique experience or perspective they will offer. As a future restaurant owner and operator, both ICE and the competition experience have also taught me the importance of being flexible, expecting the unexpected—and above all else, to have fun with it! Every challenge presented is a potential opportunity.

Wait For It…

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz Calvados
  • 1/2 oz Carpano Antica
  • 1/4 oz Dolin Blanc
  • 1/4 Grand Marnier
  • 2 dashes Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel-Aged Bitters
  • 1 orange twist
  • 1 orange twist studded with 3 Cloves
  • Ice

Instructions:

  1. Fill shaker 2/3 full with ice.
  2. Pour the Calvados, Carpano Antica, Dolin Blanc, Grand Marnier and Whiskey Barrel-Aged bitters into the shaker.
  3. Stir.
  4. Strain into a rocks glass.
  5. Rim the glass with an orange twist.
  6. Garnish with a 3 clove studded orange twist.

 

By Carly DeFilippo

As the Dean of ICE’s School of Business & Management StudiesSteve Zagor oversees one of the most innovative culinary business programs in the country. He has mentored countless alumni—from Jim Nawn of Agricola Eatery to Jason Soloway of Wallflower, Mark Sy of Vien to Christina Ha of Macaron Parlour. In fact, those four students-turned-entrepreneurs hail from just one of Steve’s graduating classes. Multiply their success by his 10+ years as a teacher (not to mention his lengthy career as a restaurateur and consultant) and you’ll get a ballpark idea of Steve’s undeniable impact on today’s culinary industry.

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Growing up in New York City, Steve’s parents were friends with a number of successful restaurateurs, most notably the owners of historic speakeasy the 21 Club. So after his undergraduate studies at Tulane, it was no surprise to Steve’s friends and family when he chose to pursue a Master’s degree at Cornell’s renowned hotel school, with the intention of one day returning to the New York restaurant scene.

Yet after a three-year stint at Marriott Hotels, which “taught him how to make money” in the business, Steve bypassed New York for a more ambitious project in the American south, opening the 300-seat “New York Café” in Houston, Texas. At the mere age of 26, this first entrepreneurial venture was a home run. Not only was Steve a local hero, but he was also written up as the “hippest lunch spot in Texas” in Rolling Stone. His business expanded to a small restaurant empire, including “the best deli in Texas”, a cafe with singing waiters and a huge off-premises catering service. But in the ninth year of the New York Café’s ten-year lease, Steve’s landlord announced he wanted to build a high-rise on the property.

Steve has even coached the pros—current and former NFL players—on the ins and outs of the restaurant business.

Steve has even coached the pros—current and former NFL players—on the ins and outs of the restaurant business.

Finding the opportunity in this unexpected turn of events—an essential skill he teaches our Culinary Management students—Steve sold his business to pursue work in corporate food & beverage consulting. That is, until he met the “crazy brilliant, genius IQ” Shelley Fireman of The Fireman Group. Steve couldn’t resist Fireman’s offer to oversee management at Midtown’s trendy Trattoria del Arte, boasting 170 employees and an unbeatable celebrity clientele. Steve describes the work as so engaging that he barely cared about the grueling hours.

But after three years at one of New York’s top Italian restaurants, Steve was itching to try his hand at something new and lay his stakes on a restaurant in Greenwich, CT. Yet unlike his “home run” in Houston, the Greenwich restaurant was a challenge from the get-go. Opened during one of the snowiest winters in New England history, the restaurant had too many investors and not enough success to sustain the venture. Today, Steve credits this failure as much as his success in his formation as a teacher. “Your life is how you handle the bad times,” he says, and having instructors who have weathered such failures is of inherent value to any business education.

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Steve returned to consulting and began teaching at New York University. In 2001, he joined the faculty of ICE’s Culinary Management program and was named program director later that year. A charismatic lecturer himself—known for the occasional magic trick and his stand-up comedy style—Steve knew he wanted to diversity our students’ experience. Since then, he regularly taps into his wide network of contacts to invite successful culinary entrepreneurs to speak with our students or integrate field trips into the curriculum, expanding both the diversity of our students’ educational experience and their access to networking opportunities.

Today, Steve maintains an active consulting practice—as do all ICE management instructors In his long list of clients, he has worked with everyone from Federal Express to Universal Studios, Paul Newman to the Time Warner Center in New York City, and is frequently quoted as an industry expert in the media. This year, Steve and his Culinary Management colleagues have also added a new consulting division to ICE’s roster of services—offering clients the combined expertise of our top-notch faculty, while simultaneously providing students with a first-hand opportunity to work on the next generation of culinary businesses.

Despite all his success, what is perhaps most impressive about Steve is the endless hours he spends mentoring our students and alumni. His sage advice always comes with a side of salty humor, generating an enviable list of witty one-liners that sum up his wealth of wisdom and experience. With his deep connections to the industry and New York as his classroom, it’s safe to say that a day in Steve’s class is unlike any other.

 

By Stephen Zagor, Dean of Culinary Business Studies

Consider the scene in your average home kitchen. Could a successful restaurant survive with only one sink to clean veggies, peel shrimp, rinse raw chicken, wash hands and rinse pet bowls? Or a reach-in refrigerator filled with perishables that is often left open for too long? What about a dog running around while the staff is working, or an untrained cook who licks his fingers after tasting the sauce? The same warm dreamy set that is the foundation of so many fond childhood memories is also the cauldron of bacteria where you are most likely to get “stomach flu”—or as professionals call it, “food poisoning”.

www.newlyswissed.com

Courtesy of newlyswissed.com

And yet, in-home restaurants are now in vogue. An article recently published in The New York Post entitled “I Turned MY Apartment into a Restaurant” extolls the virtues of this trend in which (often untrained) cooks invite complete strangers to visit their home and pay for dinner. But those interested in starting such a venture should be warned: the average home kitchen is many times dirtier than any restaurant. The reason we have a Department of Health and regulations about serving food and alcohol is to protect both the diner and the restaurateur.

oregonlive.com

Courtesy of oregonlive.com

At ICE’s School of Culinary Management, one of the first things we teach our students to consider when opening a food business is risk versus reward. In the case of home chefs, the risk is a zillion times higher than any possible reward. It takes only one small catastrophe—a guest becomes ill from your famous Lamb Tagine; someone is injured tripping over your new Crate and Barrel rope rug; a diner with a cat allergy goes into anaphylactic shock; or someone has a little too much Pinot and takes a fall on the curb of your home—and you’re in big trouble. The bottom line is, once money is accepted for a restaurant transaction, there is an implied warranty of safety.

finedininglovers.com

Courtesy of finedininglovers.com

In a commercial restaurant, the owner has some defenses. The business is incorporated to protect his or her personal property. There is liability insurance in case of an unexpected disaster. Most importantly, they have been trained in food safety and know the Dram Shop Laws on proper alcohol service.

blackdogfoodblog.com

Courtesy of blackdogfoodblog.com

So this begs the question – can this new cottage industry work? The answer is maybe, but think carefully before choosing this alternative path over your day job. Private Supper Clubs have been around for a while, and some owner/chefs have even gone on to open successful restaurants. But anyone running a food service operation should be properly trained in sanitation and follow the laws and regulations set out for food businesses. My advice would be to set up a proper corporation with suitable insurance. For those daring enough to take on the challenge, think carefully about what you do well and what you should probably avoid.

 

 

 

By Grace Reynolds

ICE alum Jim Nawn is the owner of Agricola, a self-described “community eatery” located in Princeton, NJ. The restaurant celebrates the creation of fresh, wholesome food, using locally sourced ingredients as often as possible. Nawn–who has already received acclaim from the New York Times—graciously agreed to share his story with us this past month, offering some key insights into his successful new business.

Courtesy of NJMonthly.com

Jim Nawn (left), owner of Agricola, with executive chef Josh Thomsen, courtesy of NJMonthly.com

What were you doing before you enrolled at ICE? And what sparked your decision to attend culinary school?

I was an area developer for Panera Bread, owning and operating 37 bakery cafes in northern New Jersey. I sold my Panera business and chose to attend culinary school to learn about food. I had no immediate plan to open my own restaurant and no real personal passion for cooking at the outset. It was a learning exercise to start. I anticipated it would lead to what was right, and it has.
 
Where was your externship, and where have you worked since graduating?

My externship was at Veritas. I selected the site because Sam Hazen was recommended as a experienced chef/business person who ran a good operation. My time there gave me insights into a commercial kitchen at a 3-star restaurant and provided a vision for my own restaurant operation.

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

I formulated my restaurant concept from the Culinary Arts and Culinary Management programs which I completed. It married my experience with a national brand with the local/community flavor important in Princeton. Synergizing the many considerations into a functioning 200 seat restaurant was a major accomplishment.

Courtesy of Agricola Eatery

Courtesy of AgricolaEatery.com

What are the most valuable lessons you’ve learned from your time in the industry?

1 – Food cost and labor costs must be in control. 2 – Every guest has a different expectation and, while one cannot be all things to all people, the restaurant must be crystal clear in what its personality is and deliver on that consistently.

Briefly describe a day in your current working life.

As the owner, I am active and working with my front of house and kitchen team every day. After 10 months we still spend time on finalizing routines in operations, but we are shifting now beyond the basics to establishing every day strategies/opportunities to make our guests feel special.

What might people be surprised to learn about your job?

Agricola is a successful business, but I never stop worrying about the people and systems that run the business—which is the engine that drives the outcome. One cannot focus on the bottom line alone; the people and systems are what keep me up at night.

Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years?

I would like to know that Agricola is producing a consistent, outstanding guest experience. But if the opportunity presents itself, there could be room for another restaurant in our group serving the same outstanding experience, which has given growth and development opportunity to my team.

 

 

By Liz Castner

I was sitting in my Culinary Management class when I received the email telling me about an exciting upcoming CAPS class at ICE – “Ice Cream Innovations with Sam Mason”. Mason is the chef-founder OddFellows Ice Cream Co., a hip and funky ice cream shop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The moment I read the email, I knew I wanted to attend the class. While I had never been to OddFellows itself, I had been following them on Facebook for months, lusting after posts featuring Mason’s latest edible creation. In short, I knew the CAPS class would be far more complex and exciting than a day’s worth of ordinary ice cream making.

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Chef Sam Mason

As it turns out, I was right. Chef Sam is a truly inspirational and creative guy, a wonderfully quirky mix of Brooklyn hipster, mad scientist and straight-up food genius. He reminds me of a blend between Benedict Cumberbatch and Adam from HBO’s Girls. If I haven’t already given myself away, I definitely developed an ice cream crush over the course of his class, and I’m not alone. Chef Sam is so inspirational that a number of ICE Chef-Instructors, including the “King of Plating” himself—Chef Michael Laiskonis—stuck around to take some notes and observe his novel techniques.

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The line up of flavors (17 in total!)

During our 8-hour ice cream intensive, we made an astonishing number of ice creams. Cornbread, vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, “smash” Neapolitan, extra virgin olive oil, rainbow sherbert (composed of mandarin sorbet, raspberry sorbet, lime sorbet), chorizo caramel, lemon, rocky road, lemon meringue pie, peanut butter and jelly, caramelized onion and last but not least, beet. Yes, you counted correctly; that’s 17 individual ice creams and sorbets. What’s more, all of them were delicious—even Chef Sam’s savory flavors, caramelized onion and chorizo caramel. They were so good, in fact, that I currently have six pints in my freezer right now!

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Chocolate, vanilla and strawberry ice cream frozen with liquid nitrogen to craft “Smash” Neapolitan

I’m a firm believer that you can benefit from any sort of class you take, regardless of whether or not you’re already familiar with the material. But as this was a CAPS class, almost all of the attendees had at least studied pastry or culinary arts at some point, and many are currently professionals in the field. With that said, I am happy to report that I learned a tremendous amount from Chef Sam, including how to blend whole vanilla beans and sugar in the food processor to extract all the flavor, as well as how frozen nitrogen can help preserve the shape of certain ingredients when folded into the ice cream.

We froze chunks of meringue, graham cracker and lemon curd for the lemon meringue pie ice cream and froze globs of jelly into jelly rocks for the peanut butter and jelly ice cream. We even froze the different ice creams themselves, such as chocolate, vanilla and strawberry for our smashed-together Neapolitan. We also got to watch Chef Sam spin different ice creams, such as caramelized onion, using a KitchenAid and liquid nitrogen.

But the learning didn’t stop there—Chef Sam also showed us how to craft components like chorizo-infused milk and oil, key ingredients for chorizo caramels and ice cream. We also discussed fat-washing techniques, which you can use for if you plan on making foie gras ice cream like they do in the shop, or even skirt steak ice cream.

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The whole class!

The sheer amount of knowledge Chef Sam brought to class was staggering, but even more inspiring was his willingness to play around with flavors, proportions and textures for the fun of it. Clearly, the guy is a genius. So, if ever you are thinking about taking a CAPS class, take it from this forever-student – if you feel inspired by the instructor and the topic, regardless of cost, it’s really worth it!

 

By Stephen Zagor, Dean, School of Business and Management Studies

Living in New York City and partaking in its incredible culinary scene often leads to an inflated food ego. How can we learn anything from chefs or owners outside of NYC, the cradle of modern culinary civilization?

As it turns out, John Gorham, the well-known and successful chef/owner of Toro Bravo and two other Portland, Oregon restaurants, has quite a few things to teach us. He spoke at ICE as the latest guest in our Meet the Culinary Entrepreneur series. In his modest and unassuming way, John shared important lessons about running a successful restaurant, whether in New York City, Portland or beyond.

Courtesy of Portland Monthly Magazine

Courtesy of Portland Monthly Magazine

For almost two hours John captivated the room with his story of growth and development, both personally and professionally. He opened Toro Bravo, his flagship Spanish Tapas style restaurant, over five years ago for $180,000, and crowds still line up daily. Later came his next two restaurants, both carefully crafted to fill a market niche: Tasty n Sons, a neighborhood brunch-centric restaurant and Tasty n Alder, a steak house that also caters to the brunch crowd.

According to Gorham, all of his restaurants have shown positive cash flow in just month one, with total capital investments paid off in under a year. Not bad for a man who sees himself as just a simple guy from North Carolina who started making charcuterie on a whim.

courtesy of LizCrain.com

Courtesy of lizcrain.com

Gorham’s lessons don’t end there. He and his team go out of their way to make sure that all employees are treated well. His chefs and managers work only four days a week—a schedule that is almost unheard of in New York City’s culinary scene. Working fewer days allows Gorham’s employees to maintain work-life balance and show up to work well-rested and focused. Gorham himself tries to keep a balanced life, taking weekends off and keeping Sundays free to spend with his wife and kids.

As far as a marketing strategy, John doesn’t use PR or advertising and thinks social media is overrated. He prefers to promote business through charities and local events. He realizes that the appeal of his restaurants are their party-like atmosphere and sells over 40% of his revenue in alcohol. And he pays well, too—waiters make $10.00/hr plus tips (the state regulated minimum wage) and his kitchen staff starts at $14.00 per hour. Add to that the lower cost of living in Oregon, and it all seems pretty enticing. Does John really work for the local Chamber of Commerce?

Courtesy of Kacheff.com

Courtesy of Kacheff.com

Has it all been great? Of course not. John described a falling out with an early partner who he still doesn’t speak to. He mentioned that the original $180,000 investment was too low, resulting in cheap equipment that broke almost immediately and cost even more to replace. He’s been sued from time to time and has learned many hard lessons along the way.

Despite these bumps in the road, Gorham has enjoyed tremendous success as a business man and restaurateur. When asked if he would ever open a place outside of Portland, he commented: “Not likely. There is still a lot of opportunity in Portland.” It’s a smart, conservative comment from the “simple guy from North Carolina” who taught us New Yorkers a thing or two. “Take it slow and know how to how to manage money,” he said. Good advice from a winner.

 

By Cindi Avila and Stephen Zagor

 

For the past two weeks, The Institute of Culinary Education has had international students walking its halls. Students from ICE’s Russian campus were in New York City to learn the tricks of the trade from some of ICE’s best culinary management instructors. A year after ICE first opened its doors at its new school in St. Petersburg, Russia, fifteen students from the school traveled more than 4000 miles for the chance to train with instructors such as Stephen Zagor and Vin McCann. Most of the students are in their mid-twenties, and speak both Russian and English fluently.

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Group of Visiting Russian Students with ICE President, Rick Smilow (Left)

The students, most of whom hope to own or manage their own restaurants back in Russia, spent their two-week visit soaking in the sights and sounds of New York City, enjoying trips to Eataly and Blue Smoke, and spending time with ICE staff, students, and instructors.

 

Here’s more about the visit from the Dean of ICE’s School of Business Management, Stephen Zagor:

 

While it’s tempting to envision Russia as a beacon of Eastern European culture, untouched by globalization’s influence, it is a far cry from the reality.  Today, Russian is overrun with shrines to the best America has to offer, including McDonald’s, Burger King, Papa John’s, Subway, and the soon-to-open Shake Shack. Our former rivals can’t wait to absorb American culture, much like Sponge Bob eating a Crabby Patty.

 

Upon noticing Russia’s interest in American food, ICE and SwissAm partnered together to open an Cooking and Culinary Management school in St. Petersburg. The school’s aim is to train Russians in American styles of cooking and culinary management. Over the course of the past two weeks, ICE hosted the first class of Russian students enrolled in our St. Petersburg location during their visit to New York City.

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Russian Students on Field Trip to Restaurant Public in NYC

I had the opportunity to spend some time with the students and their leader, the Director of Food and Beverage studies at ICE St. Petersburg. This group of highly motivated, focused and excited students–none of whom had ever stepped foot on American shores prior to this visit–reminded me of the first time I took my son to Disney World, albeit in a different setting.  Their reaction to the New York food scene was a resounding “WOW!”  They couldn’t get enough of this American culinary fantasy land.

 

The students informed me that Russian restaurants are where American restaurants were twenty or thirty years ago. Smoking is the norm. Dining concepts are largely unfocused and lack nuance; sushi rolls might just as easily contain raisins and chicken as tuna.

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Russian Students Dining at Saxon & Parole

The dark, leafless trees of the past now blossom with new potential for economic growth and restaurant development. As a result, SwissAm, which owns over 70 restaurants in Russia, has a keen interest in training a new fleet of Russian chefs that will breathe life into the culinary scene. If that isn’t enough, they are also developing a behemoth 20,000+ square foot restaurant complex on 8th Avenue and 42nd. So who’s invading who?

 

All I know is this–I learned so much in the short time I spent with our visiting Russian students and their leader that I felt the role of teacher and student was practically reversed.  They are a sharp, dynamic, and impressive group. Their appetite for success is strong–very strong. It reminds me of watching my son grow from a child into a better version of me. Don’t be surprised if we train the Russian to be better versions of us.

 

Maybe if we are lucky, some will end up back here at ICE or in the USA. That would be a win-win situation.  Until that day (hopefully) comes, we here at ICE NYC wish them all the best of luck!