By Lizzie Powell—Student, School of Culinary Arts and Culinary Management 

It’s been two months since I started class at ICE, and from butchering nearly every type of protein, to learning how to properly sauté, grill, roast, poach and steam, to exploring the financial side of culinary business, I can confidently say I’ve learned a lot.

But I’m not just learning how to do all these things. I’m learning the why behind everything as well. No matter what my question is (and I ask quite a few!), the teachers at ICE are incredibly knowledgeable about the topic at hand, and every task we take on in class has a strategic educational purpose. For example, in Module 1 of Culinary Arts, my classmates and I joked that Chef Ted had an encyclopedia for a brain—ask him any question and he knows the answer to it and more. The same goes for my Culinary Management instructor, Steve Zagor. He has an endless supply of industry stories that provide tangible lessons about running a culinary business—making our classes a series of hilarious and informative parables!

Ted Siegel - Steve Zagor - Institute of Culinary Education - Douple Diploma - Culinary Arts - Culinary Management

ICE Instructors Ted Siegel and Steve Zagor

Learning how to cook professionally and manage the business side of restaurants at ICE has taught me more about efficiency and waste than I ever thought possible. Take my home cooking habits as an example. Since starting school, I’ve learned I wasn’t cooking nearly as efficiently as I could’ve been in my own kitchen. Sure, I would think through cooking times and what ingredients I needed, but I never made a mise en place list or production schedule before I turned on the stove or oven. As obvious as it may sound to some, doing these simple things has helped me transform into a more strategic, efficient and methodical home cook.

Yet this education goes far beyond reinventing my own home cooking strategy. I’ve discovered that successful restaurant management (see: keeping the rent paid and the lights on) depends on the business skills of the back-of-the-house (BOH) staff. This is because the BOH must help control “food cost,” an essential formula that guides the strategy of any restaurant management team. In simple terms, food cost is the difference between the amount it costs a restaurant to make a menu item and the price a customer pays for that item. If the kitchen knows how to use every bit of edible food that is bought for production, the management team gets more bang for their buck and, in turn, more money is generated to invest in the restaurant’s future.

Salmon Fabrication - Culinary Arts - Institute of Culinary Education

In short, this means that cooks can’t just show up to work and use the prime cuts, the pretty carrots, etc. A good cook—and certainly a chef—is a smart, efficient worker who has mastered strategies for reducing food waste. As a practical example: the other day, I had the chance to fabricate a whole salmon. The goal was to get eight fillets from the whole fish, but even after fabricating the fish, there was still some salmon meat left—called “edible trimmings.” For any food business, the smart thing to do is to take those edible bits and make, say, salmon tartare, turning that potential waste into an elegant appetizer (and a moneymaker!).

Salmon - portioned - Institute of Culinary Education - Fish- Fabrication - Butchery

At this point, you may be wondering just how I’ve learned this much in just two months. While ICE offers flexible schedules for students who are still working full-time, I’ve been pursuing a full class schedule at ICE—meeting every weekday afternoon for Culinary Arts and three mornings a week for Culinary Management. What’s great is that the course times allow me to complete both programs at once, which means I can finish my diplomas and start my new career in food as soon as I possibly can.

It’s a lot of hard work and takes a lot of commitment, but I wouldn’t change a single thing about taking this leap into culinary school. Just like ICE is teaching me how to work efficiently in the kitchen, they’ve taken the same approach to their curriculum. For a career changer, the fact that I can gain both kitchen and business skills in only seven months is key, and I know I’ll be able to hit the ground running after graduation.

Click here to learn more about ICE’s “double diploma” in Culinary Arts and Culinary Management.


By Grace Reynolds—Student, School of Culinary Management

After only four months, I can’t believe I’m already halfway through the Culinary Management program at ICE. Yet, when I think about the ground we’ve covered—choosing a location, menu design, concept development, marketing, purchasing, management and finance—it seems much longer. With each passing class, my understanding of how a restaurant business operates on both a micro and macro level increases, and I know it will only continue to do so in our remaining three months.

lecture - culinary management - kate edwards - steve zagor - classroom

One of the most valuable aspects of the program thus far has been the incredible guest lecturers. To be honest, we’ve had so many speakers from such a wide range of professional backgrounds that I’ve almost lost count! Their lectures have provided the opportunity to network with some of the top players in the industry—in fact, one of my after-class conversations with a recent speaker actually resulted in a job offer in hospitality consulting!

While every speaker has brought something new to the table, there are three in particular who made a lasting impression. Below, I’ll share a bit of their backgrounds, as well as their advice on how to make it in the restaurant industry.

Douglas Zeif

douglas zeif - headshot - hospitality - ICE BlogDoug is an international hospitality consultant who specializes in gastronomy and concept development. In addition to consulting projects for companies like Hilton Worldwide and Darden Restaurant Group, he currently oversees global food and beverage operations for the Blackstone Group hotel assets. His career in culinary management began at The Cheesecake Factory when it was just opening its second location, and he eventually rose to become the company’s second-in-command. In 1992, Doug took the company public, and helped grow the company into the internationally recognized brand it is today.

Of the stories Doug shared with our class, one of my favorites was how he got his start at The Cheesecake Factory. While working as the General Manager at a fine dining restaurant, he noticed that a fish entree being set in front of a diner was clearly undercooked. He immediately walked over to the table, excused himself, and explained to the diner that he felt her fish could use a few more minutes on the fire. Would she mind if he returned with her properly cooked dish in a few minutes, entirely on the house? She said yes, he returned with her dish several moments later, and that was that—or so Doug thought. The next day, Doug got a call from the man who had been dining with that woman the previous evening. To Doug’s surprise, he offered him a job on the spot. After witnessing Doug’s attention to detail and his swift, appropriate reaction, he wanted Doug to help him open the second outpost of his restaurant, The Cheesecake Factory. Doug accepted, and the rest is history!

In short, Doug’s main message was to never underestimate the power of doing your job well one hundred percent of the time. You never know who may be watching, or the opportunities that could arise, especially in such a visible environment as the hospitality industry.

Jennifer Baum

culinary management - guest lecturer - jennifer baum - pr - bullfrog & baumJennifer Baum is the type of person that commands your attention and respect the moment she enters the room.  A PR powerhouse, she is the founder and CEO of Bullfrog + Baum, a restaurant-focused firm based in New York City. In addition to representing some of the best restaurants in the city, including Gato, Sushi Nakazawa and Bar Americain, Bullfrog + Baum has also worked with The Four Seasons, Wolfgang Puck Worldwide and Starr Restaurants—just to name a few.

Jennifer’s central story was how she decided to strike out on her own. After getting her MBA in finance and management, she found herself in an unfulfilling job in the corporate banking world. She couldn’t ignore the strong pull she felt towards the restaurant world, so after a year at the bank, she decided to dive head first into the restaurant industry and has never looked back.

After working in the restaurant industry in various capacities for about ten years, Jennifer realized that she had the tools and the connections to start her own restaurant-focused PR firm. That was fourteen years ago. Today, Bullfrog + Baum has more than twenty-five employees, offices on both coasts, many high-profile clients and a stellar reputation in one of the fastest-paced industries in the world.

The biggest message I took away from Jennifer’s talk was that you should always follow your gut, even if it’s leading you to take a risk. Yes, Jennifer had a prestigious, high-paying job in the corporate world prior to starting Bullfrog + Baum, but she knew she wanted something different. She was drawn to the restaurant industry, and she followed that voice to tremendous success. Had she held back and ignored her gut, her career in PR might never have happened (and neither would the many New York City restaurants that credit Bullfrog + Baum with their media success!). Given that many of my classmates and I are coming from professional backgrounds outside of the food industry, Jennifer’s story felt like incredible validation for our decision to follow our guts and enroll at ICE.

Shane Welch

shane welch - guest lecturers - culinary management - sixpointShane Welch is the founder and head brewer of Sixpoint Craft Ales in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Shane’s path, albeit a winding one, had one constant: a love of good beer. In college, Shane created his own mini-brewery in his basement, and began to play around with creating high-quality, small-batch brews. This led to an apprenticeship with Dean Coffey, the head brewer at Angelic Brewing Company. After three years there, Shane set off on a backpacking trip around the world, drawing inspiration from the various ales he came across during his travels.

When he returned from his time abroad, Shane wanted to translate his experiences into something tangible. This ultimately led to the birth of Sixpoint, which began in an 800-square-foot garage in Red Hook, Brooklyn in 2004. Initially, Shane did everything: he devised the concept, took care of the brewing and selling of his beer and made deliveries. Yet his passion—not to mention his delicious brews—was contagious. Craft beer lovers started coming out of the woodwork to join Shane’s team, and Sixpoint began to grow. Today, Sixpoint is a well-known and highly respected brand. Since 2004, the company has created hundreds of different kinds of beers and continues to be a leader in craft brewing.

The most inspiring piece of Shane’s story is the magnetic power of passion. When Sixpoint started, it was a one-man show. That quickly changed, however, as like-minded beer enthusiasts tracked Shane down, attracted to his quest to create brilliant beer. It was a telling example of the advice that if you truly love and believe in what you do, you’ll attract the right people and ensure your own success.

These three speakers are only a small sample of the profound stories that have inspired my own career path to this point.  As I continue to define my personal goals in the restaurant industry, I have no doubt that the lessons they shared will continue to help me persevere in the months and years to come.

Click here to learn more about inspiring guest lectures at ICE.


By Carly DeFilippo

With more than 11,000 graduates in the industry, ICE’s alumni network is a hotbed of food and hospitality talent. In turn, it’s no surprise that many of our graduates have found success working together in the field. In the case of Cristian Quiroz and Ilse Herrera, sous chefs at Txikito, La Vara and El Quinto Pino—restaurateurs Alex Raij and Eder Montero’s trifecta of celebrated NYC restaurants—they may have met on the job, but they get along just like classmates.

isle and cristian resized

What were you doing before culinary school?

Cristian Quiroz: I worked as a waiter at a place called The Crepe Café back in Chile. It was my first restaurant job and I would always bother the crepe cook to let me make the crepes. He kept saying no, until one day he got tired of me and just let me do it. Soon I was able to manage the station on my own. That’s when I decided I wanted to learn back of house skills, to hopefully open up my own restaurant one day.
Ilse Herrera: I was studying singing in a conservatory in Guadalajara, Mexico. I moved to New York just one week before starting classes at ICE.

What specifically attracted you to the programs at ICE?

IH: I liked that ICE offered immersion into the world of cooking within a short amount of time. The modules were well rounded and the program was affordable. Being in New York City was definitely a big plus.
CQ: The length of the programs (Culinary Arts and Management). I had considered CIA because of its reputation, but my father suggested that I would probably benefit more from a shorter, hands-on program, than a traditional 2-4 year degree. I think he was completely correct. In the end, it depends on the learning style of the person.

What have you been up to since graduating?

CQ: I worked at Txikito for a year and a half and then helped opened La Vara in Cobble Hill. After Alex received two stars in the New York Times for El Quinto Pino, we helped open the restaurant’s new dining room, “El Comedor.” Currently, most of my time is spent at Txikito, but I occasionally work at the other two spots as well. As a personal project, I planned a sold-out Chilean food pop-up last September, which I’m considering developing into my own spot in the coming year.
IH: I was garde manger at Lupa during school, and later moved to The West Branch where I was quickly promoted to the pasta station. After a year, I left New York to spend two months in Italy, and upon my return I got a job at Txikito through a former co-worker. I started off as a lunch cook and then became the morning sous-chef. I also helped with research and development and staff training for the opening of La Vara in Brooklyn, and worked with Cristian on the expansion of El Quinto Pino, where I currently run the kitchen.

What are your proudest accomplishments?

IH: The critical acclaim in the press has been very gratifying in the five years that I have worked for Alex and her husband, Eder. I have also cooked at the James Beard House on two different occasions with Alex and have had the chance to cook my own Mexican dinner at Txikito for one of their “txokos” (a dinner series inspired by Basque private gastronomical societies), mainly focusing on food from the states of Michoacán and Sonora.
CQ: I’m very happy with the job I’ve done in Alex and Eder’s restaurants. In addition to helping achieve two stars at both La Vara and El Quinto Pino, the whole experience of starting two new restaurants from scratch is personally very gratifying and entertaining.

What is a day like in your working life?

CQ: My day typically involves quality control during dinner service, expediting, ordering, creating specials and maintaining food safety. Training staff is a big part as well.
IH: I get in at 9:00am and take a quick inventory of the kitchen. Then I check the morning production list, take on some prep tasks, and manage quality control for the team throughout the day. When the night crew comes in at 2:00pm, I communicate with the supervisor about any new specials or menu items. I have a lunch break from 3:00-4:00pm, then prep is continued until around 5:00pm. Finally, I do inventory of vegetables, fish, meat, dry goods, etc. and place any necessary orders before I go home.
CQ: Working with Isle has been amazing. Both times we helped open new restaurants (La Vara and El Comedor), it would basically be Isle in the morning, then I’d come in for lunch and dinner service. She would train prep cooks and maintain quality control prior to opening, while I would do the same during service. I remember hearing somewhere that chef/owners normally need two close and very trustworthy cooks to rely on to run a restaurant—it’s definitely been true in my experience.

What might people be surprised to learn about your job?

CQ: I wasn’t looking for the “celebrity chef” life when I got into the business, but I’ve met a lot of people who got into the job thinking it was going to be a piece of cake. You should be ready for long hours and hard work. Certain kitchens and staffs are more pleasant than others. One chef will think screaming is an essential part of his job; others are laid-back and don’t care—but you should show up ready for anything.
IH: There is more to being a cook than just cooking. A lot of discipline, respect for others, teamwork, cleanliness and speed are required. It’s not the way it looks on television. You have to truly be passionate about food in order to be happy in this field.

How would you describe your “culinary voice”?

IH: I would describe my culinary voice as clean and simple. I believe in staying true to the flavor of each ingredient and searching to complement it in unexpected ways. I have been taught (the Basque way) to get rid of black pepper as a staple seasoning. A little bit of olive oil and salt are all a great ingredient needs. As far as plating is concerned, I like natural-looking food that can make it to the table without looking ruined. I don’t oppose the modernist approach, but I love the example of a chef who once said to me: “Imagine a light breeze brought your salad over to the plate, and… ahh,” while letting the greens fall naturally.
CQ: The way I understand food is entirely influenced by Alex and Eder. I have far more experience working with Spanish food—and some Middle Eastern flavors at La Vara—than any other cuisine, but currently I’m excited to develop a Chilean restaurant concept. Chile is a country whose cuisine has been defined by the immigrants and colonies that have arrived there, especially Spanish, German and Italian. I’m looking to maintain the authenticity of traditional Chilean flavors, but present them in a more creative, appealing way.

Click here for more inspiring ICE alumni stories.


Does your restaurant have what it takes to thrive, or will it be just a flash in the pan? With this advice from ICE’s industry experts in American Express’s four-part Restaurant Success Series, learn how proper employee training and responding to customer feedback can help build a stable, profitable business. Plus, understand how to create a cost-effective menu that sells and discover how getting your manager out of the office and onto the sales floor can give you a leg up in this competitive industry.

For more tips on staying ahead of the curve, we consulted with ICE Culinary Management Instructor Vin McCann. Below, see his 7-step strategy for developing a marketable product and building customer loyalty:

  1. Research: Learn about your market—for example, are there already restaurants like your concept (potential competitors) nearby?
  2. Concept: Differentiate yourself in the market by developing a unique product.
  3. Strategy: Develop a business plan, taking into account costs, product, design and more.
  4. Funding: Raise at least 30% more money than you think you’ll need.
  5. Train: Your staff is the primary factor in whether or not new clients become regulars. Ensure they understand and can execute your vision through thorough training.
  6. Guests: They are your indicators of success, so take their feedback seriously.
  7. Observe: Monitor your costs, profits and losses and adjust as needed.

Learn more about the logistics, design and execution of restaurant success at ICE’s School of Culinary Management.

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:

Photo Credit:

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:

The Huntley Hotel — Photo Credit:

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.


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.


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.


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…


  • 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


  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”.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.