By Kelly Newsome — Student, Culinary Arts

I’ve been thinking about getting Julia Child’s face tattooed on my forearm for about two years now. Julia is one of my greatest inspirations. Like me, she was a late bloomer, marrying at 34 and starting her culinary career soon after. Her pure joy and passion for food was evident in everything that she did. She was an authentic voice in a world crowded with phonies, and that’s probably why she became so popular. She got the timing right. After being in the Culinary Arts program at ICE for just over a month, one thing I’ve learned is that timing is everything. It took me 15 years to get to culinary school. It’s something I wanted to do since graduating from college, but more practical voices prevailed and as a result, I forged a career on the periphery of the food world. Ironically, I couldn’t be happier that my path to ICE ended up this way.

Culinary Student Kelly Newsome

At 38, I knew that I would probably be the oldest in my culinary school class. It was a recurring thought, neither negative nor positive, just inescapably following me like the hook of my favorite song. Somehow, I knew that my age would play an important role in this journey. Pre-ICE, I spent nearly a decade working on the business side of the food industry. There were two serious attempts at culinary school and in each case I was talked out of it. You won’t make any money and the hours are terrible, was a common remark on my ambition. I let the doubters win. Yet every step I made in my career was an effort to get closer to the kitchen.

In 2007, after an intense Googling session, I found my first move towards a career in the food world – the NYU master’s in Food Studies program. At the time, I was working a dead-end job and desperate to pursue my passion for food and gastronomy. I applied in secret, fearing that my parents would not understand or support this unorthodox program. When I was accepted and finally told my parents, they surprised me with their overwhelming support. One year into the program I landed my first “food” job with a food science company that made natural food colorings. Not exactly Food & Wine, but it was a start.

It took me three years to finish my degree. My days were spent in the vast and complicated world of food ingredients and corporate food companies while my nights were shared with the brightest minds in food academia. Still, something was missing. Without realizing it, I had snaked myself into a career on the sidelines of food in order to make other people happy. After landing what I thought was my dream job, I realized that the cutthroat corporate food world was not for me and it was time to follow my dream of going to culinary school — so I finally took the leap and enrolled at ICE. My circuitous route led me to wonder how some of my classmates found their way to culinary school.
Kelly_Newsome_1

My classmate Tommy Kim’s road to ICE could not be more different than mine. After 9/11, he decided to join the Marines and served tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan. While deployed, food was a frequent topic of thought and conversation. “I was constantly dreaming about all the wonderful foods I missed while I was away and hungry. You’d be surprised how much we used to talk about food while deployed. It was always about girls and food — but mostly food, haha.”

Tommy’s military experience served as the unexpected catalyst for his own food journey. Time spent fishing and hunting, while based in North Carolina, deepened his appreciation for food and nature. Deterred by the long hours and tireless work of professional cooking after serving six years in the military, Tommy decided to pursue a more lucrative career in medicine. However, just before med school interviews, Tommy’s inner voice took charge and he decided to pursue food.

He explained, “I had realized I was not really following what my heart desired. This was my tipping point. This is when I told myself to find that one thing that I knew that I had to be. That I had to stop being arrogant and stop thinking that I had to be something incredible. To be humble and to only express myself with what I love without care of what anyone thought of it. It was food and nature, it was something I found that brought me true joy.”

Fulfillment was the driving force behind my classmate Liz Bossin’s decision to pursue a career in food. People don’t often associate culinary arts and finance, but Liz discovered that her passion for food, love of hospitality and talent for relationship building could provide her with a unique edge in food and finance. After graduating from Villanova with degrees in both political science and philosophy, Liz worked as a legal assistant at a large firm in NYC. She quickly realized that law was not in her heart. “My job was extremely demanding – I regularly worked 60-80 hour weeks and got absolutely no satisfaction out of it. I quickly realized that if going to law school meant slaving over monotonous documents for the world’s biggest corporations, I wanted no part of it.”

Liz’s tipping point came when she took a knife skills class at Brooklyn Kitchen in December. A conversation with the kitchen assistant who had recently finished culinary school in Paris resonated with her. Liz knew that she didn’t want the career of a traditional restaurant chef. Rather, she was interested in food styling, working in a test kitchen, writing or owning her own specialty shop. She never considered going to culinary school until hearing the kitchen assistant talk about her career options after exiting culinary school and it didn’t involve working in restaurants. Suddenly, Liz realized that culinary school “made so much sense for launching a fulfilling, long-lasting career guided by her passion.”

Kelly's Julia collection

Inside Kelly’s kitchen: her Julia collection

Don’t be fooled — it isn’t easy to just follow your passion. Most people never get this opportunity. Some never even discover what it is. And when you do find it, you will always have voices telling you why you shouldn’t. Liz, Tommy and I come from vastly different backgrounds. What we share, however, is our inability to ignore our love of food and the unique circumstances that led us to ICE at the same moment in time. So here we are, three passionate foodies who finally got the timing right. To me, “getting the timing right” means doing what you want, on your own terms, when you’re ready. You make the hard choice to change careers or go back to school or move across the country. And then you’re in it and you realize you absolutely could not be doing anything else. I think I’m getting a little bit closer to my Julia tattoo.

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


Recently, ICE hosted another successful Career & Externship Fair, where current students and alumni had the chance to meet one-on-one with top employers in the food and hospitality industry — Thomas Keller Restaurant Group, MeyersUSA, Blue Hill, Craft Hospitality Group, Union Square Hospitality Group, Momofuku and more. To build on the momentum, we tapped one of our experienced career services advisors, Tessa Thompson, to offer some pointers for launching a culinary career.

ICE Career Fair

By Tessa Thompson — Career Services Advisor

Starting your culinary career is a thrilling time. You’ve made the big decision to begin culinary school and become a culinary professional. Chances are, you’re filled with a combination of excitement, anticipation, hopefulness and a touch of uncertainty. You’re finally here — so now what? How do you make the most of your time as a student to start your career in the right direction? Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you kick off your successful culinary career.

  1. Educate Yourself. You may have decided to come to culinary school for various reasons, but one thing that everyone has in common at ICE is a passion for food — eating it, cooking it, talking/writing about it, even dreaming about it! Equally important is knowledge of what’s going on in the industry and who the key players are. Today, researching is easier than ever and the Internet has a wealth of information at your disposal. Take advantage of it. And don’t forget to hit the pavement — there are at least 10 great restaurants within walking distance of ICE and at least five sweet spots for delicious hot chocolate in Brookfield Place alone…can you name them? Get to know your surrounding culinary businesses and hit them up for information (and hot cocoa!).
  1. Use Your Resources. ICE has a near limitless supply of resources — from our instructors and alumni, to guest speakers and professional development classes and more. Honing your knife skills and perfecting your pan sauce are necessary parts of your culinary education, but learning how to use your resources will open up endless opportunities for your future. Develop relationships with your instructors, your advisors and your peers. Take advantage of your class credits, attend the Wine Essentials course or be a part of First Fridays here at ICE. Ask questions, volunteer your time, cultivate your curiosity and use all the resources at your disposal to get the most out of your ICE education.
  1. Find Mentors. Support and encouragement from family and friends is an important factor in your success. But finding industry mentors is equally as crucial. Non-industry folks are well-intentioned but may not fully understand the demands of life in the kitchen. “So you’re telling me you want to stand on your feet for 12 hours a day peeling potatoes for minimum wage with a chef screaming down your neck — WHAT?!?! Are you crazy?!” This is the all-too-familiar response from non-industry friends and family. Industry people can assure you what is or is not normal and offer solutions for the many challenges that you will face in your career. Often, just talking to someone who’s been there and understands you will make a huge difference. So, find a chef you connect with or a trusted career services advisor to help support you in your culinary journey.

Spring Career Fair

  1. Enthusiasm: Act Like You Want it. Ours is an industry of hospitality. Chefs, servers and restaurateurs — we all have a desire to be generous and make others happy. But in order to receive the benefit of a helping hand, you must act like you want it! Enthusiasm comes in many forms and no better time to act like the professional you want to be than right now. Take advantage of opportunities to learn. Volunteer and network as much as possible. Show up to class and your trails with a can-do attitude. Make sure your resume is in order, your emails are free of typos and your whites are clean. Communicate and follow up with those who offer help. Act like you want it and you’ll find that the hospitality flows.
  1. Try, Try, and Try Again. If at first you don’t succeed (or even if you do!), starting your career is about trying different things to discover what’s out there and finding the best fit. Trailing is a big part of this process. As part of finding an externship at ICE, you’ll work with your advisor to research and come up with a list of potential sites. Variety is key here, as is a willingness to move beyond your comfort zone. Ask for recommendations, sign up for industry newsletters and discover what’s out there. Trailing, whether for an externship or a job, is a fun process, so take full advantage of it and try out at as many places as possible. 
  1. Reach for the Stars! You’ve chosen to attend one of the premier culinary schools in the world, so why limit yourself when it comes to your externship (or first job)? Whether fine dining is your thing or really tasty Mexican cuisine, build a strong foundation by setting your sights on the best in the field. Don’t know the top sites? Educate yourself, use your resources and ask for help! Work hard and aim high — you’ll find the stars are within your reach!

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

For the 2017 #CulinaryVoice Scholarship Challenge, we asked the world: What is your culinary voice? We were overwhelmed by the response: 254 entrants from 201 countries and territories shared their unique, inventive and inspiring culinary voices — and the world responded, with the videos garnering a total of 1,864,696 votes and views to help determine our winners. With full and partial scholarships to attend ICE’s award-winning career programs, 18 lives will change forever. Watch the video below to find out who won the 2017 #CulinaryVoice Scholarship Challenge from ICE.

Thanks to everyone who shared their culinary voices, and congratulations to this year’s winners — your passion, creativity and ambition inspired our judges, and we can’t wait to welcome you to ICE!

Find your culinary voice at ICE. Click here to learn more about ICE’s career programs.

 

What drives you? How do you reach people? When you make your mark on the world, what will it look like? What’s your culinary voice? With the 2017 #CulinaryVoice Scholarship Challenge in full swing, we turned to the judges, ICE’s industry-leading chefs and instructors, and posed them that same question. Here’s a look at their answers.

Culinary Voice ICE Instructors

(Top to bottom, left to right)

Tom Kombiz-Voss, Dean of Hospitality Management: “Inspiring and training each student to reach his or her highest potential in the hospitality industry.”

James Briscione, Director of Culinary Development: “Creative … and never satisfied.”

Sabrina Sexton, Culinary Arts Program Director: “Inspiring future chefs to better their community.”

Kate Edwards, Restaurant & Culinary Management instructor: “Hello! … And every little thing that matters.”

Michael Laiskonis, Creative Director: “Innovation and inspiration.”

David Waltuck, Director of Culinary Affairs: “Sharing 4+ decades of knowledge and experience.”

Anthony Caporale, Director of Beverage Studies: “The art of the drink.”

Steve Zagor, Dean of Culinary Management: “Mentoring, coaching and educating the next generation of the industry.”

Entries and voting are open! Click here to enter or vote for your favorite video. 

“Do you have what it takes to work in my kitchen?” asks Marcus Samuelsson, celebrated chef of NYC’s Red Rooster, in the newly released 2017 #CULINARYVOICE Scholarship Challenge video from the Institute of Culinary Education. The video, which also features food heavyweights Ted Allen, Duff Goldman and Donatella Arpaia, marks the launch of the second-ever #CULINARYVOICE Scholarship Challenge. It also signals ICE’s continued commitment to finding the next generation of culinary and hospitality talent.

Launched in 2015, the first #CULINARYVOICE Scholarship Challenge was a roaring success. Over 1.1 million votes were cast and eight lives were changed — by scholarships that opened up a world of opportunities for the winning individuals. For the 2017 #CULINARYVOICE Scholarship Challenge, ICE is upping the ante and giving away $212,000 in scholarships so that 18 ambitious individuals can study at ICE and pursue a career in food or hospitality.

Entering the challenge is simple — upload an original one-minute video to the Scholarship Challenge website that demonstrates your creativity, your passion for food or service or your entrepreneurial flair. In the video, explain who you are, who or what inspires you and what you hope to achieve in the culinary or hospitality industries. Tell the world why you deserve one of 18 scholarships and the chance to study at ICE.

The top 50 #CULINARYVOICE Scholarship Challenge finalists in each category will be determined by public vote, and for every vote, ICE will make a donation to Careers Through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP) to fund even more scholarships. One full scholarship and two partial scholarships will be awarded for each of ICE’s six award-winning career training programs: Culinary Arts, Pastry & Baking Arts, Restaurant & Culinary Management, Hospitality Management, Bread Baking and Cake Decorating.

Check out the video below and head to the Scholarship Challenge website to enter today.

Ready to share your culinary voice with the world? Click here for more info.

By Caitlin Raux

Why would one of the successors to an empire of bread and pastries in Spain travel all the way to New York City to study pastry arts? That’s the question that many have posed to Pablo Moreno (Pastry Arts ’17), grandson of the founders of Mallorca Pastelería, a household name for bread and pastries in Madrid, and pastry student at ICE. We sat down with Pablo to get the answer to this question, and to chat about topics like the most useful thing he’s learned at ICE, his advice for prospective culinary students and whether he’s a fan of New York’s holy pastry — the bagel.

Pastry Student Pablo Moreno

 When did you realize that you wanted to study pastry arts?

I always thought that I wanted to go into the family business, but more on the human resources side, like my father. After studying business, I realized that in the pastry business, you need to know more than just the business side. You have to understand the product, including how to change the product. Without that, I would never be able to get a top position in the business.

With all of the culinary schools in Spain and Europe, why did you choose to come to New York to ICE?

That’s the question that everyone is asking me. All of my family has studied in Switzerland and France. That school of cooking and pastry didn’t sound so attractive to me because it’s what I’ve seen all my life. All French schools are more or less the same. Here, you can study French basics, but with different ideas — with the American aesthetic. I also wanted to get to know New York because of the economy. There’s so much business here. Plus, all of the trends begin in New York. When I saw the story of Dominique Ansel, for example, I was inspired to come to New York.

Speaking of New York pastries, have you tried a bagel?

Yes, I have (laughs). I’m not a fan of bagels. For me, the bad thing about bagels is that they’re so dense. I don’t know why but I have the idea that dense pastries are bad quality — because the fermentation wasn’t good.

Which pastry and baking traditions have you learned at ICE?

I’ve learned about American pastries — bagels, donuts, pretzels. I’m also learning the French school with an American taste. For example, things in the U.S. are very light-colored. When I bake something, I want it very dark.

Have you done lessons with Chef Sim Cass, the “Prince of Darkness,” yet?

I’m taking classes with him now and I really love it. For me, it’s been the best thing since I’ve been at ICE.

What is the most useful thing you’ve learned during your time at ICE?

One thing is the knowledge of American tastes. I don’t quite have it yet, but I think after my externship I’ll understand how to run a business here. In the future, if I could have one or more bakeries here in New York, I’d love that.

Another thing is learning about how to make products from start to finish. Working for my family business, I’ve seen the products developed but I’ve never seen the basics. I needed to understand the simple aspects of making bread — water, salt, flour and yeast. Afterwards I’ll be able to understand more complicated products.

I think that’s how you get to the level of someone like Sim — who touches a piece of dough and knows how it was made.

My uncle is exactly the same. My uncle is the judge for the competition of the best croissants in Spain. He can look at a table of croissants and see which is the best. I need to get to that level.

What has been your favorite lesson so far?

I don’t like sugar at all, but I love the lessons about sugar — understanding how to cook sugar and the different colors and temperatures. The lessons made me understand something that I would never understand otherwise because I don’t like sweets. But my favorite classes have been the ones with Sim, especially when we made Italian breads. I also enjoyed the trip to Dominique Ansel.

If you could travel anywhere in the world to sample pastries, where would you go and why?

Two countries. First, I’d go to France. I’ve been in France but without the knowledge of how to appreciate the pastries. I really prefer Italian baking though — the olive oil culture is the best flavor in the world. I love how they make breads like ciabatta and focaccia. They’re hollow inside but have a strong flavor. I wouldn’t go to the typical places like Rome or Florence. I would go to Sicily and see how they make bread there. One pastry I love is panettone.

What advice would you give someone considering going to culinary school?

Some people look for the fanciest school and, to me, that approach is wrong. People want to make the best-plated dessert and I think you’re not going to learn that in school. The things you should learn in school are the basic skills — knife skills, fermentation, sugar cooking — basic things that you will build on when you get a job. The good thing about ICE is that they start with the basics. You need to learn the fundamentals because afterwards that’s what defines you from your colleagues who haven’t gone to culinary school. They may be much faster than you, but they don’t have the knowledge of why something should be made a certain way. You can be in control of changing a recipe, while the other person only knows how to make it.

Ready to launch your career in pastry arts? Click here for more information on ICE’s career programs.

 

By Caitlin Raux

When our ICE alums grab the headlines, we can’t help but feel like proud parents. From Detroit-style pizza to home-style meatloaf to authentic Welsh cuisine, ICE graduates are using their culinary skills to create better dining experiences across the board. In 2016, ICE graduates and their restaurants were showered with praise — here’s a short list of those who regularly took spots at the top:

  1. Missy Robbins (Culinary ’95): Missy was the chef on everyone’s mind this year. For starters, she was donned Best New Chef – East, at the inaugural Taste Talk Awards. Lilia, the Williamsburg restaurant where Missy is chef/partner, was named one of The New York TimesTop 10 New York Restaurants of 2016, claiming the #2 spot. Lilia’s Cacio e Pepe Fritelle was among the Top 10 New York Dishes of 2016. Her Agnolotti dish topped the list of Time Out New York’s 85 best dishes in NYC 2016. Turning to the 2016 Eater Awards, Lilia won the Reader’s Choice for Restaurant of the Year. The Infatuation listed Lilia as one of New York City’s Best New Restaurants of 2016.
Zoe Nathan and partner Josh Loeb

Zoe Nathan and partner Josh Loeb

  1. Zoe Nathan (Culinary ’01): The west coast restaurateur has received accolades for the restaurants that she co-owns, among them Cassia, which was included in Bon Appetit’s 50 Nominees for America’s Best New Restaurants of 2016. As the BA Staff proclaims, “Given the powerhouse team behind this blockbuster — the same folks who gave L.A. its beloved Rustic Canyon, Huckleberry, and Milo & Olive — no one in Santa Monica would be surprised to find that this Southeast Asian restaurant fires on every imaginable cylinder.” Another of Zoe’s restaurants, Rustic Canyon, was listed as one of LA Weekly’s 99 Essential Restaurants. Michael Bauer, writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, also included Rustic Canyon as one of his new L.A. Favorites.
  2. Matt Hyland (Culinary Arts ’05): In a town famous for its pizza, it’s a rare feat to stand out from the pack of pizza makers. Matt and wife Emily have the secret sauce for success, judging by the cult-like following of their New York pizza eateries: Pizza Loves Emily, and its progeny, Emmy Squared. As Andrew Steinhal of The Infatuation succinctly stated, “We love everything about Emily.” Zagat named Emmy Squared’s Le Big Matt pizza (Detroit-style crust and burger ingredient toppings: Fleisher’s beef, American cheese, Sammy sauce, pickles and mizuna lettuce) as one of 25 Essential Dishes to Try in NYC. 2016’s Eater Awards awarded Matt the National Instagram Badge of Honor for Emmy Squared — likely due to their incredibly Instagrammable #ronicups. Matt Hyland - Pizza Loves Emily
  3. Owner Illtyd Barrett (Management ’12) and executive chef Tom Coughlan (Culinary/Management ’12), who were once ICE classmates, have teamed up to bring Welsh cuisine to NYC with Sunken Hundred in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. They were awarded 3 stars from Eater for their efforts. Food writer Becky Cooper also gave Sunken Hundred a glowing review in The New Yorker. Writes Cooper, “The pub atmosphere and the barrage of My Bloody Valentine and the Clash are incongruous with how quietly thoughtful the food is.”
  4. Ann Redding (Culinary ’02): Uncle Boons, the perpetually packed Thai restaurant where Ann and her husband Matt Danzer are owners and chefs, has been rolling in good press. Eater named their Toasted Coconut Sundae as one of The 20 Perfect Desserts in New York City. According to food writer Ryan Sutton, “If you don’t like this, you are a flawed human being.” As if having one wildly successful (and understatedly cool) restaurant in downtown Manhattan wasn’t enough, Ann and Matt opened a second eatery, Mr. Donahue’s. With just two tables and five counter stools, the restaurant was quickly donned a New York Times Critic’s Pick and included in Pete Wells’ Top 10 New York Restaurants of 2016, coming in right behind ICE alum Missy Robbins’ Lilia at #3. Mr. Donahue’s Roast Beef also landed a spot in the Top 10 New York Dishes of 2016.
Ann Redding and Matt Danzer

Ann Redding and Matt Danzer

Want to join the ranks of these ICE grads? Click here for more information on our career programs.

By Brooke Bordelon — Student, Culinary Arts ’17

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

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

ICE student and Emma's Torch founder Kerry Brodie

ICE student and Emma’s Torch founder Kerry Brodie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What has the response been like from students at ICE? 

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

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

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

How can people get involved with Emma’s Torch?

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

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

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


By Caitlin Raux

In 2012, just after ICE Alum Jason Alicea (Culinary Management ’15) landed his dream job as executive chef at a busy restaurant in West Patterson, NJ, a car accident rendered him out of commission for months. Looking back, it was a blessing in disguise, because it was during this immobile period that he came up with the idea to start his own company, That’s Good Food, the New York-based artisanal empanada company with a steadily growing following. Jason combined his family’s tradition of making empanadas from scratch (“pockets of love,” as he calls them) with culinary management training from ICE and turned it into a profitable, dynamic business. With savory fillings like confit duck and crab guisado and sweet fillings like banana bread pudding and arroz con leche, it’s no wonder his empanadas are a hit.

jason_alicea

Between regular pop-up events and farmers’ market appearances, Jason took a break to chat with us for an ICE blog interview.

What year did you graduate from ICE?

I began the Culinary Management program in September 2014, and I graduated in July 2015. My class was the first to graduate at the Brookfield Place location. I won the “Most Likely to Succeed Award” at graduation. It was the first time I had ever won an award in school — it was pretty overwhelming for me.

When you began at ICE, did you already have the idea for That’s Good Food?

Yes — it all began when I was working as executive chef at a restaurant in West Patterson, NJ. After about four months there, my dream job, I got into a car accident and needed knee surgery. While I was out, I decided to start my own catering company and incorporated without a business plan. I let my friends and family know that I could cook for their events. Fast-forward a year later: I started doing a lot of craft services and pop-up events, selling empanadas. Then I realized I would benefit from a formal business education, so in 2014, I enrolled at ICE.

Through the course of the program, we were developing our business concepts. I created an empanada concept for a brick and mortar space, and it was well received by my professors and classmates. After graduation, with a hot business plan in my pocket, I started looking for locations and pitching to investors. I’m still looking for a space, but the pop-up business is going strong. In December of last year, I got to be part of a pop-up bake sale in the holiday market in Union Square, and I’ll be doing a demo at the greenmarket on November 23, the day before Thanksgiving. I’d love to launch a retail line for empanadas one day.

empanadas

If you had a business running before ICE, what pushed you to go to culinary school to study culinary management?

I didn’t have a business plan or any startup funds in place. After going at it for a year and a half and living gig to gig, I decided it would be a good idea to get a business education, along with a better grasp of food culture.

What are the things you learned at ICE that were most useful for running your own business?

At ICE, I became more financially savvy, and that has had the largest impact on my development as a business owner. Now I focus more on the funds I need to operate a business successfully. Also, one of my professors worked for Union Square Hospitality Group, so we got a lot of behind-the-scenes tours at their restaurants. That was eye-opening — to see how the systems work in both front of house and back of house. Finally, the program forced me to focus on a concept and find my niche in the culinary world and in New York City. Before coming to ICE, I just cooked good food, but I had no real specialty. By the time I graduated, I realized that I had a unique product and a big market that I could tap into. So I fine-tuned my culinary voice.

jason_alicea_1

Why empanadas? Is that a family recipe or tradition?

Yes. In Puerto Rican culture they’re very big. I’m fourth generation, but we’re still in tune with the culture. Growing up, we used to travel back to PR every year. My grandmother taught my mom how to make the dough, and my mom taught me how to make it. I would always help out when she made them. Once I got more comfortable in the kitchen, and my mom allowed me to cook a bit, I started coming up with my own ideas for fillings. When I went to PR in 2012, I went to a small town called Piñones — basically a road with a bunch of shacks. There’s the beach on one side and a bunch of little food stands with little old ladies cooking inside. In one shack, El Boriqua, they make empanadas from scratch — when you order empanadas, they roll the dough out, fill them and fry them right there. I was inspired to bring that idea back to New York.

How are Puerto Rican empanadas unique as compared to Argentine or other empanadas?
I would say ours are flakier because we use more butter in the dough. I find a lot of the South American empanadas have firmer dough. Mine are unique because of the quality of the ingredients I use. Also, I don’t think a lot of people put the right amount of love in their food. I take the time when I’m cooking a product high in fat to make them as healthy as possible, by doing things like using less oil in the frying.

cookie empanadas

Chocolate Chip Cookie Empanadas

What’s the craziest empanada you’ve ever made?

I think the chocolate chip cookie one is unique. I put raw cookie dough inside the empanada dough, and it comes out perfectly, topped with powdered sugar. I did a truffle Cubano, too. Lots of people do Cubanos, which are made with roasted pork, cheese, ham and pickles. My roast pork is something I take a lot of pride in. I get locally sourced cheese, smoked ham and I use Urbani truffles and mustard. Then I add pickled onions — that combination is probably my favorite. The one that got me going with empanadas and the one that I started making for the first time with my mom is the chopped cheese, and everyone is raving about chopped cheese now.

Chopped cheese?

Yes, it’s sort of a New York take on a Philly cheese steak sandwich. You can get them in local delis in the more “urban” neighborhoods. I use ground turkey and local cheese. It’s like a Sloppy Joe cheeseburger, for lack of better description. It’s a deconstructed, cheesy turkey cheeseburger.

For anyone considering culinary school to study culinary management, what advice can you offer?

Dive right in. I wish I would have started seven years earlier because then I would have gotten the dual diploma in culinary arts as well. Get involved with as many events as you can, put yourself out there and network, network, network. A lot of the opportunities I’m getting now come from contacts I made by networking in culinary school. If you’re looking to start your own business, try to find something unique, not just “I want to cook all different types of food.” Find something you’re really good at and focus on developing that product.

Ready to launch your food business? Click here to learn more about our Restaurant & Culinary Management program.

By Caitlin Gunther

For the ICE blog “Life as a Student” series, we hand the mic to students from our career programs and give them the chance to share what it’s really like to be a student at ICE. Our newest student blogger, Brooke Bordelon, a California transplant with Louisiana roots, is a student in ICE’s Culinary Arts program with her sights set on the food media realm. Given her lifelong “obsession” with cooking and the skills she’s learning at ICE, we won’t be surprised if we see her in the test kitchen or food publication of her choice. In this interview, we introduce our readers to Brooke.

Brooke Bordelon culinary student

What’s your earliest food memory?

Funnily enough, my earliest food memory doesn’t even involve real food, but that fake, plastic food that kids used to play with back in the 90s. (I don’t know if kids these days still do — they probably have an app for that now.) I remember being obsessed with “cooking” in my miniature kitchen, complete with a pint-sized stove and microwave. Three-year-old me would putter around in that kitchen for hours, talking to myself while sticking all these different fake foods together with Velcro before making my family sit down to “taste” it all. Apparently it was one of the only toys I liked, go figure.

Growing up, was food a big part of your family life?

Both of my parents come from big families in Louisiana, which means that, growing up, I was more-or-less genetically predisposed to love everything to do with food. Before my family moved to California, I had never realized that everybody didn’t regularly have crab boils in their backyards or celebrate Christmas with a massive Cajun feast for 50-plus hungry family members. After moving out west, I began to develop an appreciation for my Southern heritage as I realized how exceptionally unique the food, culture and people of southern Louisiana are. I can definitely say that this part of my background has had a profound effect on how I view food and cooking.

Culinary Student Brooke Bordelon

Why did you choose to go to ICE?

When I was trying to decide which culinary school to attend after college, my train of thought was, “If I am going to go to culinary school, why wouldn’t I go to one in the most exciting food capital of the world?” After attending ICE’s open house, it was clear that the connections and opportunities this school would provide me with would prove invaluable in my quest to build a lasting career in food media. Then, the decision was simple. Within three months, I had schlepped all of my stuff from Dallas (where I went to college) to New York, successfully navigated the subway to buy all of my school supplies and settled into my apartment with just a week to spare before my first day of class.

Describe a day in the life for you as a student at ICE.

My class meets at 8:00 AM every morning, so typically I try to be up by 5:45 AM (“try” being the operative word) so that I have a little time to caffeinate myself and review the day’s recipes before I catch the subway to school. I love that no two days of class are ever the same; one day we may learn how to properly roast a chicken, while the next we delve into how to make perfectly crispy broccoli tempura. After class, I usually hang out in the student lounge with friends while keeping a look-out for treats from the pastry classes to scarf down. Around 1:00 PM, I start making the trek back to my apartment in Murray Hill to catch up on any freelance articles I’m writing at the time and work on homework for the next day’s class.

Sky’s the limit. What’s your dream job after you graduate ICE?

For as long as I can remember, I have always been passionate about writing and cooking. In an ideal world, I would combine the Journalism degree I received from Southern Methodist University with the culinary degree I’ll receive from ICE in order to mold a career for myself in food media. Whether that means writing articles for a food magazine, working in a test kitchen or working on cookbooks, I believe that life is too short to compromise one passion for another when it comes to following your dreams.

Culinary Student Brooke Bordelon

Are there any skills you’re looking forward to acquiring?

Our class just started module three last week, which is particularly exciting because we’re incorporating all of the technical skills we learned in modules one and two — like sautéing, roasting, braising, etc. — into cooking dishes from different regions around the world. Right now we’re focusing on France, but I’m especially eager to get to Asia because the techniques and ingredients used in that part of the world are so different from anything we’ve done thus far. It’ll definitely be a fun challenge and a nice change of pace.

What’s the most useful thing you’ve learned in class so far?

Above all else, the most useful thing I’ve learned in class so far is the importance of keeping yourself organized in the kitchen. If you don’t have your mise en place and tools ready to go, or if your work station is constantly cluttered, you’re bound to make a mistake somewhere down the line. By nature, I’m not the most analytical person, so even though I had to learn this skill the hard way, it has since helped me tremendously. Staying organized keeps my stress levels in the kitchen manageable, allowing me to create a better finished product in the end. (Bonus: I don’t tick off teammates with a dirty workstation anymore.)

What advice would you offer anyone considering culinary school?

The best advice I could offer to anyone considering culinary school is to do your homework to really understand the culinary industry and where you would fit within it. Having an idea of how a degree in the culinary arts or culinary management will help you to shape a future career will be extremely useful in figuring out whether or not culinary school is the right path for you. It may sound a little blunt, but a passion for cooking will only get you so far if you don’t have a plan for how to channel that passion into a livelihood. That being said, you may get to school, do a complete 180°, and decide to follow an altogether different career path from what you thought you wanted. The important thing to remember, though, is to always think about how the skills you’re acquiring in school are helping you to mold your future career. After all, that’s what school is all about.

Ready to launch your culinary career? Click here to learn about ICE’s career programs.