Tina Ye (Culinary Arts, ’17) is not just our newest student blogger, she’s also one of the 2017 #CulinaryVoice Scholarship Challenge winners. In this post, she shares her path from interaction designer to culinary student at ICE — and how she discovered the superpower of food along the way.

By Tina Ye — Student, School of Culinary Arts

I wasn’t supposed to end up in culinary school. The way I got here was quite by accident. In fact, I started out my adult life very much wanting to be an interaction designer. An interaction designer is someone who makes digital products and services user-friendly. If you looked up directions on your phone today, and it felt as natural as picking your nose, then we did our job right.

I got to be on the path to interaction design because I’ve always been a huge nerd. In the sixth grade, I started building websites for fun, filling them with adolescent treasures like Spice Girls song lyrics, listicles and drawings of Sailor Moon. Eventually, adults picked up on my computer abilities and I was given the opportunity to trade them for money. While my peers toiled away at the local Baskin-Robbins developing asymmetrical bicep syndrome, I made logos at $250 a pop — not a bad rate for a 16-year-old.

culinary student Tina Ye

Food wasn’t really on my mind until college. By then I had gotten it into my head that I wanted to be an artist, but I reassured my mom that I’d be employable by dual-majoring in architecture. Neither turned out to be more than just a degree (I was too naive back then to know that college was for asking questions, not picking a life path), but still, they took up most of my time. To fill the social vacuum that comes from being a closeted dual-major, I turned to cooking with my roommates.

At the time, I was living in a rather unique situation. Four friends and I—one of them my then-boyfriend (now spouse)—decided to move off-campus into a big, creaky colonial house: two stories, a huge eat-in kitchen, and front and back decks for grilling. It was collegiate paradise. My roommates and I felt so adult when we signed that lease. We even had a car that we drove to visit fun and exotic places like…the grocery store!

The five of us were obsessed with grocery shopping—it felt like going to Six Flags. Every Saturday, we would explore the local Costco and load up on cheddar cheese, bacon, orange juice, chicken breast, ground beef, salad, canned beans, bread, bags of onions and potatoes hefty enough to crush a German shepherd, and yes, bulk boxes of Pop-Tarts.

When we got home, we’d drink half the orange juice within minutes, then I’d bust out “The Boston Globe Cookbook,” “101 Fast ‘n Easy Recipes,” or cookingforengineers.com (nerd pride!) and set to work. We made shepherd’s pie, jerk chicken, chili, New England clam chowder, meatloaf, sugar cookies with our own royal frosting, even Caesar dressing from scratch (I’ll never forget that moment my friend Elliot taught me you could eat raw egg). Friends of friends heard about our feasts and “casually” rolled by. My social life bloomed like the rind of a good Camembert. Who needs frat parties? All I needed was a good wooden spoon and the kitchen table of 82 Bristol Road!

Before long, we all graduated and moved on from that first experiment in communal living. But I continued those experiments elsewhere, with other roommates, in other shared apartments. The cooking got ever more ambitious (at one point I attempted to make puff pastry from scratch in 90° heat — poor life decision, turns out). Through it all, I felt a growing sense of comfort, community and pride. I loved having friends over and filling their bellies with food and their heads with conversation. With a stove and a pot, I discovered I could salve a wounded heart, crack open barriers of indifference, create warmth and fill emptiness (even if it was just stomachs). I started to have an inkling that food harbors immense superpowers, and somehow I was able to harness and direct those powers in positive ways.

Eventually, I moved to New York to study Interaction Design at the School of Visual Arts. The rolling snowball of my previous computer-y accomplishments just kept…rolling. I graduated and went from tech startup to tech startup. It all felt very logical, orderly and well-calculated. I had a professional salary even my family could approve of. What could possibly be missing?

I wouldn’t blame my growing restlessness on any one factor. But as I worked on project after project, I began to notice patterns. Tech startups are volatile places to be. The rewards are immense if you succeed, but so are the risks, and every day, teams of dedicated, hard-working people operate in stress-inducing environments of high uncertainty. When people are faced with so many unknowns, one natural tendency is to grasp for certainty. We fall back on assumptions instead of examining facts. We avoid dissent and seek the comfort of those who agree with us. We dig in and harden and stop listening.

I have seen this happen in many tense product meetings and feedback sessions, sometimes to the detriment of the organization’s mission. I began to wonder: in today’s world, where we have no shortage of uncertainty and immense challenges ahead as a society, can we learn to become better listeners, more willing collaborators and more open-minded friends, colleagues and neighbors? I thought back to those moments around the kitchen table, when even a sulking roommate will come out of hiding to check out the soup. Too busy chewing, even the most voracious talker becomes a good listener.

In March of this year, I made a video that posited that we can build bridges with food. I envisioned traveling around the country, learning about the lives of people who are very different from me, and sharing their stories in the form of evocative dishes. I entered the video into ICE’s Find Your Culinary Voice scholarship challenge. To my surprise, people responded with immense enthusiasm, and with the votes of friends and total strangers alike, I was awarded a full scholarship to ICE’s Culinary Arts program. Goodbye, old life of pushing pixels. Hello, new life of…who knows! Anything could happen.

Since beginning culinary school, I’ve been on a whirlwind tour of learning how to think and act like a world-class chef. I considered myself a pretty decent ingredient wrangler before, but now I’m really discovering how to treat these things with finesse and respect. Under the tutelage of chefs Lorrie, Michael and others, my cuts are straighter, my mise en place neater and my heat control more accurate. I am learning not just cooking techniques but also discipline, humility and professionalism. Just as important, I am meeting people from all walks of life in my classmates. (Who knew the hopes set out in my video would so soon be fulfilled?) Though our backgrounds are different, we support one another with tips and stories from our past lives, and cheer each other on through the critiques and exams. If I could convince people to gather around a table before with my slightly overcooked chicken, just think what I can do with these skills and this network after graduating. 

I came to ICE not necessarily to become the next Top Chef, but to answer this question: what is food’s real superpower? And can I harness it to do what I’d always wanted to do as an interaction designer: make a tiny, positive dent in the world? There is much work to be done, but I’m grateful for this chance to train for all the challenges ahead at ICE.

Interested in discovering where a culinary education can take you? Click here to learn more about ICE’s career programs.

 

For 15 years, Kelly Newsome (Culinary Arts ’17) dreamed of going to culinary school. Though her infatuation with food and cooking was sparked during college, various factors (like concerns from family and friends) pushed her off that track and into office jobs. It’s not an uncommon situation, but what set Kelly apart was her tenacity — it drove her to take small steps toward achieving her ultimate goal. First, she enrolled at New York University’s master’s program in food studies and spent three years working full-time while burning the midnight oil between classes and assignments. Then, she landed an attractive marketing position with a food science company, edging ever closer to the kitchen. Finally, at age 38, Kelly decided she couldn’t ignore her true passion any longer, and enrolled in ICE’s Culinary Arts program. “I just realized I’m never going to be happy unless I follow this passion inside me, which is to work in food.”

Why culinary school, instead of diving directly into the kitchen? Kelly explained, “I don’t have the luxury of working my way up in a kitchen at this stage in my life. So going to culinary school will certainly give me confidence when I walk into the kitchen for the first time.”

 

Want to gain kitchen confidence of your own? Click here to learn more about our Culinary Arts career training program.

By Luz Estrella — Student, School of Culinary Arts ‘17

Throughout my experience at the Institute of Culinary Education, I’ve learned so many terms, recipes and methods that it’s hard to keep track of them all. During each module we’ve had a new topic to discuss, and I’ve studied diligently in each. Learning to fabricate protein has been one of my biggest challenges. Each section of protein has its own terms and these terms can vary, based on what animal you’re fabricating. Having to cut open an animal, touch the cold, gooey flesh and separating the different parts was very new to me and, needless to say, very messy, too. I was afraid of cutting myself, or simply doing it wrong.

Luz Estrella

The first protein I ever fabricated was a fish: flounder. As we started, the words of my instructor, David Waltuck, were scrambling through my head. “Be careful,” he warned us. “Always remember, you are in control of your knife. Listen to your knife touching the bones.” It was like nothing I had ever done. It wasn’t a matter of just cutting meat — everything had to be done with caution.

Here are a few things I picked up during the fish fabrication lessons.

  1. Safety first: Use your senses. The first step of fabricating meat, poultry or fish is following food safety regulations. Use your senses — check the fish for aroma, clear eyes, firmness of flesh and bright gills. This is to make sure the fish is fresh.
  2. Round versus flat fish. The first fish I fabricated was a flounder, which is a flat fish, so I used a fillet knife. A fillet knife is flexible and it works wonders when fabricating flat fish. When cutting a flat fish, start by cutting around the head and making a V-shaped notch. Pull the head away from the body while twisting it slightly. Then, slice from head to tail, making sure you don’t cut through backbones. For a round fish, start by laying the fish on a cutting board with the backbone parallel to the work surface and the head on the opposite side of the hand that’s holding your knife. Proceed to make a cut behind the head and gill plates. Then, turn the knife making sure the tip of the knife is pointing toward the tail. Run the blade down the length of the fish, cutting against the backbone.
  3. Removing the skin and pin bones. We also learned how to remove the skin from a fish fillet and it was pretty simple. To remove the skin, lay the fillet parallel to the edge of the cutting board, make a small cut on the tail side and pull the skin away from the flesh with your guiding hand. Then, make sure to remove all pin bones — those needle-thin bones that can be tricky to spot. To remove the pin bones, first run your fingertips over the fillet to locate the bones. Then, use tweezers to gently remove each bone. Chef David taught us the useful trick of using a small hotel pan filled with water to rinse your tweezers each time you pull a bone out. As I mentioned before, using your senses is very important while fabricating fish. You can see the pin bones, but using your sense of touch is fundamental. (Side note: after the fabricating lesson, we gathered all the fish bones and made fish stock.)
  4. How chefs tackle lobster. As part of the fabrication curriculum I also had to fabricate shellfish. As this point, I thought to myself, how bad can it be? Everything seemed to go okay until I had to fabricate a lobster. I had always heard that the best way to kill a lobster was by boiling it alive. However, in this lesson, I was taught not to fear my knife and to kill the lobster with a chef’s knife. To do so, first insert the tip of the knife into the base of the head, pulling the knife all the way down to the shell and splitting the head in half. Then, continue to do the same procedure with the tail. The cutting part wasn’t too hard, but having to deal with a live, moving lobster while you’re trying to cut through it was frightening.

fish fabrication

Overall, it’s been a rewarding experience to learn the terms, techniques and steps to create the meals I grew up eating. Mastering the art of fabricating meat and fish was a challenge for me, but I’m glad I was able to overcome the challenge and now understand this important culinary technique.

Want to take your culinary skills to the next level? Click here to learn about ICE’s career programs.

By Danielle Page

Pursuing an education in culinary arts opens a ton of doors for potential career opportunities — far beyond the traditional roles confined to a kitchen. A few decades ago, working in food media meant only a handful of paths to consider: authoring cookbooks or editing food magazines, with not many other options in between. But thanks to social media and the age of the internet, culinary expertise can be translated into a wide array of viable career options — as demonstrated by these ICE graduates who have gone on to do just that.

From styling food for avant-garde startups to founding a media company dedicated to culinary video production, these ICE graduates are making big strides. Here’s what they had to say about leveraging culinary training to land a job in the media world.

Eden Grinshpan

Photo courtesy of edeneats.com

1. Eden Grinshpan, Food TV Personality

Having been the host of two cooking shows on a major TV network, Eden Grinshpan is proof that networking will get you pretty much anywhere. “Through ICE, I was introduced to many people in the field that have helped me along the way with my career,” Grinshpan says. “Since leaving ICE I have worked on ‘Eden Eats,’ a show that I created with my business partner Samantha Schutz, and ‘Log On And Eat with Eden.’ I had such a great time in the program [at ICE]. I met so many people from all walks of life that were just as passionate as I was about food and the culinary industry. The school gave me a great platform to learn about the service industry and also allowed me to network and meet great people in the industry. Since graduating from ICE, I have been able to pursue my dream of food television and I am very fortunate to the Cooking Channel for taking me under their wing and believing in me and my shows.”

Julie with husband and co-founder Dan (credit: Lindsay Morris)

2. Julie Resnick: Founder of feedfeed

What happens when a former digital marketer turned ICE graduate has an excess of produce from her CSA to prepare? She takes to social media for inspiration — and ends up building a following of over one million in the process. “I began by posting pictures of my own food and then asked people to share what they were making by also tagging their food with #feedfeed,” says Resnick. “That started to develop a community of people who were cooking the way I was. I would do a search for sweet potatoes and find some really cool sweet potato dishes, and I would follow those people and engage with them and comment on their posts. Then I would say, “Hey, by the way, don’t forget to add #feedfeed to what you’re cooking and that way we can all share with each other.” It was my need that was driving it. It took off from there.” Of course, curating a hit Instagram account isn’t going to happen overnight. But if you’re looking to start cultivating a following, Resnick does have a few words of advice to share. “First, I would say that it’s important to be active on social,” she says. “Don’t just spend time composing a beautiful, well-lit shot, posting it and then logging out of Instagram or whatever social media platform you’re using. Spend the time looking at what people you follow are posting, like the content and comment on the content. I think there’s also this perception that you shouldn’t be following too many people — I disagree with that. If there are people out there who are putting out nice content that you’re interested in, follow them, engage with them and get to know the people behind these accounts. Read what these people are writing, don’t just look at the pictures. It’s about relationship building.”

ICE alumni Jamie Tiampo of SeeFood Media3. Jamie Tiampo, President and Founder of SeeFood Media

Jamie Tiampo is the founder of a company that fills a niche in which it has no real competitor: a “one-stop shop” featuring seven kitchen sets, a rooftop for outdoor cooking segments, separate prep kitchens for food stylists, an in-house prop shop and a team of seasoned professionals who have produced several hundred food-centric video and photo shoots. “I started with the fundamental question of how to make food look better,” says Tiampo. “From there, it was a matter of engineering the systems and facilities from the ground up to support that mission. If there was one thing I learned from living through the first dot-com bubble, it was that nothing is sacred. SeeFood Media started in an era of big TV cooking shows with custom sets in gigantic studios. Yet we’ve witnessed—and benefitted from—an evolution where food brands have realized they can also leverage digital video, and hire us to script, produce and edit extremely high quality videos which speak directly to their consumers,” Jamie explains. “What drives our business is bandwidth. Today, people can watch a video on their phone while they walk down the sidewalk. For brands, that means video content can reach an audience anytime, anywhere.”

 

Kim O'Donnel - Food Writer - Interview4. Kim O’Donnel, Cookbook Author and Food Journalist

“I worked as a reporter for about five years before exploring a culinary career,” says O’Donnel. “Once I realized I wanted to work in food, I pursued a job under James Beard Award winner Ann Cashion in Washington, D.C. It was in the days of pre-internet communication, so I typed her a note (on an electric typewriter) asking about openings at Cashion’s Eat Place for rookies, like myself, who wanted to learn. Ann came to be one of my mentors, and what I learned on the job in just five months really set me up for culinary school.” Since attending ICE, O’Donnel has become one of the country’s most respected food writers, celebrated by the M.F.K. Fisher Award for Excellence in Culinary Writing and serving on the James Beard Foundation’s Journalism Awards Committee. “My newly released cookbook, PNW Veg: 100 Vegetable Recipes Inspired by the Local Bounty of the Pacific Northwest is my third over the past seven years,” says O’Donnel. “I’ve made a name for myself as an omnivore writing vegetarian cookbooks, inspiring folks like myself to make more room for plants. But there’s other news as well: I’m the chef-in-residence at a Seattle branch of the YMCA, overseeing programming for its new Healthy Living Kitchen. I’m rolling out Meatless Monday demos, and the branch will be a CSA pick-up spot this summer. Additionally, I’m going to Houston in July as a returning volunteer chef with Culinary Corps — my first trip with CC was to New Orleans in 2007.”

Jiselle Basile5. Jiselle Basile, Chef and Food Stylist, Extra Crispy

Traditionally, food stylists are utilized in the commercial or magazine world. But thanks to the wide world of startups, there’s a need for food stylists beyond the fold — like at Extra Crispy, a website dedicated entirely to breakfast. “There’s not a typical day, which keeps it interesting,” says Basile. “At Extra Crispy, there’s a startup mentality — within a major company — but it’s still a startup. Most of us take on a lot of different roles so no two days are similar. Usually I’m either researching recipes at my desk, or I can be at a video shoot with a chef, or testing and styling in the kitchen. Tomorrow, I’m going to be making Scotch eggs with an ostrich egg on Facebook Live. I have to pick up ostrich eggs at Union Square Market at 8:00 a.m., so I’ll start here whenever I get back.” As far as the current food media landscape goes, Basile says there’s a major shift happening. “The whole foodie culture thing is having an impact,” she says. “People are either talking about things more than ever or social media is having an impact and brought to life how much people talk about it. People are more aware of their food. I’ve seen restaurants focusing more on where their food is coming from and I guess it’s in part because people are so concerned about the surrounding issues. It’s interesting how owners and chefs now look at how social media affects their restaurants. Nowadays a lot of people, before they set foot in your restaurant, will see if you have an Instagram and check out what your food looks like, which has a huge impact on whether someone will eat in your restaurant.”

Ed Behr - Natalie Stultz - Interview

Photo Credit: Natalie Stultz

6. Ed Behr, Founder and Publisher of The Art of Eating

Ed Behr had quite the journey to where he is now — heading up the respected quarterly journal, The Art of Eating, which he created. “I was working as a carpenter and builder, which I did for about a dozen years,” he says. “I decided I wanted to open a restaurant, and to do that I felt I had to go to cooking school, not because I wanted to cook in the restaurant, but because I knew I didn’t know enough to recognize and hire a good chef. In the end, I never opened a restaurant. Since 1986, I’ve been writing about food and wine as the editor and publisher of The Art of Eating.” Behr earned one of the food industry’s most prestigious honors: an induction into the James Beard Foundation’s “Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America” in 2015. But he’s more than humble about the work he’s doing. “Like so many other people, I spend most of my time looking at a computer screen,” he says. “I try—but rarely succeed—to devote the morning to my own writing. My days are a mix of editing, writing and emailing (writers, editors, photographers, illustrators and people who can help with research). Actual interviews, in which I might quote someone, I normally do over the phone or in person. Now and then I look up something in an ink-on-paper book, as most of what I want to know is still not anywhere online. I also spend a fair amount of time on the nuts and bolts of publishing.”

Sara Deseran7. Sara Deseran, Director of Marketing and Branding for Tacolicious

“After some 20 years of working as a food writer, I’m now the marketing and branding director for Tacolicious, a restaurant group my husband Joe Hargrave and I own,” says Deseran. “We have five restaurants in the Bay Area, plus a cantina called Bar San Pancho and a tequila bar called Mosto. We started as a little market stand at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in 2009. As someone who’s written cookbooks, done food styling, food writing and even worked in restaurants in the kitchen way back in the day (and pretty much sucked at my job as a prep cook), this job allows me to kind of do it all. Barring straight operations, I do a lot of everything. It’s also given me a lot of humility in regards to how unbelievably hard it is to run restaurants! Every day there are about 10 fires to put out. I’d tell students to immerse themselves in different elements of the food industry, but veer towards your strengths rather than your dreamy ideas of being that big name chef. Not everyone is cut out to work in a kitchen (like me, for instance). It took me catering, cooking, serving, writing, styling, hard work, plus an element of luck to get where I am now. Figuring out what you’re truly good at is empowering. There are a million ways to get into food.”

Think a career in food media is right for you? Click here to learn about ICE’s career programs and get started today.

 

If you want to cook like a pro, it’s essential to master the fundamentals. That’s why ICE culinary students start their training by learning the proper techniques for basic cuts: from slicing and dicing to a julienne and chiffonade.

In a new video from ICE + Wüsthof, Chef James Briscione, ICE’s Director of Culinary Research and two-time Chopped champion, demonstrates the proper technique for three basic cuts: the slice, the dice and the julienne, just as he does with ICE culinary students. They look simple, but don’t skip these essential skills — mastering these cuts will make you a better, more efficient chef, as you use them again and again for mise en place and more.

Three tips from Chef James:

  1. Slice: The key to slicing is smooth, long cuts. Let the knife glide through the item you are cutting with a smooth sliding motion, rather than just pushing the knife through.

  2. Dice: Dicing should give you perfect cubes. It’s all about consistency — to get the right shape, every cut must be the same 1/2 inch wide, 1/2 inch long, 1/2 inch tall. Use a ruler when you first start to help improve your consistency.

  3. Julienne: Julienne will reveal all of the flaws in your cutting technique. Make sure that your knife moves straight up and down, meaning it should form a perfect 90˚ angle with your board when it makes contact. But also be aware of how the knife lines up. You want to make sure that the knife tip and handle are in a perfect line, not with the tip of the knife leaning to the left or right of the handle. In other words, the knife should also form a 90˚ angle with the edge of the table.

Think culinary arts is your calling? Click here to learn about ICE’s career programs.

By Caitlin Raux 

“The Italian language wasn’t passed on — but the food definitely was,” says Chef Frank Proto, ICE’s newest career program instructor, on his Italian-American upbringing in Long Island. Since childhood, Frank received a firsthand education in Old World cooking methods: homemade sausages hung to dry from bamboo in the cellar; wine made from Grenache grapes purchased at the Brooklyn Terminal Market. It’s no surprise that once he became a chef, Frank gravitated toward unfussy Mediterranean cuisine made with the highest quality products.

Chef Frank Proto

At the outset of his career, Frank found a mentor in renowned Chef Joe Fortunato, now chef/owner of the West Village mainstay Extra Virgin. Chef Frank not only rose through the ranks in Joe’s late restaurant Layla, he helped him to build new restaurants from the ground up, and went on to do the same with restaurateur Marc Murphy, too. When the New Haven restaurant Barcelona needed an executive chef, Chef Frank had the chops to take the helm. Young chefs who have had the opportunity to work with him, and now ICE students, would be lucky to call Chef Frank a mentor. With an affable, encouraging disposition, he’s the kind of chef that makes you want to work harder and better because his passion for cooking and his high expectations for others who have chosen a culinary path are clear.

Chef Frank plans to use his straightforward approach and decades of restaurant experience to teach ICE students how to succeed in the culinary industry and how to prepare delicious, uncomplicated food. On a recent Thursday, after introducing a class of culinary students to Lombardy cuisine, Chef Frank and I sat down to chat for ICE’s “Meet the Chef” series.

Growing up, what was food like at home?  

My dad’s side of the family is Italian-American. And though my mother’s side of the family is German, she learned to cook from my paternal grandmother. So I grew up with Italian-American traditions, like making wine and sausage. We still make our own tomato paste — it’s a process I’ve never seen anyone else do. We dry the tomatoes, we peel them, remove the seeds then dry them in the oven for 48 hours until they’re brick red — it almost looks like a brownie.

Do you still make sausage?

I made sausage in the restaurants where I worked. I’d like to get back into making dry sausages at home. We used to make the sausages then hang them on bamboo in the wine cellar to dry out, because the temperature is perfect in there. We’d dry them out and put them in old, glass mayonnaise jars, then top them with olive oil so they’d store well. Then you peel the skin off and eat it like a salumi.

Chef Frank Proto

What was your first restaurant job?

I worked in a catering hall in Long Island in high school and college. I was a dishwasher, a prep cook, a line cook — I did everything. I always wanted to be a chef, though. I know that’s kind of weird — kids usually want to be firemen or policemen or lawyers. I don’t know where I got the idea but I always wanted to be a chef. I come from a family that cooks. Back in the 70s, when people were eating canned stuff, my mom always had fresh vegetables, and not for health reasons — that’s just the way my grandma taught her. You go to the store, you buy vegetables and you make them. You don’t get them from a can. So we had a lot of good food as kids.

Tell me about your decision to enroll in culinary school.

I had gone to community college for two years to study restaurant management. For me, culinary school was the next step. So I enrolled at CIA [Culinary Institute of America].

What was your first job out of culinary school?

I did my externship at Tribeca Grill, but my first job out of culinary school was at Layla. It was a restaurant that served Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food. That’s where I met my mentor, Joe Fortunato. I worked up the ranks and became sous chef there. Then I moved around with Joe and I also worked on and off with my other friend Marc Murphy. When Joe was opening something, I’d help him open it, when Marc was opening something, I’d do the same.

When I started working with Marc, I helped him open Landmarc and Ditch Plains. I was the corporate chef.

What does being corporate chef entail?

Doing everything. We did all the menus together. I was the operations manager and he managed the big picture. I trained chefs, cooks, planned menu changes, specials. I managed costs, all of the ordering systems, basically building everything from scratch. When I left, we had two Ditch Plains and two Landmarc locations.

Chef Frank Proto

Did you choose Joe as a mentor or did he choose you? How does that work?

It was kind of mutual. He wouldn’t have been my mentor if I did a crappy job. I’m a bit of a bulldog in the kitchen. I come in, I work hard and I’m quiet. Maybe he saw something in me. By him just pushing me along, he became my mentor. Eventually he moved me up to sous chef. At that point, he knew what I could do.

It goes both ways. There are a lot of guys who I chose to mentor when I was working as a restaurant chef. They get chosen because they have the work ethic and the passion for it. You say through your work if you’re worth being mentored.

What would you say is your approach to cooking?

I like simple. Don’t get complicated. A lot of people like to put a lot of stuff on the plate. Sometimes, the less you put on the plate, the better. A lot of young cooks do that before they have experience. Joey always used to ask, “Do we really need to put that on there?” I like to keep everything simple. The last restaurant I was working in, Barcelona in New Haven, was a joy because we’d cook a piece of fish on the plancha and serve it with a good salsa verde. That’s the way I like to cook.

I also like Middle Eastern and North African ingredients — the spices, pomegranate, molasses… the mezze. Even before small plates became the big thing, I always liked small plates. I don’t like committing to just one thing. I don’t play golf because I can’t commit myself to five hours on the golf course. That’s how I feel about a meal, and cooking, too.

What are you excited about teaching ICE students?

I’d like to bring some of my Spanish cooking background and influence to the curriculum. In the restaurant industry, for the past 15 years it’s been the cuisine. Now people are starting to recognize it outside of the restaurant industry.

Other than that, I want the food to taste really good. I want students to walk out of here knowing they’ve made some really good meals. I also want them to walk out of here with as much information as possible about working in the real world, and I’ve tried to include that in every lesson I’ve taught so far. Things like: when you go into professional kitchens, there’s not going to be a ton of paper towels like we have at the school; the less pans you use the better — I want to teach them the nuts and bolts, together with the substance of the lesson.

What advice would you give to culinary students starting their careers?

Show up early. Show up prepared. I always tell my cooks, If you come in 10 minutes early and ready to go, you already stand out. There are ways to stand out that take no effort at all. When I was a culinary student, I read and got as much information as I could about food. That’s another thing: be an information seeker. Learn your craft.

I read every day still, after 20-some odd years. There’s always something that interests me.

What do you read?

I read the Eater newsletter every day, I read Saveur, Food52, even the home cook-focused outlets like Bon Appétit. I like to see what they’re doing. I’ve always got the New York Times in my bag. I’ve been going to the public library more, too. It’s such a great resource. I also collect old books. I bought a copy of Larousse Gastronomique and a Fannie Farmer cookbook in the Berkshires last week.

What are your favorite things to do outside of the kitchen?

I have a workshop. I’m just starting to build it up. I really want to learn how to forge. I brew beer. My son and I just brewed beer last year and we’re doing another batch soon. Most of the things are food-related. In my workshop, I made gnocchi boards out of wood. I give them to friends.

gnocchi boards

Ready to hit the ground running on your culinary career path? Click here to learn about ICE’s career programs. 

 

On Tuesday, May 9, 2017 — for the very first time — ICE held a momentous commencement ceremony at NYU’s Skirball Center to celebrate the graduation of ICE career students who completed their programs in the first half of 2017. ICE President Rick Smilow welcomed 600 proud family and friends to share in the ICE graduates’ accomplishments. Rick noted the diversity of the students, who represented all of ICE’s career programs — Culinary Arts, Pastry & Baking Arts and Restaurant & Culinary Management — as well as diverse ages, nationalities, educational backgrounds, career aspirations and more.

After months of dedicated work and challenging themselves on a daily basis, the mood of the graduates was nothing less than ecstatic — the excitement in Skirball Center was palpable. Still, the room quieted to a hush as guests listened to a keynote address from acclaimed Chef Michael Anthony of Gramercy Tavern and words of inspiration from Chef Mario Batali. The crowd also had the chance to soak in reflections from alumnus Jonathan Defren (Culinary ‘08/Management ‘08/Hospitality ’11), who holds the royal trifecta of diplomas — Culinary Arts, Restaurant & Culinary Management and Hospitality Management, and has paved a dynamic career path in the hospitality industry.

Huge congratulations to ICE’s graduates and check out our video recap of this truly special day.

Ready to jumpstart your culinary education? Click here for more information on ICE’s career programs. 

By Steve Zagor — Dean, School of Restaurant and Culinary Management

Why should I get a culinary or hospitality education? Can’t I just get a job and learn the business while I work?

What a great question and one that should be asked. I hear this almost weekly. As a dean and instructor at ICE, I often meet dreamers who are navigating the very intense process of looking down a long, unpaved and rocky road to the future, evaluating what can only be termed a “seismic” career change. Some may have MBAs or JDs with significant experience and incomes in other fields. A few may have families with kids at home. Others might be reentering the business world after a hiatus. And there are also those who are entering the work world for the very first time. Though they come from different places, they have similar a goal: a career in culinary or hotels.

Rommel Gopez

So let’s examine the above question and see if there is an easy answer.

News media and blogs continually publish stories about the shortage of talented people in our industries. Restaurants and hotels have an unquenchable thirst for talent in both front-of-house and back-of-house. It seems like a no-brainer: find a conveniently located restaurant or hotel, get a job and then begin the learning process under the supervision of a current business operator.

This may be doable. You may encounter a few slammed doors before one opens to accept you — after all, you have little or no experience. But eventually, someone will probably hire you. Now what? You will be in an entry level job focused on hourly or daily tasks at hand. Sure, you will be learning, but your knowledge horizon will be narrow and opportunities for bigger perspective far off.

The larger, more important question should be where are you being taught and who is teaching you. More likely than not, you’ll be learning in a local operation from someone who has come up in the business one step at a time and just knows his/her way of doing it. In some cases, there may be a few company procedures to help in daily operations, but the reality is: you will learn someone’s current knowledge, not necessarily the best or only way, but someone’s way. Not to mention, your hoped-for mentor has little or no time to train, viewing you as somewhat of a burden.

Why care? Further, should you care if your place of employment is doing great? In short: YES. Definitely, you should care a lot. Most operators of individual restaurants, local hotels and small business groups do not know how to operate with maximum efficiency. They don’t know all of the small things that can make a giant difference between marginal and profitable — not to mention, they aren’t necessarily aware of the newest technology and key industry issues. Many managers in small hotels and food businesses have a singular approach. In fact, often these people don’t know what they don’t know.

Learning the right way as well as alternate ways to operate is vitally important to succeed in businesses that at best are competitive and at worst, complicated, multifaceted, but seemingly easy.

Here’s another secret. Learning how to cook and how a kitchen works is a valuable asset, but knowing how to run the full business with all its operational controls, labor issues, purchasing systems, financial aspects, new technologies, marketing and social media opportunities, etc. will be a major advantage when compared to your competitor who began as a restaurant prep cook or hotel desk clerk and worked upward for years in an environment with limited exposure. In the end, to be a success, whether as a business owner or a senior manager/chef for someone else, making a profit will be the key. Several well-known guest chefs who recently visited ICE told our classes that they wished they knew more of the business side when they started out.

So, are culinary and hospitality programs the answer? In many cases, the answer is yes. It’s an opportunity to learn the best approaches from experienced pros whose only job is to teach. Plus, a school provides a network of contacts and expertise you can call on long after you leave. It’s like having a personal group of mentors who will be there to give advice and shadow you as long as needed.

Is school always the answer? Not for everyone. It’s not inexpensive. Personal financial situations may make it challenging as an option. And, there is the question, “Why should I spend thousands on an education when I will be earning a small salary after graduation?” The answer is: if you view the education as your entry for a job, that’s not why you enroll. You go to school for a career not just a job. The first job isn’t the end game. It’s a valuable step on the ladder.

Now, you might be thinking: he’s an educator. Of course he thinks school is a great route. Yes, that’s true, but I’m also a former owner/operator of multiple food businesses and have consulted and mentored many others. I’ve learned through experience how many opportunities are squandered by surprisingly well-known businesses. In many of these situations, just a bit more knowledge could make things better.

Whether you choose formal education, practical experience or a combination of both, there is no assurance you will succeed. There are many other factors that influence success, and not everyone’s goals are the same. Hopefully with your learned ability and knowledge, the first job will be a quick step. What is learned in formal education should make that rocky road smoother and your speed faster to get to where you want to go.

Interested in learning more about ICE’s Restaurant & Culinary Management program? Click here for more information.

By Kelly Newsome —Student, Culinary Arts, ‘17

I come from a long line of salt lovers. My mother loves telling the story of my grandfather, who during peak tomato season, would arrive at our house, grab a salt shaker and head out to the garden to stalk his prey. He would sit on a log and enjoy the sweet reward of summer: a juicy, ripe tomato, every bite sprinkled with a little salt. My father has shocked friends and guests by salting any melon that crossed his path, a skill acquired from his parents and grandparents while growing up in southern Virginia. To say that I come by my appreciation of salt honestly would be an understatement. We are and will always be a salt-loving family. As a culinary student, I was surprised to hear my instructor tell me, “Very good, but it needs a little more salt.” Is he talking to me, the queen of salt? Apparently, chefs love salt too, but that love is born from an understanding that salt can transform just about any food from alright to irresistible.

Kelly Newsome

“Teaching salt is incredibly difficult and it is the most important thing that you will get out of culinary school,” says my current instructor, Chef Charles Granquist, an ICE alum who has worked at Savoy, Blue Hill and Food Network. Chef Charles’ reliable instruction of, “needs a little more salt” spurred me to dig a bit deeper into teaching and learning about salt. Why is it so difficult? I wondered. According to Chef Charles, “For the first few modules, students straight don’t believe you. You just have to tell them over and over again: more salt.” Starting with disbelief does seem like a steep hill to climb. Even my historically salty palate was tested by his demand for more salt.

Chef Lorrie Reynoso, my instructor for Module One, uses a gradual approach to teach new culinary students about the transformative power of salt. Says Chef Lorrie, “To teach how beneficial salt is to cooking and flavor, I usually make students taste something unsalted, graduating to slightly salted, and at the end graduating to a full and satisfactory flavor level with more salt and whatever seasonings are required — usually pepper, herbs or spices.” We did this with salsa on our second day of class and many times thereafter with other dishes. Every single time, it was as if I was experiencing that innate salty power for the first time. “Wow,” I thought, “salt is magic.”

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Kelly’s salt collection

The great thing about being a student is that you have ample opportunities to screw up. And it’s from this freedom to fail that the learning really sinks in. When it comes to salt and developing your palate, taking your salt a bit too far may be the best mistake you can make. Chef Charles believes this is the salty tipping point. “At first, students may salt too much and that is a crucial moment. That is when they taste what it’s like to truly over season and they can start to back off.”

Salt is justly revered and cherished by cooks across the globe. Depending on the cuisine, it takes a variety of forms, from the ubiquitous soy sauce and fish sauce used in many Asian cultures to the salt-cured pork from Italy or the American South. Chef Lorrie points out that salt has been so important in history, that even the word “salary” is derived from salt. “During the Roman Empire, salt was not only used to pay salaries, but for rent, ransom, dowry and more. Even then, people knew that salt just added flavor to practically anything edible.” Salt was also crucial to food preservation, an essential technique used by humankind for thousands of years before refrigeration. Think about that the next time you enjoy a luscious piece of salty, savory, porky, aged prosciutto.

To my great surprise, my love and appreciation for salt continues to evolve and deepen every time I step in the kitchen for a new lesson. As soon as I hear, “Pull out the rib-eyes” I start thinking, “Let’s get those babies salted and on the fire.” There really is nothing like a perfectly cooked and seasoned piece of beef — it’s what dreams are made of. No matter what you’re cooking, be it bread, blanched vegetables, grilled fruit, hollandaise sauce or ice cream, it will always be better with just a little bit more salt.

Want to learn to salt, season and cook like a pro? Click here for more information on ICE’s career programs.

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.