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 Kelly Newsome — Student, School of Culinary Arts

cobb salad

An entire class on salad, seriously? That was the topic of conversation one Tuesday evening in the women’s locker room at ICE. We hemmed and hawed, convinced that there was nothing to learn about salads that we didn’t already know. Salads, at least in the American culinary tradition, have been relegated to the depths of diet food, a punishment rather than a pleasure. But, as I would soon learn, salads can be unabashedly delicious, and the classics are classics for a reason — when executed correctly, they are irresistible. My assignment that Tuesday night was Cobb salad — a classic American recipe that gave me a newfound respect for the humble art of salad creation.

I always thought that Cobb salad was named after the famous baseball player, Ty Cobb. Not true. The Cobb salad was born in the wee hours of a Hollywood, California, morning in 1937 at the Brown Derby restaurant. The owner, Bob Cobb, was ruffling through the kitchen’s refrigerator, pulling out various remnants including lettuce, hard-boiled eggs, cheese, tomatoes, chives and avocado. Smelling bacon being cooked nearby, he grabbed a few slices to add to his dish. Bob tossed the ingredients together and shared the outcome with his friend Sid Grauman (of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre fame). Mr. Grauman was so impressed that he asked for a “Cobb salad” at the restaurant the very next day, and a classic was born. The legend seems familiar to the story of the famous chicken wings of Buffalo. Perhaps the common thread is American ingenuity and resourcefulness on a plate?

cobb salad

A really great Cobb salad is not only a thing of beauty but an absolute pleasure to eat. Each bite brings a symphony of flavors and textures — the crispy bacon meets the creamy blue cheese, the crunchy and fresh salad greens mingle with pungent herbs and luscious chicken, the eggs provide a soft and satisfying backdrop, and the piquant vinaigrette delicately envelops each morsel and acts as an essential bridge that transforms the dish from many things to one. Each component, when perfectly cooked and assembled, offers a culinary experience that is far greater in combination than any one ingredient alone. This is the key to understanding the true beauty of a perfectly composed salad. Like any other dish, it’s all about the balance.

So how does one approach the Cobb salad? According Chef Charles Granquist, my instructor for salad night, “execute each ingredient perfectly, dress each component separately and arrange the salad organically — don’t overthink it.” When the night was through and the salads were delightfully devoured, visions of Cobb salad parties danced in my head: the classics I thought, can’t be beat.

cobb salad

Cobb Salad
Yield: makes about 10 servings

Ingredients:

5 chicken breasts, bone-in
Salt as needed
Ground black pepper as needed
20 slices bacon, cooked
1 pound, 4 ounces Romaine lettuce, washed, dried and torn into pieces
8 fluid ounces red wine vinaigrette (recipe below)
10 ounces tomatoes, medium-dice
10 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
3 avocados, peeled, pitted and cut into medium-dice
5 scallions, bias-cut (at a roughly 45-degree angle), thinly sliced

Preparation:

  • Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper, and roast until internal temperature is 165°F. Cool, remove the breasts from the bone, cut into ½” dice.
  • Cook the bacon slices until crisp. Drain on absorbent paper towels and keep warm.

To assemble the salad:

  • For each serving, toss two ounces romaine with two tablespoons of vinaigrette. Mound on a plate, and top with four ounces chicken, 1¼ ounce diced tomato, one ounce blue cheese, two ounces avocado, ¼ ounce green onions and two bacon strips, crumbled.

Red Wine Vinaigrette
Yield: 8 fluid ounces

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon shallots, minced
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 fluid ounces red wine vinegar
6 fluid ounces canola oil
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste

Preparation:

  • In a small bowl, combine the shallot, mustard and vinegar.
  • Add the canola oil gradually, whisking constantly.
  • Add additional flavorings and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Taste and adjust acid/oil balance.

A few tips from the chef in training:

  1. Make sure that your bacon is crispy! If it isn’t, you’ll lose that essential crunchy bite.
  2. Cook the chicken on the bone if possible — this delivers a more succulent and satisfying result.
  3. Make sure that you dress (don’t overdress) and season each component individually. This is the key to creating a cohesive and balanced dish.
  4. Use a long, oval platter rather than a bowl. This creates a more even spread for serving and presentation.

Ready to pursue your passion for culinary arts? Click here to learn about ICE’s culinary, pastry and hospitality programs. 

By Caitlin Raux

Before even graduating from high school, Francesca Kolowrat (Culinary Arts/ Management ’17) was already a champion horse jumper with dozens of achievements under her belt, including an individual ranking of 15th in the European Championships in 2015 and 2016. One of the top young riders from the Czech Republic, Francesca could have easily continued on the same path and led a very successful career in the equestrian world. Instead, she decided to explore her passion for food and nutrition at ICE. “I didn’t want to look back on my life and think that the world offered so many opportunities and I didn’t take them,” she said, speaking with a level of maturity and decisiveness that makes you forget she’s just 18 years old.

Francesca_1

With a dream of one day opening an Australian-inspired café in her hometown of Prague, she came to ICE to get the necessary culinary skills and business acumen before embarking on a four-year degree at the University of Sydney, where she plans to study Nutrition.

With two weeks remaining in her program, we caught up with Francesca to chat about studying culinary arts in NYC and about taking small steps to achieve big goals.

When did you start with show jumping?

I was about 12 when I started doing it seriously. I proceeded until last summer, just before I moved here.

Did you compete internationally?

There were a lot of international competitions — the national cups. I traveled all around Europe — to Italy, Spain, Hungary, Germany, Austria, Ireland. The European Championship was in Ireland last year. I placed 15th twice in a row — first in Austria, then Ireland.

Francesca_2

Why did you decide to come to culinary school?

I needed a career change. I didn’t want to look back on my life and think that the world offered so many opportunities and I didn’t take them. Even though I got to travel with show jumping, I was on the show grounds from morning until night. I didn’t really have time to explore and when there was some free time, I would sleep because I was exhausted from so much exercise.

I wanted to pursue other passions, and I’m very interested in fitness and nutrition. I really wanted to see how the restaurant and hospitality business works so that one day I can combine it with my passion for nutrition — I was accepted to the University of Sydney so I’m going to study nutrition there. This was my gap year, but I didn’t take the year to just travel: I’ve been educating myself in culinary arts and culinary management. That way, when I get a bachelor’s degree, I’ll be ready if I want to form my own business targeting fitness and nutrition. I’m building up these small steps towards my bigger goals.

There are a ton of culinary schools in Europe. Why did you choose to come all the way to NYC?

Because I’ve always loved New York, but I wanted to expand my experience beyond traveling here on holidays, and really get a feel for what it’s like to live in America. When I Googled “best culinary schools,” ICE was the first one to pop up and I said, “This is it.” I stopped my search. I spoke to Ron from Admissions and he told me I could start November 1. I knew it was the right opportunity and if I didn’t take it, I would be upset. It was hard for me to tell my team I was moving. I had people who were relying on me — I had my groomer, who takes care of my horses, and my trainer, who was with me 24/7, and it was difficult to tell them it was finished. But I wanted to try different things and figure out what I was most passionate about.

I knew it was the right opportunity

How was your experience at ICE?

I love the management program and I really like the culinary arts classes. You get to learn about back-of-house and front-of-house. I’m doing my externship now at Ellary’s Greens on Carmine Street in the West Village. It’s owned by Leith Hill and she’s given lectures in the [culinary] management classes about her business. I think that the externship has been the most beneficial part of the [culinary arts] program because you get to experience how it works in a real restaurant, how to deal with people, prepping, being on the line, catering, deliveries. You get to experience how it would be if you worked in the industry. At Ellary’s, they always ask me if I want to try new things, too; for instance, though I’m a culinary arts extern, I’ve been doing pastry work at the restaurant lately, which I discovered I love during the pastry module [at ICE]. Since I’m so into health and nutrition, I love taking the actual recipes and substituting ingredients that are more beneficial for the body. I like getting creative with it. People love sweets, they’re addicted to sugar and they always will be. With me it’s the same. I want to treat my body, but I want to treat it to good things.

Francesca at ICE’s May Commencement Ceremony

What kind of desserts do you like?

I prefer raw desserts made from things like coconut — coconut milk and coconut oil — cashews, or dates.

Next is Sydney! I’ve heard the food culture there is amazing.

Actually, I’m developing my business plan in my Management class and my café is Australian-inspired. Even though I’ve never been to Australia, I’ve learned from social media and what friends have told me about the cafés and breakfast and brunch menus there, and I’ve been so inspired by them: protein slash vegetable-based slash locally sourced products. Avocado toast came from Australia — come on! Even the plating I’ve seen — they use black plates with bright vegetables and it’s almost like a painting.

I also import my chocolate from Australia! It’s called Loving Earth chocolate. Everything natural, there’s no added sugar. They use coconut nectar as a sweetener. I can eat loads of it — literally, like two boxes.

What would you say is your culinary voice?

I want to show people that healthy things can be tasty. When people hear “healthy,” they think of a salad — to be honest, I don’t even like salads. Anything can be tasty, but you don’t always have to add stuff: you don’t have to add sugar to sauces; you don’t have to add roux to sauces to thicken them — you can just blend vegetables and add those instead. I want to give people ideas for changes they can make — even small things — to feel better.

Ready to explore the possibilities of a career in food? Click here for more information on ICE’s career programs. 

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.”

salts

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.

 

The food industry agrees: ICE graduates enter the workplace with an edge. But what exactly is ICE’s recipe for success? We chatted with some of NYC’s top chefs and restaurateurs to find out. Scroll down to watch Marcus Samuelsson, Alex Guarnaschelli, Daniel Boulud, Danny Meyer and more praise ICE in the video below (plus: get a peek inside ICE’s facilities).

ICE’s light, airy facilities overlooking the Hudson River make it a unique and inspirational learning environment. Zac Young, ICE graduate and Pastry Director of Craveable Hospitality Group, said, “It’s completely state-of-the-art. It’s like no other culinary school that I’ve seen, in terms of the technology, the space, the layout…” Indeed, the space affects the energy of the entire ICE community. As Bill Telepan, Executive Chef of Oceana, observed, “You can just see everybody’s walking a little differently and moving a little quicker.”

ICE chef instructors share with students both technical expertise and the type of professional insight that can only be gained through years of experience. Said David Burke, restaurateur behind NYC mainstays like David Burke Kitchen, “The instructors at ICE are chefs that have worked in some of the greatest restaurants in the country, so they’re bringing that homegrown intensity to the students.” Innovators themselves, ICE chef instructors teach students the latest culinary techniques — offering truly forward-looking training. According to Michael White, chef and owner of the Altamarea Group, “There are so many new techniques in the kitchen, whether it’s sous vide cookery or immersion circulators — things that have not always been taught are now being taught at ICE.” Bill Telepan noted, “They’re doing a lot of the new molecular cooking; they’re expanding their horizons beyond the classics… The fusion of cuisines is much more refined than it was 20 years ago and they’re really looking at that.”

The real champions of ICE — who inspire us through their ambition, their curiosity and their tenacity — are the students. Marcus Samuelsson, restaurateur and chef of Harlem’s celebrated Red Rooster, said, “I love working with ICE graduates… They’re very passionate and determined because they very often left another field to come into culinary.” In the same vein, Alex Guarnaschelli, the culinary brains behind Butter and former ICE instructor, said, “When you get people that have life experience on top of starting a new career, then you get those layered and complex people that really enrich the food industry.” And you can be sure: ICE graduates hit the ground running. Said Marc Forgione (of the eponymous restaurant), “New York City is the city that never sleeps. It will chew you up and spit you out if you’re not ready for the pressure. Because they were trained in New York, [ICE graduates] don’t get too star struck when they get into a fast-paced kitchen.”

So when it comes time for hiring, what does the industry think about ICE graduates? As prominent restaurateur Danny Meyer aptly put it, “My sense about alumni of ICE is that they should all work for us instead of only some of them working for us.” The food industry loves working with ICE.

Ready to launch your culinary career with ICE? Click here to learn more about our 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.


By Gabby Guarino,
Student, Culinary Arts ’17 

Gabby is a student in ICE’s Culinary Arts program and our newest student blogger. She’s been cooking since before she was allowed to use the stove — making “soup” by using hot water from the sink to “boil” pasta and then throwing in some spices. Before culinary school, she received a bachelor’s degree in communications and human resources management from Rutgers University. She worked in marketing for a stint before launching her blog, “The Semi-Healthy Foodie,” and in October 2016, she finally decided to pursue her dream of going to culinary school and enrolled at ICE. For her first blog post, she takes us through a daunting pastry lesson: Danish dough. 

GabG_1

Tackling Danish dough was one of the most challenging things I’ve had to take on in culinary school so far. When I think of a Danish, I think of buttery, flaky crust with a cheese or fruit filling. I think of the beautiful layers and the soft, chewy dough. Before culinary school, I casually enjoyed a Danish now and again, not thinking much of it. Now that I know the time and effort that goes into making that perfectly layered dough, I have a new appreciation for pastry chefs (and their Danishes) everywhere. There is a certain technique and process that’s essential to get the dough just right. Have you ever wondered how all of those buttery layers of dough are created? It may seem daunting, but with some time, patience and good instructions, it’s totally possible.

Apple Danish

For starters, Danish dough is considered a laminate dough, which means that there are layers of fat encased in dough and each layer remains separate. The laminate dough process is tedious but so rewarding. Before I explain the process, here are a few key words to know: beurrage, detrempe and paton. The fat component of the dough is called beurrage, the dough component is called the detrempe and the act of making the dough and encasing the fat in dough is called paton. Okay, enough with the fancy words — let’s get to it.

  • First, make a basic dough with yeast, sugar and cinnamon, and let it rest for about an hour.
  • Next, make sure your butter is very cold and cut it into thin blocks. Flour the butter and line up the blocks of butter into a rectangle. Pound them together with a rolling pin until they form a sheet that is about 10-12 inches wide.
  • Roll out the dough into a rectangle about one-third longer than your butter sheet. Place the butter sheet on the dough and fold into thirds like a letter. Roll the dough out, turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat the folding and rolling process. Rotate the dough again and repeat.
  • Next, refrigerate the dough for at least an hour. Remove the dough from the refrigerator, roll it out and cut into 4×4 inch squares.
  • When ready to bake, you can fill Danish dough with different fruits, jams or pastry creams.

Once you break down the steps, the process is quite simple and the result is the flakiest Danish. Those layers of butter and dough create the amazing structure that made the Danish famous. With this pastry lesson, not only did I master Danish dough, I also stepped out of my comfort zone, challenged my inner baker and acquired a new appreciation for Danishes and laminate doughs.

Apple Danish

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By Brooke Bordelon — Student, Culinary Arts ’17

When I first started at ICE nearly six months ago, I could barely contain my excitement at the prospect of everything I would learn in the weeks ahead. From mastering basic knife skills to preparing the perfect Lobster Americain, I was ready to go with guns blazing. However, as I sautéed, roasted and braised my way through modules one through three, I began to feel a creeping sense of unease as our class approached module four: the pastry module.

As many of my culinary-minded classmates could also tell you, baking and cooking are different beasts that require vastly different skills to master. Whereas cooking allows you to throw in a little of this and a pinch of that, baking mandates that you follow the recipe to a T or risk ending up with a disappointing mess. Needless to say, as someone who had always fallen squarely into the cooking camp, I was more than a little wary about the pastry module.

However, six weeks later, with our final pastry exam just around the corner, I am proud to say that not only did this non-baker survive the dreaded pastry module, I even enjoyed it (for the most part). Here are a few critical lessons I’ve learned along the way.

jelly doughnuts

 

1. As much as you want to, resist the urge to get creative with a recipe. 

Unlike cooking, baking is first and foremost a science, so any tinkering with ingredients or measurements can throw off the precise formula of a recipe and ruin your final product. As someone who had grown used to viewing recipes more as guidelines rather than hard and fast rules, this was a lesson I had to learn the hard way. However, with my chef instructor’s urging — “Don’t get creative!”— I learned to stifle that little voice in my head that insisted on improvising and saw a marked improvement in the quality of my work.

2. Weigh out your ingredients for the most consistent results. 

As an ardent eyeballer, weighing out every ingredient seemed incredibly tedious and unnecessary at first — I mean, how much can a few extra teaspoons of butter, flour or eggs really affect a recipe? However, after more flops than I’d like to admit, I realized just how important weighing is to measuring ingredients — cutting corners is out of the question.

While dry measuring cups are easy, they simply can’t provide the accuracy of a scale and can produce inconsistent results. For example, while I plunge a cup measure into flour until it overflows, someone else may carefully spoon the flour into the cup and level it off with a knife. Although technically we both added “a cup” of flour, our final products will be different due to the weight. Once again, this points back to baking as a science. It’s all about precision, precision, precision.

3. Learn to love (and develop) gluten. 

Before starting the pastry module, all I knew about gluten were the evils that my gluten-free friends warned me about. As it turns out, gluten is truly amazing stuff. It’s a strong, sticky protein that forms when wheat flour and water mix, lending baked goods like waffles, pretzels and artisan breads structure and elasticity. However, developing just the right amount of gluten in a recipe is a tricky endeavor.

For example, in order to produce a chewy pizza crust, you want to knead the dough for several minutes to encourage gluten development. When making flaky pastries like pie crusts or biscuits, however, overworking the dough can produce too much gluten development, leaving tough, dense, rubbery results. As a dough-making novice, learning how to develop just the right amount of gluten was a matter of sticking to the recipe and developing a sense for how certain doughs should feel.

4. Using the right tools can make all the difference. 

While cooking, you can usually make do with basic kitchen tools. With just a few good pots and pans, a pair of tongs and a spoon, you can whip up virtually anything. On the other hand, baking requires a more specialized set of tools. I can’t imagine trying to smooth out buttercream frosting on top of a cake without an offset spatula, piping perfect meringue rosettes without a pastry bag or getting tempered chocolate to exactly the right temperature without a thermometer. While relying so heavily on specialty tools was new to me, it taught me the importance of reading recipes in advance so that I know just what baking tools I’ll need.

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By Michael Laiskonis—ICE Creative Director

In the past, I’ve written about the parallels between architecture and pastry. I recently judged a competition where architects were asked to express their favorite iconic buildings in the form of cake. Once again, the topic of architecture and pastry arts came to mind.

I think a lot about architecture and design. It’s a closet interest of mine, though I must admit that my passion is limited to: I don’t know much about architecture, but I know what I like. One of the benefits of urban living is being surrounded by so much of it. I’m fascinated by the juxtaposition of various styles, shapes and sizes — sometimes even more than the individual structures themselves. While the streets of Manhattan may be more chaotic than, say, the carefully planned vistas of Paris, a glance down any street or avenue can be just as awe-inspiring. Without overreaching, there are some great analogies to be made between cooking and architecture. Both are seen as lofty arts and technical crafts. Both provide a vehicle for fashionable trends and practical function. Both reflect their immediate environment and in turn, give that place a sense of unique identity. Occasionally, both incite controversy. As two of the three necessities of life, food and shelter hold the kind of sociological importance that can even spawn whole philosophies.

Flatiron Building

You may think you know where I’m headed with this: Toward a discussion of architectural foods such as the towering desserts of years past — but this is just the surface. Of course, presentation is an important factor in fine dining and these trends come and go. In fact, in recent times our food has slowly retreated to the surface of the plate, often appearing as if randomly scattered, sometimes even ignoring the conventional boundary of the rim. The true “architecture” of a dish, however, is less about looks or visual construction and more about the “architecture of taste”— how blending elements creates a visually appealing framework for flavor and texture.

Contemporary cooks take many factors into consideration – materials, technology, aesthetics and matters of perception. Modern cooking seems to be an intersection of engineering and philosophy. Years ago, I read about the construction of a project in Switzerland that perfectly reflected this discussion: The Blur Building, the goal of which was to create an indeterminate “structure” of water vapor. On the same metaphysical level, a chef friend once pondered how to make food float in mid-air. It’s interesting and important for both disciplines to question themselves. Is a building without walls still a building? Was that dish I ate just dinner or something more?

milk chocolate praline pastry

That said, at the end of the day, food is just food. Though I pay way too much rent, I need a solid room in which to rest. As a sentient being, I ultimately seek comfort and pleasure from both. But as a chef, what concerns me is how the various elements of a dish — taste, texture and temperature — are engineered and arranged to provide the maximum impact. We achieve this through complement (classic flavor pairings, as well as the unconventional) and contrast (sweet and tart, smooth and crunchy, hot and cold, etc.). One caveat I learned early on: No matter how well two or more elements might go together, each must also be able to stand alone. Attention is also given to the structure itself — the form of how we eat and experience a dish. The thought process behind how diners will approach a plate of food mirrors how architects envision how a space will be navigated by its inhabitants.

Cooking from an architectural perspective goes beyond creating a pleasant-looking dish. It helps us refine our approach by thoughtfully layering flavors and textures; using techniques to best express the qualities of our ingredients; considering how the consumer will ultimately experience our final product. Though architecture and food serve practical purposes, constructing with an eye for maximizing experiential enjoyment elevates practical forms to a works of art.

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