By Carly DeFilippo

As a young ICE graduate, Sabrina Sexton launched her career in two innovative kitchens whose exceptional food and casual bistro style would forever change New York City’s downtown dining scene: Chanterelle and Gramercy Tavern. Today, she has returned to ICE as our lead Culinary Arts instructor, training the next generation of game-changing chefs.

Sabrina header

While finishing her pre-med program at Johns Hopkins University, Sabrina realized she was more anxious about becoming a doctor than passing her MCATs. Deep down, she knew it was time to trade in her lab coat for, well, another white coat—an ICE chef’s jacket.

As part of her Culinary Arts program at ICE, Sabrina externed at Chanterelle, a groundbreaking fine dining establishment in Manhattan’s then undeveloped downtown. The restaurant’s SoHo kitchen proved to be the perfect training ground for the young cook. Sabrina describes Executive Chef David Waltuck as the kind of leader who was truly happiest behind the stove and exceptionally “thoughtful about the ‘why’ of cooking.” Under Waltuck’s wing, Sabrina learned to carefully consider flavor pairings and the way different techniques would change the expression of flavor in a dish.

After three years at Chanterelle, Sabrina continued her ascent through New York City’s most iconic kitchens at Danny Meyer’s now legendary Gramercy Tavern. Despite her culinary background, Sabrina entered into the world of Gramercy through fellow ICE graduate Claudia Fleming’s pastry kitchen. Like Waltuck, Fleming was a master of flavor, and Sabrina learned to produce expertly plated desserts in a high-volume setting, while still crafting every component from scratch.

While she greatly valued the time spent on Fleming’s pastry team, Sabrina realized she missed the improvisation of savory cooking. Under Executive Chef Tom Colicchio (of Top Chef fame), she worked her way up Gramercy’s line of all-star cooks and, three years later, was thrust into the spotlight as Tavern Chef. Overseeing the restaurant’s namesake no-reservations, casual dining space, Sabrina’s days revolved around a wood-fired stove—the centerpiece of the Tavern’s cooking style—stoking the literal and creative fire of the restaurant’s menu for nearly four years.

Sabrina Email Footer

Where do you go after working at the likes of Chanterelle or Gramercy Tavern? It’s a challenging question for any chef at the top of her game. At Gramercy, in addition to running the Tavern area, Sabrina had been charged with the curation of the restaurant’s cheese selection and briefly considered becoming an affineur. But she was soon recruited to oversee the culinary operations for ABC Network, including executive dining, green rooms and corporate dining—serving 800-1,000 employees on a daily basis.

At ABC, Sabrina gained instrumental experience in the training, supervision and management of a large, diverse staff. In essence, 65% of her job was teaching, so when she reconnected with ICE faculty at the school’s annual alumni party, it was no surprise that they eagerly responded to her interest in becoming one of the school’s culinary instructors.

The rest is, as they say, history. Fifteen years later, Sabrina is now the lead culinary arts instructor at ICE, yet her tenure has made her anything but complacent. One of her favorite aspects of teaching is the opportunity to constantly experiment and try new things in the kitchen—a quality mirrored in the many students she has mentored, from co-author of Modernist Cuisine Maxime Bilet to James Beard Award-winner Allison Vines-Rushing.

Want to study with Chef Sabrina? Click here to schedule a personal tour of the school.

By H. Asuncion, Understanding Wine Student

After drinking 80 glasses of wine I’ve come to this conclusion: wine goes with everything, even burgers. Yes…burgers.

wellesley wine press

Photo Credit: Wellesley Wine Press

The revelatory burger and wine pairing was Frog’s Leap’s Shack Red, a blend expressly designed to pair with the Shake Shack “Shackburger,” and was just one of the many surprises I experienced during ICE’s groundbreaking new wine course, Understanding Wine. This 10-session program, developed in partnership with Union Square Hospitality Group, focuses on getting to know your individual palate, learning to respect the diversity of wine and taking the risk of trusting yourself and your own taste.

Each Tuesday evening we were supplied with a bottomless barrel of expertise and knowledge, overseen by John Ragan, master sommelier and wine director at USHG. Over the course of 10 weeks, John was our seasoned guide on a tasting tour of the world’s major wine regions (an overview of the full 10-week curriculum is available here).

We explored “old world” wines, including the Burgundy and Bordeaux regions of France, including a vintage 1988 French Bordeaux by Château Doisy-Védrines. From there we tasted newer styles of production Spain and Portugal, as well as various sparkling varietals. One evening, our glasses jetted to California to explore its famous Zinfandels. On another, we learned to challenge our perceptions of Riesling (heads up—not all of them are sweet).

“One of the biggest takeaways from the class is developing an open mindedness,” said Ryan Fissell, an Understanding Wine alumnus who works in the technology industry, “[Before the class] I wouldn’t look at [wines from] Spain or Portugal—I was so California-centric. This class has taken away that fear—I now know what I like and what I don’t like. I’m so much more objective.”

Rec Wine Essentials-034

To that point, the course’s expert dialogue never came from one single perspective. Each week, John shared the floor with a fellow wine industry leader—be it ICE’s own Wine Program Director, Richard Vayda; Jeff Kellogg, wine director at Maialino; Mia van de Water, wine director at North End Grill; Christopher Tracy, winemaker and partner at Channing Daughters Winery and even CEO and founder of USHG, Danny Meyer, who stopped by one evening to tell his wine story, one that starts with his father bringing his travel business home—to the family’s St. Louis, Missouri, dinner table—in the form of an exotic bottle of wine. These personal perspectives were enlightening, offering multiple starting points and various paths by which to discover the nuance of our own palates.

Legendary NYC restaurateur Danny Meyer pays a visit to Understanding Wine students.

Legendary NYC restaurateur Danny Meyer pays a visit to Understanding Wine students.

What’s more, the class seamlessly blends work and play. By lesson two, student Rachel Spring summed it up with a new catchphrase: “Tuesday is the new Friday.” In truth, learning about wine under Ragan’s guidance felt more like an evening out than a traditional class. One evening, the staff of Blue Smoke stopped by with pulled pork sandwiches. On another occasion, Maialino’s Executive Chef Nick Anderer supplied paninis to pair with Italian wine. “When you break it down by the hour,” says class graduate and banker Susan Ellis, “this has been one the most affordable things I’ve done in New York.”

wine pairings

For our final class, we explored the power of pairings with the help of an eight-course tasting menu prepared by ICE Chef Instructor Sabrina Sexton. Alongside Sexton’s elegant dishes, Ragan served wines that represented different pairing strategies: matching color with color (red meat with a red wine), amplifying flavors (spicy Zinfandel with spicy barbecue), balancing strong tastes (port with Stilton cheese) or selecting complementary textures (a creamy Verdicchio with oysters).

Yet our final takeaway was far from exact science: “What do you like?” It was a wisdom that too many novice wine drinkers take for granted; the perfect wine, in every situation, is one that makes you happy.

Summer Wines Recommended by Understanding Wine Students

legras and haas2010 Legras & Haas Rosé Champagne

Tart, crisp and effervescent, this bubbly rosé was an overwhelming favorite by many in the class. With a strong aroma of red fruits on the palate, it’s the perfect pick for a dinner party, pairing well with dishes that feature the flavors of strawberries, cherries, currants and raspberries.

Grapes: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier

Producer: Legras & Haas

 

vouvray2006 Philippe Foreau Vouvray

This dry white impressed students and, like the rosé, was mentioned as a favorite by many. Full of orchard and stone fruits with some citrus and almost tropical elements, it has a notable minerality and well-balanced acidity. Pour this in your glass when you need something to cut through a dairy-heavy summer dish.

Grape: Chenin Blanc

Producer: Philippe Foreau

 

verdicchio2011 Sartarelli Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Tralivio

This wine is bright and light, with orchard and citrus notes on the nose and some herbal and strawberry flavor elements. A slight prick of acid and creamy texture makes it an ideal bottle to enjoy with oysters.

Grape: Verdicchio

Producer: Sartarelli

 

For more innovative beverage courses at ICE, click here.

By Stephanie Fraiman

This week, more than 200 members of the New York community came together to support STREETS International, a Hoi An, Vietnam-based nonprofit organization that trains underprivileged young men and women to succeed in their region’s growing 5-star hospitality industry.

ICE - Events - STREETS International Benefit

Chef Anita Lo of Annisa poses between ICE President Rick Smilow and an ICE student Volunteer at the STREETS International 7th Annual Benefit Wednesday night, at the Astor Center in NYC.

STREETS was founded by Dr. Neal Bermas (a former ICE Culinary Management instructor) and his partner Sondra Stewart in 2007. Now in its seventh year of success, their 18-month training program for disadvantaged Vietnamese youth is hosted at four locations in Hoi An: The STREETS Restaurant and Cafe, a training center and two single-sex dorm houses. Among its most notable accolades,  STREETS was inducted into the Clinton Global Initiative in 2014.

 

ICE - Events - STREETS International Benefit

Video presentation at the benefit. Photo courtesy of Joe Wehner

This year, STREETS hosted its annual benefit event at the Astor Center in New York City. ICE students cooked alongside such esteemed chefs as Daniel Boulud and Anita Lo, preparing Southeast Asian-inspired street food for the event.

ICE - Events - STREETS International Benefit

Chef Daniel Boulud, Neal Bermas (STREETS International Founder), Mark Maynard-Parisi (Senior Managing Partner at Blue Smoke Enterprises), and Danny Meyer. Photo courtesy of Joe Wehner.

ICE - Events - STREETS International Benefit

Chefs from restaurants around the city join STREETS International founder Neal Bermas. Photo courtesy of Joe Wehner

Among the wide range of celebrated New York restaurants participating in the event were The Meatball Shop, Pok Pok, Toro, Annisa, DBGB, Blue Smoke, Pearl and Ash, Umi Nom/Kuma Inn, Num Pang, Le Colonial and Ai Fiori. Guests toasted the evening with specialty cocktails crafted by top mixologists from The Wren.

ICE - Events - STREETS International Benefit

ICE - Events - STREETS International Benefit

ICE - Events - STREETS International Benefit

ICE - Events - STREETS International Benefit

From left: Leslie McEachern (owner, Angelica Kitchen), Stephen Zagor (Dean, ICE School of Business & Management Studies, and Marion Nestlé (Paulette Goddard Professor, Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, & Public Health, New York University).

ICE - Events - STREETS International Benefit

ICE - Events - STREETS International Benefit

ICE - Events - STREETS International Benefit

Thanks to the help of STREETS’ many benefactors the event was a roaring success. It costs $1,800 for one student to complete the training program, and the benefit raised more than $100,000 for the organization. To learn more about STREETS and how you can contribute to their mission, click here.

ICE - Events - STREETS International Benefit

ICE was proud to be a part of the benefit, which raised over $100,000 for the charity organization on Wednesday night.

 

By Carly DeFilippo

This spring, ICE will launch Understanding Wine, a groundbreaking 10-week program with Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group. As one of the nation’s top restaurant groups, USHG’s innovative wine program has long been recognized among the industry’s best. This exclusive training – until now, only available to USHG staff – is the first public course of its kind in NYC. Courses will be led by Master Sommelier and James Beard Award winner John Ragan and a range of guest experts.

The first session kicks off on March 25 at 6:30pm. To register, click here or call (888) 957-CHEF.

ICE alum Anna Monaco is now the General Manager of the recently opened Shake Shack New Haven. ICE President, Rick Smilow stopped by the restaurant on opening night to enjoy a burger and is pictured above with Anna and Shake Shack founder, Danny Meyer. Below is an interview with Anna on her new exciting role and how she got there.

What was your biggest take away after attending Peter Kump New York School of Cooking (now ICE)?
If you love what you’re doing, the people around you will love what you’re doing too.  I have friends from my culinary arts program class who I still see and we have ‘clean out the fridge’ parties.  We use everything we can find in someone’s fridge and make the most insane meal out of it (brussel sprouts with pancetta, guacamole with cucumbers, onion soup, manicotti and orange glazed chicken – and that’s just the appetizers!).  Cooking and eating is such a communal event that brings people together, how could you not love what you’re doing!  Chef Einav Geffen was my instructor for both the first and last section of the culinary arts program.  She saw us as green, newbies learning fabrication of fish and beef and then saw us as graduates who could cater their own cocktail party for graduation.  She had such passion in everything she did and it was so inspiring to see.  She pushed us beyond our limits and I know that my whole graduating class would agree that we are better people for having met her and had the privilege of being taught by her.

From my management course, Neal Bermas taught me that doing something simple well is always better than doing something complicated poorly.  From opening bars to steak houses and everything in between, we looked at restaurant after restaurant and discussed menus, marketing strategies, budgets and so much more and found every time that those who fail in this industry are not able to bring things back to basics.  I still think about opening my own restaurant someday and know that if I do, Neal’s voice will be in my head questioning each decision I make and pushing it to be the best restaurant in its field.

Why did you go to culinary school?
I went to culinary school because food fascinates me.  I still remember the first food book I ever read.  It was a book about olive oils from around the world that I found at my grandparents’ house and I asked to borrow it.  Learning about food, where it comes from and how different cultures eat and incorporate it into their daily lives is incredibly interesting to me.  I still have that olive oil book!

How did you make your way to GM at Shake Shack?
4 years ago – actually 4 years ago to the day 9.30.08! I went into the Upper West Side Shake Shack location on a rainy morning in response to a Craig’s List ad (at the time, it was more of a construction zone than a restaurant).  I was interviewed by 2 of the managers there and was hired on the spot for a line cook position.  I worked my way to supervisor quickly and was then approached about managing the first non-conventional Shake Shack at Citi Field the following spring.  I happily accepted!  I spent the following 81 home games traveling to Flushing for double headers in August, subway series madness and too many team rivalry fights to count.  From there I helped open another 6 restaurants before moving to New Haven to open the Westport location as AGM.  Serendipitously, they decided to open a location 4 blocks from my apartment and I pounced on the opportunity!  I have been fortunate enough to find a job (and career) where I respect the people around me and they respect me.  It is such mutual love!

What sets Shake Shack apart from other burger hot spots?
I have listened to Danny Meyer give talks about this company so many times and it really comes down to the way we make people feel.  Other burger hot spots are using great products just like Shake Shack.  Some of them even get their burger blend from the same butcher almost every Shake Shack gets their blend from.  The products are high quality and we really care about them – but so does everyone these days.  We believe that we are providing a full experience, not just the delicious food (which believe me, is amazing!).  How many times have you gone into a fast casual restaurant and came out talking more about the people who took your order and gave you your food than about the actual food you ate?  How many times have you come away talking about the cool atmosphere and design of the place?  Few other internationally known restaurant groups have that ability.  We have the unique benefit of being born out of a fine dining mother company and take that to heart in every guest interaction we have.

What is your best advice for those interested in the food scene?
Be sure you are really committed.  I have found that people in this industry work hard and play hard and for some, it becomes more of a job and less of a passion.  You will work weekends.  You will work holidays.  You will work hours that make you weak in the knees…literally.  But, there is NOTHING better than seeing a child take their first bite of a burger you cooked and watching in excitement as they devour the rest of it.  There is nothing better than being the place where a guest wants to bring in his former college a cappella group to serenade his girlfriend for her birthday.  We are a part of people’s happiest memories; their anniversary dinners, their birthday parties, their first dates and it is such an honor to be invited into people’s lives like that.  The smiles on our guests’ faces melt away the problems of the day, the crazy schedules and make every second of that hard work worth it.

What is your favorite thing on Shake Shack’s menu?
Here in New Haven, we actually have a special menu item that no other Shake Shack has permanently; the Handsome Dog.  In tribute to Yale’s mascot, Handsome Dan, we took our all beef hot dog and griddled it crisp, just like the rest of our hot dogs, and topped it with our Shake Shack cheese sauce and crispy fried shallots.  I mean, could there be anything better than that??!!

ICE’s Culinary Management Instructors are seasoned industry professionals who are still active in the industry, working on their own projects while teaching classes at ICE. With such a wide range of experience between them, we decided to ask Julia Heyer and Vin McCann to take a closer look at the business of running a restaurant and sound off on some of the hottest topics in the restaurant world. Today, they look at the recent New York Times review of the ever-popular Shake Shack and try to get to the bottom of what it is that has people lined up around the block for a burger and fries.

Vin McCann
Recently Pete Wells, the Times food critic, spanked Danny Meyers for Shake Shack’s, Meyer’s growing burger chain, operational inconsistency. The piece was both striking and instructive for a number of reasons. First, it raised the question of if Mr. Wells’ interest in a burger chain signals a new field on the Times’ radar screen.  Can we look forward to future reviews of Chipotle and Red Mango? Or was this a one-time scold of a high profile industry operator for not imparting the rigorous standards of his fine dining establishments to his lower priced concept?

In another vein, the piece raised a number of salient business points. The concept of having multiple units on the lower end of the industry’s price spectrum thrive on diligent brand development and sound operational systems, both of which are driven by an objective of consistency. From Wells’ perspective Shake Shack turned up wanting in both departments.

The criticism also raises the inevitable dilemma that all restaurant concepts, whether chains or otherwise, must resolve, namely the fusion of the expectations that are raised and the performance that is delivered. In Wells’ eyes, Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG) brand seems to promise more than it delivers on the food portion of the experience, but manages even in his critical eye to provide the memorable signature of Meyer’s hospitality. This raises the question — can hospitality carry a burger chain? More…

Hurricane Irene may have been a bust for me, but its impact on the food industry wasn’t. For me, Friday was spent trying to prepare for the worst — from talking with others to try to figure out whether to close and what time to close, to figuring out what will happen on Monday if the power goes down over the weekend. We closely tuned into the news and weather reports to figure out when the storm was going to hit and employees were asked about how the closing of the MTA would affect their ability to get to work. I stayed later than usual at Smith Canteen on Friday in order to prepare for a shorter day on Saturday and got in earlier the next morning. I was in and out in just a few short hours and worried for the next two days about what would happen if the freezer broke. When I polled my other food friends, I learned that some volunteered to stay overnight in hotels in order to make sure the hotel guests were able to order room service during the storm. Many worried about how they would be able to get to work in time for their early morning shift if the subways were still down. I heard stories about how despite the early morning chaos and the great sales in the beginning of the day on Saturday did not make up for the loss in sales for Saturday night dinner and Sunday brunch. The truth is, even though everyone has to eat, the food industry is very much impacted by what goes on outside.

Before the madness of the storm, we met with Chef Ted to get a chef’s perspective on food costs in early August. He broke down beef and fish in order to give us a visual perspective of what types of portions come out of them and we used those portions to calculate food cost. It was fascinating watching him break down parts of beef to get a sense of what comes out of each section, but even more so to see how much gets trimmed away and how to use those trimmings so they’re not a loss. Finally, I understood why a steak is so expensive. More…

ICE Senior Career Services Advisor Amy Quazza and Director of Career Services Maureen Drum Fagin with Outstanding Chef Award Winner José Andrés

As we welcome spring, food lovers and passionate diners everywhere look forward to the annual James Beard Awards. Celebrated close to the anniversary of James Beard’s birthday in May, the awards are given to the best chefs, restaurants and media in the country. ICE founder Peter Kump helped launch the James Beard Foundation and ICE is proud to maintain close ties to the organization and their hard work to promote and celebrate food in America. The Awards are regarded as the most prestigious awards in the culinary industry, often referred to as the “Oscars” of food.

This year, the awards ceremonies and festivities were spread over the entire weekend as the food world gathered in NYC for a celebration of all things culinary. On Friday night, the foundation held their Book, Broadcast & Journalism Awards, hosted by Ted Allen of Food Network’s Chopped and ICE alum Gail Simmons of Bravo’s Top Chef. In fact, Top Chef, took home the award for best Television Show, In Studio or Fixed Location. ICE alums Dominique Andrews and Marie Ostrosky were also nominated for the second year in a row in the Television Special category. More…

On one of their many field trips to a wide variety of food businesses, a group of ICE Culinary Management students went to Blue Smoke, Danny Meyer’s barbeque joint, last week.

It was an interesting comparison to their trip to Shake Shack — another gem in Danny Meyer’s empire. While entirely different restaurants, both Shake Shack and Blue Smoke are centered on the same principles of hospitality, customer service and quality food that have brought Meyer such success. One of the ICE students in the class, Maria Sideris, said, “To me, he is definitely a genius, and not just because he makes money, but because the people we’ve met that work for him are just so inspired by him.” More…