By Shannon Mason 

It’s always a privilege when we can invite our alumni back to ICE to share their professional expertise with our students, including those in recreational cooking classes. Recently we welcomed back Ivy Stark, a 1995 graduate of ICE’s Culinary Arts program, and currently the Corporate Executive Chef of Dos Caminos, a critically-acclaimed restaurant with several locations in New York City as well as New Jersey and Florida.

ICE - Recreational Classes - Dos Caminos Ivy Stark Tacos

Chef Ivy Stark (right) with fellow ICE alum Jackie Ourman (Culinary Arts ’13).

The restaurant thrives on her creative vision, featuring a menu of Mexican cuisine with a modern twist. Far from your typical plates of rice and beans, it is an elegant take on this popular cuisine. Needless to say, ICE is always looking to feature the most innovative chefs, and there are few better suited than Ivy to share a fresh take on the classic taco.

Ivy’s class focused on three dishes from her recently-published cookbook, Dos Caminos Tacos: 100 Recipes for Everyone’s Favorite Mexican Street Food. She led us through the preparation of a three-course menu featuring a Watercress, Jicama and Orange Salad; Baja-style Mahi Mahi Tacos with Citrus-Cucumber Relish; and Prickly Pear Tres Leches.

What I love best about Mexican cuisine is the fresh combination of cilantro, fresh citrus, and jalapeño, and Ivy showed us how to maximize the flavors of all our ingredients. For example, she showed me how to supreme an orange—slicing in-between the membrane so the wedges separate from the bitter white ends. This allows the citrus juices to escape from the segments, providing extra moisture, flavor, and even color to dishes like the Watercress, Jicama and Orange Salad we prepared.

ICE - Recreational Classes - Dos Caminos Ivy Stark Tacos

Ivy demonstrates how to supreme an orange.

In addition to providing tips to bring out the most flavor from our ingredients, Ivy also showed us a number of clever time-saving techniques. One of the most useful we learned that night involved my favorite herb: cilantro. I used to dread any recipe that called for whole cilantro leaves, as picking off each leaf one by one is such a tedious task. From Ivy, I learned to position my knife at an angle close to the cutting board to shave the cilantro leaves from the stems in one easy motion, making this task a quick and painless step in my mise en place.

ICE - Recreational Classes - Dos Caminos Ivy Stark Tacos

My favorite trick of the night was the way Ivy de-seeded the jalapeños. Have you ever handled a jalapeño and, even after washing your hands, still found that the burning sensation made its way to your eyes? Fans of coconut oil—add one more awesome tip to your list: after cutting the jalapeños or chiles, rub some coconut oil on your hands and then wash your hands with soap and water. The compound responsible for the burning feeling, called capsaicin, is oil-soluble and loosens from your pores when coconut oil is massaged into your skin. Don’t have coconut oil? Running your hands through your hair—where natural oil is always readily available—produces a similar effect.

When it came time to eat, the main event was Ivy’s Baja-style Mahi Mahi Tacos. But what does “Baja-style” mean? Compared to preparing tacos the way most Americans are used to—Tex-Mex-style, which smothers dishes in greasy melted cheese and heavy spices—Ivy’s tacos were all about light and fresh flavors from a variety of citrus juices, fresh herbs, and the natural heat of chiles and jalapeños. Even the texture was a game-changer, from the crispy beer-battered filets to a crunchy relish made with cucumbers, white cabbage, red onions, and more. However, those who missed the comforting Tex-Mex creaminess of sour cream or cheese found salvation in the chipotle aioli we prepared from scratch. With mayo, dill, garlic, lime, and chipotle purée, just a drizzle of this spicy and creamy red sauce is all you need.

ICE - Recipe - Dos Caminos Ivy Stark Tacos

A fresh take on the beloved and traditional tres leches was the perfect end to our meal. While one of my favorite desserts, its cream-white color does not do its flavors any justice—Ivy’s recipe for Prickly Pear Tres Leches changes all that. Not only was the prickly pear purée a creative addition, it gave the dessert an attractive boost of color as well as an appealing, fruitier flavor.

So now it’s your turn to dive into Ivy’s modern Mexican dishes: we’re sharing her recipe for those delicious Baja-style tacos below, so test them out for yourself!

ICE - Recreational Classes - Dos Caminos Ivy Stark Tacos

Baja-Style Mahi Mahi Tacos with Chipotle Aioli

Yield: Serves 4

Mahi Mahi Tacos

  • 8 (3-ounce) mahi mahi fillets (cod or pollock may be substituted)
  • oil for frying
  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ cup cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup ice-cold Mexican beer, such as Tecate
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 8 (6-inch) corn tortillas
  • 4 limes, quartered
  1. Preheat a fryer or a deep pot, filled halfway with oil, to 375º F.
  2. Sift together dry ingredients, then whisk in the beer.
  3. Sprinkle the pieces of mahi mahi with the salt, then dip into prepared batter.
  4. Deep-fry for about 3 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through.
  5. Quickly warm the tortillas. Place one piece of mahi mahi on each tortilla, garnish with a little of the cucumber-citrus relish, and drizzle each taco with a tablespoon of the chipotle aioli hot sauce (recipe below).
  6. Fold the tortillas in half. Place two tacos on each plate and serve warm with lime quarters.

Chipotle Aioli

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons dill, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons chipotle puree
  1. Purée in a blender until smooth. Adjust seasoning to taste.


Want to learn more secrets of the pros? Check out ICE’s recreational classes.

Inspired by Ivy’s recipes? Learn more about our culinary arts program.

Yesterday, 20 high school students from across New York City gathered at ICE for a competition for scholarships to attend culinary school. The two-hour challenge was part of Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP), a program teaching high school students the skills they need for a career in the culinary industry. ICE President Rick Smilow was a long-standing member of the program’s board of directors.

Within a two-hour time limit, each competitor prepared, from memory, a two-course French meal —Hunter’s Chicken with Turned, Sautéed Potatoes and Crepes with Pastry Cream and Chocolate Sauce. The students presented plates of each dish to the judges including ICE Director of Culinary Arts Mike Handal, author and TV personality Sara Moulton, Executive Sous Chef David Chavez of Bouchon Bakery, Executive Chef Matt Hoyle of Nobu 57, Chef Kevin Lasko of Park Avenue Winter, C-CAP Founder and Chairman Richard Grausman and C-CAP President Susan Robbins. More…

Last night The Committee for Hispanic Children and Families (CHCF) held A Slice of Latin America, their twelfth annual gala. CHCF provides programs and services such as childcare and education for Latino children and their families. The gala is a great party with lots of food, drink and music from some amazing local chefs.

As part of their programs, CHCF also encourages careers through the culinary arts for Latino high school students. Last month, they held their annual Latin Legacy Culinary Competition at ICE and after a cook-off between three very talented high school students, awarded a $15,000 partial ICE scholarship to Katherine Cruz. ICE Director of Student Affairs Andy Gold, who was one of the Gala’s Co-Chairs, presented her with the award last night during the gala. More…

This week, one of ICE’s many star alums returned to give a demonstrations for career training students. Ivy Stark graduated from ICE’s Culinary Arts program in 1995, and has often returned to ICE to help current culinary students. At yesterday’s demo she demonstrated how to make a variety of Mexican sauces from her vast repertoire.

Stark is the New York corporate executive chef of Dos Caminos, the acclaimed Mexican restaurant with four locations in the city, a position she obtained after being the executive chef of Dos Caminos Park. Her passion for international cuisines has led her to hold key posts in restaurants from New York to Los Angeles. She has worked as executive sous-chef and executive chef in the kitchens of Match Uptown, Cena and at Rosa Mexicano. More…

Last night, four ICE students competed in the Chefs of Grey Poupon Student Competition. ICE students have won the competition for the last two years consecutively, winning culinary scholarships to further their education. This year, the students were challenged to create a “health-inspired fish dish” using Grey Poupon mustard.

At the semifinals in March, six ICE students competed for the chance to advance to the next round. Marc Giroux’s Grilled Dijon-Glazed Striped Bass with Asparagus and Spring Vegetables; Brandon James’s Spice Encrusted Swordfish Loin with Fennel-Citrus Salad, Sautéed Greens and Warm Dijon Sauce; Maridania Collado’s Country Mustard Glazed Chilean Sea Bass with Soy-Dijon Baby Bok Choy, Cockles and Spicy Lemon-Dijon Rice Noodles in Dijon-Miso Broth; and Richard Chan’s Smoked Mustard-Glazed Salmon with Roasted Cauliflower, Roasted Beets and Pea Purée were selected as the finalists. The students cooked during afternoon to prepare their judges for the esteemed panel of judges. Each student prepared five plates of their dish during their allotted time and then presented the dishes to the judges and answered questions about their experience creating the dish and using Grey Poupon. More…

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