By Tessa Thompson, Department of Career Services

If you’re a career student at ICE and haven’t heard the word “trail” yet, you will soon enough! Just like how “86,” “mise en place” and “hot behind!” are all part of the unique and universal kitchen lingo, the concept of the trail is also a defining aspect of the restaurant world.

Imagine going for a job interview that lasts 8-12 hours, where your potential employer poses questions while you casually peel carrots and de-stem thyme. You get a firsthand view of what life on the job would be like…by actually doing the job. In short, it’s unlike any other type of interview.

What Is a Trail - Working Alongside Chef

All ICE students trail as part of their externship selection process but it doesn’t end there. Restaurant professionals continue to trail throughout their careers, from their first job as garde manger to years later, when they’re vying for a Head Chef position.

A trail is a working audition: a chance to show your best work, from knife skills to efficiency in any task assigned to you. It’s a chance for an employer to see if you would be a good fit on their team. But it’s also an opportunity for you to experience the specific culture and environment of a kitchen to determine if it’s the right place for you—something you’ll never get from an interview for a more traditional job.

What is a Trail - Fast Paced Restaurant

So, now that you know what a trail is, how can you ace the opportunity and land the job? The most important first step is to go in with a positive attitude, an eagerness to work and a willingness to listen and learn. Here are some additional “FAQs” that we frequently get from students at ICE:

What should I wear?  First impressions start at the front door, before you change into your chef whites.  Generally, a nice pair of pants and button-down shirt are appropriate to wear to the restaurant. When you change into your uniform, make sure it is ironed, clean and complete—kitchen shoes, socks, hat, apron, hair tied back, etc. Leave your jewelry at home and go light on any make-up or perfume.

What is a Trail - Everything You Need

What should I bring?  Your knives—but not every single one! Just bring the five essentials: your chef’s knife, paring knife, serrated knife, peeler and sharpening steel. For pastry students, add an offset spatula and a thermometer.  Also, be sure to have a small notepad to take notes, a pen and a sharpie.

What NOT to bring?  Valuable items. Wads of cash. Jewelry. iPads and other electronic equipment. And while we don’t expect you to leave your phone at home, be sure it is turned off and out of sight in the kitchen!

When is the best time to contact a chef?  Generally, it’s best to reach a chef before or after service on less busy days in the restaurant (normally between 3-5pm, Monday – Thursday).

How many trails should I go on?  Every student is different, but a minimum of three to five trails is generally a good amount for your first job. Once you’re working in the industry, you can do one-day trails or short “stages” at as many restaurants as you like! The general rule is to see enough different kitchens to compare sites (but not so many that it completely muddles your thinking).

If you keep these simple guidelines in mind, you’ll go into each trail with the confidence to tackle whatever is asked of you.

Click here for more career tips from ICE chefs and industry experts.

By Jessie Craig, Department of Career Services

You will often hear our Career Services Advisors speaking with students about the importance of the externship portion of our Culinary, Pastry & Baking Arts and Hospitality Management diploma programs. The externship experience is one of the key elements that sets our school apart, as we are able to guide students into the kitchens and offices of some of New York City’s and America’s top restaurants, hotels, pastry shops and media outlets. In 2013 alone, the school’s Career Services Department placed 499 students on externship in 292 establishments across the country. This crucial real-world experience is the best way to jump-start our graduates’ careers, providing a valuable network of industry contacts and the likelihood of being hired out of an externship for their first job.

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Throughout each diploma program, ICE’s Career Services Advisors meet with students individually to discuss their personal interests and goals within the food and hospitality industry. These meetings allow us to assist each student in identifying externship sites where they can “trail” (or interview), to gain additional insight into the types of business where they might like to work. Students are encouraged to complete trails at several sites before making their final commitment to an externship, so as to find the best site to fit their interests and long-term goals. We pride ourselves on our long-standing relationships with leading chefs, media outlets and entrepreneurs in the industry, and we encourage students to use their externship as a “golden ticket opportunity,” an opportunity to get their foot in the door with the top employers.

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It is always a pleasure when we see a class of students taking full advantage of this exciting opportunity. One of our latest classes—who graduated from the Culinary Arts program on January 30th —landed themselves in some of the most renowned kitchens in the city. What makes this class even more impressive is their dedication; many students worked around their full-time work schedules and evening culinary classes to schedule trails and secure an externship at a site they felt truly passionate about.


Three students will be joining the Jean-Georges group at restaurants JoJo and Spice Market, and two students will pursue catering at The Upper Crust and Union Square Events. Others will be completing their externships at renowned New York City restaurants Blue Hill, BLT Steak, Dovetail and Blue Smoke. One student, Lauren Weinstein, who hopes to pursue a career in restaurant event management, will be joining the kitchen at CraftBar after interviewing and discussing her goals with Craft Restaurant Group’s Director of Culinary Operations, Lauren Hirschberg.  Ms. Wienstein explains, “Despite some panicked moments in the trailing process, I feel that I found the right fit.”  We wish all of these students success in their externships and beyond!


While the list above is indeed impressive, it is representative of only a fraction of the wonderful sites we work with in our rewarding externship program. You can read more about ICE’s externship program and the multitude of sites that we work with here.


By Cindi Avila

From growing up in the Caribbean to studying culinary arts at ICE, and now into the “big leagues”, the path Kamal Rose has taken is nothing short of remarkable. This week, he’ll be representing the New York Giants at the Taste of the NFL on February 1st—one of the city’s biggest events leading up to the Super Bowl.

As Kamal prepares for the event, we got the chance to talk with him about his love of food, family and culinary school.

Courtesy of

Courtesy of

Kamal grew up in St. Vincent, where he cooked with his grandmother from a very young age. He tells us it was “sweet breads on Saturdays, a big pot of callaloo soup with taro root dumplings, and on Sunday, dinner was oxtails with rice, peas and fried plantains.” Rose goes on to say: “My grandmother was always baking or making soup and it just clicked.”

It clicked so well that Kamal moved to the United States as a teenager and started externing at Tribeca Grill (the popular restaurant that is part of Drew Nieporent’s Myriad Restaurant Group) through a program at his high school. The restaurant’s management got along so well with the then teenage Rose that they hired him straight out of externship. From there he worked all the stations. He says it was a great opportunity, but he knew he still needed the stronger qualifications that come with classical training.

Kamal came to ICE in 2008, attracted by the the length and flexibility of the program (it still allowed him to keep up with his job at Tribeca Grill), and that it “definitely fine-tuned me, made me a better Chef and made me think about things I never thought about before.”

A couple years after graduation, Kamal was promoted to Executive Chef at Tribeca Grill. If you have been lucky enough to dine there before, you may have noticed his influence. He says he “puts his own Caribbean spin on the New American cuisine.” The last menu had a pork chop brined with jerk spices and kale callaloo. But for the upcoming Taste of the NFL, Kamal turns to the classics, preparing an Italian wedding soup and New York-style Cheesecake for football fans and celebrities.

Kamal is also cooking up a menu for his future. He says his ideal plan is to have a restaurant or bed and breakfast next to a beach, surrounded by a farm. He would want to bring in his own fish, have livestock on the property and fresh eggs. Whether or not that restaurant is in the US or back in his beloved Caribbean remains to be seen, but we know we’ll be some of the first customers when the doors open!



By Liz Castner


One of the most important aspects of both the culinary and pastry programs takes place outside the classroom—trailing. Indeed, I learned a tremendous amount about technique and working in professional kitchens through my trailing experience. However, if you had asked me several months ago what “trailing” was, I would have assumed we were talking about hiking. In fact, a friend recently told me that she thought I had been misspelling “trials” when posting about my trailing experience on Facebook. While my spelling was accurate, my friend was not far off in her interpretation of the word.


A trail is a combination of a job interview and a trial work shift. Basically, it’s an interview that can last anywhere from 6 to 10 hours. This is how every person cooking in a kitchen gets a job, and how ICE Culinary Arts or Pastry & Baking Arts students get their externships. For an externship, you only have to go on one trail, but as you progress in your career and are applying for more competitive jobs—for example, Sous Chef or Executive Chef—you will likely go on more than one trail at the same restaurant.

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At the time of this posting, I have gone on 5 trails and have happily secured my externship at Colicchio & Sons, a restaurant in Tom Colicchio’s Craft Restaurant Group. Despite having found an externship, I also intend on doing an additional trail in a cake studio, purely because I want to see the magic of cake decorating on a professional level! While trails are primarily places to apply for positions, they can also serve as a window into what it’s like behind-the-scenes for those who are interested. In this sense, trailing is not simply useful for building your resume, but also figuring out the kind of job and working environment you ultimately want.


When I first started culinary school, I was 110% sure I’d be pursuing an externship in a bakery when the time came. Bake shop items are tasty and a lot of fun to make. Some shops specialize in wedding and occasion cakes, which are always exciting to craft. Further, they offer a work atmosphere that is often both calming and fun–a great combination in my book! Fortunately, I was able to trail at two truly excellent bakeries: Astor Bake Shop and One Girl Cookies.


Astor Bake Shop was a revelation—the small kitchen was not totally closed off from the seating area, so while mixing up pumpkin cheesecake batter, I got to listen to some smooth jazz and totally relax. It was a small kitchen, but a great work environment with some amazing seasonal desserts. Right off the bat, I was tempted to take this externship. I knew it would be comfortable and fun, and that I would learn so much from the wonderful and inspiring Chef, George McKirdy (who, I might add, is so cool that I would gladly hangout with him both on and off the job!).


Cake of the day at One Girl Cookies

Similarly, the experience at One Girl Cookies was fabulous. ICE alum Dave Crofton and his team were incredibly friendly and welcoming. And the cookies—oh the cookies! They are truly some of the best I’ve ever had. To top it off, I even got to whip up a batch of the newest cookie recipe they have yet to release. I wish I could tell you what’s in it, but I’m keeping it a secret until Chef Dave announces it himself. For now, all I’ll say is that this new cookie is not merely delicious, but also entirely innovative. I love that kind of creativity–bringing together flavors in different ways than the norm, particularly in desserts.


So, based on my above descriptions, it would seem that I had two incredible bakeries to choose between for my externship. Yet, while I fully intend to work in a bakery someday, I couldn’t help but think—if I move back to California and look for a job there, what would be the best externship to have on my resume to show that I took advantage of my time here? In New York, there are so many opportunities, and so many chefs that are known not just nationally, but internationally. Thus, while I truly loved my trailing experiences at both Astor Bake Shop and One Girl Cookies, I decided I needed to explore other options. I wanted to explore other avenues, hunt down any chance I could, and pick the absolute best one for me, not just for my resume’s sake, but in order to combine elements of everything I want going forward: a great atmosphere, beautiful, seasonal, and delicious desserts, patient chefs, friendly co-workers, and most importantly, lots to do!

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I trailed at Oceana, Spice Market, and Colicchio & Sons. Either a chef or a representative from these three restaurants was present at the ICE Career Fair here in September, which is how I lined up several trailing opportunities.  My experience at each restaurant taught me something new. My first revelation–which took place at Oceana–was that it is much harder to make a batch of 600 cookies than it is to make a batch of 60. Also it is REALLY HEAVY. Oceana’s kitchen is huge, and there was so much to do. The chef I worked with, Chef Joseph Gabriel, was intimidating at first, but ended up being incredibly patient and nice. It was my very first trail (the bakeries came a little later). To say the least, I felt a little overwhelmed.


My next trail was at Spice Market, where I worked with the impressive and incredibly creative Chef Christina Kaelberer. This experience made me realize that I haven’t developed some skills that are crucial in a restaurant setting—namely, being able to quenelle and to be consistent in my output (i.e. make things the same shape and size). I left convinced that I must learn to do these things, STAT.


At Colicchio & Sons, I watched and helped a well-oiled machine churn out exceptional work. Furthermore, I spent time being taught by nearly every member of the culinary team—each of whom was kind, informative, and excited to have me there. The team also really loves the executive pastry chef, Stephen Collucci, a talented man with an inspiring and friendly demeanor. Everyone was excited about his work, and it was contagious. As at Spice Market, they had me taste most of the desserts, which were beyond words in terms of their deliciousness. There was a lot to do, a lot to see, and a lot to create, but it wasn’t overwhelming—it was beautiful. At the end of the trail, I knew that this was where I wanted to do my externship. Fortunately, they wanted me too; I start in December, and I am completely pumped!


Courtesy of:

Picture courtesy of:

Before I go, I’d like to leave you with some tips that I took away from these experiences. I have no doubt that you will learn your own lessons, but if you’ve taken the time to read this far, why not pick up a couple of pointers to take with you?


Number 1: Come in with a really positive attitude. You want to display the following to your potential employer: I am eager to learn, and I am ready to work long and hard. Chef Dave complimented me on both of these things and even told me that these qualities are even more important to chefs than actual skill level, which will naturally increase with practice.


Number 2: Leave your ego at the door. No matter where they went to school, everyone who already works in the bakery or the restaurant in question knows way more than you do. You will learn these skills, but in the meantime, no task is too small.


Number 3: Your chef instructors are good sources of information, but you have to ask! After my trail at Spice Market, I went into class and asked my instructor Chef Scott for advice. His answer? “Take a knife skills class, silly! And buy a tub of Crisco to practice quenelling at home, over and over again.”


Number 4: This is another piece of wisdom from Chef Scott, prompted by my frustration at failing to recreate an exact replica of a chef’s perfectly executed recipe. Chef Scott said that it’s a myth that someone can just watch and learn, which was quite a relief to hear. In other words: Practice makes perfect. To be your best, practice at home.


Number 5: Read the dessert menus ahead of time. Chefs love it when you can show how much you care about being there!


Number 6: Try everything, ask questions, and don’t be afraid of failure. Go on as many trails as you can.  It will help you gain not only perspective, but also knowledge of your own needs and interests!


Good luck on your trails!

By Carly DeFilippo

In the European tradition, aspiring chefs would learn their trade through apprenticeships. Even in this age of professional culinary schools, all ICE graduates fulfill this traditional on-site training as part of their graduation requirements. Daniel Boulud’s DBGB is just one of the Dinex Group restaurants where ICE Culinary Arts and Pastry & Baking Arts students serve as externs. Executive Chef Eli Collins represented the group at a recent cooking demo, featuring DBGB’s “Espagnole” – a fresh chorizo sausage with piperade and basil oil.


Central to the creation of said sausage is Chef Charcutier Aurélien Dufour, who joined Collins for the live demo. Dufour manages the production of more than twenty signature sausages for DBGB alone, in addition to overseeing the entire charcuterie program for Chef Boulud’s other New York locations.

As Chef Dufour began to grind the pork shoulder and belly for the chorizo links, Collins explained that he chose the piperade because it was a traditional recipe, featuring simple ingredients, elevated by skill and technique. While preparing the tomato concassé, for example, he described how different ways of cutting vegetables changes how they cook, affecting the taste of the finished dish. He also reflected on the importance of an apprenticeship, in that it provides the opportunity to perfect a technique or the flavors of a dish through repetition. For example, small details – like cooking tomato paste long enough to reduce its bitterness or gently puncturing sausage with a fine casing pricker – can determine the ultimate success or failure of even the most rustic dish.

sausage twist

As the room filled with the smells of sautéing midnight vegetables, Dufour deftly twisted the fresh sausage into links, with the metered regularity of a true craftsman. It was a pertinent demonstration of the skill one only gains through repetition, of the progression from apprentice to master.

The finished piperade was, as promised, a comforting classic. But far from the simple home-cooking of France’s Basque Country, it had transformed into a restaurant-worthy dish. Even under the unfamiliar time constraints (and the watchful eye of forty aspiring chefs), Chefs Eli and Aurélien produced a truly enviable plate.




  • 2 roma tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp chorizo oil
  • 5 piquillo peppers
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 medium red onions, cut in large dice
  • 1 tbsp piment d’espelette
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 4 red bell peppers, peeled, seeded and cut in large dice
  • 4 yellow bell peppers, peeled, seeded and cut in large dice
  • 5 piquillo peppers, seeded and cut in large dice
  • 2 tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tbsp chopped oregano
  • salt and ground white pepper

To serve:

  • 6 fresh chorizo sausage links
  • 1/4 cup basil oil


  1. Bring a small pot of water to a boil over high heat, and set a bowl of ice water on the side.
  2. Using a small knife, remove the stem of the tomatoes and score the ends. Boil tomatoes for 10 seconds, then chill in the ice water.
  3. Peel the tomatoes, cut in half, remove the seeds and cut the remaining flesh into a small dice.
  4. Warm the chorizo oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic, onion and a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and gently sweat for 10 to 15 minutes.
  5. Add espelette pepper and paprika and cook, stirring to toast, 1 to 2 minutes.
  6. Add the tomato paste, peppers and continue to cook for about 10 minutes, until softened.
  7. Stir in the sherry vinegar, basil, oregano and diced tomatoes, and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as needed.
  8. To serve, grill or sear the sausages in a large saute pan until cooked through. Serve on top of warm piperade with drizzled basil oil for garnish.

Years ago, when I was starting out in restaurant kitchens, a well known chef said to me, “I can tell how good a cook someone is by watching them work for five minutes.” At the time, this mystified me. What did he see so quickly? Was he judging everyone too quickly? Didn’t he want to taste their food? Didn’t he want to see how many derivative sauces they could name?

Now after years in the kitchen, I know what he meant: it’s not just about the cooking. Of course mastering cooking techniques is essential, but being successful in a restaurant kitchen means more than knowing how to cook a few classic recipes. It’s also about having the right attitude and work habits. How you cook is just as important as how well you cook.  A couple of tips I often share with my students: know how to organize your mise en place, work in a clean setting and with a sense of urgency, never standing around if others are busy and integrate a sense of teamwork into the kitchen. These are ingrained in every successful chef. Along with all the cooking, we work on these skills in class from lesson one. Sometimes these may seem like quirky details to the students, but they are important parts of their education.

My current class is in Mod 3, the time in the culinary program when students begin to look for externships. This means trailing which is working a shift in a restaurant kitchen to see if it’s a good fit. For many students, this is their first time in a professional kitchen. Understandably many don’t know what to expect. Worried they’ll be asked to cook something we haven’t covered (or worse yet, that they’ve forgotten), I get asked a lot of questions.

My advice is always the same: arrive early and be willing to stay late, ask questions if you have them, don’t be afraid to admit if you don’t know something (you’re students – you’re learning), jump in with both feet and act like you want to be there. If you have basic cooking and knife skills, chefs will show you how they want each dish prepared. Setting up a kitchen station correctly, cleaning and working professionally are skills you should have when you walk through any kitchen door.

None of this should come as surprise to my students because we practice it every day and have been talking about this from lesson one: a good attitude will take you far.

I’ve helped over 300 students select their externship in the time that I’ve been at ICE. So, when it came time for me to decide, I thought I had it pretty much covered. I decided to challenge myself in a restaurant where I imagined I would learn speed and be in a place that feels familiar to me given my past front-of-house experience. My decision was a Spanish restaurant on the Upper West Side named Graffit. Aside from loving all things Spanish, I had known Chef Jesus Nunez for some time and was really attracted to his philosophy of combining food and art as well as building a family-like team. So, I informed my advisor of the details, an agreement for my 210-hour externship was put in place, and I was ready to embark on my first professional back-of-house experience.

All I really remember from my first day at Graffit is that I felt hot. As I made my way up to the kitchen in my checkered pants, an unmarked chef coat and my big black kitchen shoes, I was introduced to my new pastry mentor, Rachel, and instantly felt myself start to sweat. I had a sudden flashback of walking into the kitchen at Extra Virgin, seeing the line cooks with beads of sweat rolling down their faces as they worked through our Friday night rush. At that time, I thought I had a pretty good understanding of what it was like to work in a kitchen. Even in my role at ICE, I have visited numerous kitchens and learned about the lifestyle of a cook by reading books like Kitchen Confidential and having countless conversations with chefs. I knew from these experiences, that life in the kitchen was hard and meant long hours. I had stood for hours greeting and seating guests while working front-of-house, but working in a kitchen is just so much more physical than I ever expected — up and down the stairs to the prep area, back and forth to the walk-in, moving in the rhythm of a kitchen that during service is nothing short of organized chaos. Within a week, I learned my first lesson: front-of- house is not back-of-house. More…

I have been telling students for two years now about what to expect on that very important day of their first trail. I’ve been calming them down and assuring them it’s going to be okay. Last week, I found myself at the door of my first trail, hoping I had been telling the truth this whole time and assuring myself that it was going to be okay.

My first trail was at Maialino, Danny Meyer’s Italian trattoria within the Gramercy Park Hotel. The pastry chef, Jennifer Shelbo (who also happens to be an ICE alumnus!) greeted me and introduced me to my first task: washing, peeling, cutting and coring quince to be roasted and used for sorbet. She stood right beside me, doing each of the steps along with me, albeit just a tad bit quicker! I got my first blister from holding a peeler but by the last quince, I actually felt like I was getting used to the process. Chef Shelbo then introduced me to one of the pastry cooks, Ali, who was in the dining room cutting bread and plating some desserts for service. As tickets came in, Ali and I got things ready for the runners who were bringing the dishes to the tables. After moving to the pasta room to help prepare grissini with Chef Shelbo, I had the opportunity to taste some of the delicious desserts I was helping to prepare. Chef Shelbo was also testing some recipes for a new item on the dessert menu, and I joined the rest of the pastry team in tasting. Finally, Chef Shelbo brought me down to the office to discuss the potential for externship at Maialino. All in all, it was a really fun and great first trail that exposed me to a lot of what pastry does at the restaurant. More…