Every year, the James Beard Foundation celebrates summer with a party in the Hamptons. The annual celebration features champagne, wine from Wölffer Estate Vineyard, Stella Artois beers and culinary offerings from a group of over 30 talented top chefs.

This year three ICE alumni were on a select list of chefs preparing food for the event. Missy Robbins (Culinary ’95) of A Voce prepared Italian-Style Lobster Rolls with Fennel and Sea Salt Potato Chips and Matt Weingarten (Culinary ’96) of Inside Park at St. Bart’s also prepared a lobster dish — Barnegat Light Lobster with Lemon Ricotta and Micro-Sorrel. On the pastry side, Zac Young (Pastry ’06) of Flex Mussels and Top Chef: Just Desserts prepared Lemon Meringue Pie with Disco Blueberries. More…

On Sunday, ICE alum and star of Top Chef: Just Desserts, Zac Young came to ICE to guide students through a tasting of a variety of Guittard chocolates and demonstrate some desserts designed to highlight the flavor profiles of different chocolates.

The Guittard family has manufactured chocolate in the San Francisco valley for more than 140 years. Guittard Chocolate’s high-end E. Guittard line includes a variety of blended and single-origin chocolates made from beans from select locations. The students were able to taste 12 different chocolates, ranging from a 38% Hawaiian milk chocolate to a 91% bittersweet blended chocolate. The tasting included single-origins from Hawaii, Peru, Madagascar, Trinidad, Venezuela and more. Zac said that as a pastry chef, he loved working with these single-origin chocolates because they have a flavor profile of their own and can they can be used to make desserts that go a step beyond the base flavors of chocolate and begin to highlight the fruit and flora notes chocolate can have. More…

This weekend, ICE Chef Instructors, students and alumni participated in the 13th Annual Chocolate Show at Metropolitan Pavilion in NYC. The show is “the world’s largest event dedicated to chocolate!” The four-day exhibition of everything chocolate draws in pastry chefs and chocolate enthusiasts from across the world.

The event kicks off with chocolate fashion show every year. ICE alum Zac Young, fresh off his stint on Top Chef: Just Desserts, participated in the fashion show and worked with designer Nicole Romano to construct a dress made entirely of balls of chocolate for the kick-off event. Young returned later in the weekend to give gave a demonstration in the Culinary Theater, showing the audience how to make Chocolate Pie “On Its Side,” one of the most popular dishes on the menu at his restaurant, Flex Mussels. More…

The Top Chef: Just Desserts premiere is only a week away. ICE alumni Zac Young, Malika Ameen and Seth Caro are competing on the show. Alumni Hall of Achievement inductee Gail Simmons will act as host. The show will feature guest appearances by famed pastry professionals Sylvia Weinstock, Sherri Yard and Michael Laiskonis. The promise of watching chefs performing challenges involving wedding cakes, flaming desserts and chocolate showpieces has many people counting down the days till the debut of the Top Chef spinoff on September 15.

Before we binge on what is sure to be a delectable season of television, we indulged our sweet tooth by talking to competitor Zac Young. After graduating the Pastry & Baking Arts program at ICE in 2006, Zac went on to work at Bouchon Bakery and Butter. Now, he is the Executive Pastry Chef at the critically acclaimed Flex Mussels on New York City’s Upper East Side. There, he is responsible for a dessert menu that compliments the almost all seafood menu. To get a taste of what to expect from him on the new show, we asked him about his inspiration, the life of a pastry chef and his memories of his time at ICE.

You have a pretty interesting background. How did you get into baking?
My mom was a vegan, so she never baked. But I loved cookies. So I had to teach myself how to make them and it became an obsession. Before I was working in pastry, I was working in the wig department of the Radio City Rockettes. It definitely had certain creative aspects that translated to pastry. It gives you a feel for aesthetics and a visual sensibility that translates beautifully to plated desserts. More…

Bravo just announced the contestants for the first ever season of Top Chef: Just Desserts. The list includes not one, but THREE ICE alumni! Zac Young (Pastry ’06), Malika Ameen (Culinary ’97) and Seth Caro (Pastry ’04) will all compete on the show. We can’t wait to watch them whip, bake, pipe and decorate their way through the challenges on the new pastry-focused version of Top Chef. The show will be hosted by another ICE alum, Gail Simmons. Check out the bios of the pastry chef-testants:

Zac Young
AGE: 27
HOMETOWN: Portland, Maine — currently resides in New York, NY
PROFESSION: Executive Pastry Chef, Flex Mussels
FAVORITE SIMPLE FALL DESSERT RECIPE: “Upside-Down” Apple Crisp with Crème Fraîche Ice Cream.
While employed in the wig department of the Radio City Rockettes, Zac Young had an epiphany: he would rather be baking cookies than fluffing Santa beards. Born to a vegan mother, Zac never had chocolate mousse, but knew all too well the flavor of a tofu and carob pudding. After graduating with honors from the baking and pastry arts program at The Institute of Culinary Education, Zac went straight to the top, working under Sebastian Rouxel and Richard Capizzi at Bouchon Bakery. In 2006, he was offered a position of Pastry Chef at the New York City hot-spot Butter Restaurant. While there, Zac developed his signature style, using classic French technique, bold flavors, and fun to put a creative twist on American desserts. Always hungry for more, he trained in France with such renowned chefs as Philippe Givre at Valrhona and Philippe Parc at Chocolate Michel Cluizel. In 2009, Zac moved uptown to the bustling bivalve mecca Flex Mussels. His whimsical creations caught the fancy of New York Times’ Restaurant Critic Frank Bruni, causing him to exclaim, “how lucky of us to find room for dessert” in his review of Flex. In his free time, he can be seen making dresses out of chocolate for the opening night of the International Chocolate Show. His mother is proud, even though his desserts are not vegan. More…