By Lizzie Powell—Student, School of Culinary Arts & Culinary Management

Ever since I can remember, I’ve been an adventurous eater. I don’t know exactly how this developed—whether due to my parents’ “eat it or go to bed hungry” policy or my Southern roots (my dad often brought home venison, quail or other wild game)—but I do know that my childhood had a major impact on my interest in a culinary career path.

Lizzie Powell - Quail Hunt - Southern - Culinary Student

Here I am, with my brother, dad and a few quail when I was about three or four years old.

Aside from being exposed to foods that would prompt most children to wrinkle their noses, I was fortunate enough to travel a good bit throughout my childhood. My family has always organized vacations around food, and the resulting meals are some of my fondest memories. I’ll never forget the first time I tried pâté in France, tested out fried catfish and grits in my great grandmother’s small Georgia town or discovered my love for oysters at a seafood shack (covered in dollar bills) on the Gulf of Mexico.

Though I had the opportunity to explore many cuisines growing up, I had never really known much about the history of certain dishes or how regional cuisines are impacted by elements like climate and the availability of certain ingredients. Sure, I’ve taught myself to make many traditional Italian dishes or stir up a few Asian ingredients, but it wasn’t until Module 3 at ICE that I took a deeper look into iconic dishes from across the world.

Lizzie Powell - Pasta - Handmade - Artisanal - Culinary School - Culinary Student

Learning to make handmade pasta in our Italian cuisine classes.

While it would be ideal to travel to as many foreign regions as possible to learn first-hand about global cuisine, the curriculum at ICE prepares students with a knowledge of the core techniques and ingredients that form the foundation of various international styles of cooking. Over several weeks, my class dove into the flavor profiles of France, Italy and Asia through articles and texts, as well as hands-on experiences in the kitchen. For many of us, it was an introduction to ingredients we’ve never seen before and techniques that go beyond “traditional” kitchen training.

Asian ingredients - Lizzie Powell - Culinary School

Changing the flavor profile with Asian ingredients

It’s an exciting turning point as, at this stage in the program, we’ve learned almost all of the classic culinary techniques— knife skills, butchery and various dry or wet cooking methods—and are moving on to specialized skills like crafting handmade pasta, rolling sushi or whipping up duck confit. People frequently ask about my favorite thing I’ve learned at ICE, but the truth is that diversity is the best part of this training—whether that means learning about the iconic flavors of different regions in France or applying new techniques to produce a traditional Asian dish. After completing this culinary world tour, it’s safe to say I’ve expanded my horizons and that I not only feel prepared, but also excited to work in such a creative, international industry.

Click here to learn more about ICE’s unique recipe for culinary training.

By Dana Mortell

Foie gras. Pâté. Offal. These niche food items may be familiar to us today, but in 1985, these products were unknown to many Americans. That is, until Ariane Daguin launched D’Artagnan, an inspired idea that became one of the largest and most trusted specialty meat distributors in the country. In celebration of the company’s 30th anniversary, we recently invited the visionary founder and CEO to ICE as part of our Meet the Culinary Entrepreneurs series.

Photo Credit: Boston.com

Photo Credit: Boston.com

Born in the Gascony region of France to a family with a seven-generation culinary legacy—including a chef father with 2 Michelin stars to his name—it was clear from early on that Ariane had inherited a passion for the food industry. Yet, despite growing up with this impressive gastronomical heritage, her original career ambition was to become a journalist, a dream she pursued by enrolling as an undergraduate at Columbia University.

During her summers off from school, Ariane worked the retail counter at Les Trois Petits Cochons, which was—and still is—one of New York’s finest French pâté producers. When she suggested to the owners that they should sell their products wholesale to the city’s fine food shops, amazingly, they presented her with the opportunity to develop this concept within their existing business.

Meanwhile, at Columbia, Ariane had met George Faison—her future business partner. Joining Ariane and her friends on weekly restaurant outings, George realized they shared one very special passion: French cuisine. Soon enough, he joined Ariane at Les Trois Petits Cochons while he was finishing his MBA. Working together, the two gained invaluable experience in the industry over the next five years. But when the shop’s owners decided that Ariane’s entrepreneurial ideas—in particular, becoming the sole foie gras distributor for a duck farm in the Catskills—were too risky, the pair knew it was time to branch off on their own.

Photo Credit: First We Feast

Photo Credit: First We Feast

The timing couldn’t have been better. At the time, there was no fresh, domestic foie gras available in the country—American chefs were cooking it out of a can. With a specific mission in mind, the two launched D’Artagnan (named after one of the Three Musketeers, a book penned by Alexandre Dumas, with whom Ariane shares her hometown). Draining their savings, the pair leased a truck and a small refrigeration space, and gained an exclusive contract with the Catskills duck farm to sell foie gras. “The first few years were extremely difficult. It was hard to receive cash flow. Banks didn’t want to lend anything since there was no guarantee. At one point, we had $35 in the bank,” said Daguin.

To stay viable, they had to convince the foie gras farmers that they were the right people for the job. Ariane threw everything she had into her work. Knowing that it would be met with hesitation from the public, she invested time in educating clients about the product. And since foie gras was a relatively unfamiliar ingredient for chefs, D’Artagnan kept two days’ inventory on hand, to allow for last-minute orders. This, Ariane knew, would give their clients the freedom to be more daring with the specialty ingredient, testing the waters as they gauged their guests’ reactions.

Ariane and her father. Photo Credit: dartagnan.com

Ariane and her father. Photo Credit: dartagnan.com

In addition, Ariane was taught by her father that a good chef knows how to use the whole animal, so she sought out chefs with a similar perspective. George and Ariane began to develop relationships with these chefs, who provided checks as credit to receive foie gras in the future. Those crucial partnerships allowed the company to get one step ahead.

Ariane’s vision for D’Artagnan also began to re-shape the farming practices of her producers. She wanted to be able to market D’Artagnan’s products as fresh, free-range, and organic, but felt she still needed something to set her foie gras apart. Ariane begged her farmers to raise heritage duck breeds. These would take longer to raise—nine months, as opposed to the traditional five—and it took all of Ariane’s powers of persuasion to convince the farmers that this time-consuming change would be a worthwhile investment. At the same time, Ariane was growing her network at the other end of the food chain, tapping into a new generation of ambitious New York City chefs.

Ariane gets a boost from the industry's top chefs. Photo Credit: Food Arts Magazine

Ariane gets a boost from the industry’s top chefs. Photo Credit: Food Arts Magazine

Her primary customers were young culinary innovators, such as Patrick Clark of Odeon, David Burke, and Daniel Boulud. Growing her inventory to include game birds and other specialized products, Ariane provided chefs with access to a whole new world of high quality products, distinguishing D’Artagnan as a unique resource for this ambitious culinary community.

Today, Ariane is one of the most respected women in the food industry. She works with chefs, restaurateurs and purveyors from across the country—some offering ideas for new product offerings, while others make requests for such rare products as charcuterie, truffles, or mushrooms.

D’Artagnan, in turn, has become one of the most successful specialty food companies in the industry, with 172 employees, 35 trucks and 82 million dollars in revenue. Though she and George parted ways in the early 2000’s, Ariane has since taken D’Artagnan to new heights. The business now has an outpost in Chicago, and is about to open a third location in Houston. But despite her ambitions, Ariane also knows her limits—she may be a master of sourcing, but she has no desire to open her own slaughterhouse. Ariane wisely believes the key to her success is that she knows what she does best, and sticks to it with passion, integrity, and honesty.

For more success stories from the industry’s top entrepreneurs, click here.

By Ted Siegel—Chef-Instructor, Culinary Arts

At least once every decade some culinary pundit or self-appointed expert on cuisine and gastronomy makes a grand pronouncement declaring the “death of French cuisine”. This has been an ongoing trend in culinary journalism since as far back as the late 19th century. Whether it was the fall of the classical grande cuisine of Carême, Escoffier and Du Bois or end of the nouvelle cuisine revolution that shook France after from the 1950s to the 1980s, the state of French cuisine has always been ripe for debate.

Fresh seafood at a French market

Fresh seafood at a French market

Yet there seemed to be a significant shift somewhere around 2003, when the New York Times ran a front page story in its Sunday Magazine declaring—once and for all—the death of French cuisine. The piece went on to anoint Spanish chef Ferran Adria as the “pope” of contemporary gastronomy (called molecular or modernist, depending on who you asked).

However, upon a recent trip to Paris, it was apparent that the death notices (as usual) are premature. The wild card in the whole discussion is the profound influence—encoded in the DNA of the French people—of the cuisine bourgeoise: the cooking of French housewives and grandmothers, rooted in the terroir of local ingredients and traditions. In the context of restaurants, this cuisine has transformed itself into a movement labeled bistronomie, a trend that snubs the grande luxe dining palaces with their fine china, sterling silver place settings, starched linens and snooty waiters, maitre’ds, and sommeliers (who act as if the customer is there to serve them, not the other way around). Here the cuisine of grandmère and maman rears its beautiful head—in simple preparations based on a market-driven cuisine with an emphasis on seasonality, solid culinary technique, unpretentious presentations and friendly, relaxed knowledgeable service.

Traditional French cuisine relies on products unique to the region's terroir.

Traditional French cuisine relies on products unique to the region’s terroir.

Like any so-called revolution, politics and economics are among the underlying forces that have dictated this change in French cuisine, gastronomy and food culture. With the volatility of the “euro” and the global economic crisis, it is now more cost-prohibitive than ever for a business owner to sustain luxury operations in the long-term. It has become economic suicide to maintain a brigade of forty to fifty chefs, cooks and other staff (in the back of the house alone), uphold a large inventory of grand cru wines, and support the various other elements of leasing or owning a space that would fit the traditional Michelin definition of three stars.

Lunchtime at a French cafe

Lunchtime at a French cafe

Complementing this transformation in the kitchen is a social and literary movement, one that has rallied in particular behind France’s modern response to the long-reigning Michelin Dining Guides. Founded in 2000 by Alexandre Cammas, Le Fooding springs from a curious mix of anti-corporate left wing politics and social libertarianism, and it poses a direct challenge to the moribund culture of Michelin and its dominance over French cuisine for more than 100 years. The first Le Fooding guidebook was published in 2006, and the movement has since jumped the Atlantic, holding annual events in New York City—incidentally, taking place this weekend in the Rockaways.

It’s particularly fitting that Le Fooding should also celebrate NYC’s dining culture, as many of the restaurants that my wife Cheryl and I visited in Paris would fit in very comfortably (thank you) in neighborhoods such as the Lower East Side, Williamsburg or Long Island City. Below are some of the best examples of this “new/old” cooking that we discovered—fusing la cuisine bourgeoise with chef-level consistency and innovation.

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Sea scallops poached in champagne with a nage of black truffles and melted leeks

L’ASSIETTE—Rue du Chateau in the 14th arr.

Chef/owner David Rathgeber’s cuisine is deeply rooted in culture of his homeland of the Landes region of Southwest France, but his technique was honed for ten years under the renowned Chef Alain Ducasse. On the night we dined at this restored 1930’s boucherie, we savored his house-cured country ham with homemade farm bread and beurre demi-sel, foie gras terrine with a conserve of figs, and rillettes of suckling pig and foie gras. There was warm, poached asparagus with an incredibly silky sauce mousseline; sea scallops poached in champagne with a nage of black truffles and melted leeks; stuffed calves head, sauce ravigote and what could only be described as the most ethereal sea salt crème caramel one could possibly taste.

CASA OLYMPE—Rue St. George’s in the 9th arr.

Olympe Versini is an icon among female chefs in Paris, receiving her first Michelin stars when she was only in her twenties. She is considered to be “the godmother” of this new trend in French dining, as when she opened Casa Olympe in 1993, she asked the Michelin inspectors to stay away and not review the restaurant. Her food is profoundly influenced by her Corsican ancestry and the Mediterranean basin.

If available, try her blood sausage croustillants on mesclun greens; warm salad of seared scallops, house-cured foie gras, avocados and mâche; daurade roasted on the bone with tomatoes, lemon, potatoes, herbs and olive oil; perfectly roasted squab with Asian spices and Thai red rice-coconut milk pilaf.

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Smoked pork belly, braised slowly and served with reduction of braising jus and a nicoise olive-potato purée

LE COMPTOIR DE RELAIS—Place d’Odeon in the 6th arr.

Chef Yves Camdeborde has been the leader and vanguard of bistronomie for the past 20 years in Paris. He worked for many years with his mentor Christian Constant at the Hotel de Crillon, where they elevated the cuisine of the Restaurant les Ambassadeurs to two Michelin stars. His extensive menu is available at lunch, but be forewarned—no reservations are accepted and the restaurant fills up by 12:30 pm. It is virtually impossible to get reservations at dinner, when the menu becomes a prix fixe of fifteen courses.

Dishes that I can highly suggest are the unusual warm terrine of boudin noir with a refreshing salad of celery root, apples and sucrine lettuce; salade gourmande of salt-cured foie gras, green beans, artichokes and potatoes; smoked pork belly, braised slowly and served with a reduction of the braising jus and a nicoise olive-potato purée; pan-fried stuffed pigs feet and a warm individual apple tarte with vanilla ice cream and salted caramel.

LES COCOTTES—Rue St. Dominique in the 7th arr.

Christian Constant, mentioned above, left the Hotel de Crillon years ago to establish his own restaurant group, which includes Les Cocottes. The restaurant is known for its casual counter seating, large menu of wines by the glass and hot menu items—all of which are served in deep cast iron cocottes produced in Alsace.

Our starters included Spanish jamón ibérico simply served with pickled piquillo peppers; an outstanding ravioli of langoustine with artichoke purée and shellfish coulis (that resembled a shellfish cappuccino more than a classic sauce); impeccably seared scallops on parmesan polenta with a light reduction of jus d’opulent roti; and wood pigeon roasted with a ragoût of spring onions, honey mushrooms and chestnuts, simply sauced with a reduction of the roasting juices.

One quick note about the wines we drank: one does not have to break the bank to drink reasonably well in Paris. Stick to the regional wines with A.O.C. certification and you can enjoy excellent wines for less than thirty Euros a bottle.

Craving more culinary travel stories? Check out Chef Ted’s guide to Rome

 

By Virginia Monaco

 

Everybody loves chocolate, but what do we actually know about one of the world’s most popular sweets? At a lecture with world-renowned expert Chloe Doutre-Roussel, ICE students, alumni and industry professionals had the chance to refine both their palates and their understanding of contemporary trends in chocolate.

An assortment of the world's best 70% chocolate bars.

An assortment of the world’s best 70% chocolate bars.

To start, Roussel clarified that she was discussing fine chocolate—not candy bars, bon-bons or other treats which contain shockingly little actual chocolate. Until very recently, chocolate was available in white, milk and dark with very little information on the label, but over the last 10 years, the industry has changed dramatically. The first change was that chocolate makers decided to emulate the labels of fine wine, listing the beans’ country of origin and producing single-origin bars with distinct flavor profiles. But even then, very few chocolatiers actually made their own chocolate; rather, then would blending purchased chocolate and re-label it. It was actually in the United States that a movement called “bean-to-bar” was launched, where beans are curated and purchased abroad but roasted, processed, blended and packed by the producers. This movement has since been defined by the production of (usually) single-origin beans, processed delicately in micro-batches by entrepreneurs such as Rogue and Mast Brothers. (Interestingly enough, Rick Mast of Mast Bros is an ICE alum!)

Roussel presents her findings on bean-to-bar producers to ICE students.

Roussel presents her findings on bean-to-bar producers to ICE students.

While the quality of chocolate has increased with this movement, so was the breadth of the market, making the purchase of chocolate bars a confusing task for consumers. The generation of new labels has produced claims including Fair Trade, Organic or Raw. While these labels may hold a specific meaning, they don’t speak to the level of quality of the product. meaning a $10 bar of chocolate might still be poorly made. In fact, Roussel argued that the Fair Trade label may distract conscious consumers from quality, allowing a mediocre product to sell for a higher price—potentially overshadowing exceptional bars produced with well-grown beans that boast no special labeling. To explore this argument, Roussel hosted a blind tasting, helping attendees discern their favorite chocolates, free of the bias of pretty packaging and distracting labeling.

Students and professionals tasted 15 different chocolates in a palate training exercise.

Students and professionals tasted 15 different chocolates in a palate training exercise.

Attendees discussed and tasted 15 chocolates from around the world, all around 70% cocoa, which allows the true chocolate flavor notes to shine. (70% actually means that a bar is 70% cocoa solid and butter, 30% sugar. It does not, however specify the proportion of cocoa solid/butter, allowing producers a significant amount of leeway and variation.) Much like wine, such side-by-side tastings allowed us to discover a world of remarkably nuanced flavors. For example, some chocolates displayed a distinctive smoky taste, while others were bright and floral. Our students left with a new found appreciation for fine chocolate, and I’m sure we’ll all think twice when choosing bars to buy in the future.

Lior Lev Sercarz is spice blender to the stars – star chefs, that is. From Eric Ripert to Michelle Bernstein, Paul Kahan and Apollonia Poilâne, his roster of clients is a veritable “who’s who” of culinary innovators. Even those chefs who know how to blend their own spices agree: Sercarz just does it better.

Lior teaches a recreational student how to prepare chocolate pots de creme.

Lior teaches a recreational student how to prepare chocolate pots de creme.

Sercarz’s culinary education started early, as a young boy in Israel. His is not a romantic story of techniques and recipes handed down from his elders, but rather one of practical cooking. His mother worked late, and would leave behind ingredients for him to prepare dinner for his younger siblings. As years passed, and his family lived and traveled throughout Europe, Lior’s exceptional palate was honed by the wide range of cuisines and cultures he encountered.

Lior teaches a student how to segment a grapefruit for a fluke crudo dish.

Lior teaches a student how to segment a grapefruit for a fluke crudo dish.

At the age of 19, Sercarz joined the Israeli army, where he was charged with kitchen duty. It was there that he learned the simple but indispensable purpose of “food as satisfaction.” Upon leaving the army, he traveled throughout South America, and there discovered his interest in uncovering the source of food traditions. The spice trade, in particular, sparked his curiosity, because of the relative lack of industrialization in the creation of spices. His appreciation for these hand-harvested products only grew during his time at the Institut Paul Bocuse in Lyon, France, most especially during a culinary externship under the wing of Olivier Roellinger, a three-star Michelin chef renown for his rare knowledge of seasoning and spice blending techniques. From there, Sercarz moved on to New York’s Daniel, where he experimented with blends and eventually built an extensive spice rack, inspiring his current business, La Boîte á Epice.

For each of his 41 signature spice blends (plus 30 additional blends exclusively available to chefs), Sercarz seeks not to imitate a particular flavor, but rather to evoke a sense memory of a particular place. His “Cancale”, for example, is named for the town where he trained with Roellinger and features the region’s signature fleur de sel, as well as orange peel and fennel seeds from the plants that grow on Brittany’s cliffs.

A recreational student seasons raw tuna with Sercarz's Salvador spice blend.

A recreational student seasons raw tuna with Sercarz’s Salvador spice blend.

ICE recreational students had the pleasure of discovering twelve of Sercarz’s multi-sensory spices, including Cancale, in a cooking class that celebrated the release of Sercarz’s first cookbook, The Art of Blending. Like his spices, this book evokes an emotional response from its reader, with vivid pictures and anecdotes that span the world’s many flavors and cultures. Select chefs from Sercarz’s bevy of celebrity clients contributed recipes featuring each of his signature blends, from soups to sweets, smoked fish and even cocktails.

Sercarz himself is a highly skilled chef, and orchestrated the impressive production of fourteen different dishes that night. Yet his instruction was far from heavy-handed. As he explained to the class, he does not care how people choose to use his spices. He respects the creativity of the individual, and how they choose to interact with his blends. That said, the impetus to publish this cookbook originated with the frequent requests for recipe suggestions from his non-chef clients. Yet he believes that the cookbook also stands alone, regardless of whether or not an individual owns each of the spice blends included in the recipes.

Cocktails spices with Sercarz's Borneo blend.

Cocktails spiced with Sercarz’s Borneo blend.

It was in sitting down to enjoy our spiced feast that we were able to most appreciate Sercarz’s unique perspective. He diagnosed a certain ignorance in our treatment of spices, explaining that they are products like meat or vegetables. There is seasonality, labor and a variance in quality. His blends range from 9 to 23 ingredients, and can take as little as one day, or as long as six months, to create. Each blend is approached with a meticulous attention to detail that demonstrates a deep understanding of his raw ingredients. From the selection of salt, to heat, to more unusual flavors, no decision goes unweighed, infusing Sercarz’s products with an incomparable complexity. His spice blends are truly a pleasure to work with – for all the five senses.

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Fluke crudo, eggplan relish, ratatouille pizzas and other dishes, all garnished with Sercarz’s signature spices.

Our first chef instructor was a man of clear distinction and significance. His list of accolades, accomplishments and credentials was longer than the length of my right arm (which is significantly longer than my left).

He commanded the kitchen when he first walked in. He demanded respect and he deserved it. He was able to rattle off recipes for French mother sauces and their derivatives without stopping to take a breath. I’m convinced without a doubt that of the hundreds of sauces in the French repertoire, he had committed most to memory. Never once in my 22 lessons under his tutelage, did he ever consult a recipe. They were all living as imbedded templates in his head.

He started working in a kitchen when he was 15. Now, 40+ years later, still working in the food services industry, and having worked in some of the finest food establishments on the planet to date, I have had the exceptional pleasure and the most intense pain of being his student.

The word ‘CHEF’ translates to ‘BOSS’ or ‘CHIEF’.  Yes, the capital letters are absolutely necessary. And they remain necessary for all the chef instructors we’ve had over the last eight months. There was a definite philosophy in their kitchen. There was only one way; THEIR way (capitals continue to be necessary). Learn it right, learn it well, listen and don’t forget.

Fast-forward eight months. Our original class of seventeen has dwindled to fourteen. We have just graduated. Our externships take us to many diverse kitchens, but the same rules apply. The collective and sage advice of all our chef instructors is behind us. Now what? I continue to ask my self “WHAT NOW?”

This will be a messy split; a bad break-up. What will become of my weekends without ICE? What will become of my classmates? Who will I commiserate with about the heat in the kitchen, the number of pots in the sink, the paper I have to get done despite my full-time work schedule or the next practical or written examination? What will become of Class CA2DW.121011? What now…what now?

As of August 19, 2012, I will have washed my hands for the last time in kitchen 1402. We’re all a little uncertain. We’re all a little scared. It’s our turn to do something great with this culinary training. We’ve all come so far.

In order to be truly appreciated, all brilliant things must come to an end. So I’ll say a bittersweet goodbye to the class of CA2DW.121011, but not forever, just for now, and leave off with wise words that have remained with me for quite some time. “When you walk to the edge of the light, and take that first step into the darkness of the unknown, you must believe one of two things will happen; there will be something solid for you to stand on, or you will learn how to fly.”[1]


[1] Patrick Overton, REBUILDING THE FRONT PORCH OF AMERICA, 1996.

Photo contributed by Haesung Park


Chef Dan Stone’s “French Country Kitchen” class is every bit as enchanting and delicious as it sounds. I went into this class hoping that my nine years of French language studies might somehow offset my lack of culinary skills – however, Chef Dan would quickly ease any fears or doubts I had about my ability to cook a French dish. His expertise, patience and calm demeanor eliminated everyone’s concerns about executing tricky classical French recipes – he supplemented his focus on technique with demos to get everyone cooking (chopping/sautéing/baking) in the right direction.

First up was a simple demo: How to correctly measure flour.  Chef Dan explained that one perfect cup of flour equals 4.25 ounces, but this is contingent on the methodology used to measure the flour. For instance, by sticking a dry measuring cup into a bag of flour and scooping (as I always have), you inadvertently pack the flour into the cup. Instead, Chef Dan recommends using a spoon to scoop flour into the measuring cup and then scraping any excess off the top with a knife. This is to help ensure the accuracy of measuring and the tastiness of recipes – in my case, this technique enabled the pastry shell of my quiche Lorraine to be light, flaky and not oversaturated with flour. Voila!

Chef Dan then provided a brief historical overview about the use of potatoes in French cuisine; he explained that for quite some years after Colombus and his crew brought tomatoes and potatoes to Europe, people thought they were poisonous and refused to eat them. In France, this was until an army pharmacist Antoine-Augustin Parmentier was captured by Prussians and forced to eat potatoes. During this time he came to recognize all the high-calorie nutrients the vegetable provided and when he returned to France he focused on introducing the vegetable as a viable source of food instead of just mere hog feed. In 1772, the Paris Faculty of Medicine declared potatoes edible, and Parmentier was credited with help making this happen.

My Aunt Julie participated in the class with me, and we volunteered to tackle the quiche and dessert, while the other half of our group chopped, chopped and chopped their way to an incredible French country veggie soup.

The task of creating a perfect quiche Lorraine involved an incredible amount of patience and technique – the pastry shell alone was very intricate and required careful execution. Lucky for me, my Aunt has a more extensive cooking background (and all the patience necessary to prepare such a dish!) One of the most interesting steps to me was the “frissage,” an old technique wherein you take the palm of your hand and quickly spread out small sections of the dough to give it a light, flaky texture. It is very important not to overwork the dough because then it will lose its light flakiness. It seems so simple and insignificant, but this step really is critical in crafting a scrumptious quiche as it spreads the chunks of butter into thin sheets within the dough, evenly distributing for a light flaky crisp.

I may be a biased critic, but my favorite dishes were absolutely the soupe au pistou and the quiche Lorraine – the soup was so fresh and tasty; despite the fact that it used only water as a base and had minimal salt. Instead, spices like cumin and cayenne were used, and lots of fresh veggies to infuse it with flavor. On top was a freshly baked crouton and a dollop of fresh pistou – parfait! But truly, all the dishes were fantastic. French Country Cooking was truly a delectable blast to the past – after all the hard work that goes into every scrumptious dish, it’s no wonder Chef Dan said, “If I was given the opportunity to choose my last dinner, it would absolutely be French.”

Bon appétit and merci Chef Dan – wonderful class and wonderful food!

Ever wonder what’s cooking at ICE? Five Course Friday gives you a snapshot of what we are whipping up weekly. Whether you pop in to a recreational class, catch a professional demo or watch the transformation from student to chef, there is something scrumptious happening daily.


Soufflés d’Alencon en Timbales (cheese souffles in mushroom sauce)


Rabbit braised with prosciutto red onions and white wine, served with sautéed broccoli rabe 


Cotes de Porc Normande from French cooking course in culinary arts program


Focused on frosting this week in pastry and baking classes


Chocolate bar with color splash from pastry and baking class

Have a delicious weekend!

As important as culinary innovation may be, it is also important to recognize the classic desserts that place such new ideas in context. Michael Laiskonis, creative director at ICE held a class on Friday where iconic dishes were studied, deconstructed and rearranged with new flavor combinations and presentations as homage to the original.

The recipes included Tarte Tropezienne, Paris-Brest, Saint-Honoré, Financier, and Crème Brulée. The four hour class was action packed with students mixing, baking, tasting and plating. To see more classes from Michael Laiskonis, check out our schedule and see below for some eye candy from Friday’s class. Enjoy!

More…

This week, students had the opportunity to cook with Master Chocolatier and Executive Pastry Chef, Jean Marie Auboine as part of the Center for Advanced Pastry Studies (CAPS) series here at ICE. This is an ongoing program of continuing education courses for working pastry and baking professionals taught by visiting chefs and pastry artists from around the world.

Auboine’s shop is based in Las Vegas, though he teaches and consults all over the world. For some background, he was a finalist Meilleur Ouvrier de France Chocolatier 2007, named “Best Chef of the Year” from Mexico’s Vatel Club in 2008, won 5th place in the 2005 World Chocolate Masters and he was named “Best Pastry Chef of the Year” by France’s respected Champèrard Guide in 2003. His mastery in chocolate at the 2005 American Chocolate Masters secured him a first-place victory and an invitation to participate in the World Chocolate Masters in Paris, where he earned the competition’s coveted Press Award.

Thrilled to work with such a renowned pastry chef, the students learned unique techniques ranging from sugar pulling to achieving temperatures for perfected caramel. They made an assortment of delicious treats such as praline paste, chocolate bars, soft salty caramels, flavored marshmallows, gummy worms and sugar candies. When discussing what they learned over the course, the students were all in agreement that learning the science behind sugar was the most fascinating.  As was learning from the French!

Check out some of their work: More…