By Caitlin Raux

Why would one of the successors to an empire of bread and pastries in Spain travel all the way to New York City to study pastry arts? That’s the question that many have posed to Pablo Moreno (Pastry Arts ’17), grandson of the founders of Mallorca Pastelería, a household name for bread and pastries in Madrid, and pastry student at ICE. We sat down with Pablo to get the answer to this question, and to chat about topics like the most useful thing he’s learned at ICE, his advice for prospective culinary students and whether he’s a fan of New York’s holy pastry — the bagel.

Pastry Student Pablo Moreno

 When did you realize that you wanted to study pastry arts?

I always thought that I wanted to go into the family business, but more on the human resources side, like my father. After studying business, I realized that in the pastry business, you need to know more than just the business side. You have to understand the product, including how to change the product. Without that, I would never be able to get a top position in the business.

With all of the culinary schools in Spain and Europe, why did you choose to come to New York to ICE?

That’s the question that everyone is asking me. All of my family has studied in Switzerland and France. That school of cooking and pastry didn’t sound so attractive to me because it’s what I’ve seen all my life. All French schools are more or less the same. Here, you can study French basics, but with different ideas — with the American aesthetic. I also wanted to get to know New York because of the economy. There’s so much business here. Plus, all of the trends begin in New York. When I saw the story of Dominique Ansel, for example, I was inspired to come to New York.

Speaking of New York pastries, have you tried a bagel?

Yes, I have (laughs). I’m not a fan of bagels. For me, the bad thing about bagels is that they’re so dense. I don’t know why but I have the idea that dense pastries are bad quality — because the fermentation wasn’t good.

Which pastry and baking traditions have you learned at ICE?

I’ve learned about American pastries — bagels, donuts, pretzels. I’m also learning the French school with an American taste. For example, things in the U.S. are very light-colored. When I bake something, I want it very dark.

Have you done lessons with Chef Sim Cass, the “Prince of Darkness,” yet?

I’m taking classes with him now and I really love it. For me, it’s been the best thing since I’ve been at ICE.

What is the most useful thing you’ve learned during your time at ICE?

One thing is the knowledge of American tastes. I don’t quite have it yet, but I think after my externship I’ll understand how to run a business here. In the future, if I could have one or more bakeries here in New York, I’d love that.

Another thing is learning about how to make products from start to finish. Working for my family business, I’ve seen the products developed but I’ve never seen the basics. I needed to understand the simple aspects of making bread — water, salt, flour and yeast. Afterwards I’ll be able to understand more complicated products.

I think that’s how you get to the level of someone like Sim — who touches a piece of dough and knows how it was made.

My uncle is exactly the same. My uncle is the judge for the competition of the best croissants in Spain. He can look at a table of croissants and see which is the best. I need to get to that level.

What has been your favorite lesson so far?

I don’t like sugar at all, but I love the lessons about sugar — understanding how to cook sugar and the different colors and temperatures. The lessons made me understand something that I would never understand otherwise because I don’t like sweets. But my favorite classes have been the ones with Sim, especially when we made Italian breads. I also enjoyed the trip to Dominique Ansel.

If you could travel anywhere in the world to sample pastries, where would you go and why?

Two countries. First, I’d go to France. I’ve been in France but without the knowledge of how to appreciate the pastries. I really prefer Italian baking though — the olive oil culture is the best flavor in the world. I love how they make breads like ciabatta and focaccia. They’re hollow inside but have a strong flavor. I wouldn’t go to the typical places like Rome or Florence. I would go to Sicily and see how they make bread there. One pastry I love is panettone.

What advice would you give someone considering going to culinary school?

Some people look for the fanciest school and, to me, that approach is wrong. People want to make the best-plated dessert and I think you’re not going to learn that in school. The things you should learn in school are the basic skills — knife skills, fermentation, sugar cooking — basic things that you will build on when you get a job. The good thing about ICE is that they start with the basics. You need to learn the fundamentals because afterwards that’s what defines you from your colleagues who haven’t gone to culinary school. They may be much faster than you, but they don’t have the knowledge of why something should be made a certain way. You can be in control of changing a recipe, while the other person only knows how to make it.

Ready to launch your career in pastry arts? Click here for more information on ICE’s career programs.

By Michael Laiskonis—ICE Creative Director

In the past, I’ve written about the parallels between architecture and pastry. I recently judged a competition where architects were asked to express their favorite iconic buildings in the form of cake. Once again, the topic of architecture and pastry arts came to mind.

I think a lot about architecture and design. It’s a closet interest of mine, though I must admit that my passion is limited to: I don’t know much about architecture, but I know what I like. One of the benefits of urban living is being surrounded by so much of it. I’m fascinated by the juxtaposition of various styles, shapes and sizes — sometimes even more than the individual structures themselves. While the streets of Manhattan may be more chaotic than, say, the carefully planned vistas of Paris, a glance down any street or avenue can be just as awe-inspiring. Without overreaching, there are some great analogies to be made between cooking and architecture. Both are seen as lofty arts and technical crafts. Both provide a vehicle for fashionable trends and practical function. Both reflect their immediate environment and in turn, give that place a sense of unique identity. Occasionally, both incite controversy. As two of the three necessities of life, food and shelter hold the kind of sociological importance that can even spawn whole philosophies.

Flatiron Building

You may think you know where I’m headed with this: Toward a discussion of architectural foods such as the towering desserts of years past — but this is just the surface. Of course, presentation is an important factor in fine dining and these trends come and go. In fact, in recent times our food has slowly retreated to the surface of the plate, often appearing as if randomly scattered, sometimes even ignoring the conventional boundary of the rim. The true “architecture” of a dish, however, is less about looks or visual construction and more about the “architecture of taste”— how blending elements creates a visually appealing framework for flavor and texture.

Contemporary cooks take many factors into consideration – materials, technology, aesthetics and matters of perception. Modern cooking seems to be an intersection of engineering and philosophy. Years ago, I read about the construction of a project in Switzerland that perfectly reflected this discussion: The Blur Building, the goal of which was to create an indeterminate “structure” of water vapor. On the same metaphysical level, a chef friend once pondered how to make food float in mid-air. It’s interesting and important for both disciplines to question themselves. Is a building without walls still a building? Was that dish I ate just dinner or something more?

milk chocolate praline pastry

That said, at the end of the day, food is just food. Though I pay way too much rent, I need a solid room in which to rest. As a sentient being, I ultimately seek comfort and pleasure from both. But as a chef, what concerns me is how the various elements of a dish — taste, texture and temperature — are engineered and arranged to provide the maximum impact. We achieve this through complement (classic flavor pairings, as well as the unconventional) and contrast (sweet and tart, smooth and crunchy, hot and cold, etc.). One caveat I learned early on: No matter how well two or more elements might go together, each must also be able to stand alone. Attention is also given to the structure itself — the form of how we eat and experience a dish. The thought process behind how diners will approach a plate of food mirrors how architects envision how a space will be navigated by its inhabitants.

Cooking from an architectural perspective goes beyond creating a pleasant-looking dish. It helps us refine our approach by thoughtfully layering flavors and textures; using techniques to best express the qualities of our ingredients; considering how the consumer will ultimately experience our final product. Though architecture and food serve practical purposes, constructing with an eye for maximizing experiential enjoyment elevates practical forms to a works of art.

Want to study Pastry Arts with Chef Michael? Click here to learn more about our career programs.

By Caitlin Raux

What’s the number one rule of drinking wine? There are no rules. That’s the ethos of ICE’s Director of Wine and Beverage Studies, Richard Vayda. The experienced sommelier and former chef (who was also an opera singer once upon a time) appreciates wine in all of its varieties and for all occasions. Just as there’s a time and place for a grand cru from Bordeaux, there’s also a moment to enjoy a crisp white zinfandel (preferably with potato chips, on the beach). As he teaches students at ICE, the important thing is to keep an open mind and worry less — after all, wine is about enjoyment.

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We caught up with Richard before one of his popular Introduction to Wine courses to chat with us for an ICE blog interview.

How did you become interested in wine?

I’m from the Midwest – Chicago, originally – and my grandparents owned a beer and wine warehouse. Alcohol was always around us. When I turned 15, I got really interested in food and wine, so I started making wine in my bedroom. There was no internet then so I had to do everything by books and magazines. I would buy grape concentrate from California – chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon — and I made wine in vats in my bedroom. I didn’t tell my parents right away, but they of course figured out from the smell. Eventually I got to the point where I made sparkling wine.

In your bedroom!?

In my bedroom and the basement — you have to use this process where you almost freeze the wine. I would do a second fermentation in the bottle. Today, I probably would not think that sparkling wine was very good, but at that particular time I thought Wow, it’s cool that you can do this.

I was really interested in wine and food and then I got into the music industry – I was an opera singer for a while. Still, I was always interested in food so eventually I went back to it. I finished my master’s at NYU — I studied food management and did a lot of nutrition work as part of my program. Then I decided to open a restaurant in the Catskills — Mountain Brook Dining and Spirits. It was a beautiful setting, with soaring mountains and the Schoharie Creek next door. When I moved back to New York City, I ran a small Provençal restaurant. I was very involved with the wine program. Eventually I opened a coffee and chocolate lounge, Caffeine, in South Norwalk, Connecticut. My partners and I owned that for about six years.

To be a wine expert, is it necessary to have special tasting abilities?

I think most people can develop their sense of smell and sense of taste quite a bit. It’s mostly about the sense of smell. Most people can identify a thousand-plus smells. The problem is trying to verbalize what they’re smelling. With practice, you can become more precise. There are people who are naturally better tasters or smellers — the “super tasters” — but I think anyone can develop those skills.

Tonight I’m teaching the second session of an intro class, and I already saw on the first day how happy some of them were when they picked up things they didn’t know they could. Students start picking up on the nuances in wine pretty quickly.

Is that one of the fun parts of teaching — when you get to give people the tools to taste wine? 

Absolutely. It’s a two-way process, too. Sometimes they give me the words. All of us have physiological differences in the way we taste things or smell things. You might be more sensitive to something that I don’t pick up on strongly, so the student’s words help me, too. I often find that the students come up with the word before I do — it may be the wackiest word, but it may be perfect.

Wine Essentials with Richard Vayda

You also studied in Paris – were you studying food or wine?

 I spent one year at the Sorbonne, studying linguistics.

And living in Paris!

Yes, and living in Paris, eating and drinking great food and wine. I couldn’t afford expensive wines then. I remember going with my classmates to the supermarché, and we’d bring our own bottle and fill it up with wine for one euro. We had some lovely meals though.

Did you get a sense of French wine culture, and is it different from wine culture in the United States?

I think the French approach, when I was living there, was similar to the American approach today. Ten years ago in the U.S., people approached wine in a pretentious way and I’m all about getting rid of that. Wine should be fun. French people were already like that — because it’s an everyday drink for the French. Now it’s becoming an everyday drink here, something that people don’t have to get too stressed out about. But still, in my classes, I often get people who say I want to be able to order wine at a restaurant and feel confident, not so self-conscious. I tell them, don’t worry about it!

I think some Americans still feel silly if they are taking wine seriously. For example, if they have to swill a glass after ordering a bottle of wine.

Or they think, is this what I’m supposed to do? I say, do whatever you like. Just enjoy.

How has wine culture in the United States changed in the past decade?

People are becoming less pretentious about wine and are embracing wine as an everyday beverage. It’s changed a bit by removing stereotypes around wine, but some stereotypes still linger. I still get people who won’t drink rosé — a lot of them associate it with white zinfandel. In the Introduction to Wine course, I purposely put a French Provençal rosé next to an American white zinfandel, just to see what people will say about it and almost every class thinks that the white zinfandel matches better with a brie cheese than the French rosé.

Does white zinfandel deserve its bad reputation? Are there good ones?

Yes, there are. I selected one for my class that’s on the drier side and also very rich in flavor. There are still some thin, sweet, thin white zinfandels that are the wine equivalent of soda. But even those wines with some potato chips on the beach are not the worst thing (laughs). It’s low in alcohol and that sweet offsets the saltiness.

If you wanted to impress someone with a gift of a bottle of wine, what would you recommend?

It should be a gift from you that says something about you, but you also want them to appreciate it. I have a British friend and he thinks all American wines are awful – he calls them “too sweet.” When I buy him a gift, I sometimes buy an American wine, but I purposefully look for something that he likes — full body, but with finesse, not overly ripe fruit. Probably not a California wine, but maybe something interesting from Washington – like a Bordeaux blend. Otherwise, sparkling wines, especially “surprise” sparkling wines are always good. I’ve been gifting people sparkling wines from New Mexico and it is kind of fun. People say New Mexico? This is pretty good! I also have friends who like big, fruity wines, so I’ll give them something big and fruity, but not clumsy — like a nice shiraz from Australia. I recommend matching the wine with the person, but including an element of surprise. That’s what I like to do with my classes at ICE. I present the typical example of a wine, then I present something atypical. When I do the American wines in our Wine Essentials course, I’ll show them the American wines that are well made and representative and then I’ll throw in a fruit bomb.

Ready to discover the world of wine with Richard? Click here to check out the upcoming wine courses at ICE.

By Stephen Zagor — Dean of Restaurant & Culinary Management Program

“Is New York Too Expensive for Restaurateurs?” read the recent New York Times headline. What’s going on here? Are we about to experience a restaurant Armageddon? To read recent well-written and thoughtful stories in The New York Times and New York Post about the extremely challenging New York business environment for new and existing restaurants, one would think we are on the threshold of a cataclysmic event. Will our lives be mostly composed of delivered meal kits and food courts?

New York City flatiron building

Well, skyrocketing rents are very problematic; the new labor laws and wage and hour policies are challenging; food and ingredient costs are never a bargain; and burdensome laws and regulations targeting food businesses appear in an endless stream. Each of these is a serious issue on its own. Now add doing business in New York City with its unique issues and sprinkle in intense competition from the most restaurants per capita anywhere in the United States. The result makes you wonder why anyone would be in this business. Let’s open a dry cleaning business – it must be easier.

But wait. Is this the whole picture? Maybe there is still one hugely important critical piece missing from the story and it could tilt the balance between feast and famine: Do most owner/operators really know how to run their businesses? To be a popular chef or even a restaurant owner doesn’t necessarily mean someone really knows the “how-tos” of the business of restaurants. After all, in calm or even choppy waters, the restaurant business is challenging but doable. Yet when the economic storms roll in, if you don’t really know the operating side of restaurants, there is no surviving. Read between the lines – all of the forces mentioned above (rents, higher wages, new laws and competition) are forces imposed from outside, tossing operators around like a ship in a storm. What’s missing here is what is going on inside the ship. Does the captain know what he/she is doing?

I was recently shown a space by a woman who is an experienced restaurant GM and budding restaurateur. It was a closed, fully built restaurant on a busy street on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. It could seat 40 guests plus a handful more at the tiny bar. She was in love with the space; it had the bones to become the cute café she had always dreamed of; it looked great and had a low investment and easy conversion; she even lived nearby. Then I saw the rent — it was astronomical. It required strong, seven-figure sales to survive just the landlord. If she had signed, she might have lasted a year. She would have been working for the landlord, not herself. It would have been just the beginning of not knowing how.

As a former owner/operator myself and a long-time consultant and educator, I have had the incredible opportunity to see behind the curtain of some of the most respected and famous chefs and operators in America. I also have an army of students who, after learning the “how-tos,” have gone on to work at major and minor food businesses only to discover that many restaurants survive on magic and luck. Words like recipes (knowing the true production cost of products), retailing (understanding the true purpose of your business), yields (how much is left to serve after trim and cooking), Q Factor (cost of the “free” items like bread basket, ketchup, mustard, etc.), and purchasing strategy (proper buying and receiving procedures) are unknown. I can name numerous celebrity chefs whose business acumen either doesn’t exist or is pushed to the side in the name of creativity. This doesn’t include those who play with the cash, and keep loose systems and accountability so as not to get caught.

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This is not to say that the new wage laws, tip rules, rents, etc., aren’t major challenges. They definitely are. One celebrity chef recently noted in The New York Times that the way we operate now will not be the way we operate in the future. Still, it’s amazing the number of operators and chefs I have seen who appear successful but are really marginally profitable or not profitable at all. Some don’t even know how much they make. They are simply marketers hoping that “volume covers all sins.” When the going gets rough, it’s easy to look outside and blame everything else but yourself – especially when you may not know better.

Is proper culinary education helpful? It certainly could be. In the words of a student who came to ICE already the owner of a successful restaurant, “After I graduated, I put to use what I learned and made a lot more money with no more effort.” But maybe more knowledge will definitely help some. It won’t relieve the pains of a bad lease signed too quickly. But managing costs and maximizing revenues all present opportunities for change. It’s just knowing how.

Are NYC restaurants in a challenging time? Definitely. The way we have operated in the past will probably not be the way of the future. Being a great operator will require knowing how to run a successful business.

Want to study restaurant & culinary management at ICE? Click here for more info. 

By ICE Staff

According to our students, one of the best parts about studying at ICE is the day-to-day learning and cooking in ICE’s classroom kitchens, which simulate the experience of working in a professional restaurant kitchen. When the time comes to begin their first restaurant gig, our graduates are right at home in their work environments. So what exactly does a “day in the life” look like for ICE culinary students? A new video shows just that: scenes from a culinary arts class led by ICE Chef Instructor James Briscione, from the mise en place to plating to clean-up. Check out the below video for a taste of life at ICE.

Ready to jumpstart your culinary career? Click here for more info on ICE’s culinary career program.

 By ICE Staff

“My mom told me I couldn’t play with my food growing up, but culinary school has taught me otherwise,” said Jessica McCain (Culinary Arts ’16). After following a unique path from college to reality television on MTV’s Real World, the twenty-five year old Jess, who had always dreamed of going to culinary school, woke up one day and thought to herself, “It’s now or never.” She reached out to the Institute of Culinary Education and ten days later she was a student in the Culinary Arts program.

Nowadays, the recent ICE grad and former reality TV star is thinking about a different kind of star. “I owe so much to ICE because I do want to be a Michelin-starred chef and before I didn’t really think it was possible. After coming to ICE, I now know that it’s not too late to achieve my dreams — and that Michelin star can be mine.”

Ready to find your culinary voice? Click here for more information on ICE’s Culinary Arts program.


By Caitlin Gunther

In New York, the bagel capital of the world (nice try, Montreal), it’s only proper that the best culinary school offers an exclusive course in bagel making—which is why I found myself aproned and wrist-deep in flour on a Monday afternoon at the Institute of Culinary Education. With a mission to learn the art of making the city’s favorite breakfast food, I signed up for a course in bagels, pretzels and bialys. The class, a mix of culinary students and recreational bakers like myself, was led by ICE’s dean of bread baking and Balthazar’s founding bread baker, Sim Cass. The London native has been deemed the “prince of darkness” for his role in introducing dark-crusted sourdough to this side of the pond. He has a passion for dough and an encyclopedic knowledge of all things leavened. One class with Chef Sim will quash your fear of homemade bagel making.

bagel course at ICE

(credit: Casey Feehan @caseyfeehan)

While mixing, rolling, boiling and baking, I picked up some nuggets of bagel-making wisdom. Here are my top preparation tips for the next time you’re at home and looking for the perfect vehicle for your cream cheese and lox.

  1. Moisture: Wetter dough means crispier bagels. Contrary to what you’d expect, the higher the water content in your dough, the crispier your bagel. In the end, it’s a matter of preference, so don’t be afraid to tweak to your liking. Though the recipe we used called for 62.4% hydration, we lowered it to 60% in order to make chewier, less crispy bagels (that is, 540 grams of water, rather than 570 grams).
  2. Water temp: The colder the better. Due to the time constraints (four hours to get through bagels, pretzels and bialys) we used lukewarm water to mix our bagel dough. This activates the yeast faster. Ideally though, your water should be cold. If you have a couple hours to let your dough rest and rise, use cold water. And if later in the process, your dough is misbehaving (i.e., you’re having trouble kneading or shaping it) refrigerate it briefly and try again.
  3. Dry active yeast: Let it chill. Those tiny granules of yeast are going to have to do a lot of work; without them, your bagels would be mere bagel chips. Be kind to your yeast and give it a moment to rest once you add it to the water. Resist the urge to vigorously whisk the yeast and let it sit on the water surface and start its yeasty magic for three minutes before moving on to the next step.
  4. Flour: Embrace the gluten. Let’s step back for a moment. You’re eating a bagel. Is it really the time to start cutting back on gluten by using whole-wheat flour? But seriously, your bagel dough is going to be pulled and stretched and rolled and boiled—it needs lots of gluten for elasticity. According to Chef Sim, even so-called “whole-wheat” bagels have just a small percentage of whole-wheat flour. (Side note: when it comes to bread, Chef Sim is a rye purest himself. This class made me reconsider my own proclivities towards the whole wheat.) So unless you have a serious intolerance, just commit to having a bagel with full-gluten flour (we used about 87% high-gluten flour and 13% all-purpose flour).
  5. Mixing: Low and slow’s the way to go. To achieve that smooth, stretchy texture necessary for your bagel shaping, mix your dough using an electric mixer with a hook attachment at low speed. Think: 3 and 3. Three minutes of mixing on the lowest speed then three minutes on the second-to-lowest speed.
  6. The rise: Your kitchen climate is A-okay. According to Chef Sim, there’s no need to fret about the warmth or coolness of your kitchen. Nor do you need a special, warmed proofing box to accelerate the rise of your dough. Unless you leave the dough in your garden in the snow (Chef’s words, not mine), it’s going to rise.
  7. Flavor kick: After the proof. Once your dough has had the chance to “proof” (the baker’s term for the final rise before dough shaping), it’s time to add flavors that will be baked into the bagel, if any: cinnamon-raisin, blueberry, honey, sun-dried tomato, anchovies (weird, but I don’t know, maybe that’s your thing). Just make sure if you’re adding something oily, like sun-dried tomatoes, pat them dry to soak off excess oil—we don’t want that messing with our perfect dough. bagel-shaping
  8. Shaping: Think empanadas. Here’s the breakdown of shaping your bagel. Measure 4 ounces of dough and form it into a flat rectangle (here is where you would fold in your flavorings, if any). Then, fold the dough into an empanada shape, pinching around the edges. With generously floured hands, roll your dough to about 10 ½ inches with thin ends (like a snake). Dab cold water on one end and connect to the other to make a circle. Then roll that part to create a sealed seam.
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  9. Spa treatment: A brief boil, then an egg wash. The boiling before baking step is crucial to get that firm, crisp crust and a chewy interior. Using a spider or spatula, gently place your bagels in simmering water (not a rolling boil) for twenty seconds and remove to a lightly oiled sheet pan. Using a brush, treat your boiled bagels to a luxurious egg white wash to ensure that shiny crust.
  10. Toppings: You rule. The beautiful thing about making your own bagels is the freedom to add whichever toppings you want. I am in LOVE with everything bagels. I am NOT in love, however, with caraway seeds, and I wasted countless hours of my childhood flicking every last caraway seed off my everything bagels with cream cheese and butter (don’t judge). When you make your own bagels, you lord over your toppings with no restrictions. Salt bagel with toasted garlic? Go for it. Poppy, pumpkin and sesame seeds? Why not! You’ve done all the hard work—now it’s time to have fun.

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bagel-course-at-ice

Place your bagels into a convection oven preheated to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (or 400 degrees if using a non-convection oven), bake for 20 minutes and get ready to schmear your heart out.

Hankering for homemade bagels? Click here to check out ICE’s recreational baking courses.


By Michael Laiskonis—ICE Creative Director

In my last blog post, I described my search for historical traces of chocolate in lower Manhattan. In a relatively short time, chocolate traveled from its South and Central American origins to Europe and later into North American settlements. Though the early Dutch colony of New Amsterdam rose and fell well before chocolate became a permanent fixture, by the early 1700s, New York’s port was an important link in cocoa trade. Among those merchant families importing beans, the first glimpse of cocoa processing can be found on the island. By the end of the American Revolution and the turn of the 19th century, the city grew northward and chocolate had gained popularity, with several chocolate makers setting up shop.

One might think that researching this topic is as easy as entering “New York,” “chocolate,” and “history” into a search engine. Surprisingly, those yield scant results and even less clues to work with. A few books pointed me in the right direction—some names and places—but I soon realized I was drifting into relatively uncharted territory. I eventually found that the best way to crack the cases of these mysterious chocoate-makers was to begin with surviving city directories whose listings often provide a name, an address and most importantly, an occupation. The first of these directories in New York was published in 1786, with increasing regularity in years to follow. From there, genealogy records, newspapers, civil documents and maps added more life to the stories. Most often, the labyrinth comes to an abrupt halt; I may come across a name and an address, but all other details remain a casualty of history.

1801-directory

It is worth noting that chocolate was still consumed as a beverage in these early days, though with the chocolate-makers of the 1800s, we witness a slow and steady shift toward the refined bars of eating chocolate we would recognize today. Unclear is the extent to which chocolate may have been processed by these craft producers of their day, but certainly roasting, winnowing and grinding of cocoa beans was essential, no matter the final product. Chocolate was often manufactured alongside other milled products. In 1815, Samuel Holcombe was listed at 47 Gold Street, as a manufacturer of both chocolate and mustard. Over at 227 William Street, Charles Cogswell was also multi-tasking in mustard and chocolate as late as 1825, though it appears his son Jonathan stuck to mustard as he moved the business uptown to Spring Street a decade later. Many grocers and retailers most likely processed small quantities too, like Abraham Wagg or Frederic Shonnard at 220 Bowery. According to the 1791 directory, Peter Montayne at 182 Queen Street coupled chocolate making with the seemingly disparate occupation of blacksmith. As the number of independent chocolate-makers grew, one would imagine that, with competition and branding, the quality, quantity and variety of products would increase as well.

From the period after the American Revolution (during which cocoa trade into New York was limited) through the first half of the 19th century, I discovered dozens of names and places associated with chocolate in Manhattan. Many of these chocolate-makers appear and then disappear from records within a few years, but we clearly see chocolate activity spread throughout the growing city. Among those uncovered, but with little of their story to tell, include:

  • John Austin, listed as a city resident and chocolate-maker in 1787 court records
  • David Whitehill, at 32 William Street in 1791
  • Joseph and Joshua Leavy, at 15 Broad Street from 1786 to 1799 (later at 2 Water Street in 1801)
  • Jedediah Waterman, at 322 Water Street from 1791 to 1805
  • John Black, at Murray Street and Chapel Street (today West Broadway) in 1812, and later at 182 Bowery in the 1830s
  • Noel Blanche, at 28 Beekman Street, from 1808 to 1819
  • Peter Malard, on Barclay Street and later at 84 Duane Street from 1822 to 1827
  • Silvanus Horton, at 47 Gold Street from 1822-1830 (note it is the same address for Samuel Holcombe’s mustard and chocolate business mentioned above)
NYC chocolate history

A furniture maker that dabbled in chocolate making

The lives of these chocolate-makers offer a bit more color, context and background for further research:

  • An early branch of the politically powerful Roosevelt family dabbled in chocolate. John Roosevelt (a civic leader in his own right) milled chocolate on Maiden Lane until his death in 1750, passing on the business to sons Cornelius and Oliver.
  • Peter Swigard, listed as chocolate-maker but also as a tobacconist, occupied Bayard Street from the 1750s through the 1770s. It is possible Swigard learned the craft in Philadelphia before moving to New York.
  • Peter Low, chocolate-maker at Maiden Lane and Broadway in the 1760s-1770s, may have also doubled as a cabinet-maker. Eventually he would move his chocolate business across the Hudson River to New Jersey. Merchant Nicholas Low, who appears to be his brother, sold Peter’s chocolate on the docks near Coenties Market. As a side note, in researching specific historical names and places, one is often confronted with a darker context of the times—a March 1771 newspaper notice announces a reward for a runaway slave in Low’s “employ.”
  • Brothers Francis and John Van Dyk were part of another chocolate-making legacy. Their father Nicholas operated a chocolate mill in Newark as early as the 1760s before setting up in the city. Various addresses are listed over the years from 1786 to 1801: 48 Queen Street in 1786 (Queen Street would later be named Pearl Street and at the time would have marked the shoreline of the East River), 66 Broad Street and 28 Beekman Street (again, note the same address a decade later used by Noel Blanche).
  • Tobias Van Zandt, an early political figure in the city after the Revolution, made chocolate at 92 Water Street until his death in 1794. Minutes of a city council meeting in 1796 suggest a prior professional relationship between Tobias and Jedediah Waterman (noted above), when his widow Mary leased property to Waterman.
  • The Van Dyk family introduced chocolate, albeit briefly, to another prominent family at the turn of the century when Joseph Meeks married John Van Dyk’s daughter Sarah. Joseph would become one of the city’s most celebrated and prolific furniture-makers, but was interestingly involved in the chocolate business in 1814 and 1815 at 45 Broad Street, the same location that would later manufacture furniture. One might assume a sluggish economy at the outset of the War of 1812 forced Meeks to give his wife’s family business a try before returning to his original calling and moving his shop up to Vesey Street. To this day, surviving Meeks pieces fetch high prices among collectors.
  • French-born John Juhel didn’t make chocolate, but by many accounts was responsible for much of the cocoa bean trade coming into Manhattan in the early 1800s. Shipping records survive that detail his extensive import and export business. Juhel’s office was at the heart of what would grow into the bustling market on Washington Street, between Liberty and Cedar Streets.
  • John Wait, originally from Boston, established a chocolate business first at 228 William Street by 1815 and later on Elm Street in the 1830s, near what at the time would have been referred to as the “Tombs”—New York’s notorious prison. Dominating headlines of the day, Wait’s two young sons died tragically in an 1816 steamboat accident in New York harbor.
  • Perhaps the longest running chocolate-making dynasty in the city of that era was that of John Poillon and sons Peter and John Jr., whose business spanned nearly six decades. By 1808, John was listed at 116 Bowery near Grand Street. The sons moved their operation around the neighborhood over the years, up the Bowery from what we would today call the Lower East Side into the East Village near Astor Place. Though it appears Peter filed for bankruptcy in the early 1840s, an 1860 newspaper gossip column of sorts suggests that “old Peter Poillon…made a fortune making chocolate.”
  • By 1827, what would evolve into the iconic Delmonico’s restaurant (perhaps the first “fine-dining” restaurant of its time) included confectionery and chocolate manufacturing at 23 William Street. Brothers John and Peter Delmonico operated the pastry shop and cafe at that location until it was destroyed by fire in 1835, a few doors up from where the latest incarnation of the restaurant still stands.

    NYC chocolate history - 1860

    A reference to Peter Poillon’s chocolate business

The early 1800s saw much change for the new country and its fastest growing city. At the same time, chocolate production was changing as well. The capabilities of the Industrial Revolution would transform coarse blocks of chocolate into “digestible” cocoa powder and refined bars for eating and, eventually, a staple in confections of all kinds. Large factories and nationally-known brands would emerge out of Manhattan, flourishing into a golden age of chocolate manufacturing. Some of these chocolate-makers would survive into the 20th century before being absorbed by ever-growing companies and ultimately moved out of the congested city. My next post will look at this period, in search of any traces of chocolate manufacturers that may still remain.

Ready to study pastry arts with Chef Michael? Click here to learn more about our pastry arts program.


By Caitlin Gunther

With the heart of a globe-trotter and a passion for lifelong culinary education, Lourdes Reynoso (“Chef Lorrie”) is always up for an adventure. Whether she’s stationed in St. Petersburg for a three-month teaching residency or exploring the best parrillas in Buenos Aires, Chef Lorrie is continually feeding her voracious appetite for foods and cultures of the world. She shares both her global perspective and her expertise in international cuisines with the culinary arts students at ICE.

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Chef Lorrie comes from a big, food-loving family in the Philippines. Seven of the nine Reynoso siblings, including Chef Lorrie, work in some facet of the food industry. In fact, her sisters, pioneers of their time, founded a culinary school in Manila in the 1960s. Today, the Sylvia Reynoso Gala Culinary Art Studio counts among the most well-known culinary schools in the Philippines. As Chef Lorrie explains, “In Manila, my family is more or less synonymous with culinary school…and good food.” After receiving a bachelor’s degree in world history, Chef Lorrie earned the prestigious Grand Diplôme from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. She remained in Paris to study the French language at Le Sorbonne and art history at the Louvre museum, before returning to Manila to join the teaching staff at her sisters’ culinary school. Her ultimate career path came as no surprise to her family. “Even when I was in high school, I was teaching children’s baking courses during the summer,” says Chef Lorrie. Teaching in the kitchen was her calling from a young age.

Drawing upon the classical French techniques she learned at Le Cordon Bleu, Chef Lorrie taught culinary arts in Manila for several years. When she wasn’t in the kitchen classroom, she was traveling—feeding her second passion for discovering new foods and cultures. The opportunity arose to teach at the New York Restaurant School (now The Art Institute of New York City) and Chef Lorrie jumped on it. Asked about the intercontinental move, Chef Lorrie recalls, “I wanted to be in New York. At that time, it was just becoming the food capital of the world and a true melting pot.” She continued to teach there for twenty-one years, helping to train such prominent chefs as the current executive chef of Nobu, Ricky Estrellado, who considers Chef Lorrie a mentor.

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In 2008, when The Art Institute announced that it would discontinue its culinary program, Chef Lorrie immediately thought of ICE. Since 2009, she’s been part of the ICE teaching staff and has continued her own culinary education by traveling when not in the kitchen classrooms. Her most recent adventure has been her multiple teaching stints in St. Petersburg, Russia at Swissam, a top hospitality and culinary arts school that partnered with ICE in 2012. Though she was hesitant to go at first, Chef Lorrie quickly fell in love with St. Petersburg. “The food culture is extremely advanced. That’s why Swissam was opened. Before it opened, Russia had new wealth and great chefs like Alain Ducasse and Jaime Oliver were going there. But they still had communist-style hospitality schools. The owner decided to establish the best culinary and hospitality school he could.” Chef Lorrie has enjoyed being one of the ambassadors of the ICE curriculum, all while taking in Russian art and culture.

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From sampling the spices in the souks of Morocco to exploring the best parrillas in Argentina, Chef Lorrie has had her fair share of culinary voyages recently. For this lover of international cuisines and passionate teacher, ICE is the perfect place to call her permanent home.

Want to get in the kitchen classroom with Chef Lorrie? Click here to receive more information on ICE’s career programs.

 

In today’s culinary world, food sourcing is more important than ever. Locally-sourced produce has become the standard, rather than the exception. To stay at the forefront of this industry-wide movement, ICE built a state-of-the-art indoor hydroponic garden in its new Brookfield Place facilities. The garden gives ICE culinary students access to the freshest herbs and produce, plus the opportunity to take part in the latest urban agriculture trends. By instilling in students the importance of quality ingredients while allowing them to participate in innovative growing practices, ICE ensures that each student receives a holistic culinary education.

Utilizing LED light technology and a hydroponic irrigation system, ICE’s hydroponic garden grows up to 50 varieties of herbs and produce on any given day. There you’ll find both common and little-known herbs, inspiring culinary creativity and innovation in the classroom. “We’re growing things like toothache plant, purple ruffle basil, papalo, bronze fennel, red shiso and ordering new stuff all the time. We’re really trailblazing,” says Rob Laing, founder of Farm.One—the organization responsible for cultivating ICE’s hydroponic garden.

Making accessible the inaccessible, the garden gives both students and chef instructors the chance to work with freshly grown ingredients from around the globe without the limitations of seasonal or regional availability, encouraging them to push the boundaries of their culinary exploration. New varieties are planted each month and the team continually searches for rare seeds and innovative techniques to maximize flavor and appearance. What’s more, the garden produces several hundred pounds of herbs, micro greens, fruits and vegetables to supply the school each month, making the garden’s bounty an integral part of each ICE student’s education.

In addition to students and chef instructors, ICE’s hydroponic garden has drawn visits from industry leaders such as Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud, Bryce Shuman, Shane Hergatt, Gabriel Kreuther and Wylie Dufresne—chefs with refined palates who can taste and instantly envision how to use the garden’s herbs. Together with ICE’s bean-to-bar Chocolate Lab, ICE’s facilities prepare students for exciting careers in the current culinary landscape.

Click here to learn how you can study at ICE and get inside the hydroponic garden.