Even before the big announcement last October detailing my intentions to leave Le Bernardin at the end of the year, I had already begun to consider a number of directions my post-restaurant career might take. For some time, I’d been entertaining the idea of a path toward education. I was inspired by the one-on-one interaction with cooks I’d come to enjoy in the kitchen, but also by a new generation of chefs that seemed to be pushing the possibilities within a traditional culinary school environment. And as Eric Ripert and I reflected on what I had achieved and where I might go next, we both realized that moving in that direction made perfect sense.

Within days of the announcement, I’d have my very first meeting with ICE President Rick Smilow and his team, knocking around ideas on how I might be able to apply nearly two decades of industry experience — sweet and savory — in an educational setting. After years of working with ICE as an Advisory Board member and occasional guest instructor — not to mention the numerous student externs that have been through Le Bernardin’s pastry kitchen — I was certain it would be a good fit. I knew that I didn’t necessarily want to limit myself to the classroom alone, and Rick agreed. More…

ICE is pleased to announce that this March we will welcome prestigious pastry chef Michael Laiskonis as our first-ever Creative Director. In this new and innovative role, Laiskonis will bring his vast experience as an industry leader to ICE.

Laiskonis has long been one of the industry’s most creative and talented chefs. Fresh off of an eight-year tenure as Executive Pastry Chef at Le Bernardin, Laiskonis is well known for helping the restaurant earn four stars from The New York Times and three Michelin stars. He was named to America’s Top Ten Pastry Chefs by Pastry Art & Design in both 2002 and 2003 and was Bon Appétit’s Pastry Chef of the Year in 2004. Best known for his use of modern techniques to reinvent classic desserts, he was also awarded the coveted James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef in 2007. Laiskonis has been an active writer, in print and on-line, including Gourmet, Saveur and The Atlantic and has appeared on television shows such as Top Chef: Just Desserts. More…

Whew. ServSafe is now under my belt. My Culinary Management class took the exam early this month and we just got our scores back a few days ago. I’m happy to report that I passed. The refresher course has actually come at an ideal time as I just started a new job at Smith Canteen. My first few days involved trying to figure out how to arrange storage so that we were in compliance with health codes.

In the past weeks, Steve taught us about the restaurant experience for guests and opportunities for us to be great. He included ideas like having the chef visit all of the tables in the restaurant. He said that many people find being able to chat with the chef and be able to convey all of their ideas and concerns directly to the person in charge of the food is a great touch. However, he warned that the chef shouldn’t stand and hover creepily over diners without saying anything, because that becomes a negative experience. Last year, at Le Bernardin, I saw Eric Ripert glide out of the kitchen and come and visit one of the tables. Even though he didn’t visit my table, I remember how the entire dining room atmosphere changed and how thrilled I was to see that he was in the kitchen. More…

Last night, ICE hosted Dessert Professional’s 18th Annual Top Ten Pastry Chefs in America event. The annual awards honor ten amazing pastry chefs for their contribution to the industry. This year the honorees included Antonio Bachour of Quattro at Trump Soho and Solea at W South Beach, Heather Carlucci-Rodriguez of PRINT at the Ink48 Hotel, Tariq Hanna of Sucré, Sylvain Leroy of Paris Gourmet, Francisco Migoya of the Culinary Institute of America, Jerome Landrieu of Barry Callebaut Chocolate Academy, Yoni Morales of Ark Las Vegas Restaurant Corporation, Oscar Ortega of Atelier Ortega, Ron Paprocki of Gordon Ramsay at The London and Jean-Francois Suteau of The Beverly Hills Hotel.

The evening also included an award for Jacquy Pfeiffer, the co-founder and owner of the The French Pastry School in Chicago. Pfeiffer was one of the stars of Kings of Pastry, the acclaimed documentary about the Meilleurs Ouvriers de France competition. More…