By Sarah Entwistle  — Student, Culinary Arts ‘18

Meet Sarah Entwistle, our newest “Life as a Culinary Student” blogger. After graduating from American University with a degree in business, Sarah headed to Salt Lake City to pursue a career in finance. Though she was rising through the ranks as an analyst at Goldman Sachs, after a few years Sarah realized that her passions lay elsewhere — cooking. Sarah returned to the east coast and enrolled in ICE’s Culinary Arts program. In this first blog post, she writes about a unique aspect of Life as a Culinary Student — volunteer opportunities with world-renowned chefs.

Fresh Sea Scallop

Fresh Sea Scallop

The excitement was palpable as five other culinary students and I waited for our assignments in the kitchen. Most of us had already volunteered at an ICE event, but we knew the stakes were higher with Chef Alex Atala, considered by many the best chef in South America. Chef Atala was in New York City to cook for a benefit dinner on behalf of the MAD/Yale collaboration at ICE. The goal of this collaboration is to bring together established and emerging chefs and scholars to improve our modern food systems. As Chef Atala is a huge proponent of sustainable cooking practices, sourcing products from local vendors and taking steps to reduce food waste, this was an organic partnership that celebrated the union of social consciousness and delicious food.

At around 1 p.m., Chef Robert Ramsey walked in and gave us the rundown for the afternoon. Chef Robert was in charge of the appetizers, Chefs Atala and Mattos would prepare the entrées and Chef Michael Laiskonis was creating a dessert. The starters, which we were tasked with preparing, included kohlrabi slaw wrapped in a marinated kohlrabi wrapper topped with crispy long island squid and sesame butter, Connecticut kelp noodles tossed in a pistachio-miso cream and twirled into football-shaped rounds topped with freshly grated horseradish, seared cauliflower marinated in a mole sauce served with a buttermilk, pomegranate and pepita salad, and American buffalo tartare topped with sous vide egg yolks and scarlet frill mustard leaf.

Connecticut Kelp Noodles

Connecticut Kelp Noodles

From the moment the day started, there was no idle time. Chef Robert doled out individual tasks for each of us to start tackling until the other chefs arrived. My first assignment was to use a mandolin to shred the baby kohlrabi into thin pieces. It was my first experience using a mandolin and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about slicing a finger off. Chef Robert told me, “If you cut yourself on the mandolin today, I promise it won’t be the last time.” To avoid cutting myself for the first time, I was hyper-focused on the blade and managed to escape a bloody outcome. I did, however, cut the rubber gloves I was wearing so clearly I came close. We combined the shredded kohlrabi with yogurt, lemon juice and seasoning to transform it into a slaw. While the finished slaw was marinating in the refrigerator, I grated some horseradish fresh off the root. The scent was sharp and intense, and it had a very bold, peppery flavor. The shavings would later be tossed into the kelp noodles, lending a spicy bite to the dish. Meanwhile, my classmates worked on shucking scallops from the shell and clipping hundreds of tiny edible flowers from ICE’s hydroponic garden from the stem. With everyone’s adrenaline levels high, time flew by.

As the clock crept closer to the 6:30 p.m. service, we had to prepare the appetizers for plating. Using marinated kohlrabi slices as a blanket for the slaw, we wrapped the slices tightly into perfectly shaped cylinders that would later be topped with crispy, flash-fried squid. It was a fresh, playful dish that had a satisfying crunch — Chef Atala insisted that we should try each dish before it went out for service. Next, we tackled the kelp noodles. Once the noodles were tossed with the cream sauce, toasted pistachios and shaved horseradish, we molded them into bite-sized football shapes (similar to a tourné). We did this by grabbing a clump of noodles with culinary tweezers and delicately twirling the noodles against the side of the bowl until they were roughly the shape we were looking for. We then laid each piece onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper so that the mold would set prior to service. Right before going out the kitchen door they were topped with the crispy calamari.

Throughout the evening, Chef Atala was a humble and generous leader in the kitchen. When he first walked into the kitchen, he shook each of our hands and introduced himself, setting a warm and inviting tone for the evening. Prior to service, he remained calm and focused and did not engage in much small talk or stray from whatever task he was working on. He brought in fresh, beautiful sea scallops that were still in the shell and took great care in gently shucking each one. As scallops are not typically sold in the shell, he took the time to demonstrate how to shuck them. When we prepared the appetizers, I noticed people coming into the kitchen to introduce themselves to Chef Atala and he was nothing short of polite and gracious. As a student with limited exposure to professional restaurant kitchens, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from working with one of the top chefs in the world. My first experience couldn’t have been more positive and I appreciated all the information that I was able to glean.

I’ve been a Culinary Arts student at ICE for nearly two months now and the opportunity to work in a kitchen led by Chef Alex Atala was one of the best experiences so far. I would implore any fellow ICE students who are looking to get involved in the culinary industry or to push themselves out of their comfort zones to check out the volunteering opportunities that ICE provides — it will be well worth your time.

Learn more about ICE’s Culinary Arts career training program.

By Kelly Newsome — Student, Culinary Arts

When you’re a lunatic like me, food gets you so excited that you want to do everything. After a lesson on India’s curries, I was ready to pack my bags for a sabbatical to diligently tend tandoori ovens and learn from the master chapati makers of the Indian sub-continent. After two weeks learning about the regional cooking of Italy, I was fantasizing about working in the kitchen of an idyllic agriturismo in the Tuscan countryside — perhaps learning the fine art of truffle hunting was in my future? Then there’s my love of writing, cookbooks and teaching — how could that fit into my plans? As tantalizing as these possibilities seem, the reality is equally foreboding — I need to choose one thing, right now, and this decision could determine the direction of my culinary career, forever. It feels like taking the SATs all over again. Adding to this predicament has been my recent experience in Module 4, Pastry & Baking Arts. I’d like to blame it on the butter but the truth is: I love the precision that baking demands. Accuracy, care and diligence almost always result in an excellent final product — and I like that. With all these interesting paths to explore, how should I go about deciding which one to follow?

Like many of my classmates who are nearing the end of their class instruction, the challenges we face are practical: we need to make a living; we need to fend off doubters and naysayers; we’re looking for personal fulfillment in our careers; and health insurance would be nice. With these concerns in mind, I’ve decided to lay out a roadmap of my planned approach. I can’t say it’s the right way, but hopefully it will set me on a path toward career fulfillment — and who knows, maybe it will help others who are facing a similar dilemma.

Culinary Student Kelly Newsome

1. Talk To Your Chef-Instructors

This may seem like the most obvious, but it is absolutely the most important. Our instructors have extensive experience performing at the highest level of the culinary industry — a level achieved by people who work hard and make smart choices. Realizing that I needed some serious guidance, I asked my current instructor, Chef Chad Pagano for his advice to culinary students feeling “overly enthusiastic” and a little unsure about their direction. Here’s what Chef Chad had to say: “First and foremost, stop overthinking it. Listen to your heart. Passion and love of the food industry will steer you in the right direction. Within that, work for the best chef you can find. I don’t care if it’s in the basement of his house. Young cooks need two things: practical kitchen skills and work ethic. You should also be reading, watching videos and immersing yourself in the industry. This would include volunteering and attending any and all demos and events at the school. This will help you fall into the proper direction for your career.” With this advice in mind, I’ve been able to narrow my search for an externship because I know I want to start my career working for the best possible chef that will have me. I was also able to narrow my search because there were certain types of restaurants that intuitively felt right to me and others that didn’t. So follow your heart. It may sound cliché, but the truth is, it will never let you down.

2. Explore All Your Possibilities

I have a vast pool of culinary interests, from working in a fine-dining restaurant to becoming a food editor or cookbook author. The great thing about ICE is that we have the opportunity to explore all of these options through externships and extracurricular courses. I’ve decided to apply for both food media and restaurant externships. I will go on trails at restaurants and interviews in test kitchens. My hope is that, just like a date, the experience will tell me the right choice to make.

Kelly Newsome

3. Get Involved

Volunteering at different culinary events throughout the city has not only given me a flavor of what to expect in professional restaurant kitchens, but it has also exposed me to some of the biggest culinary leaders in the industry. You get a sense of how to behave, what is expected of you and the pace and environment you might be walking into. Not to mention, it’s a chance to make a good impression, learn, observe and explore some of the possibilities.

4. Don’t Stress

One thing that I know for sure, because it has been hammered into my head for four straight modules, is that if you work hard, have a good attitude and the desire to perform at your absolute best, you’re going to be okay. So don’t stress, just smile (when possible), put your head down and do the best work that you can at all times.

The most important lesson that I have learned since beginning culinary school at ICE is that you need to stay true to you. Don’t forget what brought you to culinary school in the first place. There will always be people telling you that you didn’t need to go to culinary school, people who say you won’t make any money, people who tell you that you’re crazy for wanting to cook for a living. It doesn’t matter what they think, because if you felt this was right for you, then you are doing the right thing. Some people even say that the term “passion” is overused and has lost its meaning. I say that if passion for food and the culinary arts is what inspired you, keep being passionate and you’ll find the right direction for you.

Ready to embark on your culinary career path? Learn more about ICE’s career programs. 

Tina Ye (Culinary Arts, ’17) is not just our newest student blogger, she’s also one of the 2017 #CulinaryVoice Scholarship Challenge winners. In this post, she shares her path from interaction designer to culinary student at ICE — and how she discovered the superpower of food along the way.

By Tina Ye — Student, School of Culinary Arts

I wasn’t supposed to end up in culinary school. The way I got here was quite by accident. In fact, I started out my adult life very much wanting to be an interaction designer. An interaction designer is someone who makes digital products and services user-friendly. If you looked up directions on your phone today, and it felt as natural as picking your nose, then we did our job right.

I got to be on the path to interaction design because I’ve always been a huge nerd. In the sixth grade, I started building websites for fun, filling them with adolescent treasures like Spice Girls song lyrics, listicles and drawings of Sailor Moon. Eventually, adults picked up on my computer abilities and I was given the opportunity to trade them for money. While my peers toiled away at the local Baskin-Robbins developing asymmetrical bicep syndrome, I made logos at $250 a pop — not a bad rate for a 16-year-old.

culinary student Tina Ye

Food wasn’t really on my mind until college. By then I had gotten it into my head that I wanted to be an artist, but I reassured my mom that I’d be employable by dual-majoring in architecture. Neither turned out to be more than just a degree (I was too naive back then to know that college was for asking questions, not picking a life path), but still, they took up most of my time. To fill the social vacuum that comes from being a closeted dual-major, I turned to cooking with my roommates.

At the time, I was living in a rather unique situation. Four friends and I—one of them my then-boyfriend (now spouse)—decided to move off-campus into a big, creaky colonial house: two stories, a huge eat-in kitchen, and front and back decks for grilling. It was collegiate paradise. My roommates and I felt so adult when we signed that lease. We even had a car that we drove to visit fun and exotic places like…the grocery store!

The five of us were obsessed with grocery shopping—it felt like going to Six Flags. Every Saturday, we would explore the local Costco and load up on cheddar cheese, bacon, orange juice, chicken breast, ground beef, salad, canned beans, bread, bags of onions and potatoes hefty enough to crush a German shepherd, and yes, bulk boxes of Pop-Tarts.

When we got home, we’d drink half the orange juice within minutes, then I’d bust out “The Boston Globe Cookbook,” “101 Fast ‘n Easy Recipes,” or cookingforengineers.com (nerd pride!) and set to work. We made shepherd’s pie, jerk chicken, chili, New England clam chowder, meatloaf, sugar cookies with our own royal frosting, even Caesar dressing from scratch (I’ll never forget that moment my friend Elliot taught me you could eat raw egg). Friends of friends heard about our feasts and “casually” rolled by. My social life bloomed like the rind of a good Camembert. Who needs frat parties? All I needed was a good wooden spoon and the kitchen table of 82 Bristol Road!

Before long, we all graduated and moved on from that first experiment in communal living. But I continued those experiments elsewhere, with other roommates, in other shared apartments. The cooking got ever more ambitious (at one point I attempted to make puff pastry from scratch in 90° heat — poor life decision, turns out). Through it all, I felt a growing sense of comfort, community and pride. I loved having friends over and filling their bellies with food and their heads with conversation. With a stove and a pot, I discovered I could salve a wounded heart, crack open barriers of indifference, create warmth and fill emptiness (even if it was just stomachs). I started to have an inkling that food harbors immense superpowers, and somehow I was able to harness and direct those powers in positive ways.

Eventually, I moved to New York to study Interaction Design at the School of Visual Arts. The rolling snowball of my previous computer-y accomplishments just kept…rolling. I graduated and went from tech startup to tech startup. It all felt very logical, orderly and well-calculated. I had a professional salary even my family could approve of. What could possibly be missing?

I wouldn’t blame my growing restlessness on any one factor. But as I worked on project after project, I began to notice patterns. Tech startups are volatile places to be. The rewards are immense if you succeed, but so are the risks, and every day, teams of dedicated, hard-working people operate in stress-inducing environments of high uncertainty. When people are faced with so many unknowns, one natural tendency is to grasp for certainty. We fall back on assumptions instead of examining facts. We avoid dissent and seek the comfort of those who agree with us. We dig in and harden and stop listening.

I have seen this happen in many tense product meetings and feedback sessions, sometimes to the detriment of the organization’s mission. I began to wonder: in today’s world, where we have no shortage of uncertainty and immense challenges ahead as a society, can we learn to become better listeners, more willing collaborators and more open-minded friends, colleagues and neighbors? I thought back to those moments around the kitchen table, when even a sulking roommate will come out of hiding to check out the soup. Too busy chewing, even the most voracious talker becomes a good listener.

In March of this year, I made a video that posited that we can build bridges with food. I envisioned traveling around the country, learning about the lives of people who are very different from me, and sharing their stories in the form of evocative dishes. I entered the video into ICE’s Find Your Culinary Voice scholarship challenge. To my surprise, people responded with immense enthusiasm, and with the votes of friends and total strangers alike, I was awarded a full scholarship to ICE’s Culinary Arts program. Goodbye, old life of pushing pixels. Hello, new life of…who knows! Anything could happen.

Since beginning culinary school, I’ve been on a whirlwind tour of learning how to think and act like a world-class chef. I considered myself a pretty decent ingredient wrangler before, but now I’m really discovering how to treat these things with finesse and respect. Under the tutelage of chefs Lorrie, Michael and others, my cuts are straighter, my mise en place neater and my heat control more accurate. I am learning not just cooking techniques but also discipline, humility and professionalism. Just as important, I am meeting people from all walks of life in my classmates. (Who knew the hopes set out in my video would so soon be fulfilled?) Though our backgrounds are different, we support one another with tips and stories from our past lives, and cheer each other on through the critiques and exams. If I could convince people to gather around a table before with my slightly overcooked chicken, just think what I can do with these skills and this network after graduating. 

I came to ICE not necessarily to become the next Top Chef, but to answer this question: what is food’s real superpower? And can I harness it to do what I’d always wanted to do as an interaction designer: make a tiny, positive dent in the world? There is much work to be done, but I’m grateful for this chance to train for all the challenges ahead at ICE.

Interested in discovering where a culinary education can take you? Click here to learn more about ICE’s career programs.

By Luz Estrella — Student, School of Culinary Arts ‘17

Throughout my experience at the Institute of Culinary Education, I’ve learned so many terms, recipes and methods that it’s hard to keep track of them all. During each module we’ve had a new topic to discuss, and I’ve studied diligently in each. Learning to fabricate protein has been one of my biggest challenges. Each section of protein has its own terms and these terms can vary, based on what animal you’re fabricating. Having to cut open an animal, touch the cold, gooey flesh and separating the different parts was very new to me and, needless to say, very messy, too. I was afraid of cutting myself, or simply doing it wrong.

Luz Estrella

The first protein I ever fabricated was a fish: flounder. As we started, the words of my instructor, David Waltuck, were scrambling through my head. “Be careful,” he warned us. “Always remember, you are in control of your knife. Listen to your knife touching the bones.” It was like nothing I had ever done. It wasn’t a matter of just cutting meat — everything had to be done with caution.

Here are a few things I picked up during the fish fabrication lessons.

  1. Safety first: Use your senses. The first step of fabricating meat, poultry or fish is following food safety regulations. Use your senses — check the fish for aroma, clear eyes, firmness of flesh and bright gills. This is to make sure the fish is fresh.
  2. Round versus flat fish. The first fish I fabricated was a flounder, which is a flat fish, so I used a fillet knife. A fillet knife is flexible and it works wonders when fabricating flat fish. When cutting a flat fish, start by cutting around the head and making a V-shaped notch. Pull the head away from the body while twisting it slightly. Then, slice from head to tail, making sure you don’t cut through backbones. For a round fish, start by laying the fish on a cutting board with the backbone parallel to the work surface and the head on the opposite side of the hand that’s holding your knife. Proceed to make a cut behind the head and gill plates. Then, turn the knife making sure the tip of the knife is pointing toward the tail. Run the blade down the length of the fish, cutting against the backbone.
  3. Removing the skin and pin bones. We also learned how to remove the skin from a fish fillet and it was pretty simple. To remove the skin, lay the fillet parallel to the edge of the cutting board, make a small cut on the tail side and pull the skin away from the flesh with your guiding hand. Then, make sure to remove all pin bones — those needle-thin bones that can be tricky to spot. To remove the pin bones, first run your fingertips over the fillet to locate the bones. Then, use tweezers to gently remove each bone. Chef David taught us the useful trick of using a small hotel pan filled with water to rinse your tweezers each time you pull a bone out. As I mentioned before, using your senses is very important while fabricating fish. You can see the pin bones, but using your sense of touch is fundamental. (Side note: after the fabricating lesson, we gathered all the fish bones and made fish stock.)
  4. How chefs tackle lobster. As part of the fabrication curriculum I also had to fabricate shellfish. As this point, I thought to myself, how bad can it be? Everything seemed to go okay until I had to fabricate a lobster. I had always heard that the best way to kill a lobster was by boiling it alive. However, in this lesson, I was taught not to fear my knife and to kill the lobster with a chef’s knife. To do so, first insert the tip of the knife into the base of the head, pulling the knife all the way down to the shell and splitting the head in half. Then, continue to do the same procedure with the tail. The cutting part wasn’t too hard, but having to deal with a live, moving lobster while you’re trying to cut through it was frightening.

fish fabrication

Overall, it’s been a rewarding experience to learn the terms, techniques and steps to create the meals I grew up eating. Mastering the art of fabricating meat and fish was a challenge for me, but I’m glad I was able to overcome the challenge and now understand this important culinary technique.

Want to take your culinary skills to the next level? Click here to learn about ICE’s career programs.

By Kelly Newsome — Student, School of Culinary Arts

cobb salad

An entire class on salad, seriously? That was the topic of conversation one Tuesday evening in the women’s locker room at ICE. We hemmed and hawed, convinced that there was nothing to learn about salads that we didn’t already know. Salads, at least in the American culinary tradition, have been relegated to the depths of diet food, a punishment rather than a pleasure. But, as I would soon learn, salads can be unabashedly delicious, and the classics are classics for a reason — when executed correctly, they are irresistible. My assignment that Tuesday night was Cobb salad — a classic American recipe that gave me a newfound respect for the humble art of salad creation.

I always thought that Cobb salad was named after the famous baseball player, Ty Cobb. Not true. The Cobb salad was born in the wee hours of a Hollywood, California, morning in 1937 at the Brown Derby restaurant. The owner, Bob Cobb, was ruffling through the kitchen’s refrigerator, pulling out various remnants including lettuce, hard-boiled eggs, cheese, tomatoes, chives and avocado. Smelling bacon being cooked nearby, he grabbed a few slices to add to his dish. Bob tossed the ingredients together and shared the outcome with his friend Sid Grauman (of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre fame). Mr. Grauman was so impressed that he asked for a “Cobb salad” at the restaurant the very next day, and a classic was born. The legend seems familiar to the story of the famous chicken wings of Buffalo. Perhaps the common thread is American ingenuity and resourcefulness on a plate?

cobb salad

A really great Cobb salad is not only a thing of beauty but an absolute pleasure to eat. Each bite brings a symphony of flavors and textures — the crispy bacon meets the creamy blue cheese, the crunchy and fresh salad greens mingle with pungent herbs and luscious chicken, the eggs provide a soft and satisfying backdrop, and the piquant vinaigrette delicately envelops each morsel and acts as an essential bridge that transforms the dish from many things to one. Each component, when perfectly cooked and assembled, offers a culinary experience that is far greater in combination than any one ingredient alone. This is the key to understanding the true beauty of a perfectly composed salad. Like any other dish, it’s all about the balance.

So how does one approach the Cobb salad? According Chef Charles Granquist, my instructor for salad night, “execute each ingredient perfectly, dress each component separately and arrange the salad organically — don’t overthink it.” When the night was through and the salads were delightfully devoured, visions of Cobb salad parties danced in my head: the classics I thought, can’t be beat.

cobb salad

Cobb Salad
Yield: makes about 10 servings

Ingredients:

5 chicken breasts, bone-in
Salt as needed
Ground black pepper as needed
20 slices bacon, cooked
1 pound, 4 ounces Romaine lettuce, washed, dried and torn into pieces
8 fluid ounces red wine vinaigrette (recipe below)
10 ounces tomatoes, medium-dice
10 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
3 avocados, peeled, pitted and cut into medium-dice
5 scallions, bias-cut (at a roughly 45-degree angle), thinly sliced

Preparation:

  • Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper, and roast until internal temperature is 165°F. Cool, remove the breasts from the bone, cut into ½” dice.
  • Cook the bacon slices until crisp. Drain on absorbent paper towels and keep warm.

To assemble the salad:

  • For each serving, toss two ounces romaine with two tablespoons of vinaigrette. Mound on a plate, and top with four ounces chicken, 1¼ ounce diced tomato, one ounce blue cheese, two ounces avocado, ¼ ounce green onions and two bacon strips, crumbled.

Red Wine Vinaigrette
Yield: 8 fluid ounces

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon shallots, minced
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 fluid ounces red wine vinegar
6 fluid ounces canola oil
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste

Preparation:

  • In a small bowl, combine the shallot, mustard and vinegar.
  • Add the canola oil gradually, whisking constantly.
  • Add additional flavorings and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Taste and adjust acid/oil balance.

A few tips from the chef in training:

  1. Make sure that your bacon is crispy! If it isn’t, you’ll lose that essential crunchy bite.
  2. Cook the chicken on the bone if possible — this delivers a more succulent and satisfying result.
  3. Make sure that you dress (don’t overdress) and season each component individually. This is the key to creating a cohesive and balanced dish.
  4. Use a long, oval platter rather than a bowl. This creates a more even spread for serving and presentation.

Ready to pursue your passion for culinary arts? Click here to learn about ICE’s culinary, pastry and hospitality programs. 

By Kelly Newsome —Student, Culinary Arts, ‘17

I come from a long line of salt lovers. My mother loves telling the story of my grandfather, who during peak tomato season, would arrive at our house, grab a salt shaker and head out to the garden to stalk his prey. He would sit on a log and enjoy the sweet reward of summer: a juicy, ripe tomato, every bite sprinkled with a little salt. My father has shocked friends and guests by salting any melon that crossed his path, a skill acquired from his parents and grandparents while growing up in southern Virginia. To say that I come by my appreciation of salt honestly would be an understatement. We are and will always be a salt-loving family. As a culinary student, I was surprised to hear my instructor tell me, “Very good, but it needs a little more salt.” Is he talking to me, the queen of salt? Apparently, chefs love salt too, but that love is born from an understanding that salt can transform just about any food from alright to irresistible.

Kelly Newsome

“Teaching salt is incredibly difficult and it is the most important thing that you will get out of culinary school,” says my current instructor, Chef Charles Granquist, an ICE alum who has worked at Savoy, Blue Hill and Food Network. Chef Charles’ reliable instruction of, “needs a little more salt” spurred me to dig a bit deeper into teaching and learning about salt. Why is it so difficult? I wondered. According to Chef Charles, “For the first few modules, students straight don’t believe you. You just have to tell them over and over again: more salt.” Starting with disbelief does seem like a steep hill to climb. Even my historically salty palate was tested by his demand for more salt.

Chef Lorrie Reynoso, my instructor for Module One, uses a gradual approach to teach new culinary students about the transformative power of salt. Says Chef Lorrie, “To teach how beneficial salt is to cooking and flavor, I usually make students taste something unsalted, graduating to slightly salted, and at the end graduating to a full and satisfactory flavor level with more salt and whatever seasonings are required — usually pepper, herbs or spices.” We did this with salsa on our second day of class and many times thereafter with other dishes. Every single time, it was as if I was experiencing that innate salty power for the first time. “Wow,” I thought, “salt is magic.”

salts

Kelly’s salt collection

The great thing about being a student is that you have ample opportunities to screw up. And it’s from this freedom to fail that the learning really sinks in. When it comes to salt and developing your palate, taking your salt a bit too far may be the best mistake you can make. Chef Charles believes this is the salty tipping point. “At first, students may salt too much and that is a crucial moment. That is when they taste what it’s like to truly over season and they can start to back off.”

Salt is justly revered and cherished by cooks across the globe. Depending on the cuisine, it takes a variety of forms, from the ubiquitous soy sauce and fish sauce used in many Asian cultures to the salt-cured pork from Italy or the American South. Chef Lorrie points out that salt has been so important in history, that even the word “salary” is derived from salt. “During the Roman Empire, salt was not only used to pay salaries, but for rent, ransom, dowry and more. Even then, people knew that salt just added flavor to practically anything edible.” Salt was also crucial to food preservation, an essential technique used by humankind for thousands of years before refrigeration. Think about that the next time you enjoy a luscious piece of salty, savory, porky, aged prosciutto.

To my great surprise, my love and appreciation for salt continues to evolve and deepen every time I step in the kitchen for a new lesson. As soon as I hear, “Pull out the rib-eyes” I start thinking, “Let’s get those babies salted and on the fire.” There really is nothing like a perfectly cooked and seasoned piece of beef — it’s what dreams are made of. No matter what you’re cooking, be it bread, blanched vegetables, grilled fruit, hollandaise sauce or ice cream, it will always be better with just a little bit more salt.

Want to learn to salt, season and cook like a pro? Click here for more information on ICE’s career programs.


By Emma Weinstein—Culinary Management ’17 / Culinary Arts ’17

I have been in love with food from an early age. Growing up in a family where both of my parents worked in the restaurant and hospitality industry, food and restaurants have always been a huge part of my life. At seven days old I was already in my first restaurant, sleeping soundly in my mom’s lap while my parents ate. I am lucky to have been born into a family where food has always been prominent. I have so many wonderful food-related memories, from exploring farmers’ markets in Paris to waking up at the crack of dawn to see the tuna auction at the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo.

ICE Student Emma Weinstein

Emma at ICE’s Fall Career Fair

I attended Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY, where I majored in Art History. Still, I always found myself very involved with food. I wrote restaurant reviews for our local campus chapter of Her Campus, went on road trips to visit local cheese farmers and loved exploring the different farmers’ markets and restaurants in our area. It seemed that a career in food was always my calling, even if I didn’t recognize it yet. After graduating, I worked in several contemporary art galleries in Chelsea before deciding to finally face the music and pursue a career in food. I left the gallery where I had served as assistant director for a year and a half and joined my father and brother to help launch a new restaurant venture—Chuck & Blade, a contemporary steakhouse located in Chelsea.

Prior to this decision, I had some experience working in restaurants but it was by no means extensive. I worked as a hostess briefly in high school and did a pastry internship as well, but that was it. Suddenly I was fully immersed in the world of restaurants and having to learn a great deal of information within a relatively short time frame. I never dreamed I would find myself researching different types of commercial dishwashers or deliberating over what size ice cubes our restaurant should serve. Some parts were much more fun than others. I loved meeting with different vendors, sampling products, touring the restaurant show, developing the menu and beverage program and participating in menu tastings. On the other hand, filling out paperwork for all the vendors, setting up payroll and dealing with the department of buildings was not as exciting. It was a wonderful learning experience, and while I do feel I learned a lot on my own in a relatively short period of time, I felt I would greatly benefit from a more formal education; this led me to ICE.

I started my time at ICE as a Culinary Management student, but just recently decided to pursue Culinary Arts as well. I’m not entirely sure yet what I want to do with my culinary diploma. I love writing and reading about food, and I’m a huge fan of Michael Pollan, Ruth Reichl and Frank Bruni. I also really enjoyed developing the concept of my family’s restaurant and working with my mom to design the interiors. I am eager to soak up as much information as possible during my time at ICE and hope these two programs will help me hone in on what aspect of the industry I would most like to pursue.

Want to learn more about ICE’s career programs? Click here for more info.


By Lauren Jessen­—Culinary Arts/Culinary Management ‘16

As a student enrolled in a dual-diploma program at ICE, I juggled a schedule for both the Culinary Arts and Culinary Management programs. Three days a week, I had management classes from 8AM to 12PM and then quickly I’d have to change for my 1PM culinary arts class, which ran until 5PM. On the days I didn’t have management classes, I would spend my mornings working on reading and classwork for management, and then the remainder of my day honing my cooking skills in class.

lauren jessen culinary student institute of culinary education

Once my Culinary Arts program ended, I had one month left of my management classes. The catch? I had just two weeks until I had to start my externship in a fast-paced NYC restaurant. This meant I had to build my management class business plan—the culmination of the Culinary Management program—with a full work schedule. My externship schedule was anything but lax. I worked in the restaurant’s kitchen five days a week—being smart with my time was more important than ever. While I had reading, presentations to deliver and business plans to develop for my management class, I also wanted to do a great job at my externship.

When situations like this happen, time management is crucial. Here are four ways I managed my time between my management class and externship:

  1. Plan ahead. If you know you’re going to be busy in the near future, work extra hard ahead of time to accomplish as much as you can beforehand. This way, when you’re tired and busy during your externship, you’ll feel better knowing that a solid chunk of your work is already done.
  2. Use free hours wisely. Some days I would have a full morning of class and then run to work to start my shift at 1PM, leaving barely any free time in the day. On the days you don’t have class or if you work a morning shift and get out relatively early in the evening, make use of that time by working on your business plan or putting together your presentations for class. Set aside one or two hours during your non-work/class hours to get your important work done.
  3. Focus on one task at a time. At times, the workload of two programs may feel overwhelming. But working step-by-step and checking off small tasks systematically, rather than procrastinating and scrambling to get things done at the very end, will feel more manageable and the payoff is huge.
  4. Prioritize your health. Throughout my management class, my instructor would always tell us to take care of ourselves. Working in the restaurant industry can be physically tiring and the long hours aren’t conducive to good health. When balancing a schedule of working and going to school, rest when you can and don’t neglect down time. If you burn out or get sick you won’t be able to go to class, do your work, or excel at your job.

Ready to launch your culinary career? Click here to learn more about our career programs.


By Jessica McCain—Student, School of Culinary Arts

Before culinary school, when I thought of culinary arts and fine dining, my mind always wandered to the French—at the time, I saw the French as the sole proprietors of exquisite cuisine. From classic dishes such as coq au vin to other dishes with fancy names I could hardly pronounce (before coming to ICE, that is), I was sure that I wanted to focus my culinary studies on French cuisine. In fact, I wanted to master the art of French cooking.

Jess_McCain_Culinary_Arts_edited-4_600x400

When classes began and we started cooking our way through different regions, I was exposed to numerous different styles and flavors of the world. Initially, I was still fixated on the French—the classic style and elegance associated with this cuisine was more than captivating. And with ideas of restaurant kitchens like Daniel in my head, I couldn’t shake the idea that French fare was the pinnacle of cuisines.

It was when our class curriculum moved on to the Asian region that my mind began to open to different styles of cooking. Before culinary school, I only knew of the more popular Asian dishes—like sushi rolls and pad Thai—but I never realized the complexity and variety of Asian cuisine. Getting to know the different spices, methods of cooking and the time required to prepare the bases to some of the dishes came as a total shock to me. I discovered new flavors and textures in Asian cuisine that I hadn’t been exposed to previously and found myself excelling at the new methods of preparation—to my surprise, preparing items like bao buns and sushi came naturally to me. When we began exploring the flavors of India and Thailand, I knew my idea of one “supreme” cuisine had changed.

Ming_Tsai_Curriculum_CulinaryArts_6.8.16-15

In addition to learning new cooking styles and ingredients, our classes introduced me to equipment I had never heard of before culinary school—one of my favorite aspects of my education here at ICE. For example, in one of our lessons we had the chance to make naan, a pita-like bread that is made with a special oven called a tandoor. A tandoor is traditionally a clay, wood or charcoal-burning oven—the kind used to cook tandoori chicken. We cooked our naan by pressing the dough firmly against the sides of the tandoor to infuse it with the spices, smoke and flavors of the chicken while simultaneously cooking the bread. This technique means safety gloves and great caution are a must. When done properly, this lengthy process produces an absolutely delicious product, and one that I never would have learned by focusing solely on French cuisine.

From toasting and grinding our own spices to making marinades and curries to rolling our own sushi rolls, Asian cuisine is so much more compelling and delicious than I ever thought. I look back to when I was one-cuisine-minded and I could not be happier with my decision to be here. I have a more complex view and ICE has broadened my culinary horizons beyond French cuisine. I can’t wait to enter the world of pastry in the next module!

Ready to broaden your culinary horizons? Click here to learn more about ICE’s innovative Culinary Arts program. 

 

By Jessica McCain—Student, School of Culinary Arts

Most of us spend our childhoods answering the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The fact is, we all become adults some day and have to do something…but what we want to do and what we end up doing isn’t always the same thing.

All of your life experiences push you in a certain direction: they influence the choices you make, define who you are and what you choose as a career. But why just choose a career when you can choose your passion? It took me 25 years to figure out the difference between the two, and now here I am, a student at ICE.

Jess_McCain_Culinary_Arts_edited-4_600x400

However conclusive and easy that sounds, it wasn’t an easy journey. I didn’t just wake up one day with everything falling into place. If we go back seven years ago, you find me at age 18—the youngest of four in a hardworking military family. I did what any normal kid would do: went to college, just like the rest of my siblings. The only difference? I hated it! I was so concerned about what I thought my parents wanted that I ended up a first-year nursing student with an overloaded nineteen-hour course schedule, as a new sorority pledge, an ROTC cadet and an intramural sports enthusiast.

If this overachieving, trying-to-please everyone else style of decision-making sounds like you, you’re not alone. By the time I was halfway through my degree, I knew something had to change. So I decided to change my major to psychology. So what if it added another year? I didn’t love it, but it was still a degree…right? I’d be 23 with a degree!

Wrong answer. Another year in, I had the same drowning feeling and still no degree.

College didn’t work out, so I started making other changes. I spent four years in reality television, worked endless miscellaneous jobs and even moved across the country to California. By then, I had finally had enough. Working for so long in fields that I hated (and that offered no room for professional growth) inspired me to finally give in to the one passion that had always stuck with me: cooking.

Jess_McCain_Culinary_Arts_edited-2_600x400

ICE was all the way back in New York City, but I knew I had to give it a chance. Once I toured the school and met with the admissions team, I could just feel that I was finally in my lane. Still, the process was far from easy. Coordinating on a three-hour time difference, trying to wade through FAFSA paperwork and find an apartment within a short period of time was no joke! However, unlike some of the other culinary schools I had visited, at ICE I could tell I wasn’t just a number in a system. No, Mr. Jock Grundy, my admissions counselor, made sure I felt that I mattered, and he was always there to help with every step—from my first questions to my first day of school.

Fast forward three weeks later and I, Jessica McCain, was all moved into my new apartment in New York City. I suited up in my crisp white uniform with my name stitched on the chest and had my own set of knives gleaming back at me in my new classroom—kitchen six—with Chef Ted.

Culinary Arts | Jess McCain | Institute of Culinary Education| Sauces | Cauliflower | Roasting

Day one was so exciting, and unlike normal school, we dove right into the fundamentals of becoming a chef—and I felt my passion more intensely than ever. I was no longer waiting to meet my future. A month into the program, I don’t even feel like the same person. I’m no longer nervous to hold my knives­—they’re like an extension of myself, and I feel like I’m beginning to find myself at ICE.

My dad always told me, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” I say if you’re lucky enough to find your passion in life, pursue it and let it set your soul on fire.

Ready to start your culinary journey? Click here to receive free information about ICE programs.