Chef David Waltuck | Director of Culinary Affairs | Institute of Culinary Education | Restaurant Chanterelle

By Caitlin Gunther

In 1975, fresh out of college, Chef David Waltuck landed his first cooking gig at Empire Diner, the legendary late-night haunt in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. The young grad had recently decided not to pursue a career in biological oceanography, his college major. Little did he know that this opportunity at a diner would lead to a celebrated culinary career that would span four decades, earn him two James Beard Awards, multiple glowing New York Times reviews, two acclaimed books and, his latest venture, a role as director of culinary affairs at ICE.

Growing up in the Bronx, no one in Chef David’s family worked in the restaurant industry. In fact, as he explained, “Food in my home was not a big deal.” For Chef David, however, a passion for food and restaurants was innate. “My parents loved to go to the theater or concerts,” he recalled, “and when I was old enough, I got invited to come along. It pretty much always involved dinner at a restaurant beforehand—and that was much more compelling to me than the theater or a concert.” He continued, “It was exciting! You got to try new things, order whatever you wanted; there was a certain level of care and theater about the whole experience.”

Chef David’s first gig at Empire Diner was a defining period. Not infrequently, the restaurant chef left him, still an untrained cook, in charge of the kitchen. As he explained, “I was there, and stuff would arrive, and I would have to figure out what to do with it.” What’s more, the owners created an ambitious, prix fixe menu—not the typical greasy spoon fare. Thrown into the heat of the kitchen, something clicked, and he managed to thrive. “I liked the atmosphere: the team spirit, the hands-on aspect…that you got to start over every day.”

Culinary School | Culinary Arts Training | Institute of Culinary Education | Chef David Waltuck

After his time at Empire Diner, Chef David decided to enroll in a formal culinary training program. It was in school that he developed the fundamental culinary techniques essential to building his career. It was also during this period that he landed an externship in the kitchen of Tavern on the Green. With both formal training and real world experience under his belt, Chef David decided to take a position as sous chef at La Petite Ferme, an Upper East Side restaurant that was a favorite with the fashion set (Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was a regular).

Within a couple of years, he was ready to venture out on his own. He and his wife Karen opened the doors of Chanterelle, a restaurant that would introduce a new kind of fine dining—French and New American cuisine—to downtown Manhattan.

As Chef David describes it, the cuisine was “French food, filtered through my aesthetic”—that is, the aesthetic of an American man. At Chanterelle, the Waltucks enjoyed 30 years as the proprietors of a critically acclaimed restaurant. Under his leadership in the kitchen, the restaurant received two James Beard Awards, including Best Chef NYC in 2007 and Best Restaurant in America in 2004, plus another 10 James Beard Award nominations and two four-star reviews from the New York Times in 1987 and 1993. During this epoch, Chef David also authored two books: Staff Meals at Chanterelle and Chanterelle: The Story and Recipes of a Restaurant Classic, which won an IACP Award for Best Cookbook: Chefs and Restaurants in 2009.

After three decades of celebrated success, and much to the chagrin of New York City diners, Chanterelle closed its doors in 2009. Chef David went on to explore various culinary opportunities. He became executive chef for Ark Restaurants and opened another restaurant, élan, which was awarded two stars by the New York Times. Asked about his decision to open a second restaurant, Chef David explained, “I missed the restaurant world. It didn’t make sense to a lot of people, but I missed it.” In particular, Chef David missed the team-like nature of the work. “Even when it’s not good, you’re not in it alone.”

Student prep in a culinary arts class at the Institute of Culinary Education

 

Chef David’s love for the kitchen and guiding other chefs may be part of what led him to his latest position as director of culinary affairs at ICE. As he explained, “It’s a beautiful facility and the people are dedicated and caring. I wanted to be back among motivated people who are interested in food and cooking.” The team at ICE couldn’t be more excited to welcome Chef David, who will be sharing his insight and years of experience with a new generation of aspiring culinary professionals.

Want to study with Chef David? Click here to learn more about our award-winning culinary arts program.

 

By Carly DeFilippo

 

When Michael Laiskonis got hired for his first job, scooping ice cream in Detroit, he probably never imagined that he would one day be teaching ICE Pastry & Baking students about the complex chemistry of frozen dairy products. In fact, Michael never intended to enter the food industry. Rather, he fell into it by accident, after deciding to abandon formal studies in fine arts and photography for what he describes as an “earn while you learn” approach. And so he entered the business, working the overnight shift at his roommate’s brother’s bakery.

Michael, teaching a petit four class at ICE's School of Professional Development.

Michael, teaching a petit four class at ICE’s School of Professional Development.

Soon enough, Michael discovered he had a certain talent for pastry and wanted to find a more structured environment to further his skills. He found it in Emily’s, a small kitchen with only four chefs. Starting out as a savory cook, Michael gradually absorbed more and more pastry duties, proving his merit until his boss agreed to make him the full-time pastry chef—the first time he would see his name on a restaurant menu.

 

In 1996, Michael moved to Tribute, starting as a line cook and moving up the ranks until he was again named pastry chef in 1999. The restaurant was at the epicenter of Detroit’s culinary scene, named one of the nation’s best by the New York Times in 2002. In 2003, it became one of only two Detroit restaurants to have garnered a coveted James Beard Award. But by 2004, Michael was looking to test his hand in one of the nation’s culinary capitals, and was referred by a friend to Chef Eric Ripert. After a single 90 minute meeting, Ripert offered Chef Michael the chance to come on as Executive Chef of renowned New York institution, Le Bernadin.

Parsnip brulee and sponge, hazelnut cream, browned milk solids. 2013 "Pastry Pop Chef" at the Star Chefs International Chefs Congress.

Parsnip brulee and sponge, hazelnut cream, browned milk solids. 2013 “Pastry Pop Chef” at the Star Chefs International Chefs Congress.

Making a move to Le Bernadin was no small feat. Michael’s predecessors included one of his idols, François Payard, as well as acclaimed chefs Florian Bellanger, Herve Poussot and Oscar Palacios. But over the next eight years, Michael more than proved his talent, helping the restaurant earn three Michelin stars and four stars from the New York Times. Celebrated for his use of modern techniques to reinvent classic desserts, Michael was also awarded the coveted James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef in 2007.

 

In 2012, Michael joined the Institute of Culinary Education as our first ever Creative Director. “After a successful 20 years in some amazing kitchens,” Michael explains, “I’d earned a lot of opportunities—and I chose to join the team at ICE. I have always admired ICE, and education is the perfect opportunity for me to give back, to inspire the next generation of chefs to enjoy and excel in a career in culinary or pastry arts.” He has already instrumented significant progress in our kitchens, providing pastry students with a more in-depth look at the science of their craft, and teaching a number of both public seminars and advanced pastry classes in our School of Professional Development.

michael blow torch

Looking back on his career, Michael notes that his path was most unusual in that he stayed in nearly every position for more than five years. He recommends that young chefs only move on to a new position if they feel that they have taken everything they possibly could from that position (including what not to do moving forward). In large part, he credits Chef Takashi from Tribute for establishing his belief in never making a lateral or inferior move, in only moving on if it’s a step up. As for how to judge when it’s time to move on, Michael says, “The day you go into work without a pit in your stomach is the day you start looking for a new job.”

 

It’s this sense of curiosity and constant pursuit of furthering his own education that has kept Michael at the forefront of his industry. Outside of the rigorous constraints of a restaurant schedule, teaching has provided Michael with the ability to work on innovative research projects and to pursue his lifelong interest in the arts, film, reading and writing. (To date, he has contributed to publications including GourmetSaveur, The Atlantic and a range of professional pastry journals.) Whether in his public demonstrations, writing or other creative endeavors, it’s clear that Michael has developed a newfound appreciation for teaching. After learning so much from others, he insists, “You don’t keep secrets. You have to share.”

By Carly DeFilippo 

It’s not every day that a student gets to return to his or her alma mater, to walk the halls as not only an alumnus, but also a teacher. ICE Culinary Arts graduate Charles Granquist has more than earned his place among our faculty, with a resume that includes such diverse experience as the fine dining kitchens of Blue Hill NYC and the fast-paced food media world of the Food Network.

chef charles granquist culinary school

When he first arrived in New York, Charles wasn’t the most obvious candidate for the culinary profession. He didn’t grow up in a family of cooks, and his education in music and economics at Bates College hadn’t prepared him for life in the kitchen. But when his first job at a sound branding company didn’t pan out as planned, the thought of escaping the cubicle for the kitchen began to sound increasingly enticing.

“If there was anyone in my family who sparked my interest in food, it was probably my grandfather,” Charles explained. “He was originally from Bogota, Columbia, but he spent a significant part of his life in Paris. He couldn’t cook at all, but he would regale us with stories of meals he had in France or Gstaad.” Those stories, paired with a few summer jobs at fish markets and grills during his college years marinated in Charles’ mind, forming the foundations of a professional calling.

His curiosity sparked, Charles knocked on the door of Chanterelle—then, one of the most innovative fine dining restaurants in NYC. Offering his services for free got his foot in the door, and within the first few days in the kitchen Charles was certain cooking was the career for him. From there, he moved on to the Savoy, where he was hired as garde manger. But the longer he spent in professional kitchens, the more Charles realized he would benefit from formal schooling.

chef charles granquist culinary school kitchen

So in 2002, Charles enrolled in the morning Culinary Arts program at ICE, while continuing night shifts at Savoy and Fleur de Sel. Immediately, he found a mentor in Chef Ted Siegel. Charles explains, “I don’t think I would have gotten very far in the industry if it weren’t for him. He was tough on all of us and actually got us ready for a restaurant. Specifically, having him for the fifth and final module of the program…that really made me feel ready to enter the industry.”

For his externship, Charles chose to work under an equally rigorous chef, Dan Barber, at Blue Hill in Greenwich Village. He arrived at the restaurant at a fortuitous time: right before Barber opened Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, New York. “It was amazing because we closed down Blue Hill NYC for a few months, and the entire crew went upstate to help with the opening. We knew we were on the cutting edge of something, and getting to work with Dan Barber and other chefs like Mike Anthony (now the executive chef of Gramercy Tavern) and Juan Cuevas was an incredible learning experience.”

At the time, Blue Hill was still in its infancy, but Barber’s mission and vision shaped the way Chef Charles cooks to this day. “Chef Dan was a very cerebral guy. He was tough and demanding, but he also made you think really carefully about what you’re doing and where your food is coming from. My cooking style remains hyper-seasonal to this day—even in my home kitchen. My wife might think it’s ridiculous, but I genuinely like to work with what’s in season because it tastes the best and because working with restrictions is the best way to challenge yourself.”

chef charles granquist culinary school kitchen

After the opening of Stone Barns, Chef Charles returned to Blue Hill NYC for another two years. As he moved his way through various stations—from garde manger to saucier—the restaurant continued to evolve, eventually earning a rave three-star review from The New York Times.

Working at one of New York’s finest restaurants didn’t offer much flexibility, so at the request of his newlywed bride, Charles began investigating kitchen positions with more normal hours. Dan Barber personally helped Charles in his search, putting in a call to the Food Network, where Charles landed a position as a food stylist.

“Working as a food stylist at the Food Network is totally different than in other parts of the industry. If you’re styling a turkey for Emeril, you might prepare a turkey in six different stages of the cooking and plating process. Every detail needs to be carefully planned out in advance,” Charles notes. After about a year and a half, Charles was promoted to culinary producer, which involved cross testing the talents’ recipes, developing a run of show for every shoot and working with the talent to ensure everything ran smoothly on set.

Working in food media did leave Charles missing the heat and camaraderie of the kitchen, so when the chance to work on new business opportunities for the network arose, he jumped at the opportunity. Working with the Delaware North company, Charles’ role was to build out a flagship Food Network concession stand at Yankee Stadium. After three years, the project was such a success that it expanded to 22 stadiums across the country.

“Working in large-scale food service was something I had never done before,” explains Chef Charles, “so there was a learning curve—in terms of what people would want to eat, how to do local or sustainable sourcing in a stadium setting, etc.” Charles was also recruited to develop two Food Network restaurant concepts for the Fort Lauderdale and Atlanta airports—each with an open kitchen and a menu that reflected local culinary flavor.

chef charles granquist culinary school

After years at Food Network, something was still missing for Chef Charles. He took a year off to follow his passion—spending a week in Chef Mike Anthony’s kitchen at Gramercy Tavern, training in charcuterie at Artisan Meat Share in Charleston and eventually, taking a job at Dickson’s Farmstand Meats as an apprentice charcutier and in-house chef for the shop’s prepared foods.

“After a year back in real kitchens, I knew that I wanted to continue in a place where I was cooking actively,” says Charles. “I had always liked training the staff at the restaurants I had opened for Food Network, so when I saw an opportunity to teach at ICE, I knew that would be a meaningful next move.”

Though only in his first weeks of teaching, Chef Charles is already shaping the career paths of the next generation of chefs. “Initially, a lot of students are interested in my work with the Food Network, but even if food media is your professional dream job, it would be a major mistake to leave culinary school and not spend at least one year in a professional kitchen—the very best kitchen you can find. No matter where you go after that, you are going to need that foundation. At Food Network, the people who rose through the ranks quickest were invariably those with restaurant experience. And yes, that first year might be the most terrifying career choice of your life, but you will be a much better candidate for any job after that.”

Get to know Chef Charles in person. Click here for free information about ICE’s Culinary Arts program.

 

By Carly DeFilipposarahchaminade headshot

It used to be that once you entered the workforce, you stayed with the same company for 30-40 years, and then you retired. But for the generation entering the workforce today, exploring a wide range of career options is far more attractive than staying on one set path from the start.

The ability to develop more than one skill set or area of expertise over the course of her career was what attracted Chef Sarah Chaminade to the culinary industry. From commercial bakeries and catering to high-end hotel dining, there are few environments where Sarah hasn’t tested her pastry chops.

“Depending on your personality or the place you are at in your life, the culinary industry offers a lot of options,” explains Sarah. “With a degree in pastry, I could do food styling, writing or just focus on an area of specialty production like cakes or artisanal chocolate. It was really up to me to push myself to succeed wherever my passion landed.”

That passion for cooking and baking was clear to Sarah from a very young age. Growing up, she watched countless PBS cooking shows and—to the chagrin of her brothers—would even watch the Cuisinart instructional VHS cassette tape on repeat. As soon as she got her driver’s license, Sarah sought jobs in professional culinary kitchens, and by her senior year of high school, she knew that culinary school was the choice for her.

Baking and Pastry School

Intrigued by both the artistic elements and the precise science of baking, Sarah pursued a pastry degree at the Culinary Institute of America. After graduation, she found work in nearby New Paltz, where she was valued as much for her former experience in the culinary side of the kitchen as she was for her formal pastry training. “I always tell students that even as a pastry cook it’s great to have a working knowledge of basic culinary skills. The ability to jump in anywhere in the kitchen makes you much more of an asset during a busy shift.”

Eventually, Sarah relocated to Connecticut, working in a commissary pastry kitchen that created baked goods for retail, off-site catering and wholesale production. There she discovered a unique passion for the holiday season—the busiest time of year in any chef’s schedule. “I liked the planning that went into the holidays,” Sarah explained. “Everything needs to be perfectly organized for mass production, and my interest in that kind of planning meant that I quickly advanced from a pastry cook to a pastry sous chef.”

Sarah also found that she enjoyed the camaraderie of working events. “In catering, you’re often working long hours, and you have to look out for each other to survive. If the project at hand is to produce 1,000 petits gateaux, then everyone better pitch in to pull it across the finish line.”

Though she enjoyed working in these high-volume environments, Sarah was eager to test her skills in a restaurant environment. She got her chance in Stamford, CT, as the opening pastry chef for the Saltwater Grill. It was the first time Sarah had worked the opening of a restaurant, and when the New York Times came to call, the review prominently featured—and complimented—Sarah’s plated desserts.

Sarah Chaminade Pastry School Instructor

After a few years at Saltwater Grill, Sarah relocated to Long Island, taking a position as the executive pastry chef at the four-star Garden City Hotel. Her former high-volume production and planning skills came into play, overseeing the production of pastries and desserts for two restaurants and in-room dining, as well as banquet events ranging from 12 to 500 guests. “Of all the challenges in my career, I really enjoyed my time at the Garden City Hotel,” says Sarah. “It gave me the opportunity to utilize all the skills I had learned over the years—from pastry and bread baking, to plated desserts, petit fours and wedding cakes—I got to do it all at one company.”

After more than 16 years in the industry, Sarah had earned her stripes in more types of kitchens than the average chef sees in their lifetime, and teaching began to appeal to her as a new challenge. “I knew that at ICE I would be surrounded by instructors from a wide range of backgrounds, enabling me to stretch my skills further, and I could share my diverse experience with the next generation of chefs.”

As an instructor, Sarah’s focus goes beyond perfect piping or pastry dough: “I feel very strongly that it’s my job to prepare students for the realities of a culinary career. There are strict time constraints, and you have to go in with a professional attitude. I also try to teach students to pay attention to what’s going on beyond their station. That was the secret to my success—keeping my eyes open and always trying to absorb all the other skills and recipes executed by other members of the kitchen crew.”

Chef Sarah reminds her students that every task is ripe with opportunity: “Every kitchen needs someone to scoop ice cream. Maybe it doesn’t seem like you need professional training to do that, but if you can do it perfectly—and quickly—people will notice. And that’s the beginning of your reputation. Everything you do is an opportunity to prove that you’re the right person for the job.”

Hone your pastry chops with Chef Sarah at ICE. Click here to receive free program information.

chef robert ramsay culinary school nyc

By Carly DeFilippo

When we think about international cuisine, it’s usually on the level of countries: French, Italian, Chinese, American, etc. Yet within each culinary culture, there are regional variations—from coastal seafood to hearty cold weather fare, poverty-inspired vegetable dishes to luxurious desserts.

Like many Americans, ICE Chef Instructor Robert Ramsey rarely thought about the history of the food he ate during childhood. But when his mother insisted he take a summer job at a friend’s restaurant, his admiration for the line cooks planted a seed that sprouted into a dynamic career in regional American and international cuisine.

First, Robert took the road most traveled: he went to college. Initially studying sculpture and graphic design, he continued to work part-time in local restaurants. About three years into his studies, Robert took his first position as a line cook in a fine dining restaurant—and that’s when everything changed.

“The restaurant was called Limani Grill in Richmond, Virginia, and the chef was my first culinary mentor,” Robert explains. “He was a culinary school grad, and he saw that I wasn’t passionate about what I was studying in college. So he pushed me to take the time and invest it in culinary school.”

Robert left college, enrolled in a full-time culinary program in Virginia and started externing at a high-end catering operation that served the governor’s office and other major government events. There, he learned about The Jefferson Hotel, home to the most prestigious kitchen in Richmond. Soon enough, Robert had joined the staff at the famed hotel and, over his three years in the Jefferson’s kitchen, cooked alongside countless other influential chefs—including Sean Brock, James Beard award-winner and chef/owner of Charleston’s Husk.

The cuisine at The Jefferson was upscale American with a French influence, but it was a rare Southern dish that caught Robert’s attention. “There was this peanut soup that I absolutely hated, and I wondered, ‘Why on earth are we serving this?’” Soon enough, Robert’s peanut soup research turned into an in-depth investigation of the history of Southern cuisine, from Lowcountry to Appalachian.

blackberry farm

Blackberry Farm. Photo Credit: Beall & Thomas Photography

“I realized that there was so much more to learn about Southern cuisine—the cuisine that came out of slave culture, plantations and poor mountain regions,” says Robert. “And for that, the best place to work was Blackberry Farm in Tennessee.”

Set on a 4,200-acre estate near the Great Smoky Mountains, Blackberry Farm is a three-time James Beard Award-winning restaurant. From on-site cheese caves to dedicated preservation and charcuterie facilities, it truly is a haven for those interested in farm-to-table cooking. There, Robert earned the rank of chef de partie and began to take notice of his natural talent for teaching: “At Blackberry Farm, we had periodic reviews, and the owners always noted that I was particularly good at passing down information to the younger chefs. Getting that objective feedback planted teaching in my mind as a possibility for the future.” Before Robert joined the faculty at ICE, he first had to find his way to New York City.

Robert arrived in Brooklyn in 2012, following an introduction to Hugue Dufour of M. Wells Steakhouse through one of his Blackberry Farm colleagues. At the time, Hugue’s restaurant was still under construction, so Robert was introduced to Anna Klinger, the chef behind one of Brooklyn’s most beloved Italian restaurants: al di la Trattoria. Anna was actively looking to open a spinoff restaurant, Bar Corvo, and hired Robert as sous chef.

“What I loved about working with Anna was that she was really passionate about regional cooking—Venetian and northern Italian cooking in particular,” explains Robert. “If we did any other type of Italian food, she made sure to note it on the menu and educate the consumers about what we were doing.” His time at Bar Corvo expanded Robert’s interest from traditional Southern cuisine to the microregional aspects of all international cuisines—and today, teaching the international cooking lessons at ICE remains his favorite part of the curriculum.

culinary students chef robert ramsay

Chef Robert’s “ravioli team” of culinary students at ICE’s Grand Opening Party

After eight years in restaurant kitchens, Robert earned the rank of chef de cuisine at Bar Corvo. But he realized that running an independent restaurant involves more business and people management than hands-on time in the kitchen. That’s when Robert began investigating opportunities outside of restaurants, from graduate programs in food culture to teaching cooking classes. In the end, it was one of Robert’s own culinary school instructors who inspired him to take the leap. “I emailed one of my instructors out of the blue to ask about his experience teaching, and he responded that it was such a rewarding career—even after 20 years.”

Since joining ICE’s faculty in March of 2015, Robert has focused not only on developing students’ culinary knowledge, but also the life skills they need to succeed in restaurant kitchens: “Being a chef isn’t just about cooking. You need to learn professionalism, time management and the ability to work with other people. It’s a dynamic and challenging industry—you need to be committed and willing to develop yourself as a human, not just as a cook.”

Want to meet our instructors in person? Click here to schedule a tour of ICE.


By Carly DeFilippo

From a tiny farm-to-table restaurant in the Pacific Northwest to the high-volume luxury of NYC’s Waldorf Astoria, ICE Chef Instructor Sam Kadko’s career has been nothing if not diverse. After 40 years in the industry, Chef Sam is still exploring the limits of his skill set, from growing organic produce to implementing ICE’s curriculum at our partner school in Russia.

Chef Sam Kadko Chef Instructor ICE

Sam’s culinary adventures began in New York City, where his Ukrainian father supplemented a career as a science teacher with part-time positions in restaurants. In fact, Sam’s first job was serving as his father’s bus boy at a catering hall in Brooklyn. It was there that he had his first glance into professional kitchens, sparking his interest in the culinary industry.

Sam’s family held traditional academics in the highest regard, so he first went to school to earn a degree in European history—planning to eventually train as a chef. “I continued to pursue restaurant work during school, and I loved just being in proximity to the kitchen, despite my menial role as a prep cook,” says Sam.

Soon after graduating from college, Sam enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America and began his culinary career in earnest. Halfway through the two-year program, he was required to find his own externship site, which led him to a French restaurant run by his uncle’s friend in La Jolla, California. “That experience was incredibly formative. The chef there really taught me to work by giving me just two weeks to earn the right to stay through the rest of my externship. If you’re lucky enough to have a mentor who tells you exactly what you need to do to succeed, it’s an important life lesson to learn how to achieve that success.”

Sam KadkoHis time in California also provided Sam with his first opportunity to experience other cultures. He would frequently cross the border to Mexico with his kitchen colleagues, who introduced him to rustic local dishes including menudo (tripe soup). That curiosity about other food cultures stayed with Sam throughout his career, fueling his desire for both domestic and international travel.

After graduation, Sam’s career goal was to become the head chef at a small restaurant (under 100 seats). In three and a half years, he made that dream a reality at the restaurant Roanoke Exit in Seattle. “That was an amazing time to be in the Pacific Northwest,” Sam explains. “It was Seattle before Microsoft, and yet the city already had a reputation for having the most restaurants per capita of any American city. Moreover, the regional produce was so exceptional that I was able to work in a farm-to-table format before that movement even had a formal name. I changed the menu every single day, simply inspired by what I found at the market.”

Then, four years into his time in Seattle, Sam received a call from a culinary school classmate who was the executive chef at the Waldorf Astoria. While Sam wasn’t planning to return to New York, he knew the opportunity to work at the pinnacle of hotel dining wasn’t an experience to pass up. Coming from his 40-seat Seattle restaurant, the Waldorf Astoria was an incredible learning curve, turning 600 covers every day at lunch alone. The Waldorf also introduced Sam to the tastes of such VIP clientele as Elizabeth Taylor.

After the Waldorf, Sam continued to work in fine dining, from upscale French to New American eateries. But after five more years in NYC, he knew he wanted a change of pace. “The truth is, even if you decide you don’t want to work in traditional restaurants anymore, having restaurant experience carries a lot of weight,” says Sam. “At that point in my career, I was able to transition to corporate dining. I oversaw executive dining rooms for Bank of America and many prestigious law firms because I had extensive fine dining experience under my belt.”

It was during his time as a corporate dining executive chef that Sam realized he might like to try his hand at teaching. Through his network, he found an opportunity at the New York Restaurant School, where he taught for nearly 20 years before coming to ICE. Teaching has afforded Sam the flexibility to try his hand at farming, and today he oversees a wholesale organic business that services several restaurants in the area from New Jersey to the Meatpacking District. “When it comes to farming, I’m a one-man band—grower, farm hand, salesperson, delivery guy, bookkeeper. It’s a completely different, but very satisfying, side of the industry.”

Sam Kadko Culinary Arts Instructor

As if farming and teaching weren’t enough to keep him busy, Sam has been instrumental in facilitating ICE’s partnership with the SWISSAM hospitality school in St. Petersburg, Russia. “It’s been rewarding to work with the Russian students and introduce them to our curriculum. Most European schools have a classic French or euro-centric philosophy, so incorporating elements [only found in our curriculum] like Rick Bayless’ Mexican cuisine is incredibly unique, and they’re curious to learn about foreign ingredients.” What’s more, spending nine months abroad over the past two years has given Sam a new perspective to share with ICE students in New York.

Whether working abroad or cultivating a small plot of land in New Jersey, Sam has always remained grounded in his philosophy. “From the beginning, my aspiration was to master a trade—to be as good as the chefs I saw in the restaurants where I first worked. Being rich or famous never crossed my mind—it has always been about refining my skills.”

Want to study with Chef Sam? Click here to learn about ICE’s professional Culinary Arts program.

Chef Dalia Jurgensen

By Carly DeFilippo

Growing up, Dalia Jurgensen always knew she wanted to cook. But, like many ICE students, she also wanted to pursue a four-year college education. After graduating with a degree in English, Dalia tried her hand at a career in the publishing industry, but soon realized that working in a traditional office environment wasn’t a good fit.

“By then, I knew I wanted to go to culinary school, but didn’t want to repeat college by going the traditional two-to-four year CIA route,” Dalia explains. Instead, she got a job as an entry-level pastry cook at Nobu and attended a part-time culinary school program on the weekends.

The combination of pastry and culinary experience made Dalia an exceptionally versatile talent in the kitchen, which caught the eye of Chef Joey Fortunato during her externship at restaurant Layla. Dalia soon worked her way up the line, learning far more than just culinary techniques. “Under Joey I learned how to manage people, among countless other essential aspects of the restaurant business. Being a great chef is about so much more than just good food.”

Dalia went on to work as a pastry cook at the historic La Côte Basque, pursued stints in catering and even freelanced in the test kitchen for Martha Stewart Living Television. But she often returned to collaborate with Chef Fortunato at his various restaurant ventures, from Scarabée to Quantum 56 to a revamping of The Tonic that earned two stars in the New York Times. “My combined training meant that I was able to work as a kitchen manager and culinary sous chef, and at the same time run the pastry kitchen. On a given day, I’d start by training new chefs on garde manger, and then jump to crafting desserts for service.”

SPICED Dalia JurgensenThen in 2004, Dalia was hired as the pastry chef at Chef Scott Bryan’s three star Veritas. “To this day, many people still think Scott is one of the greatest chefs in New York City. It was a great experience creatively, and definitely shaped the way I work to this day. As I tell my students at ICE, it’s much easier to start at the higher end of fine dining, the best quality restaurant you can find. That discipline shapes you, no matter what you do afterward. It’s harder to start in a more relaxed setting and then develop that discipline later in your career.”

At the same time, Dalia began working on a memoir, SPICED, recounting the rewards and challenges of a life in the kitchen, as well as a few outrageous behind-the-scenes stories. The book was published in 2009, following Dalia’s relocation to Dressler, one of the first restaurants in Brooklyn to receive a Michelin star.

“Working at Dressler was interesting because it was a slight shift from where I had started. In the 90s, when I was coming up, fine dining was all about creating potential three star restaurants. But starting around 2000, there was this shift toward smaller, more boutique restaurants—and with Dressler, I saw those types of restaurants getting critical acclaim.”

Dalia Jurgensen Panna CottaDalia ran Dressler’s pastry kitchen for five years, and shortly after leaving the restaurant, she heard about the opportunity to teach at ICE. “I like teaching even more than I thought I would, in large part because of the kind of people who want to go into cooking; many of us feel that we don’t fit in more traditional roles. I like encouraging students to see that there’s more than one path to success, and that, through discipline and hard work, they can discover for themselves what they’re capable of, rather than having someone else decide for them.”

This outside-the-box thinking extends to Dalia’s fresh take on desserts, which have been a wonderful addition to ICE’s kitchens: “I am all about flavor, namely combining classic techniques with small twists of unexpected flavors. For example, one of my signature desserts is a panna cotta made with bamboo honey, then topped with bee pollen, almonds and raspberries. It’s familiar, but there’s an unusual element, too.”

As for her culinary training, Dalia sees no disconnect between a diploma in culinary arts and a career in pastry. “I never had a specific, long-term career goal. I just went for the best jobs available, and the opportunities that kept coming to me were in pastry. Just like any job, you don’t really know what a career is like until you do it for eight hours straight, so I always encourage my students to trail at a wide range of places to discover firsthand where they’ll feel most comfortable and be able to excel.”

Interested in studying with Chef Dalia? Click here to learn about ICE’s Pastry & Baking Arts program.

Restaurant Consultant Vin McCann

By Carly DeFilippo

“Everybody thinks they know how you should run your restaurant,” says Culinary Management instructor Vin McCann. “But what really matters—and what I focus on as a consultant—is the early stages of a project. The initial choices can be make or break. If you start on the wrong foot, you’re likely to end up crippled.”

As an executive for such iconic restaurant groups and corporations as Shelly Fireman’s Café Concepts, American Hospitality or National Restaurants Management, Vin has truly seen it all. In his seven years at National Restaurants alone, he oversaw more than $300 million worth of projects in more than 100 different venues. So when it comes to knowing where the money goes—and where new business operators trip up—you’re unlikely to meet a more seasoned expert.

Vin’s beginnings in the restaurant industry, however, were somewhat accidental. After graduating from law school, he tried his hand at writing professionally, supplementing his income with restaurant work. Eventually, he opened up his own Irish pub in Washington, D.C., followed by a 17-room inn in New Hampshire. But he soon found himself curious to “get serious about the business side of the business,” which is how he ended up working on the opening of Shelley Fireman’s iconic Café Tartufo. From there, Vin grew his new career under Fireman and eventually National Restaurants Management, establishing himself as a sought-after multi-unit operations manager.

After more than 40 years—and 100+ restaurant openings—in the industry, Vin’s career is truly in a sweet spot. Today, he and fellow ICE Culinary Management Instructor Julia Heyer work together as private consultants on an incredible range of projects, including Noma founder Claus Meyer’s upcoming $16 million project in Grand Central Station.

Vin and Julia have also worked on various smaller restaurants, including the West Village outposts of ICE alumni Mark Sy and Michelle Gardner: Viên (a healthy, Southeast Asian quick service concept) and Chalait (the city’s first dedicated matcha bar), respectively. Yet no matter the scope of the project he’s worked on, Vin is proud to say that he has always left a company in a better position than when he started—an incredible feat in an industry renowned for intense competition.


Watch Vin coach a new restaurant owner in our Restaurant Success video series:


So after all these years, why does Vin keep at it? “I like the pace, the rhythm of the business. You come to work, get set, there’s a rush, it ends and then you start all over again. We always say, it’s a disease—you either have it or you don’t. There’s a lot of moving parts, and for them all to work well—shift after shift, after shift—that’s where the real skill comes in.”

As for teaching, that’s a passion that Vin learned during his many years as a Chief Operating Officer at National Restaurants: “Once you’re managing several properties, you no longer get the hands-on satisfaction of the guest experience, but I really enjoy developing someone who starts out as a ‘know-nothing’ into an impressive, productive manager.”

Want to study with Vin? Click here to learn more about ICE’s Culinary Management program.

Chef Ana Sporer Ruby's Restaurant Freehold NY
By Carly DeFilippo

Among the many chefs reigning over ICE’s teaching kitchens, Chef Ana Sporer is known for wearing her passion on her sleeve. With a personality as bold as her fiery hair, Ana has a unique way of motivating students to bring their A-game, whether in perfecting their knife skills…or their Halloween costumes. And if she’s not in the kitchen, you can be assured she’s outdoors—gardening or foraging on the property of her restaurant in upstate New York.

It’s no surprise, given her dedication and infectious energy, that Ana can’t recall a time when she didn’t want to own her own restaurant. Growing up in Detroit, she would devour episodes of Graham Kerr and Julia Child’s influential cooking shows and eagerly help her Croatian grandmother craft traditional Eastern European recipes. In fact, Ana has never worked outside the food industry. Her first job—at age 15—was at her local Burger King, and she hasn’t left the kitchen since.

After high school, Ana pursued her dream by first earning a degree in accounting. From there, she moved east to attend a culinary program at Johnson & Wales, and shortly thereafter landed simultaneous gigs at two New York institutions: the Russian Tea Room and the Waldorf Astoria. Her first real dose of creative culinary direction came at NYC’s Pierre Hotel, working under Joel Somerstein, a young, Jean Georges-trained chef. “Joel was only 21 years old, but he was at the forefront of the fresh, seasonal trend that has come to dominate New York’s culinary scene. Twenty years ago, people weren’t changing their menu two times a week—but we were constantly developing new menu items at the Pierre.”

Chef Ana Sporer Halloween Culinary School

Chef Ana teaches students how to get creative in the kitchen—and with their Halloween costumes.

During her five years at the hotel, Ana’s passion for local, seasonal cooking grew and she developed a desire to share her enthusiasm with the next generation. So when she received a call from ICE, she was thrilled to take on a new role: “Teaching reflects everything I love about this profession. It’s a continual door to learning new techniques, and it’s all about the effort and time that you put into it.”

During the same period, Ana discovered a unique art deco property 130 miles north of the city. Donning the nickname “Ruby” that she had been given by her culinary school roommates, Ana, along with her husband, finally fulfilled her lifelong ambition of opening a restaurant: the acclaimed Ruby’s Hotel & Restaurant in Freehold, New York. In the kitchen, Ana mirrors the training she gained at the Pierre. Her ever-changing menu draws inspiration from her own backyard—including a 7,000 square foot garden, an apiary for bees and woodland rich with ramps and other foraged ingredients. “I’m so glad to see that other chefs are starting to grow things themselves. From a flavor perspective, if it was picked two weeks ago, who cares if it’s organic? The proximity to the plate makes the greatest difference.”

Ana's restaurant - Ruby's Hotel & Restaurant - in Freehold, NY

Ana’s restaurant in upstate New York

Ana’s entrepreneurial ambition and passion for quality ingredients has proved infectious for many of ICE’s most successful graduates, including Anthony Ricco (Executive Chef at Spice Market) and James Beard Award-winner Allison Vines-Rushing:

Ana was an integral part of my becoming a good line cook, but more importantly, she prepared me to be a great chef. She always moved and spoke like a real cook, never sugarcoated anything and let our class know exactly what we would be in for when we stepped into a restaurant setting. As the Executive Chef at Spice Market, [one of Jean George’s New York restaurants], I still pull from things we discussed in class all those years ago. – Anthony Ricco

One of Ana’s career highlights occurred during her own time in culinary school: cooking for one of her original idols, Julia Child. “One of my favorite memories is from when I was a culinary student. I was working at the Biltmore Hotel [in Providence, Rhode Island] and Julia Child came in. She was the only person in the dining room, eating an omelette—that I made!—and kicking back a Heineken at 10am. I loved that.”

Want to study with Chef Ana? Click here to learn about ICE’s Culinary Arts program.

 

By Carly DeFilippo 

There’s currently one chef on ICE’s staff who is registered as both an instructor and a student. That’s because—despite more than 25 years in the industry—Chef Scott McMillen is far from finished learning. Whether enrolling in Chef Toba Garrett’s cake decorating classes, Chef Sim Cass’ intensive bread baking program or, most recently, earning a diploma in Culinary Management, Chef Scott has stayed hungry for new opportunities to push his skills—and pass those skills on to his students.

Chef Scott McMillen - iPads - Pastry Program - Pastry Career

“I love working alongside colleagues with such diverse backgrounds and expertise,” says Scott. “It’s a completely different opportunity than I had coming up in a restaurant kitchen, and I never tire of taking my skills to the next level.” Yet Scott wasn’t always such an enthusiastic learner. In fact, it was his decision to abandon traditional college studies that opened his eyes to the possibility of a future in food.

“I always enjoyed cooking, but I never considered it as a long-term career. But when I took time off from school, I realized I was spending all my free time in the kitchen. So I enrolled in a culinary arts program, and I’ve been in the industry ever since.”

In just over a year, Scott had gone from a directionless college student to an up-and-coming cook. His first job was at the prestigious Manhattan Ocean Club, a luxury establishment in New York City’s hotel district. Despite his culinary training, his natural talent for pastry impressed the club’s chef, and within three years Scott had advanced to the position of Executive Pastry Chef.

This was no ordinary restaurant job. From day one, Scott was dealing with an unusually large volume of desserts. A team of only three chefs (including the executive pastry chef) would prepare 300-400 plates each day, balancing the tastes of the restaurant’s fine dining clientele with limited time and resources. Yet Scott saw the intensity of this fast-paced environment as an opportunity to refine his organizational skills and speed.

Chocolate - Tempering - Chocolate - Confectionery - Pastry

 

“Working with the limited resources and high expectations like those we had at the Ocean Club meant learning to not let other people see your limits—a great lesson for a young chef,” says Chef Scott. From tempering chocolate in hundred degree kitchens to balancing his demanding production schedule with the development of new desserts for the restaurant’s ever-changing menu, it was a marathon of creative and logistical challenges. Scott stayed at the Manhattan Ocean Club for twelve years—an outlier in an industry notorious for staff turnover. “As a chef, it’s unusual to stay in one place for so long, but when you work in a well-run restaurant with good people, there’s nothing better,” he asserts.

In 2002, inspired by the mentors who had developed his skills, Scott began teaching part-time at ICE, joining the full-time faculty in 2004. The shift from a kitchen of three to a staff of dozens of chefs was a dramatic change. Surrounded by endless opportunities for personal development, he dove into areas of pastry studies that he previously hadn’t had time to explore. “It’s one thing to learn how to decorate a cake in the Australian string style—it’s another to develop that skill and study how to teach it to another person. You really have to master your craft.”

Scott’s hunger for knowledge has rubbed off on his students as well. Head Baker and Co-Owner Dave Crofton of One Girl Cookies and entrepreneurial cake designer Leigh Koh Peart are just two of the noteworthy alumni Scott has trained at ICE. “I still hear my own culinary school instructors’ voices loud and clear in my head, and I enjoy the opportunity to make a lasting impact on my students’ careers.”

Scott McMillen - Pastry School - Pastry Class - Pastry Chef

What’s more, this continuing education has given Scott a special appreciation for the benefits of culinary school: “If you’re a career changer in your mid-twenties or older, culinary school really accelerates the process. When you start off in kitchens, each environment has a very narrow focus. The broad range of skills you learn at school means you can advance your career that much faster.”

Want to study with Chef Scott? Click here to learn more about ICE’s Pastry & Baking Arts program.