By Chef James Briscione, Director of Culinary Development

Recently, a little known group composed of the world’s most famous chefs gathered to surprise and celebrate one of their own: Chef Wylie Dufresne. The group, Gelinaz, descended on New York’s Lower East Side to toast the 10th anniversary of Dufresne’s restaurant wd~50, an American temple to avant garde cuisine.

The Gelinaz tribute dinner for Wylie Dufresne's birthday.

The Gelinaz group gathers to honor Wylie Dufresne

While modernist cuisine might not be the first thing that pops into a person’s mind when they think Wylie Dufresne, his food certainly falls into that category. This isn’t surprising. Ask a chef tagged with the “modernist” moniker, and he or she will likely say that they never thought of their own cuisine as such. The label is typically fixed upon a chef by others in the culinary community—often as part of an ongoing debate about the positives and negatives of modernist techniques.

So what exactly is modernist cuisine? In short, it’s a buzzword—the latest term used to describe an innovative and avant garde style of cooking. First popularized by Ferran Adria (the “foam guy”) at his restaurant El Bulli, modernist cuisine has since become known the world over. Previous to Adria, the techniques used in modernist cuisine were housed under the umbrella of molecular gastronomy: a scientific discipline that studies the chemistry of food. Great minds such as Nicholas Kurti, Herve This and Harold McGee made tremendous strides in this field, ultimately inspiring chefs like Adria, Heston Blumenthal and Grant Achatz to incorporate scientific methods into their cooking. Thus, modernist cuisine was born.

The most famous stereotype of modernist cooking? Foam.

The most famous stereotype of modernist cooking? Foam.

The problem with “modern cuisine” is the same that plagues all artistic fields—it is poorly replicated by people that don’t have a firm grasp of the necessary techniques. (For a comparable example, do a Google image search for “bad abstract art”). Beyond the foam, sous-vide and reverse spherification, modernist cooking is really about examining ingredients and asking, “What makes a carrot good?” and “How I make the good part of a carrot better?” Technology has enabled us to find the precise time/temperature ratio that produces a carrot more tender, sweet and delicious. Now, does that carrot taste better when it is in the form a delicate sphere? Probably not. But is it pretty cool looking? Heck yeah!

Applying modernist technique to a dish, without the overly-abstracted presentation.

Applying modernist technique to a dish, without the overly-abstracted presentation.

This is where that slippery slope begins. It took me many years as a chef to learn restraint. To understand that “because I can” is not a good reason to put something on a plate. In the 1970s, we were faced with a comparable culinary movement: nouvelle cuisine. As this lighter perspective on French cooking swept the globe, it led us to some strange and debatably appetizing places. (Imagine raspberry coulis, pushed into a squeeze bottle, to ultimately dot a plate of lightly cooked veal or some other horrific combination.) These things happened because people read an article about Michel Guerard or Fernand Point, but didn’t take the time to understand the heart of what these chefs were creating. Yet no matter its bizarre derivatives, nouvelle cuisine did inspire chefs to question and reimagine the way they approached their own cooking.

New styles of presentation and plating are among the most important influences of the modernist movement.

New styles of presentation and plating are among the most important influences of the modernist movement.

Today, while it could be argued that the stereotypes of modernist cuisine—spheres, foams and other abstractions of ingredients—are considered passé, we see restaurant menus detailing fermented this and housemade that. This trend of DIY, chef-crafted ingredients is a direct result of the scientific modernist movement. Over the past 10 years, kitchens became laboratories. In those labs, ingredients were broken down into their basic components so they could be better understood. Curious chefs discovered new ways to manipulate products, presenting them in new forms on your plate. And while the end product of these “labs” may have shifted from housemade cantaloupe caviar to artisanal pork katsuobushi, let us not forget that the path is essential.

Click here to learn more about Chef James and his work on the very modern Cognitive Cooking project with IBM.

ICE alumni are finding success through out the food world. From winning awards for food video production to receiving attention for opening new restaurants, our graduates often have many incredible achievements. Check out just some of the alumni finding success and making recent headlines throughout the industry.

* The James Beard Awards were held in early May, and ICE alumni were among the recipients! Modernist Cuisine by Nathan Myhrvold with Chris Young and Maxime Bilet (Culinary Arts ’05) won in the Cooking from a Professional Point of View category, as well as Cookbook of the Year. Jamie Tiampo (Culinary Management ’06) also took home the award for Video Webcast for eatTV.

* Angela Cuervo (Pastry & Baking Arts ’07), owner of Making That Cake, was a contestant on the new season of Sweet Genius on Food Network.

* David Seigal (Culinary Management ’03) appeared in The New York Times “Off the Menu” column, as chef of Chelsea’s Table, a new family-friendly restaurant in Chelsea Piers.

* Anup Joshi (Culinary Arts ’04), chef de cuisine of Tertulia, was named among Zagat‘s “30 Under 30: NYC’s Hottest Up-and-Comers”.

* Kate McAleer’s (Pastry & Baking Arts/Culinary Management ’11) new organic and natural chocolate business, Bixby & Co., was featured in Dessert Professional.

* Emily Peterson (Culinary/Management ’09) was recently recognized by Chef2chef as one of the country’s top 50 culinary instructors to follow on Twitter.

* Anna Levien (Pastry & Baking Arts ’06) appeared in the New Jersey Herald in a piece on vegan cooking

To network with these ICE alumni and many more, you can connect with Career Services on Facebook or LinkedIn.

Hydrocolloids

This week, ICE Chef Instructor Chris Gesualdi led a hands-on demonstration on the nature of hydrocolloids and how these common ingredients can transform the texture of everyday foods. This class was the first of its kind for our recreational cooking classes, continuing on ICE’s modernist cooking curriculum for our career training students.The class taught everyday cooks how to use innovative techniques and modern technology to create a unique spin on well-known dishes in their own kitchens at home.

Chef Chris helped students unlock the mysteries of hydrocolloids and demonstrated how these ingredients can be used in the home and applied in a variety of cooking techniques. More…

Well, it finally happened. After nearly a year of being a skeptical observer Chef Chris Gesualdi dragged me kicking and screaming into the big, scary world of Hydrocolloids. After poking and prodding around for a bit I realized something — it turns out it’s not so scary after all.

Hydrocolloids need a better publicist or an image consultant at the very least. They don’t have a flashy name or a description that rolls off the tongue. But those are things better left for someone smarter than me. There is a lot of necessary fear around “chemicals,” especially when it comes to food. So what are hydrocolloids, and why does everyone call them chemicals with a hint of terror in their voice?

The fact is that hydrocolloids simply refer to a category of substances that form a gel in the presence of water. What does that mean? Here are some examples of hydrocolloids and chemicals you might find in your own kitchen: Hydrocolloids commonly found in the kitchen are flour, cornstarch, pectin and gelatin. To assuage any fears you have, “chemicals “commonly found in the kitchen are baking soda and baking powder. More…

Alumni Round-Up

From running award-winning restaurant kitchens to writing notable cookbooks, ICE alumni continue to win accolades and receive attention for their success. Check out just some of the alumni finding success and making recent headlines.

*The James Beard Award Nominees were announced and ICE alumni are on the list of finalists: Jamie Tiampo (Culinary Management ’06) was nominated in the Video Webcast category for EatTV. Maxime Bilet (Culinary Arts ’05) was nominated, along with Nathan Myhrvold and Chris Young, in the Cooking from a Professional Point of View category for their book Modernist Cuisine. And Tertulia got a nod for Best New Restaurant, where Anup Joshi (Culinary Arts ’04) is chef de cuisine.

*Christine Krupin’s (Culinary ’12) blog post “10 Things I Learned Working in a Restaurant Kitchen” about her time on externship was just published in the Huffington Post. More…

From running award-winning restaurant kitchens to writing notable cookbooks, ICE alumni continue to win accolades and receive attention for their success. Check out just some of the alumni finding success and making recent headlines.

*Jonathon Stranger (Culinary Arts ’04) of Ludivine in Oklahoma City was nominated by Food & Wine for their People’s Best New Chef award. You can vote for him online.

*Several ICE alumni were among the James Beard Awards semifinalists: Anup Joshi (Culinary Arts ’04) is Chef de Cuisine at Best New Restaurant semifinalist Tertulia. Tiffany MacIsaac (Culinary Arts ’02) of Birch & Barley in Washington, D.C. is up for Outstanding Pastry Chef. And Rachel Yang (Culinary Arts ’01) and Seif Chirchi of Joule in Seattle were named as semifinalists in the Best Chef: Northwest category.

*Three ICE alumni were among the IACP finalists: Jamie Tiampo (Culinary Management ’06) for his work at EatTV, Maxime Bilet (Culinary Arts ’05) for Modernist Cuisine and Ryan Farr (Culinary Arts ’10) for Whole Beast Butchery.

*Regina Anderson (Culinary Arts ‘05), was declared the winner on a 2012 episode of Food Network’s Chopped.

*Gail Simmons (Culinary Arts ’99) released her book, Talking with my Mouth Full. She filmed a video on how to make her Banoffee Pie for the popular video series My Last Supper at ICE.

*Zach Kutsher’s (Culinary Management ’09) restaurant, Kutsher’s Tribeca, was reviewed in The New York Times. He was also interviewed for the blog Restaurant Girl.

*Pnina Peled (Culinary Arts ’00), Executive Chef of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, was included in a Wall Street Journal article about the evolution of hospital food.

*Kelly Senyei (Culinary Arts ’10), the founder of DICED, is about to release her book, Food Blogging for Dummies in April 2012. The book received early press on Eater.

*Kate McAleer (Pastry & Baking Arts & Culinary Management ’11) launched her new chocolate business, Bixby & Co.

To connect with these ICE alumni and many more, you can connect with Career Services on Facebook or LinkedIn.

More and more ICE students are interested in learning the modernist techniques that are becoming so popular in restaurant kitchens across the world. Last night, one of ICE’s resident experts, Chef Instructor Chris Gesualdi, taught a class on how to use hydrocolloids, or gums, in the kitchen.

In this hands-on class, Chef Chris taught alumni and current ICE students about how to use xanthan gum and carrageenan, as well as perform spherification and reverse spherification. For example, to start the class he blended water with precise weights of xantham gum measured by percentage to demonstrate the different textures the gums could create. More…

Last week, Forbes magazine launched their 30 Under 30, a distinction given to 30 people under 30 who are making an impact in each of 12 fields. The list of professionals in reinventing the world included ICE alum Maxime Bilet (Culinary ’05). He is head chef of The Cooking Lab, Nathan Myhrvold’s culinary research and development venture, and co-authored the Modernist Cuisine cookbook.

In addition to great young minds working in energy, entertainment, technology and science industries, Forbes selected a range of food professionals shaping the way we cook, eat and think about food. On the list are greats such as Joe Campanale of Dell’anima, L’Artusi and Anfora (and frequent ICE Instructor), Kevin Gillespie of Top Chef, and Jill Donenfeld of The Culinistas (whose partner is ICE alum Josetth Gordon).

When Maxime was here earlier this year to launch Modernist Cuisine, we were amazed at not only his talent and creativity in the kitchen, but also his dedication to science and invention when cooking. It was amazing to watch him work and taste his food.

Congratulations to Maxime!

Whether as chefs, cake decorators, specialty food purveyors or caterers, ICE alumni are finding success in a plethora of different avenues in the food world. Check out just some of the alumni finding success and making recent headlines.

*Lots of ICE alumni have been mentioned in The New York Times in the past couple of weeks: Justin Philips’ (Management ’07) Beer Table has opened a second location in Grand Central Terminal. Anup Joshi (Culinary ’04), chef de cuisine of the soon-to-open Tertulia restaurant, was mentioned in the article about chef Seamus Mullen’s cooking for personal health. Kary Goolsby (Management ’01/Culinary ’02) is chef of newly opened raw bar and craft beer restaurant, Upstate, in the East Village. James Sato (Culinary ’03), along with partners, has opened Chuko, a locally sourced ramen shop in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

*Time Out New York profiled Carl Raymond (Culinary ’08) and his classes at the Astor Center.

*Maxime Bilet (Culinary ’05) was included in a piece on Bloomberg about the new dinners from the team behind Modernist Cuisine.

*Gail Simmons (Culinary ’99) was interviewed about her favorite vacation spots in the Chicago Tribune.

*Meredith Foltynowicz (Culinary ’10) was quoted in a piece in USA Today about changing careers.

*Andrea Lynn (Culinary ’05) had a recipe from her new book, I Love Trader Joe’s College Cookbook featured in the Daily News.

*Stacy Adimando (Culinary ’10) was interviewed about her new cookbook, The Cookiepedia, in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

To connect with these ICE alumni and many more, join ICE’s network on LinkedIn, or follow ICE on Facebook and Twitter

If you have visited ICE recently you may noticed our brand-new ovens and stoves on the 12th floor recreational classrooms. If you’ve participated in a culinary class or cooking event in this space, you’ve used one of the top pieces of culinary equipment available on the market today. The ranges and ovens were custom made for ICE by BlueStar, a pioneer and manufacturer of high-quality, reliable, custom cooking equipment. ICE is proud to announce that BlueStar is the exclusive provider of stoves and ovens for its 12th floor recreational kitchen classrooms.

The new BlueStar equipment at ICE includes seven 30-inch four-burner ranges and three 36-inch six-burner cooktops, all at 22,000 BTUs, as well as two double-wall ovens. Each BlueStar range is hand-crafted in Reading, Pennsylvania. ICE Director of Education Richard Simpson said, “The quality and durability of the BlueStar line is amazing. The ranges and ovens are ideal for our wide variety of classes and we are proud to showcase them in our kitchens.”

Independent studies have shown that BlueStar outperforms leading high-performance stoves when tested for boiling, simmering, deep frying, stir-frying and searing.   All BlueStar ranges, ovens and ventilation hoods are available in 190 color options (check out the photos of our new blue ovens!). More…