Soft serve ice cream is one of the true joys of summer. (On second thought, let’s be honest: we eat it year-round.) To satisfy our endless craving for soft serve, ICE Chef James Briscione shows us how to make three recipes for soft serve — each in under five minutes! As a bonus, two of them just happen to be vegan. Even better, the only kitchen equipment you’ll need is a hand blender and a jar.

First on the menu is Peanut Butter & Jelly — with raspberries and creamy peanut butter, it’s a sweet ‘n’ tasty throwback to your favorite lunchbox staple. Next is Spicy Mango Coconut, a refreshing tropical treat that gets a nice kick from fresh-cut chili. Chef James finishes with a silky Strawberries & Cream soft serve, hit with a touch of lemon zest to give it that extra je ne sais quoi.

Consider your days of ice cream truck chasing over.

You, too, can make ice cream, pastries and more like a pro — click here to learn about ICE’s career programs. 

By Tina Whelski

In today’s highly visual world, pastry chefs can stand out with unique sugar sculptures.

“I notice that people remember me more for my airbrush than my cake,” says Master Pastry Chef Stéphane Tréand, M.O.F. with a laugh. The recipient of the prestigious Meilleur Ouvrier de France, (M.O.F.), which means “best craftsman in France,” can’t wait to share his techniques with students who attend his Sugar Showpieces workshop this September 23-25 at ICE. Tréand believes that anyone can create their own work of art if they put in the time.

Stephane Treand

photo courtesy of thepastryschool.org

“Sugar work is not only for chefs, says Tréand. “It’s for everybody. Hopefully I can fill up the class with artistic amateurs.”

Students will learn airbrushing, casting, pulled ribbon, pulled sugar flowers and much more. Tréand advises beginners to use silicon molds, work with isomalt, wear plastic gloves and use lots of stencils when airbrushing. He’s also noticed a trend in the United States to build showpieces that can stand as tall as seven feet high, but he suggests that newcomers start slow with mini showpieces. And as with any craft, attitude is everything.

Stephane Treand“My philosophy is never give up, share and always want to learn,” says Tréand. “You have to be curious. You can always improve the way you’re doing pastry. Believe me, I’m still learning.”

Tréand discovered sugar showpieces in the 1970s when he saw another chef construct a Singer sewing machine made entirely of sugar.

“I was very impressed by how the cast iron was made of sugar,” said Tréand. “I was like, ‘Wow, how can you do that with sugar?’ I remember thinking that if I do something theatrical, like a showpiece, people will remember that, because it’s visual.”

Since most showpieces in the mid-80s were replicas of existing objects, like the Eiffel Tower, Tréand focused on more abstract shapes to distinguish himself.

Today, Tréand finds inspiration for designs everywhere.

“Driving on the freeway sometimes you see a structure and say, ‘Well, that’s a nice bridge’ and of course the background we have in France is of beautiful churches or art from the last few centuries mixed with European art deco,” says Tréand. “There are many things that we mix. Some chefs even find inspiration in tribal tattoos.”

Tréand warns that sugar sculptures should not get “too weird” though.

“People like to recognize what it is,” says Tréand. “You always need to be careful and do something that people can find themselves in.”

He’s practiced his own advice to great success. Tréand was named one of Dessert Professional’s Ten Best Pastry Chefs in America in 2007 and 2008. In 2009, he coached the bronze-winning USA team (which consisted of three of his former assistants) at the International Pastry Competition in Tokyo. Currently, he’s the executive chef consultant for Occitanial, a pastry shop in Tokyo, and he runs his own school in California, Art of Pastry Academy.

The greatest moment of Tréand’s career, however, remains the day he earned his M.O.F., the highest title anyone can get in an artisan manual trade in France.

“That’s my first moment of pride in my whole life,” says Tréand. ”I got it after three tries. My first final was in 1997. I failed. I failed again in 2000 and finally I got it in 2004. When you get it on the third time, it’s even more important because you know the value of it. Finally you’ve got it, and you know you’ve got it forever.”

Tréand finds that his students feel their own sense of pride when they complete their first showpieces.

“When they do something and realize, ‘Oh my goodness, I did that with my fingers and it’s pretty nice,’ they feel proud,” says Tréand. “They feel happy and that’s all we need, just feeling happy.”

Tréand is grateful he discovered the artistic side of pastry because it gives him the chance to do something new every day.

“I think it’s fun,” says Tréand. “It’s freedom. It’s creation.”

Space is limited — click here to register today for Chef Tréand’s Sugar Showpieces workshop at ICE.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been two years since we launched ICE’s bean-to-bar Chocolate Lab (the first education-focused one of its kind!). We decided to check in with ICE’s Creative Director Michael Laiskonis to find out what he’s been up to. As it turns out: a lot.

Having produced over 120 batches of chocolate with beans sourced from more than 20 countries, the Chocolate Lab has given Chef Michael the chance to tinker with each step of the chocolate-making process and bring out the best qualities in each bean. What’s more, Chef Michael has been meticulously tracking these changes and differences in process and flavor, which he then shares with interested students and colleagues in a number of hands-on classes at ICE.

Our Pastry & Baking Arts students have also had the opportunity to swap textbooks for hands-on experience with Chef Michael inside the Chocolate Lab, benefitting from a full understanding of the bean-to-bar process.. Watch below our two-year check in with Chef Michael.

Want to study in the ICE Chocolate Lab with Chef Michael? Click here for more information on ICE’s Pastry & Baking Arts program.


By Michael Laiskonis — Creative Director

“If you cook, you are going to get hurt.” The crowd that gathered for a panel discussion on modernist cooking erupted into laughter, but Wylie Dufresne’s observation was gravely accurate. Extreme heat (and cold — working with liquid nitrogen was the object of Wylie’s remark), sharp knives and heavy equipment are some of the perils that cooks must navigate in their daily workplace environment. Add to the mix a dash of occasional chaos and the pressure to produce at breakneck speed, and it’s a wonder more chefs don’t bear hideous deformities.

Chef Sharpening Knives

Young cooks are instantly identified by the rows of scars running up their forearms: the reminders of brief skin-singeing encounters with blazing hot oven racks and pan handles. A cook’s relative experience is easily judged by his or her fingertip’s tolerance to heat (a seemingly heat-proof layer of skin inevitably forms with time). Another telltale sign of a chef is the tough, raised callous at the base of the index finger: the contact point of skin and the carbon steel blade of a chef’s knife. This callous never fully returns to soft, supple flesh, even after years of retirement from daily slicing and chopping. It’s a calling card of sorts, a silent testament to one’s lifelong métier.

While kitchen scars may fade with time, they rarely disappear completely. My first ghastly kitchen injury dates back to my days as a baker. The shop where I worked focused primarily on bread and cakes, but we also did some light takeout fare and off-site catering. During the mid-December holiday season, we were catering one or two small parties every night. One of those afternoons, the chef/owner executed one event while I simultaneously staged a second party at another location. I could easily handle the responsibility of the arrangement, but I was probably still too green of a cook to entrust with the logistical feats these parties presented.

Hot Kitchen Boiling Over Flames

I was wrapping up my prep list with that menu’s protein: a Cajun-spiced, blackened chicken affair (this was the early 90s). Proper blackening technique — as I knew it, anyway — would dictate exposing the oiled, spice-rubbed meat to a fierce high heat and only a little added cooking fat. In my haste to get everything finished, I ignored the gradual buildup of oil in my smoking cast iron pan. Worse yet, I violated the cardinal rule of adding food to any pan: always place the item so that it falls away from you. This precaution ensures that, in the event any hot cooking oil splashes, it does so away from you.

As I tossed the last chicken breast onto the fire, my face and eyes were stung with a spray of hot and spicy oil. I dropped back from the stove and somehow managed to feel my way to the three-compartment sink for some temporary relief. I splashed my face with cold water, wiped myself off and glanced at the clock. I was running late and I didn’t have time to assess the situation properly.

I managed to arrive at the catering gig fully prepped and on time, but as I worked my chafing dishes I was filled with self-conscious dread. I thought I’d scarred myself for life, that I’d need a shroud to hide my culinary deformity like some modern-day elephant man — all because of one impatiently flung piece of chicken. As it turns out, the burn on my face was minor and fully healed within a couple of weeks. But it could have been far worse. The lesson learned? Always respect the fire. That scar may have faded, but others have been permanent.

Chopping Onions

Another early mishap of mine persists in the form of a long-term, conspicuous reminder. A year or so after the blackened chicken incident, I was working my way through a very large pile of onions. It was a straightforward task: hack the polar ends off of each one, score through the skin, peel that off, then halve the onion lengthwise and perform a simple, uniform julienne. At ICE, our fledgling cooks are taught to tuck the thumb back and under, using the broad surface of the resulting fist to both secure the food and guide the knife while chopping. Of course I knew that then, too. But in my urgency to finish all those onions in time, I either looked up or the heavy chef’s knife slipped…and into the mountain of sliced onions went the tip of my left thumb.

My reaction was swift. I didn’t want to look closely at the damage, nor did I have much time to fret over it. I rinsed my hand in the nearby sink, slapped on two or three Band-Aids, wrapped it with a length of gauze and secured it all with what must have been a foot or two of electrical tape. And then I went on with my prep.

I certainly didn’t forget about it over the course of the night’s work. I was in a sense of denial. I was uninsured and living check-to-check on my cook’s wage. I didn’t want to bother with any workers’ comp benefit I may have been entitled to, so there was no professional medical attention given to the mangled digit. After a day or so, when I realized I might have made an error in judgment, I still didn’t seek help. I feared getting yelled at by some nurse or intern for not going directly to the emergency room. Instead, I kept it clean and wrapped, and it eventually healed. The contour of my left thumb is no longer rounded, but now sloped off at a sharp angle.

Butchery Fish Butchering

I’ve heard many stories over the years—likely mythical legends by the time they got to me. The fish bone that went in one side of someone’s finger and emerged months later on the other side. The arm broken in multiple places by an industrial mixer. The fingers severed on deli slicers. I’ve had close calls throughout my twenty years battling in the kitchen, but in comparison to many colleagues, I’ve survived mostly unscathed. My worst injuries were the result of total rookie moves.

A young cook might boast over a particularly gnarly burn or gash, eager to display it as a badge of honor. It’s part of the bravado, the mandated sense of fearlessness that pervades the kitchen. As I grow older, I’m not proud of my mistakes. With time, one increasingly feels stupid over the tiniest nicks and scratches, embarrassed for even a split second’s lack of control. So a word of advice to those starting out in the industry: the second you sense you’re playing too close to the edge, slow down. You won’t work faster with a half of a finger, a burnt face or a broken arm.

Want to study with Chef Michael? Click here for more information on ICE’s Pastry & Baking Arts program.

 

Chef Kathryn Gordon, chef instructor in ICE’s Pastry & Baking Arts program, has been named one of Dessert Professional Magazine’s 2017 Top Ten Pastry Chefs in America and inducted into their prestigious Hall of Fame. We’re ecstatic, we’re proud and we’re breaking out the bubbly — and serving it with Chef Kathryn’s elegant and celebratory pomelo and cantaloupe calissons. For those of you who haven’t heard of calissons, they’re a traditional almond candy that can be found in sweets shops throughout Provence, France. Chef Kathryn adds her personal, summery touch by sprucing them up with pomelo confit, candied cantaloupe and marbleized orange blossom glaze. And, of course, served alongside a chilled flute of champagne with a couple spoons of fresh, bright cantaloupe granita.

celebratory summer cocktail

Chef Kathryn’s Celebratory Summer Cocktail

Pomelo and Cantaloupe Calissons
Yield: Makes 40 (1-inch dome) calissons

Ingredients:

1900 grams blanched almond flour
100 grams powdered sugar
1 gram fine sea salt
60 grams pomelo confit (recipe below), drained well
60 grams candied cantaloupe (recipe below), drained well

Preparation:

  • Place the almond flour, powdered sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse 30 times, stopping and scraping the sides of the bowl every five pulses to ensure ingredients are mixing smoothly.
  • Add ¼ of the pomelo confit and pulse. When a dough starts to form, hand knead in the remaining pomelo confit and candied cantaloupe. Press mixture into 1” flexipan molds. Let air dry for two days. Unmold and place on a glazing rack.
  • Glaze with orange blossom glaze and air dry.

Pomelo Confit

Ingredients:

Peel of 1 pomelo and cold water to cover
Pinch of salt
200 grams granulated sugar
150 grams water
25 grams glucose syrup

Preparation:

  • Cut the pomelo peel (with pith) into ¼-inch dice. Place the peels in a small non-reactive saucepan (stainless steel or tin). Add salt and enough cold water to cover. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and blanch for five minutes. Pour the mixture through a chinois and rinse in cold water. Repeat the blanching process four more times, without adding additional salt.
  • Stir together sugar and 150 grams water in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Once the mixture is boiling, add glucose syrup and blanched pomelo peels. Turn the heat down to low and let simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool. Chill and reserve syrup for cocktail.

Candied Cantaloupe

Ingredients:

200 grams granulated sugar
50 grams orange juice, freshly squeezed
Flesh of 1 medium orange-fleshed cantaloupe (about 1200 grams), cut into ½-inch dice

Preparation:

  • Stir together sugar and orange juice in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Add diced cantaloupe. Turn off heat and let cool for one hour. Reserve syrup and extra fruit for granita.

Marbleized Orange Blossom Glaze

Ingredients:

20 grams orange blossom water
15 grams water
200 grams powdered sugar
Pink, egg yellow and orange gel food coloring

Preparation:

  • Stir orange blossom water and water into powdered sugar. Divide into three bowls, and stir in pink, egg yellow and orange colors, respectively. Place each color in a disposable pastry piping bag. Cut a small hole in each and place those three pastry bags in a fourth pastry bag. Cut a hole at the bottom, straight across. Squeeze out the glaze, and swirl over the calissons on the glazing rack. Let set one hour before removing with a small offset spatula.

Canteloupe Granita

Ingredients:

Reserved syrup and fruit from candied canteloupe

Preparation:

  • Puree in food processor. Place in shallow pan in freezer. Break up crystals around pan perimeter every half an hour until frozen and slushy. Keep frozen until time to serve cocktails.

Celebratory Summer Cocktail

Preparation:

  • Fill chilled champagne glasses to one-third with reserved pomelo syrup. Spoon in cantaloupe granite until halfway filled. Top with champagne or sparkling wine. Serve with pomelo and grapefruit calisson.

You, too, can study pastry & baking arts alongside Chef Kathryn — click here for more information on ICE’s career programs.

The Center for Advanced Pastry Studies (CAPS) at ICE is designed for current industry professionals looking to expand their skill sets. These single- and multi-day continuing education workshops are taught by master chefs and critically acclaimed artists from around the globe. 

ICE is excited to welcome back Karen Portaleo to teach the upcoming CAPS course Carved Cake: Ballerina Pig on June 2. Karen is a celebrated cake and chocolate artist who creates fantastical cakes at Highland Bakery in Atlanta, Georgia. She has appeared on numerous television shows including Food Network’s Cake Challenge and Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, and her work has appeared in various publications like Cake Central Magazine and National Geographic. Karen’s client list includes Sir Elton John, Usher, Jane Lynch, T-Pain, Demi Moore, AMC’s The Walking Dead, CNN and The W Hotel.

ballerina pig

photos courtesy of http://www.karenportaleo.com/

In anticipation of Karen’s class, we chatted with her about her work in the pastry world and what she has in store for students in her cake carving class at ICE.

You’ve worked as a jewelry designer, a clay sculptor and a set designer — what inspired you to enter the world of cake?

Originally, it was desperation that motivated me to begin working with cake. I was recently separated and a newly single mom. The prop and set design company I had run for 17 years was suffering from the effects of a bad economy and shrunken budgets. A friend opened a bakery and I decided to ask if I could decorate and sell cookies there. This would give me the flexibility to stay home with my young daughter. Initially they said no, but persistence paid off. Soon I was frosting cupcakes, then cakes and it all took off from there. I call it my accidental career. But it just goes to show: opportunity can show up in very unexpected places.

What would you say is your signature style when it comes to designing a cake?

I would say my style is whimsical and very sculptural. I rarely make tiered cakes anymore — I’ve paid those dues already! My work is often described as “dark,” but that’s not my general aesthetic. I think my work falls into the category of cakes that don’t look like cakes.

If you’re given “carte blanche” to create a cake, where do you look for inspiration?

Usually I’ve had an idea rolling around in my head and am just waiting for a paying customer. There’s not always a rational explanation for the inspiration. For example, I woke up a few weeks ago and thought it might be fun to make a Humpty Dumpty cake. While I wait for an event, I get to dream up all the details and structure to make the piece exactly as I want it to be.

Tell us about the most challenging project you’ve worked on recently

I recently travelled to Palm Beach to create a very large cake for a client. As is sometimes the case, I can’t disclose the name of the client or details about the cake. However, I can say that it involved 40 full sheets of cake, 120 pounds of buttercream, 110 pounds of fondant and 64 pounds of modeling chocolate. There were a number of challenges with this cake. For one, the structure was very complex. Also, when creating a huge cake, you still have to bear in mind that it has to fit through doorways and into a van. This often means that the cake is made in big sections and then assembled onsite. Every large event involves a bit of chaos in the hours immediately preceding it, so showing up with large cakes that need to be assembled can be stressful for everyone. That’s why a lot of planning goes into the structure, as it must all fit together well and quickly. Not to mention, the cake needs to be fresh, moist and delicious, so this usually means a few sleepless nights of mad stacking, carving and fondant work. Delivery is always a tense time and this cake, in all its pieces, had to be carried quite a distance over walkways, stairs and ramps. But one of the most challenging things about this cake is that for all the planning and hard work, I can’t share any pictures! Still, it was pretty fabulous.

Karen Portaleo

Karen with one of her whimsical creations

What would you say are the most important skills for your craft?

I think the skills I rely on most heavily come from my background in art. I went to art school and have had many previous careers in the visual arts. My grandfather was a pastry chef and I grew up in bakeries, but I have no specific culinary training. My reputation springs more from the visual aspect of the cake than the cake itself. That being said, I’m extremely demanding about flavor and quality. I encourage my students, especially those who are in culinary school, to spend some time in art classes as well. Understanding how to successfully sculpt a three-dimensional object, as well as a solid understanding of color theory, are a few really valuable skills in today’s cake world.

What new techniques can students expect to learn from your upcoming course at ICE?

In my course, students will learn to create a structure for a seemingly gravity-defying cake. They will also learn to make and sculpt with modeling chocolate, how to create “clothing” with fondant, painting on chocolate, painting on fondant and creating small details that add a higher level of visual interest to a cake. I encourage my students to get creative with the design of their piece. I will be teaching the skills, but I like my students to create their own design using their own vision. I believe that this encourages a higher level of learning and creativity, as students need to do a bit of problem solving on their own. I’m a firm believer that taking risks and figuring out how to execute certain details is an excellent way to really learn on a deeper level.

Because CAPS classes require individual attention to each student’s project, class sizes are limited — click here to reserve your spot today.

By Michael Laiskonis

Much of my day-to-day work at ICE — in its kitchens and in the Chocolate Lab — revolves around unraveling the inner workings of ingredients, recipes and the finished preparations that result. This is an important aspect that all cooks consider on some level. Whether seeking to create inventive new dishes or perfect the classics, a pinch of food science will always help us achieve our goals. As a pastry chef, one might say that I’m already hard-wired to think a bit deeper about the composition and function of ingredients. I like to say that the primary difference between a pastry chef and his or her savory counterpart is that success often relies upon some measure of predicting the future. While a soup can be tasted and tweaked from start to finish, you can’t take a cake out of the oven halfway through the bake to add a bit more leavener. Cakes aside, it was my quest to better understand ice cream several years ago that led me down the path toward a more precise understanding of the many ingredients and processes a pastry chef seeks to master.

coffee ice cream

Coffee Ice Cream

The words “food” and “science” no doubt conjure images of lab coats and beakers, or perhaps they evoke notions of “modernist” dishes with avant-garde flair. Yet on a far more practical level, every act of cooking involves countless physical or chemical reactions that rely on time, temperature and the composition of ingredients. Accordingly, we can all benefit from a bit of simple kitchen chemistry. Not only does such insight lead to better cooking skills, but it also helps us fix mistakes when they inevitably arise. Though often a skill elusive to most cooks, a better understanding of these reactions can indeed lead to new creations. For me, it also became a new lens through which to view every ingredient and recipe I set out to execute. Eventually, this way of thinking ultimately arms a cook with the ability to write a recipe from scratch, rather than merely rely on or follow someone else’s recipe.

My deep dive into ice cream on a technical level — through complex textbooks and scientific papers as well as working directly with a noted food scientist — greatly improved the quality of the ice cream I began to make. With just a grasp of dairy composition, the properties of various sugars, freeze point depression and the physical mechanics of freezing, I am able to fine-tune a recipe to make a finished product with optimal flavor and texture. Milk itself, what for many is simply a ubiquitous ingredient used without much thought, suddenly becomes a fascinating substance when broken down into its constituent parts. Its water, fat, proteins and sugar play important and specific roles — not only in frozen desserts, but in every preparation it is used. And suddenly that knowledge base expands to other products derived from milk — cream, butter, cultured products and cheeses — and the myriad ways they function in our recipes.

Whipped Cream

Whipped Cream, Soft Peak

I am lucky to share these specific insights with every student enrolled in the Pastry & Baking Arts program at ICE. During a guest lecture that I conduct in the early days of the students’ journey, I break down dozens of dairy products based on their composition and function. We taste them all in order to identify their similarities and their differences. We conduct whipped cream exercises, in which I encourage students to imagine themselves shrunk down to the size of a tiny milk fat particle, to better understand how liquid cream transforms into a light fluffy foam and then, eventually, into butter. We make soft caramels, which demonstrate the effects of Maillard reactions, the dark and delicious result of milk proteins, lactose and heat. Though I present a mountain of technical data on dairy products, the numbers and charts aren’t what’s important. The real goal is simply to get students thinking about their ingredients in this new light, along with a better understanding of the cause-and-effect of our cooking methods. This mindfulness can then be applied to anything — eggs, flour, sugar, chocolate, fruit and more.

So, yes, I am a certified dairy nerd, and a few times each year I get to bring these obsessions to a wider audience with single subject classes that zero in on milk, eggs, ice cream and more general aspects of baking “technology.” Just in time for warmer temperatures, I will deconstruct frozen desserts in Introduction to Ice Cream and Sorbet Technology this week, followed by Composition and Structure: The Humble Complexity of Milk in June. Later in the summer, I take on other vital aspects of food science and pastry applications with A Hydrocolloids Primer, Baking and Pastry Technology and Composition and Structure: A Scientific Approach to Cooking. Happy cooking — and learning!

Take your understanding of baking to the next level — click here for more information on ICE’s Pastry & Baking Arts. program

By Michael Laiskonis — Creative Director

The act of cooking is, at its heart, a solitary one. Of course, a restaurant kitchen requires coordinated effort and teamwork — many hands executing and assembling tiny parts of a greater whole. Each brief task in isolation, however, is a personal communion of skill and ingredient. Each step of mis en place presents an opportunity to contemplate, and a challenge to refine and better understand what we do.

Dough

My cooking career began at a tiny bakery in the outlying suburbs of Detroit almost 25 years ago. What started as “just a job” quickly became a compulsion: in cooking I found the satisfaction of manual labor and making something from nothing. Before long, I was offered an overnight baking position. At first, I merely worked my way down a checklist of standard items to mix and bake: a trio of basic breads, some viennoisserie and coffee cakes, muffins and cookies, and then the delicate chiffon layers that comprised the buttercream- and fondant-coated birthday and wedding cakes. I worked hard and I got better, and I took on more and more responsibility. Eventually, if the cases were full at 7:00 am when the shop opened, I pretty much had free rein to bake as I pleased during these solo shifts.

I often began each evening just as the bakery locked its front door at 6:00pm, and I rarely left before 8:00am the following morning. It was the first job I’d ever had where I didn’t watch the clock (and, come to think of it, I haven’t had one since). I found a nightly groove, a rhythm fueled by black coffee and a tape deck blaring the likes of Superchunk and Sonic Youth. As a former art student, I instantly recognized the meditative shift into right-brain mode, where intense concentration makes one oblivious to external stimuli and the linear passage of time. My time-sensitive dough, and not the clock, set my schedule, as items cycled in and out of the ovens.

Fresh Baked Bread

Though the bakery was well off the beaten path I filled its shelves and cases with lofty ambition, as if the sign outside bore the names of Parisian pastry temples Poilâne, Fauchon or Lenôtre. I was naïve, for sure, but driven. It felt as if I’d entered a kind of undergraduate phase of pastry study, and an ever-growing library of books became my syllabus. Among them, a multi-volume set of professional French pastry books; it was a good thing I ate virtually all my meals at work; each of those six volumes set me back nearly one hundred dollars — a sizable bite out of my paycheck back then. These books were already outdated to some degree even then, but the classics never die. I methodically worked my way through each, from brioche, fougasse and pain de siegle, to pâte brisée, pâte feuilleté and pâte à choux. I continually refined my baguettes, croissants and genoise. I also took liberties in experimenting with my own creations, many of which ended up not in the front of the shop, but in the dumpster out back. I compensated for my lack of formal training by challenging myself to learn at least one new product each day.

My nights at the bakery resembled the quiet, creative solitude I’d enjoyed while working many hours alone in the dark room in the days before digital photography. Prior to cooking, much of my time was devoted to photography, developing strips of black and white film, manipulating prints in all manner of ways. The mixing, shaping and proofing of dough is not unlike developing a negative, cropping an image and adjusting exposure. Bread goes into a hot oven to fully transform into its full potential, just as a sheet of light-sensitive paper in a bath of chemicals slowly reveals the image burned onto it. I often compare pastry with photography — highly technical to some degree, though what ends up on the plate or within the frame could perhaps be called “art.”

Today, my work in the Chocolate Lab and pastry kitchens at ICE takes on a similar solitary aspect. With several projects on my plate at any given time, my daily prep list follows no linear rhyme or reason. There are fewer deadlines now, but surprisingly, a whole lot of dishes to clean afterward. No longer confined to the schedule and structure of a restaurant kitchen, I now find those quiet hours where I can think one thought through to its completion. And I still enjoy the hours flying by, alone with my mis en place and my own thoughts. But the results nowadays go beyond personal gratification — the fruits of this solitary refinement now feed the minds of hungry students.

Refine your craft in the kitchen classrooms of ICE — click here for more information on our Pastry & Baking Arts programs. 

A native of Toulouse, France, Chef Eric Bertoia has a resume that boasts a host of impressive hotels and restaurants on both the old and new continent, among them the Ritz Hotel Escoffier in Paris and Daniel Boulud’s Dinex Group restaurants. Today, as technician pastry chef of Paris Gourmet, he shares his expertise with professional pastry chefs across the country. In anticipation of his upcoming CAPS course at ICE on April 30thEntremets and Plated Desserts, we asked Chef Eric a few questions about his current role, his experience working for Daniel Boulud and his recommended food destinations.

Chef Eric Bertoia

Can you tell us a little bit about Paris Gourmet?

Established in 1983, Paris Gourmet is a leading specialty food importer and distributor of gourmet and pastry ingredients from all over the world.

The Paris Gourmet Education Center conducts continuing education classes for chefs and restaurant staff, and researches and develops products in pursuit of quality and innovation. Paris Gourmet is also extremely active in trade events and chef competitions.

What do you do in your role as “technician pastry chef” at Paris Gourmet?

At Paris Gourmet, we have an education center and test kitchen. We have classes for groups and one-on-one classes for professional pastry chefs working in hotels, casinos, restaurants and catering. As technician pastry chef, my primary focus is teaching these chefs how to use our products and demonstrating techniques. We conduct demonstrations in our kitchen and all over the United States, and very often work with restaurants and hotels to change their menus. Every month we have new products with which we create and test new recipes. We also host the annual U.S. Pastry Competition and lend support and advise Pastry Team USA for the Pastry World Cup in Lyon.

Tell us about your experience working for Chef Daniel Boulud’s restaurant group, Dinex Group.

I was the corporate pastry chef for Dinex Group, managing and supervising the pastry departments of 15 restaurants and the two retail stores. I was overseeing operations in New York, Palm Beach, Miami, Las Vegas, Montreal, Toronto, London and Singapore. Every restaurant in the Dinex Group has a unique concept: bistro, brasserie, gastronomic, Mediterranean, plus catering. As corporate pastry chef, I was rotating between each site and was responsible for creating menus for launching new locations — organizing the department, training pastry chefs and staff and explaining the company’s expectations.

What do you miss most about working in restaurants full-time?

What I miss the most is that all the restaurants had a different level or theme of gastronomy, from the bistro to the retail store. The task of creating a concept and menu for each made it challenging.

Eric Cake Ice 4 1

What do you find to be one of the biggest challenges when teaching techniques on plated desserts versus other types of desserts?

One of the biggest challenges is to maintain consistency, in terms of plating, aesthetic, texture, temperature and, most importantly, taste. An emphasis on the freshness of ingredients is another important point in my classes.

Can you offer some food destination recommendations for our students and readers?

In New York, the bakery products are all well done, from viennoiserie to bread. Minneapolis has the classic American comfort foods and it offers global cuisine like Greek and Vietnamese, plus high-quality pastry shops like Patisserie 46. Lima, Peru — amazing seafood, quinoa, beef and others specialty products. Berlin, Germany — here you can find great local restaurants and Turkish/Middle Eastern cuisine. In Singapore, you can find Chinese, Malaysian and Indian food that’s representative of the ethnic diversity of the local population, as well as European and American cuisine.

Don’t miss the opportunity to perfect your plated desserts with Chef Eric – click here to register today!


By Gabby Guarino,
Student, Culinary Arts ’17 

Gabby is a student in ICE’s Culinary Arts program and our newest student blogger. She’s been cooking since before she was allowed to use the stove — making “soup” by using hot water from the sink to “boil” pasta and then throwing in some spices. Before culinary school, she received a bachelor’s degree in communications and human resources management from Rutgers University. She worked in marketing for a stint before launching her blog, “The Semi-Healthy Foodie,” and in October 2016, she finally decided to pursue her dream of going to culinary school and enrolled at ICE. For her first blog post, she takes us through a daunting pastry lesson: Danish dough. 

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Tackling Danish dough was one of the most challenging things I’ve had to take on in culinary school so far. When I think of a Danish, I think of buttery, flaky crust with a cheese or fruit filling. I think of the beautiful layers and the soft, chewy dough. Before culinary school, I casually enjoyed a Danish now and again, not thinking much of it. Now that I know the time and effort that goes into making that perfectly layered dough, I have a new appreciation for pastry chefs (and their Danishes) everywhere. There is a certain technique and process that’s essential to get the dough just right. Have you ever wondered how all of those buttery layers of dough are created? It may seem daunting, but with some time, patience and good instructions, it’s totally possible.

Apple Danish

For starters, Danish dough is considered a laminate dough, which means that there are layers of fat encased in dough and each layer remains separate. The laminate dough process is tedious but so rewarding. Before I explain the process, here are a few key words to know: beurrage, detrempe and paton. The fat component of the dough is called beurrage, the dough component is called the detrempe and the act of making the dough and encasing the fat in dough is called paton. Okay, enough with the fancy words — let’s get to it.

  • First, make a basic dough with yeast, sugar and cinnamon, and let it rest for about an hour.
  • Next, make sure your butter is very cold and cut it into thin blocks. Flour the butter and line up the blocks of butter into a rectangle. Pound them together with a rolling pin until they form a sheet that is about 10-12 inches wide.
  • Roll out the dough into a rectangle about one-third longer than your butter sheet. Place the butter sheet on the dough and fold into thirds like a letter. Roll the dough out, turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat the folding and rolling process. Rotate the dough again and repeat.
  • Next, refrigerate the dough for at least an hour. Remove the dough from the refrigerator, roll it out and cut into 4×4 inch squares.
  • When ready to bake, you can fill Danish dough with different fruits, jams or pastry creams.

Once you break down the steps, the process is quite simple and the result is the flakiest Danish. Those layers of butter and dough create the amazing structure that made the Danish famous. With this pastry lesson, not only did I master Danish dough, I also stepped out of my comfort zone, challenged my inner baker and acquired a new appreciation for Danishes and laminate doughs.

Apple Danish

Ready to challenge your inner baker with professional culinary training from ICE? Click here for more information.