By Carly DeFilippo

Wall Street consultant. Macaron master. International pastry competitor. Best-selling author.

Like many culinary professionals, ICE Chef Instructor Kathryn Gordon never intended to work in food. Yet today, this former management consultant is one of ICE’s most celebrated pastry instructors, one of the country’s foremost experts on the art of French macarons, and was recently named one of Dessert Professional Magazine’s 2017 Top Ten Pastry Chefs in America and inducted into their prestigious Hall of Fame.

Kathryn Gordon Headshot cropped

ICE Chef-Instructor Kathryn Gordon

Growing up, Kathryn didn’t have a “home base.”  Her father’s work in the oil business meant that the family was constantly on the move, offering her exposure to various regional cuisines, such as the Creole recipes of New Orleans.  She even spent part of her childhood in Australia and attended high school in London, where she sampled a wide range of ethnic foods.

Before she realized her culinary ambitions, Kathryn completed her undergraduate studies at Vassar College, and later, obtained her MBA at New York University’s Stern School of Business. Her work as a consultant in the high-stakes world of Wall Street trading left her more than prepared for a new career in the fast-paced world of restaurant kitchens. So, after earning an honors certification from L’Academie de Cuisine in Washington DC, it’s no surprise that Kathryn excelled in the kitchens of New York’s “big three” restaurants — The Rainbow Room, Tavern on the Green and Windows on the World — then, the three highest-grossing restaurants in the country.

Among her many contacts in the industry, Kathryn names Kurt Walrath as her most influential mentor. From serving dinner for 700 at the Rainbow Room to Sunday brunch for 2,000 at Tavern on the Green, there were few tasks he challenged her to take on that she did not master. Yet it was at Windows on the World, as pastry chef of Cellar in the Sky, that Kathryn realized her primary job responsibility was teaching — instructing a sizable staff of experienced chefs and interns during her time there.

Kathryn Gordon Dessert Professional

Shifting her focus, Kathryn was hired as an instructor (and subsequently became the Program Director for the pastry program) at New York Restaurant School, one of the city’s top culinary schools (now closed). During that time, she also collaborated with an American artist who owned a hotel in France to launch a series of culinary tours and French pastry classes for U.S. based industry professionals.

In 2003, Kathryn joined the faculty at the Institute of Culinary Education and has since helped to launch ICE’s own culinary study abroad programs. She has also proved a formidable competitor in National and Regional pastry competitions, and has even been the Master of Ceremonies for a number of pastry events, including the live Carymax World and National Pastry Championships.

Back in ICE’s New York teaching kitchens, Chef Kathryn aims to create extreme scenarios that challenge students to think on their feet. In 2011, she published a best-selling guide to crafting French macarons, which was described by the Wall Street Journal as the most “comprehensive and inspiring” book on macarons in any language. In 2016, Chef Kathryn also published a companion cookbook entitled Les Petits Sweets: Two Bites Desserts from the French Patisserie.

Inspired by her attention to detail and determined focus, it’s no surprise that Kathryn’s students have gone on to find their own significant success. Two, in particular — Dana Loia of Dana’ Bakery and Kathleen Hernandez of Cocoamains— have followed in her footsteps, opening entrepreneurial macaron businesses catering to NYC’s latest dessert craze.

celebratory summer cocktail

Ready to launch a rewarding and creative career in Pastry & Baking Arts? Click here for more information on ICE’s career 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!

“It was always something I liked doing; something I was good at naturally. But it was never something that I thought I would do professionally,” explained Jennifer Tafuri (Pastry Arts, ’11) on the hobby that would ultimately become her livelihood. Though she never imagined she would find herself practicing her passion for pastry on a daily basis, one visit to ICE convinced this former anthropologist and recreational baker to enroll in ICE’s Pastry & Baking Arts program.

With the launch of our 2017 #CulinaryVoice Scholarship Challenge, we’re revisiting stories from our most inspiring alumni. Jennifer popped out of the pastry kitchen at Rotisserie Georgette, where she holds the title of Pastry Chef, to chat with us about her decision to come to ICE and to inspire you to take the leap and enter our scholarship challenge.

Ready to find your culinary voice at ICE? Click here for more information on the 2017 #CulinaryVoice Scholarship Challenge and enter today!

By Michael Laiskonis—ICE Creative Director

In the past, I’ve written about the parallels between architecture and pastry. I recently judged a competition where architects were asked to express their favorite iconic buildings in the form of cake. Once again, the topic of architecture and pastry arts came to mind.

I think a lot about architecture and design. It’s a closet interest of mine, though I must admit that my passion is limited to: I don’t know much about architecture, but I know what I like. One of the benefits of urban living is being surrounded by so much of it. I’m fascinated by the juxtaposition of various styles, shapes and sizes — sometimes even more than the individual structures themselves. While the streets of Manhattan may be more chaotic than, say, the carefully planned vistas of Paris, a glance down any street or avenue can be just as awe-inspiring. Without overreaching, there are some great analogies to be made between cooking and architecture. Both are seen as lofty arts and technical crafts. Both provide a vehicle for fashionable trends and practical function. Both reflect their immediate environment and in turn, give that place a sense of unique identity. Occasionally, both incite controversy. As two of the three necessities of life, food and shelter hold the kind of sociological importance that can even spawn whole philosophies.

Flatiron Building

You may think you know where I’m headed with this: Toward a discussion of architectural foods such as the towering desserts of years past — but this is just the surface. Of course, presentation is an important factor in fine dining and these trends come and go. In fact, in recent times our food has slowly retreated to the surface of the plate, often appearing as if randomly scattered, sometimes even ignoring the conventional boundary of the rim. The true “architecture” of a dish, however, is less about looks or visual construction and more about the “architecture of taste”— how blending elements creates a visually appealing framework for flavor and texture.

Contemporary cooks take many factors into consideration – materials, technology, aesthetics and matters of perception. Modern cooking seems to be an intersection of engineering and philosophy. Years ago, I read about the construction of a project in Switzerland that perfectly reflected this discussion: The Blur Building, the goal of which was to create an indeterminate “structure” of water vapor. On the same metaphysical level, a chef friend once pondered how to make food float in mid-air. It’s interesting and important for both disciplines to question themselves. Is a building without walls still a building? Was that dish I ate just dinner or something more?

milk chocolate praline pastry

That said, at the end of the day, food is just food. Though I pay way too much rent, I need a solid room in which to rest. As a sentient being, I ultimately seek comfort and pleasure from both. But as a chef, what concerns me is how the various elements of a dish — taste, texture and temperature — are engineered and arranged to provide the maximum impact. We achieve this through complement (classic flavor pairings, as well as the unconventional) and contrast (sweet and tart, smooth and crunchy, hot and cold, etc.). One caveat I learned early on: No matter how well two or more elements might go together, each must also be able to stand alone. Attention is also given to the structure itself — the form of how we eat and experience a dish. The thought process behind how diners will approach a plate of food mirrors how architects envision how a space will be navigated by its inhabitants.

Cooking from an architectural perspective goes beyond creating a pleasant-looking dish. It helps us refine our approach by thoughtfully layering flavors and textures; using techniques to best express the qualities of our ingredients; considering how the consumer will ultimately experience our final product. Though architecture and food serve practical purposes, constructing with an eye for maximizing experiential enjoyment elevates practical forms to a works of art.

Want to study Pastry Arts with Chef Michael? Click here to learn more about our career programs.

Interview by Carly Evans

Chef Kate Sullivan of Cake Power is New York’s pick when it comes to imaginative, sculpted cakes. Named one of the “Top 10 Cake Artists of North America” by Dessert Professional, the Brooklyn-born baker’s gorgeous cakes have appeared on The Martha Stewart Show, The Today Show and Food Network Challenge.

We caught up with Chef Kate to chat about her signature style and her biggest cake challenge in anticipation of her upcoming CAPS course at the Institute of Culinary Education. In Cake Carving: The Polar Bear Cake, participants will practice key cake carving techniques to create their own sculpted cakes.

cake_power_nyc

You worked as a photographer at magazines such as Parenting and Smart Money — what inspired you to switch to baking?

Photography has always been a passion of mine and I loved working for magazines. My main job was to hire the photographers and produce photo shoots, but ultimately I had a craving to do something more hands-on.

What is your “signature” cake or dessert?

Most of my cakes have some sense of fantasy and animation, using bold colors and shapes.  The designs and details are usually painted or sculpted by hand.  As for wedding cakes, one of my signature designs is a simple tiered cake adorned with a cascade of peonies, dahlias and tiny white chocolate animals as well — bunnies, foxes and even alpacas (which I once added in honor of the bride and groom’s own alpacas).

I’m sure you receive all types of requests for cakes. What is the most challenging sculpted cake you’ve ever completed?

It’s hard to choose. One of my criteria for choosing a project is the excitement of not being quite sure if I can pull it off. One that comes to mind is a replica of the new Whitney Museum. The building is really complicated with angles going in every direction. The cake was for an art installation at the museum and they wanted an exact replica, down to the railings piped onto the balconies on the outside of the museum.

 

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Have advancements in technology changed your craft over the years?

One of the requests for the Whitney Museum cake was that it be as architecturally correct as possible. I was able to find an amazing architecture student who researched the building online and scaled down the design for us with a computer-assisted program. Using the three-dimensional printer in our studio, we were able to print out a three-dimensional version of the building. Having a 3-D model to work from makes a huge difference.

What is one piece of general advice you would give pastry students? 

These may seem contradictory but, in the beginning, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Just play with your food and decorating supplies—happy “accidents” happen all the time. However, once you’re taking on a trickier project, a more precise approach using a 3-D model or figurine is the way to go. It’s also a good idea to make templates of your subjects scaled to size in advance to keep your sizing consistent.

Ready to try your hand at cake carving? Click here to register!

Recipe by Jenny McCoy — Chef Instructor, School of Pastry & Baking Arts

So your sister-in-law likes it sweet but your uncle loves a tart dessert and the rest of the family just wants something delicious to end their holiday meal— what’s a baker to do!? Chef Jenny has the perfect pie-idea for you: a flaky double-crust apple-cranberry pie that’s the perfect mix of tart and sweet — the best of both worlds. Bake, serve (preferably warm and with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a spoonful of crème fraîche) and let the compliments roll in.

Double-Crust Cranberry Apple Pie

Double-Crust Apple-Cranberry Pie

For the Flaky Pie Dough
Yield: Makes 1 double-crust pie or 2 (9-inch) pie crusts

Ingredients:

3¼ cups (450 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1¼ teaspoons (6 grams) granulated sugar
1¼ teaspoons (8 grams) salt
2¼ sticks (252 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
¾ cup (175 grams) ice-cold water, plus more if needed

Preparation:

  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk the flour, sugar and salt together for a few seconds. Add the butter all at once, and rub into the dry ingredients to mix until the butter is reduced to small pieces about the size of peas. Slowly add the water and stir until the dough just comes together, yet lumps of butter remain in the dough.
  • Divide the dough in half, and flatten each piece into a 1-inch thick disk. Wrap dough tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, one to two hours.

 

For the Sauteed Apple-Cranberry Pie Filling
Yield: Makes 6 cups

Ingredients:

8 medium Gala or Pink Lady apples
¼ cup (50 grams) light brown sugar
¼ cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
Ground cinnamon, to taste
¼ teaspoon (1 gram) salt
4 to 6 tablespoons (56 to 84 grams) unsalted butter
¼ cup (56 grams) brandy (optional)
1 cup (130 grams) cranberries

Preparation:

  • Peel, core and slice apples into ¾-inch slices. Gently toss sliced fruit, brown sugar, sugar, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl.
  • In a large saute pan, melt half of the butter over medium-high heat. Add half of the sliced fruit and sauté until light golden and caramelized, turning fruit as needed. Add half of the brandy and cook until alcohol has reduced, tossing fruit in pan to coat.
  • Spread the cooked fruit in a shallow baking dish or on a baking sheet and repeat with remaining butter, fruit and brandy. Add the cranberries, stir and let cool to room temperature.

 

For The Double-Crust Apple-Cranberry Pie
Yield: Makes 1 (9-inch) pie

Ingredients:

Unbleached all-purpose flour, for rolling
1 recipe Flaky Pie Dough
1 recipe Sautéed Apple-Cranberry Pie Filling
1 large (50 grams) egg, lightly beaten

Preparation:

  • Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Lightly coat a 9-inch pie plate with nonstick cooking spray. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • On a lightly floured surface, roll one disk of dough into a circle about 12 inches in diameter by starting at the center of the disk and rolling away from you. Use additional flour and give the dough a quarter turn between each roll to prevent it from sticking to the table. Continue rolling until the dough is an even ⅛ inch thick. Repeat with the second disk of dough.
  • Carefully roll one circle of the dough around the rolling pin and unroll over the pie plate. Fit the dough into the plate by gently pressing it into the corners and against the base and sides of the plate. Trim the excess dough, leaving about a 1-inch overhang. Place the lined pie plate in the freezer for about 15 minutes to chill slightly. Roll the second piece of dough onto the rolling pin and unroll onto the parchment paper-lined baking sheet and place in refrigerator until ready to use.
  • Spread the Sauteed Apple-Cranberry Pie Filling into the prepared pie shell. Remove the sheet of rolled pie dough from the refrigerator and lay over the pie filling (if the sheet is stiff, just give it a few minutes to soften), reserving the parchment-lined baking sheet for later use. Trim the excess from the top sheet of dough to line up with the overhang of the shell. Fold the overhang in half, tucking the cut edge between the shell and the pie plate. Using your fingertips, decoratively crimp the edges together to seal. Cut a few decorative slits in the top of the pie crust to allow for steam from the fruit to vent. Place the pie in the freezer for 10 minutes to chill the dough slightly.
  • Lightly brush the entire surface of the dough with the beaten egg. Place the pie on the baking sheet and bake for one hour to one hour and 15 minutes, or until the crust is deep golden brown, the filling bubbles and the liquid has just thickened.
  • Cool on a wire rack until just warm before serving.

Double-Crust Cranberry Apple Pie

Want to learn pro-level baking with Chef Jenny? Click here for information on ICE’s Pastry & Baking Arts program.


Introduction by Caitlin Gunther
Interview by Carly Evans

Chocolate: where most people see a tasty treat for immediate consumption, Chef Ebow Dadzie sees a world of possibilities for his next creation. A chef instructor at Monroe College and pastry chef for the New York Marriott Marquis Hotel, Chef Ebow has earned a host of praise for his chocolate artistry — named as one of the Top 10 Pastry Chefs in America by Dessert Professional magazine in 2015; awarded the honor of Most Influential Pastry Chef by the Black Culinary Alliance in 2012; named pastry chef of the year by Paris Gourmet in 2007; and more. Chef Ebow even earned the Guinness World Record for building the tallest sugar skyscraper in 2006 — talk about setting your sights high.

ICE is excited to host Chef Ebow for his upcoming hands-on course, Chocolate Showpiece with Ebow Dadzie, where students will learn to create their own sweet masterpieces. We spoke with the award-winning pastry chef to ask him about his signature style and his advice for rising pastry students.

Pastry Chef Ebow Dadzie

If you had to choose, what would you say is your “signature” item?

It’s very hard to choose a signature item, but if I had to, it would incorporate hazelnut and dark chocolate. I’ve had success with these flavors within the classroom, work and in competition for many years.

Your family is from Trinidad and Tobago. Do you ever integrate ingredients or recipes from these roots into your work?

Absolutely — I’d be crazy not to! When I introduce flavors from Trinidad, I am able to bring something different to the table. These are not necessarily new flavors, but they’re flavors that people don’t see often so they add intrigue. The response to this has always been positive. I also like to take risks with my creations. By introducing Caribbean flavors like tamarind, soursop (a creamy, sweet and sour fruit) and sorrel, I’m adding my personal touch but also challenging myself to create something special that represents where I come from.

As a teacher in Monroe College’s hospitality program, do you have any thoughts on the future of traditional food education?

I’ve noticed that the drive and energy that we used to have back in the day just isn’t in some students entering the industry today. If the students aren’t passionate about what they are doing, then the educational program isn’t going to be successful either. I believe, as educators, it’s our responsibility to energize and fuel the excitement in our students. We have to promote our industry and prepare these students to work hard and challenge themselves. We also have to lead by example, by being passionate, working hard ourselves and becoming mentors to the next generation of great chefs.

Sky’s the limit: where would you go on your next trip and why?

I have a few places on my list for the near future. Egypt has always been on my radar. Ever since I was young, I wanted to see the pyramids and experience the culture, so Egypt might be next for me.

What is one piece of general advice you would give students of pastry and confections?

As a student in my very first baking class, I received a C grade and I questioned if pastry was the industry for me. But I didn’t allow that grade to discourage me. I continued to push myself because I wanted better for myself. I practice something that I learned in high school, which I now pass on to my students: The 4 Ds. You must have the Desire to want to achieve something. Be Determined to do the necessary things in order to achieve what you desire, because it won’t be handed to you. Continue to stay Dedicated to your goal. And while you continue to achieve all these great things, stay Disciplined and remember to stay humble in your success. Great words from one of my favorite reggae artists, Buju Banton, that I like to remind my students: “It’s not an easy road.”

Ready to get creative with chocolate? Click here to register for Chocolate Showpiece with Chef Ebow.


By Caitlin Gunther

On a Tuesday evening in the midst of September Fashion Week in New York City, I meet Thea Habjanic (Pastry Arts ’10) at La Sirena, the buzzy new restaurant in the Meatpacking district of Manhattan where Thea leads the sweet side of the kitchen as executive pastry chef. Given the restaurant’s location and the unseasonably warm weather, it will no doubt be a long night for Thea. Still, she seems poised and unhurried as I have her stand for a handful of portraits in her kitchen attire.

In a professional pastry kitchen, where technical skill is only half the battle, it takes a certain personality type—one that can stay focused on the details through an onslaught of tickets, demands and the occasional snafu—to truly succeed. Thea has the qualities to thrive in the restaurant world—though that wasn’t always her career path. She graduated from NYU with a degree in journalism and worked for several years as an entertainment writer before deciding to enroll in the Pastry & Baking Arts program at ICE.

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As her recent kitchen roles can attest, Thea has the demeanor and the work ethic suited to fast-paced restaurants. Said ICE Creative Director Michael Laiskonis, who hired Thea for her first pastry gig at Le Bernardin, “Last year, I signed on to create the pastry program for the newest Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich restaurant, La Sirena. When it came time to hire a pastry chef for the upscale and busy restaurant, I immediately thought of Thea. Her previous experience in both fine dining and high volume made for a perfect match. She has played a vital role in crafting La Sirena’s desserts, earning critical praise. She runs the hectic pastry kitchen with that positive, can-do attitude that initially impressed me!”

Thea was kind enough to pop out of the pastry kitchen and share with the ICE blog a glimpse into her daily life and her path to ICE.

ICE graduation year/program: Weekend Pastry & Baking Arts, 2010

Current Address: East Harlem, NYC

Occupation: Executive pastry chef at La Sirena

Describe a typical day in your life.

I start every day with an iced latte; whether it’s cold or hot outside, I need my iced latte. I don’t drink drip coffee—it has to be espresso with cold milk. I’m a big yogi and I do yoga six days a week, so that’s usually where I go before work. I typically go to work in the early afternoon. I’ll check in with the staff that have been doing production and see if they have any questions and if we have everything for the day. Then I’ll talk to the executive chef and see what’s in store for the night—if we have any parties and how many covers. After that, I’ll do some production and work on recipe development or specials for the day. We have a pre-shift meeting where the whole FOH and BOH discuss protocol issues or specials for the day. From there, it’s pretty much service all night.

We have more time to set up in pastry—we won’t normally get our first ticket until after 7:00 p.m., so we have time to get our stuff together. You hear the kitchen come alive on the savory side around 5–5:30 p.m. and we catch up eventually. But then, of course, pastry is always the last in the restaurant because we finish much later. I run the line, plate, make sure everyone is sending out all the dishes correctly. I’m very hands-on—I’m not the kind of chef who will leave early and let the cooks handle everything. I like to stay until the end. I still help clean and scrub.

How did ICE prepare you for being a pastry chef at La Sirena?

One of the first things I remember learning at ICE was something that my teacher Nicole Kaplan said: “Nothing about restaurant life is glamorous, so if you’re into a fantasy about this being a prissy job, then you’re going to be disappointed.” She was 100% right.

ICE was awesome. I made great friends and learned so much. If you’ve never worked in a restaurant before or in the culinary field, they give you a foundation for what the life is really like. Because I think people have no clue. It’s hard work, a lot of hustling and long days. It’s a bit of a masochistic job. But people who go to school and end up working in this field have a lot of drive and ambition. They love what they do.

How did you land your first externship at Le Bernardin?

I had been there once as a child—my parents had a wedding anniversary dinner there and I tagged along. When I was looking for externships, I didn’t know if I wanted to work in a bakery or a restaurant, and I thought of that dinner at Le Bernadin. I looked up the pastry chef [Michael Laiskonis] and I found out that he was very well known and respected. At the time, I didn’t realize what a pastry celebrity he was. I wrote him an email, he responded and the rest is history. I went in for a trail and it went well. I think Michael saw something in me that he believed in. He’s been my mentor ever since.

Nothing about restaurant life is glamorous, so if you’re into a fantasy about this being a prissy job, then you’re going to be disappointed.

thea_habjanic_9-13-16_edited-1

What inspired you to go to culinary school?

My dad was a chef. He owned a couple of restaurants on restaurant row on 46th street, so I grew up going there with my mom and I saw the business firsthand. He always encouraged me not to work in restaurants because it’s very hard. But we were always a big cooking family—we cooked dinner every night. Food around the table was always a big deal. Initially, I didn’t think of it as a career. I went to NYU, got a journalism degree and did that for several years. But then a bunch of life changes happened and my ex-boyfriend was always encouraging me to go to pastry school since I used to bake all the time. Then I finally did it. I totally changed careers.

Thoughts on the current culinary landscape?

It’s so vast and broad. I think there’s something for everyone out there. But there’s not a lot out there that hasn’t been done before. People always ask me: what’s your favorite food to make or what’s your specialty? I think that’s a silly question because I don’t have a specialty. I love to make everything. I love to make things that taste good and are beautiful. In pastry, you’re leaving the last impression on a diner in your restaurant. You want them to look at the plate and say “oh my gosh, that’s so pretty.” But in the end, I want the plate to taste better than it looks.

Ready to jump-start your career in pastry arts? Learn more about ICE’s career programs.

 

By Jenny McCoy—Chef Instructor, School of Pastry & Baking Arts

Jenny McCoy Craft HeadshotI distinctly remember the first time I tried to establish a relationship with a pastry chef that I really admired. I was a 17-year-old pastry cook in Chicago at Gordon. It was my first restaurant kitchen position, and I was lucky to be given the advice to spend my days off staging (aka, working for free) for other chefs to gain more experience. I had just eaten at Trio in Evanston where Della Gossett was the pastry chef. Her dessert menu blew me away, and I knew I had to meet her. I called her kitchen and asked if I could spend a week working with her. She agreed.

After a week of making simple recipes and helping with basic prep work, I thought Della and I were two peas in a pod. So about a week after my stage, I decided to call Della, IN THE MIDDLE OF DINNER SERVICE, to ask what her thoughts were about the best flavor pairings to use with pomegranate. Not to mention, it was July, and I was busy making a list of ideas for the fall and winter season. I still cringe at Della’s response: “Ummm…pomegranate is out of season. Why are you calling me right now?”

Of course, I was just a silly pastry cook who forgot that a pastry chef might be a bit too busy to entertain my creative whims. Don’t get me wrong; Della was perfectly civilized in her response—not rude at all—which was quite generous of her. But I quickly learned that bothering a chef in the middle of dinner service is not a professional way to build a friendship with a new mentor. To make matters worse, I wasn’t in any way responsible for creating menu items at Gordon, so what the heck was I doing making a list of dessert ideas anyway? It’s funny how certain memories stick with you, right?

Craft dessert. Photo courtesy of StarChefs.com

Plated dessert by Jenny McCoy. (Photo credit: StarChefs.com)

So how does one go about creating meaningful relationships with mentors? Here are five tips:

Be curious. Start by observing what successful chefs around you are doing differently—maybe it’s a new flavor combination, maybe it’s a new cooking technique or maybe it’s sourcing from an interesting producer—whatever it is, use that as an entry into conversation with that chef. How do you start that conversation? Don’t call them! Instead, write an email and ask if you can stage in their kitchen. Otherwise, you can go to dinner at their restaurant and ask to tour the kitchen afterwards. Tell your server you are a culinary student or a cook and use flattery and compliments to get through the door. Everyone loves being told they are great—especially when the comments you are making show your intelligence and passion.

Keep in touch. Whenever you have a chance to interact with a would-be mentor, send personal thank you notes or emails. Once you have worked with that chef, if you see them mentioned in an article, write to them and tell them how much you enjoyed reading that piece. If you see said chef is cooking for a charitable event, offer to volunteer. If he or she wins an award, send them a card. In many ways, creating a relationship with a future mentor isn’t that much different than making a new friend. Find out what you have in common and build a relationship based on those interests.

Jenny McCoy - Karen Page - Andrew Dornenberg - Rising Star - StarChefs

Accepting an award for “Rising Star Pastry Chef” alongside my mentors Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg (Photo Credit: StarChefs.com)

Remember that any relationship is a two-way street. Two of my greatest mentors are Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, authors of The Flavor Bible and many, many other brilliant books on food and wine. (If you don’t already have The Flavor Bible and The Vegetarian Flavor Bible, stop reading this post and immediately go to your nearest bookstore!) I first met Karen and Andrew through the pages of their book Culinary Artistry around the same time as my ill-fated call to Della Gossett. Fast-forward about six years and a few pastry jobs later, I was writing for Emeril Lagasse’s blog and published a post about how much I loved their book and recommend it to every new cook. Through the magic of Google Alerts, Karen and Andrew found my post and wrote to me to tell me how happy they were that I loved their book. I was in shock. Here I was reading an email, addressed directly to me, from my two favorite authors.

Eighteen years after I first read Culinary Artistry, I am still friendly with Karen and Andrew. They have helped me throughout my career by giving me glowing references, honest feedback and straightforward advice about my professional development. In return, I have publicly endorsed their books, promoted their work via social media and quite simply told everyone I know about how wonderful they are—as both culinary professionals and personal friends.

Go to culinary school. If you are an engaged, hard-working and curious student, your professors will take note. Just like the chefs in restaurants and hotels, your chefs at school want nothing more than to share their expertise—be it through demonstrating techniques in class or sharing advice about succeeding in the culinary industry. In short, don’t treat your professors like paid employees, treat them like they’re your first chefs. After graduating, let them know where you are working and what is happening along the road to your culinary success. They’ll be grateful to hear from you and eager to help. I know that personally, as a chef instructor, I feel it is my duty to aid students in navigating the industry after they graduate, especially in the early stages of their career.

culinary school - chef james briscione - culinary students - culinary class

Don’t be afraid to ask. I don’t know too many chefs who cook glorious meals only to sit alone in their kitchens pigging out. Chefs, by nature, serve others—we want to share. So when interacting with the chefs you admire, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions—perhaps their opinion on a new restaurant or a kitchen you are considering working in or even where they find their inspiration. Seriously, don’t be shy! A chef who is inclined to be a mentor will happily give you a few minutes of their time. However, if they aren’t happy to share, don’t take it personally. Chefs are incredibly busy. You never know what can happen unless you try, so don’t be afraid to engage with them and ask for something! (But, repeat after me: do not call them during dinner service.)

I’d love to hear who your culinary mentors are, how you met them and what makes your relationship meaningful. Share your stories in the comments below!

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

 

By James Distefano, Pastry & Baking Arts Chef Instructor

Pastry & Baking Chef Instructor (and alum of NYC vegetable haven, Rouge Tomate) James Distefano shows PEOPLE magazine an unexpected way to eat not one, but two summertime treats. Watch him take you through each step in our video—then try the recipe yourself with his tips and directions below.

Looking for more recipes from PEOPLE & ICE? Click here for fried chicken sandwiches, French pastry made easy, knife skills and more.

Is there anything better than corn in the summertime? To me, corn is one of the highlights of the season’s produce. As a kid spending summers at the Jersey shore, the last thing I wanted to do was leave the beach early and shuck corn for dinner (but I did love eating it!). Now, it’s one of my favorite summer ingredients to work with, its subtle sweetness giving it the versatility to work in many dishes. What’s more: whether you’re using it in a soup, salad or simply grilled and buttered, corn is an ingredient that doesn’t need a lot of gussying up.

When thinking about fresh ways to eat corn, I wanted to highlight its sweetness by combining it with another summertime staple: ice cream. You may not believe corn and dessert go together, but consider this: while we commonly think of corn as a part of a savory dish, it’s also in plenty of your favorite breakfast cereals.

The inspiration for this homemade corn ice cream comes from a former boss of mine, Richard Leach. Rich has an amazing talent for creating and pairing desserts with uncommon ingredients. When I was a young kid working for him in the mid-90s, putting corn in a dessert was a mind-expanding notion. One day when we were talking about food, he calmly asked me if I’d ever had a bowl of corn cereal with peaches in it. “Of course, I have,” I said quickly—and then realized what he was getting at. My mind melted. Corn: it wasn’t just for dinner anymore!

The best part about this recipe is that you can make it without an ice cream maker. If I haven’t convinced you of corn’s delicious virtues as a dessert, you can try adding different flavors (see my tip below) or keep it easy by just adding the vanilla extract to the cream for a simple ice cream. Here are some pro tips to help you out:

  1. The scoop on the scoop: To get picture-perfect scoops of ice cream, dip your scoop into a tall container of warm water. The water will warm the scoop enough to enable you to dig into the ice cream and shape it into a nice round ball without the ice cream sticking to the surface. Just make sure to tap any excess water off of the scoop before digging in to avoid any messy dripping.
  2. Flavor-ific: If you’d like to add another flavor, such as a spice, you can whip it with your egg yolks. If you’re keen on adding something else such as chocolate chips, candy or nuts, replace the amount of roasted corn kernels with the ingredient of your choosing. If you’d like to try adding fresh herbs, mint, cilantro or tarragon would all taste delicious with the corn! Add any of the above to the batter at the end when you’re folding in the whipped cream. For this recipe, two to three tablespoons of chopped herbs should be enough.
  3. End results: To get the best from your eggs, let them come to room temperature because they will whip up more quickly and easily and hold more air (volume). To get the best results from your heavy cream, the cream and the bowl you will be using to whip in should be as cold as possible to whip up more quickly and easily and hold more volume. When you maximize the volume of both, your ice cream will be lighter and creamier!
  4. Bowled over: Since most of us only have one KitchenAid bowl to work with at home, I’d recommend whipping the cream first and storing it in your refrigerator while you whip up the egg yolks, followed by the egg whites. Whipped cream tends to hold its volume (the air trapped during the whipping process) longer than either whipped yolks or whites.
  5. Whip it good: To get the most out of your whipping cream, set the speed on your mixer between seven and eight or medium-high. At this speed, as the cream is whipping, the whisk will “cut” more evenly sized air bubbles into the cream. This is important because uniform air bubbles will “pop” closer to the same rate, whereas if you whip your cream on high speed, you will have irregular sized air bubbles—some large, some small—meaning your whipped cream will deflate more quickly than you want…and nobody wants to feel deflated!

 

Recipe: Corn Ice Cream:

Yield: 3 quarts

For the roasted corn kernels:

  • 3 ears corn (approximately 1 ½ cups kernels), shucked, silks and husks reserved for corn-infused heavy cream (recipe below)
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 2-3 tablespoon sugar
  • Pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Heat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Remove kernels from the cob and set aside. Cut cobs in quarters and reserve for corn-infused heavy cream (recipe below).
  3. Spread kernels on a parchment paper-lined baking tray.
  4. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of canola oil.
  5. Sprinkle with the sugar and season with a pinch of salt.
  6. Roast in the oven at 350 F for 15 minutes or until the corn begins to color.
  7. Remove from the oven and allow it to cool to room temperature.
  8. Can be stored in an airtight container for up to two days.

Corn-Infused Heavy Cream:

  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 cups reserved husks, silks and cobs

Directions:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients in one large pot.
  2. Bring to a boil over medium heat.
  3. Turn the heat off and steep for 15 minutes, covered with a lid.
  4. After 15 minutes remove the lid and cool to room temperature.
  5. Store corn-infused heavy cream in an airtight container for at least 24 hours or up to two days in the refrigerator.
  6. The following day, strain the infused cream through a colander to make the corn ice cream base (recipe below). You need to make sure you wind up with three cups. Add fresh cream to make up the difference if needed.

Corn Ice Cream Base:

  • 4 eggs, separated
  • Salt
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 3 cups corn-infused heavy cream, strained
  • 1 ½ cups roasted corn kernels

Directions:

  1. Combine the egg yolks, ½ cup sugar and a pinch of salt in the bowl fitted for the electric mixer with a whisk attachment.
  2. Whip on high speed until pale, thick and ribbony, make sure all of the sugar has dissolved. This should take three to four minutes. Remove whipped yolk base from the bowl and set aside in a large mixing bowl. Keep cold. Wash the mixing bowl and whip for the mixer because you will need it to whip the egg whites.
  3. Place egg whites and a pinch of salt in the bowl fitted for the electric mixer and begin whipping on medium speed until medium peak.
  4. Once egg whites are at medium peak, slowly add in the remaining one cup of sugar. Once all of the sugar is in, turn the machine up to high speed and continue to whip until the meringue looks like shaving cream. It will be light, fluffy and glossy looking.
  5. In three separate stages, gently fold the meringue (egg white mixture) into the egg yolk base, only folding about three quarters of the way. This will help prevent over mixing. After the third addition of meringue has been folded in, place back into the refrigerator to keep cold.
  6. Wash the mixing bowl and whip for the mixer because you will need it to whip the corn-infused heavy cream.
  7. Whip the corn-infused heavy cream to medium peaks in an electric mixer with the whisk attachment.
  8. Fold one quarter of the whipped corn-infused heavy cream into the ice cream base and mix three quarters of the way.
  9. Add the last three quarters of the whipped corn-infused heavy cream along the with the roasted corn kernels to the ice cream base.
  10. Gently fold everything together until no visible streaks of whipped cream remain.
  11. Pour corn ice cream into an airtight container with a tight lid and freeze immediately.
  12. Allow to freeze for 24 hours before serving.

The ice cream will last for up to four days in the freezer.

Want more delicious dessert ideas from Chef James? Watch him stun Dr. Oz with what he can whip up, sign up for one of his recreational classes—or go pro and get more information about ICE’s professional pastry program.