Center for Advanced Pastry Studies (CAPS) is excited to announce our upcoming course on September 12-13, Ideas in Food: Gluten-Free Baking Science and Technique, led by Aki Kamozawa and Alex Talbot, chefs and creators of the award-winning blog Ideas in Food. In this new course, Chefs Aki and Alex will share the ingredients that are vital to creating gluten-free desserts, as well as gluten-free bakery and restaurant techniques. Participants will roll up their sleeves and learn to create a handful of tasty desserts, sans gluten. 

In anticipation of this upcoming course, we interviewed Chefs Aki and Alex to get their thoughts on gluten-free baking, plus a sneak peek of what to expect in the classroom.

GlutenF-Free Flour Power

Alex, you met your partner in crime, Aki, while working in the kitchen of Boston restaurant Clio—what was the catalyst for your transition from the kitchen to food media? 

I suppose the catalyst was the creation of our blog Ideas in Food in 2004, though I’m not sure I’d call it a transition. Food, the kitchen and the exploration of delicious things have always been our driving forces. And these days we have Curiosity Doughnuts in the Stockton Market in Stockton, NJ, that keeps us united with the kitchen.

Have you seen any recent shifts in jobs in the food and restaurant world?

The greatest shift is the growth of smaller off-the-beaten-path jobs. When we were at Keyah Grande in 2004, the idea of a restaurant in a mountain setting on a 4,000-acre ranch in the middle of nowhere—Pagosa Springs, Colorado—was crazy. Nowadays, these restaurants and jobs are idolized.

Your most recent cookbook is titled “Gluten-Free Flour Power” and your class here at ICE will focus on gluten-free baking. What ignited this gluten-free flame for you both?

Gluten-Free Flour Power grew out of our consulting business, where chefs needed a support system for their guests. We wanted to make a handbook of delicious gluten-free recipes. What is equally exciting and oft missed is that our recipes work gram-for-gram for both gluten-free and all-purpose flour.

What has been your biggest challenge in the realm of gluten-free baking?

The biggest challenge with gluten-free has been the stigma of “gluten-free.”

Which recipe are you most proud of?

The kouign-amann is pretty special.

What is your main goal for your class here at ICE?

The goal for the class is to break down a few walls and open the door to what is possible in the gluten-free kitchen.

If you had to state your overall food philosophy, whether on eating or producing, what would it be?  

Make it delicious.

Click here to reserve your spot in Chefs Aki and Alex’s course today!

Each year, ICE’s Center for Advanced Pastry Studies offers a variety of single and multiday continuing education pastry courses for working baking and pastry professionals taught by master chefs and critically acclaimed artists from all over the world. At CAPS, you will refine your skills, learn new and innovative techniques, and expand your current repertoire with hands-on classes among peers. What’s more, all CAPS classes are approved for American Culinary Federation certified education hours.

Classes have a limited enrollment and fill quickly. ICE alumni receive 15% off!

By Michael Laiskonis—ICE Creative Director

The final steps in processing our bean-to-bar chocolate make up the longest phase of the manufacturing process—a waiting game where the true essence of the bean, its complex flavor and its silky texture are unlocked. At this point, we focus on physically breaking the bean’s coarse texture, revealing subtleties beneath its bitter astringency and liberating its cocoa butter. Though we add ingredients at this stage, there is also an aspect of elimination—the refining stage is followed by conching, which peels away unwanted volatile flavors.

Sifting the Finished Chocolate

My last post dealt with handling the roasted bean—crushing it into nibs, separating its shell, grinding it into fluid cocoa liquor and extracting pure cocoa butter. During this final stage, the chocolate maker faces the challenge of tasting a bean’s full potential and identifying the subtle nuances within. While the goal of the “craft” chocolate maker working primarily in single origin batches is often to enable the expression of that bean’s inner essence, an industrial manufacturer’s typical aim is to create consistency from batch to batch, from year to year. Neither approach is qualitatively better or more difficult—just two possible approaches employed in the final stage of chocolate making.


Different kinds of machines can carry out the task of refining (stone melangeurs, roller refiners, scraped-surface refiners, etc.). In the lab, our coarse chocolate liquor enters a 10-kilogram capacity ball mill—a temperature-controlled tank that contains roughly 60 pounds of hardened steel-grinding media (ball bearings, essentially, in two sizes). With agitation, the steel balls begin breaking down the fairly large particles in the liquor, refining them down to a target of around 20 microns—in terms of scale, one micron (µm) is one-millionth of a meter (or one-thousandth of a millimeter). More accurately, true particle size in chocolate will lie along a curve, or a distribution, some smaller and some larger than our target. Looking closely at the structure of chocolate, it is simply very small solid particles (cocoa solids, sugar and sometimes milk solids) dispersed in fat—cocoa butter. Because the threshold of perception of a particle on our palate is in the neighborhood of about 35µm, a smooth, creamy mouthfeel depends upon breaking down the solids below that mark. Particles that are too small (below 15µm), however, will create too much surface area for the available cocoa butter, thus adversely affecting the flow properties of the chocolate with increased viscosity.

Most often, we add our ground liquor to the ball mill to refine for some time before adding any other ingredients. As the liquor continues to break down, more of its cocoa butter is released, providing sufficient fluidity to begin processing additional dry ingredients, namely sugar and, in the case of milk chocolate, whole milk powder. Virtually all of our chocolate receives an additional boost of cocoa butter as well. Vanilla, a common but not compulsory addition, can enter into the mix in various forms. I typically chop up whole vanilla beans and add them early in the refining process. Though the majority of the dozens of batches created in the lab have been of single origin, I have begun working on blending beans, and even introducing additional flavors—whole coffee beans, spices and nuts—to thoroughly integrate into the finished product. For our first attempt at a vegan milk chocolate, I replaced conventional milk powder with freeze-dried coconut milk. Refining time can vary, depending upon the batch size, particle size of the liquor and by agitation speed.

Measuring Particle Size on a Grind Gauge

measuring particle size on a grind gauge


Ball Mill

the ball mill

In addition to speed control, our ball mill also offers temperature control and heated airflow. Lacking a stand-alone conching machine, this heat and airflow help us replicate some of the effects of traditional conching. In basic terms, the conching phase is best described as heated agitation. Three key aspects of conching are moisture reduction, texture and flow enhancement and development of flavor. Residual moisture in chocolate can affect its flow properties, even though a great deal of the raw bean’s water was removed during the roast, trace amounts remain through the grinding and refining process. Prolonged mixing also helps ensure that all of the tiny solid particles are evenly dispersed in and coated by the cocoa butter, which improves mouthfeel and workability. And finally, the heat and forced air aid in driving off some of the remaining volatile acids – unwanted flavors that are a byproduct of fermentation back at the bean’s origin. Conching is an important part of the process, but each chocolate will require varying amounts. Long a marketing myth in the chocolate industry, a longer conching time does not necessarily equal higher quality. Some argue that excess conching may even destroy desirable flavors.

Once the chocolate is deemed ‘finished,’ it is extracted from the ball mill (we also employ two small stone grinders for smaller experimental test batches) and passed through a vibrating sifter—imagine a super-fine mesh strainer—which catches any particles not sufficiently refined. The radicle, the hard and bitter germ stem in every cocoa bean, may stubbornly evade grinding, along with the occasional bit of vanilla bean that sticks to the agitator. After sifting, it’s time for tempering and molding, right? Well, not so fast. Aging chocolate for a period of time, though unpredictable and not fully understood, is common practice. Some chocolate makers prefer to temper, mold and package chocolate immediately, others will age chocolate from two weeks to one month. Though there may be little one can do to change the finished product at that point, most believe that the true character of the chocolate will not reveal itself until it has had a minimum three-week mellowing period. One of the ongoing projects here in the lab is to hold back portions of each batch to sample at regular intervals to track some of these still-inexplicable changes over time.

As with other stages of the chocolate making process, success during refining relies on equal parts science, experience, taste, patience and arguably, some degree of intuition. The key is understanding that each part of the process presents a new set of variables. The next dispatch in this series will address formulation— the recipe development phase for each batch of chocolate.

Aging Chocolate

aging chocolate

Want to dive into the chocolate lab with Chef Michael? Click here for a list of his upcoming workshops at ICE.


ICE was once again the proud host of the pastry industry’s sweetest night, welcoming Dessert Professional’s 2016 Top Ten Pastry Chefs in America Awards. With a beautiful sunset and the Hudson River as a backdrop, hundreds of guests filled our halls to celebrate the talents and artistry of this year’s winners.

Dessert Professional Magazine Top Ten Pastry Chefs in America Awards 2016 Institute of Culinary Education

From homey treats (gourmet cookies and rice crispy squares from Willa Jean’s Kelly Fields) and playful presentations (push-pop trifles from Franck Iglesias of Foxwoods Resort Casino) to the truly transformational (a fine dining presentation of a Duncan Hines mix from Joseph DiPaulo Jr. of Pinnacle Foods), the 2016 selection was a dynamic bunch that demonstrated the wide range of tastes and techniques today’s pastry chefs must master to stay at the top of their game.

Dessert Professional Magazine Top Ten Pastry Chefs in America Awards 2016 Institute of Culinary Education

For ICE students interested in practicing pastry, the event is also rife with opportunity to network and pick up new skills. With each of the ten chefs preparing multiple desserts en masse, our students serve as an essential support for the honorees, prepping and plating dishes. At the same time, the event gives them the opportunity to connect with the industry’s current leaders. ICE student (and 2016 US Pastry Competition silver medalist) Pooja Jhunjhunwala had the chance to work with several of the chefs throughout the evening: “Working with amazingly creative chefs like Chef Scott Green, Chef Jean-Marc Viallet and Chef Robert Nieto on a one-on-one basis and seeing the fabulous work of all the chefs was such an educational experience. I’m so glad I got the opportunity to be part of this event—definitely worth a repeat!”

Dessert Professional Magazine Top Ten Pastry Chefs in America Awards 2016 Institute of Culinary Education student volunteers pastry school

With the wealth of talent the winners brought to the school and a seemingly endless array of sweets, it was certainly a sensational night at ICE. Check out more photos from the event below, and click here to find out more about the networking and volunteering opportunities available to ICE students.

By Lauren Katz—Student, School of Pastry & Baking Arts

I didn’t think field trips could get any better than grade school visits to the zoo, the science center or the monuments in Washington, D.C. But when Chef Jenny McCoy announced our class would be visiting Mast Brothers Chocolate Makers and OddFellows Ice Cream Co. in Brooklyn, I had a feeling this field trip would top them all. What I didn’t realize, however, was that this particular field trip would inspire a possible focus for my career path in pastry.

After a long workday, it was comforting to walk into the Mast Brothers factory to be greeted by the warm aroma of chocolate. (By the way–did you know Rick Mast is an ICE Culinary Management alum?) Unlike some store/factory hybrids, almost all of the production at Mast can be seen from the entrance, as glass windows reveal a large aging and tempering room. What’s most impressive about this small company is that they produce all of their chocolate from bean-to-bar on-site.

Mast Brothers Chocolate

Photo Credit: Filip Wolak

In other words, the Mast brothers are creating their product entirely from scratch. They receive beans from all over the world—with unique flavors highlighted in their single origin bar series, made with only two ingredients: cocoa and organic cane sugar. I was surprised to notice the flavor difference between bars from Tanzania and Peru, just like you might find with wine or coffee. The factory also produces bars in unusual flavors, including black truffle and even goat milk chocolate! The brothers are also brewing their version of a nonalcoholic “beer,” which has an impeccable, chocolatey resemblance to stout. About one hundred tastings later, our class left Mast Brothers in high spirits.

Leaving Mast’s sleek, modern, innovative space, we headed to OddFellows, where the aesthetic is just the opposite. At this seemingly old-school ice cream parlor, the menu is anything but, featuring flavors like miso-cherry, “ants on a log” (celery sorbet!) and cornbread. These zany ideas spring from the creative mind of OddFellows owner Sam Mason. Best known as the former pastry chef at the molecular gastronomy restaurant wd~50, Mason is exploring the boundaries of taste, texture and technology at his new venture.

OddFellows Sam Mason Ice Cream

Photo Credit: OddFellows Ice Cream Co.

Ice cream has always been near and dear to my heart—I’m from Ohio, home of Graeter’s and Jeni’s, after all—but after this visit, I’ve realized my passion for this frozen treat goes way beyond a cone and some sprinkles. Experiencing such unique flavor combinations in a classic dessert was an eye opener. Mason’s small team is always brainstorming new ideas and flavoring methods, and our brief tour of the kitchen was enough to convince me that ice cream is a career path I would be interested in pursuing.

I’m starting to imagine creating ice creams at home—from innovative ways to incorporate unique and savory ingredients to researching the benefits of different ice cream machines. Like most great ideas, all it takes is one “aha!” moment to realize something feels right. OddFellows may just have been mine.

Click here to learn more about the Pastry & Baking program at ICE.


By Alison Mahoney—Student, School of Pastry & Baking Arts

For as long as I can remember, my father, a native Bostonian, has had a serious love affair with the Boston cream pie. So much so that after my parents got married, they went straight to the Omni Parker House—which invented this confection—for a little slice of heaven. I’ve always wanted to make this dessert for dear old dad, but a whole Boston cream pie is much too large for just the three of us. So I wondered, what would be an alternative way to make it? Of course! Single-serving éclairs.

The inside of eclair shells made by ICE Creative Director Michael Laiskonis

The inside of éclair shells made by ICE Creative Director Michael Laiskonis

Lucky me, lucky me! In class last week we learned how to make pâte à choux—the dough used for éclair shells. And since I’ve already mastered the art of pastry cream, I’m already halfway to crafting a Boston cream éclair recipe.

Choux pastry is awesome for a number of reasons—mostly because it’s everywhere. For example, I was in Paris just six months ago, and I tried my first Paris-Brest, which I learned is also made with choux pastry! It’s the base for so many beloved desserts: cream puffs, profiteroles…you name it.

pate a choux paris brest

Paris-Brest crafted by ICE students

What’s the trick to making choux? Essentially, you start with a roux. From there, you add eggs: delicious, forgiving, wonderful eggs. In fact, making pâte à choux isn’t all that hard—you just have to pay attention and move fast. As long as you follow the instructions your chef instructor provided, you’re golden.

Once you’ve made your dough, there are so many options, and each one is more delicious than the last. The batter is so easy to work with—silky and shiny and super forgiving. If you pipe something that looks a little wonky, all you have to do is wet your fingers and shape it the way you want. And, while I was a bit nervous about making pastry cream the first time, I felt confident making it again for this class. In short, my éclairs turned out to be quite the success.

Pate a Choux Eclairs

The true test? My dad. My parents came into town for Father’s Day, and I was in my pâte à choux glory. I mean my dad was certainly grateful for just one delightful Boston cream éclair, but add on a Paris-Brest, cream puffs and profiteroles? I think I just earned the daughter of the year award.

Click here to learn more about ICE’s Pastry & Baking Arts program.

By Orlando Soto, Pastry & Baking Arts Student

On our first day of class in Kitchen 501, Chef Gerri Sarnataro shared several indispensable truths about the food industry. One of them really struck me as odd: “There’s always a back door.” Meaning, there’s always more than one way of doing things, especially in cooking. I thought this was ironic, given my initial perception of pastry: we follow recipes to the gram in an effort to deliver consistent results. But of course, Chef Gerri’s words rang true throughout the program, and never more so than in cake decorating.


Professional cake decorating elevates the common, spongy dessert from ordinary to memorable. It’s an opportunity for the pastry chef to tune directly into the desires and expectations of a client. A cake is a canvas to delight the sense of sight, as much as the sense of taste. Not surprisingly, it’s the details make or break a cake. If you want to create flowers, for example, you aim to make all the petals, leaves and buds look like nature intended. Subtle color gradients and textures bring to life what was once plain, pliable fondant.


But before you can begin to decorate your cake, you need a plan. A simple scheme for the tiers, colors and the placement or distribution of ornaments is essential. This plan is not only a powerful tool to help keep the decorator on point, but will also provide a preview of sorts, for the client. In the classroom, we presented our cake diagrams and planned the preparation of the decorating elements accordingly.


With a plan in mind, we proceeded to design our cakes. This was when Chef Gerri’s words echoed through the classroom. Yes, there is the way that we were taught to create a rose, but if you looked around the room, everyone was doing their petals just a bit differently. The diverse results would prove that there’s more than one way to translate an idea into a consistently beautiful product.


In truth, cake decorating has been most challenging part of our program for me. I can’t sit still for very long, even if I’m working on a beautiful sugar flower. However, the words of Chef Chad stick with me: “I understand, Orlando, but a true Pastry Chef must be able to tackle any project.” As if he were predicting the future, one of my family members was so excited about the cake I was making, she and her fiancé signed me up to make their wedding cake a year from now (no pressure!).


Several days later, we arrived at the end of our classes. We decorated our cakes and showed them in our final ceremony. As my class heads out to our externships with many skills at hand and lessons in mind, I can see that we have, individually, begun to find our culinary voice. Of course, bearing in thought that “there’s always a back door.”


Click here to read more stories about Life as a Pastry Student.

By Michael Laiskonis, ICE Creative Director

As a professional pastry chef, I have a deep relationship with candy. But then don’t we all? Several years ago, I began to ponder the ‘culture’ that surrounds our taste for sweets. What I came to realize is that we relate to sweetness on three different levels: the physiological, the psychological, and the nostalgic.


With the possible exception of salt, the instinctual desire for sweetness—more than any other taste—is surely hardwired somewhere deep within our DNA. From the moment of birth, we seek our nourishment and comfort in the rich, sweetened form of mother’s milk; it is indeed the only taste we know in our early months. Eventually our sense of taste becomes considerably more complex as our food choices expand, but I find it interesting that, for all humans, the craving for sweet endures.

Just when we might otherwise mature beyond that physiological need, the desire manifests itself in the realm of emotion. As with Proust’s famous madeleine, it is often sweets that become intertwined with memory, emotion and a sense of comfort. Dessert functions as a reward for “eating those vegetables,” a miracle salve for that scraped knee, or even a mischievous child’s stolen secret. The acquisition of penny candy is often a child’s first foray into the world of commerce and finance. With sweetness we begin to associate comfort, pleasure, reward, envy, and guilt.


Personal nostalgia will vary by culture, country, region, or generation; our source material might be a freshly baked pie like Grandma used to make, or it may come in the form of mass produced junk food (I’m convinced that all pastry chefs have, consciously or not, tried to recreate a Snickers bar in some way or another). These associations remain through adulthood.

Playing to this inner child, for a pastry chef, can initiate the creation of something new yet familiar. The context of such nostalgia—especially unexpected in a fine dining environment—heightens such playfulness. The more I explore this notion, the more fascinating I find it and the more I enjoy tapping into those emotions. In other words, the true path to our inner selves may indeed be something as simple as candy.

Though confections are tucked beneath the broad umbrella of pastry arts that includes chocolate, ice cream, cakes, and plated desserts, my own interest in candy has increased along with a better understanding of its underlying science. Through candy-making we can explore the properties of sugars and fats, the behavior of concentrated syrups and crystallization, and numerous complex interactions that influence taste and texture.

Passion fruit gummy worm

Passion fruit “gummy worm”

A historical survey of the candy trade reveals that, though there has been much innovation, the sweets crafted in the Middle Ages or in ancient Rome may not have seemed all that unfamiliar to us today. Once the cost of ingredients like sugar and chocolate decreased more than a century ago (in conjunction with technical leaps and bounds made during the Industrial Revolution), candy truly became accessible to all. Most of the brands we recognize today had their roots in this “candy renaissance.”

Though the world of confections includes many different styles, from hard candy to soft caramels and dense nougats to fluffy marshmallows, here are some simple guidelines that I believe will help all cooks—the amateur and pro alike—achieve sweet success:

1. Brush up on your basicsMost candies tend to conform to tried and true formulas, but that shouldn’t prevent us from creating unique versions of the classics. With just a little bit of research, we can easily begin to grasp the physics and chemistry at play, which eventually allows us to experiment with whimsy.

Campari - grapefruit pate de fruit

Campari – grapefruit pate de fruit

Controlling crystallization, for example, is very important. Understanding just when to stir a sugar syrup (or when not to) and when to use inhibitors like acids and glucose will help provide the right end result. Simple knowledge of basic hydrocolloids can help us craft a range of textures like chewy gummies, melt-in-your-mouth pâtes de fruits and ultra-light marshmallows. Navigating the complex flavor-creating mechanisms of caramelization and Maillard reactions help us understand what is happening as our cooked confections transform into something greater than the sum of their parts.

My own recent explorations have resulted in tooth-friendly sugar-free candies for a private client and “savory” confections flavored with vegetable juices, such as carrot. With just a little confidence, patience, and know-how, the sky is the limit!

2. Sweat the small stuff. Even slight changes in formula can lead to both discovery and disaster. Until one is comfortable with making informed adjustments and substitutions, it’s best to pay close attention to recipes. Accuracy in measuring ingredients and temperature are vital, and to this end I recommend starting with a calibrated digital thermometer and a good digital scale.

Virtually all candies require cooking to exact temperatures, and measuring by weight (preferably metric) versus volume will always offer more precision. Beyond simple tools such as a heat-proof rubber spatula and a couple of small Silpats, an advanced candy amateur might also make good use of a mini marble slab, caramel rulers and flexible silicon molds.


Petits Fours

3. Cleanliness is king. Organizing your tools, ingredients and workspace is the first step toward successful candy work. Not only will dirty utensils lead to problems like crystallization, but overall clutter in the kitchen can also lead to accidents (molten sugar syrups that reach temperatures as high as 325˚F can result in serious burns). Stay clean, don’t get distracted and avoid walking away from a potentially dangerous pot of boiling sugar!

Below, you’ll find one of my favorite soft caramel recipes, and for those interested in digging a bit deeper into candy science, I’ll be teaching a new class on the subject – Sugar Science: Functions and Applications in Modern Pastry on Wednesday, July 16. I hope to see you there!

Soft Caramel

Yield: one 12cm by 12cm block, or about 50 individual candies

  • 125g glucose syrup
  • 15g invert sugar
  • 3g fine sea salt
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
  • 210g heavy cream (35% fat)
  • 115g sucrose
  • 30g water
  • 10g cocoa butter (optional)
  1. In a heavy saucepan, combine the cream, glucose, invert sugar, salt and vanilla. Gently heat and reserve.
  2. In a second saucepan, combine the sucrose and water. Cook to a medium dark caramel. Deglaze with the warm cream mixture and continue to cook to 118°C/245°F. Remove from heat and stir in the cocoa butter.
  3. Immediately pour the caramel into a set of bars lined with a Silpat. Cool several hours before cutting and wrapping in cellophane or waxed paper.


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

Jenny McCoy Craft HeadshotAs a restaurant pastry chef, I used to be responsible for the day-to-day operations of my pastry departments. My exclusive focus was on making every facet of my department more efficient, creating a positive environment to work in and on being cost effective – all in addition to creating amazing desserts. There were the fun parts of the job, like developing new menu items and working with my executive chefs to create desserts that paired perfectly with the rest of the menu. And of course, there were the tasks that I absolutely dreaded: writing schedules, taking inventory and calculating the food cost of my menu items.

In the beginning of my career, I started in small departments with one or two pastry cooks who reported to me. But as I gained more experience, my departments became larger and I found myself managing up to a dozen cooks at a time. Eventually, I began directing pastry departments in multiple restaurant locations, which continued to increase the number of pastry cooks I trained.

The further I rose up the ladder professionally, the less and less I found myself making the actual desserts on my menu. I always found it amusing when dinner guests would compliment my desserts as I greeted tables on a Saturday night. Sure, I was the chef who “created” their dessert, but did I really make it? No. My pastry cooks made everything on the menu. I created the concepts, refined the recipes, and then I passed the recipes along to my staff to execute on a daily basis. I showed up to work every day to make sure the products of their efforts were perfect, but I began to find it strange to be a pastry chef who barely baked a thing—even though I was in the kitchen for 60 or more hours a week. It was exhilarating work, but it just wasn’t the work I thought it would be.

Jenny McCoy Craft Pastry 2

About four years ago, after a very busy holiday season, I had my “ah-ha” moment. I was standing in the kitchen at A Voce in New York City, explaining the details of a new recipe to my sous chef, when I realized: I was no longer a pastry chef. My job was more that of a pastry instructor. This momentary thought didn’t just flit away; instead, it planted a little seed that continued to grow.

There comes a time in everyone’s career when one needs a change. While I felt very satisfied in my work, I began to daydream about ways I could accomplish more—simply adding more desserts to my menu was not going to cut it. I wanted an opportunity to make a larger impact. Working with my team made every day a challenge, but for me that wasn’t enough. They weren’t enough. I wanted to reach an even greater number of aspiring pastry chefs. And in order to do so (without opening a national chain of restaurants), teaching seemed like the perfect outlet. It was what I was spending all of my time doing anyway, right?

Of course, I had to get over my huge fear of leaving the restaurant industry (what would I be if I wasn’t the pastry chef for Tom Colicchio?), so I started teaching recreational baking classes at ICE. By the Spring of 2013, I finally decided to make the transition to becoming a Chef-Instructor in ICE’s professional Pastry and Baking Arts Program.

Jenny McCoy 2 bright CD

Did you know that, as a newly-hired instructor, I had to audit all of the pastry classes in the program? Yes, that is correct; in order to lead my own classes, I had to return to culinary school. For many, especially those like me who graduated from culinary school over ten years ago and had subsequently worked in the field, the idea of returning to the classroom may have seemed silly. Quite the contrary: I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun.

Before I could become an instructor, I needed to be instructed on how to properly teach. Showing a student how to make a perfect pie dough was not going to be enough; I needed to learn how to demonstrate the hands-on steps involved in making the dough while simultaneously explaining the science behind the process – in this instance, the correct ratio of ingredients, the role each ingredient plays, and proper gluten formation. Heck, I even had to define what gluten was (a protein found in flour that is made up of glutenin and gliadin, in case you were wondering). And just like when I entered a restaurant kitchen for the very first time—back when I had no experience whatsoever—my chef-instructor at ICE had to teach me what to do.

Jenny teaches ICE culinary students how to temper chocolate.

Teaching ICE culinary students to temper chocolate.

In a couple of months, I will celebrate my first year anniversary as a chef-instructor. It has been a great year, filled with far more challenges than I ever could have imagined. My friends in the industry sometimes tease me about “going into retirement.” But if this is what retirement is like, I don’t know why anyone refers to it as an “eternal vacation”. Each day that I enter the classroom, I have 16 sets of eyes on me, each of which have different strengths and weaknesses, and different styles of learning the lesson at hand. Talk about pressure! It is no small task to teach 16 students how to make pie dough, but I get to watch those 16 seeds grow into professional chefs, where they will evolve, change and grow in turn.

My chef friends ask me all the time: “Do you miss being in restaurants?” While my time in restaurants was a challenging and meaningful part of my career, my answer is always: “Never.” Not just because my daily course load as a chef-instructor runs from four to eight hours of teaching (a far cry from my usual 12 hours a day), but because I am finally making an impact that satisfies my desire to do more. While I may never head the next great cultural revolution—where I convert everyone into a pastry chef—I’m grateful for the opportunity to share my hard-won years of experience with the next generation of great chefs. Finally, it feels like enough. 

By Carly DeFilippo

Over the holiday season, we invited our students to share their latest, greatest creations on Instagram using the hashtag #culinaryvoice. Below are our four finalists! Vote in the comments for your favorite, and the winner will receive a free one-session recreational cooking class at ICE.

holiday fycv contest

From top left:

  • @Megaaalong’s final cake from her Senior Reception. Congratulations Meg!
  • @Jazzybaron whips up a signature Thomas Keller dish: Sautéed black sea bass with a saffron-vanilla sauce, parsnip puree, spinach ball and butter poached mussels.
  • @Jerssica shares the satiny flower bouquet that tops her tiered cake.
  • @Hillwheel takes you behind the scenes of “Cookie Day” at ICE.

Show us your culinary voice! Tag @iceculinary #culinaryvoice on Twitter and Instagram.


By Liz Castner


Julia Child can remember the meal she that changed her life: sole meunière, her first meal in France, and “the most exciting meal of her life.” Before that, she says, she didn’t know that food could be both simple and good, better still because of its simplicity and sheer foodness.

liz and julia

Okay, she didn’t say “foodness.” Foodness is my word, meaning when food tastes like the best version of itself. Julia also talks about this phenomenon when she discusses a good roast chicken, gushing over how chickeny it can be. My cooking philosophy is the same; I love highlighting a particular ingredient, bringing out its best qualities in simple ways, like using herbs in a fruit pie or a little nutmeg to warm up a cookie.


As for myself, I don’t have a clear memory of a perfect, life-changing meal. All I know is that I have grown up loving food. I was “spoiled” growing up by the amazing produce in Southern California, and I love fresh, vibrant fruits and veggies. Beyond that, I love meat, desserts, bread, cheese, wine. My parents also love food. My dad is a skilled and adventurous cook and eater, who will try anything once, and is often responsible for cooking almost everything for our large holiday meals. My mom likes simple foods, with roast chicken being her absolute favorite. She also has a (clearly genetic) sweet tooth, and has encouraged me to bake since I was quite young. They are incredibly supportive, and a clear influence on how my career path has turned out.


My path to becoming a pastry student was not a straightforward one, however. Though I was very interested in going to culinary school as a teenager (and worked out a lot of stress baking all kinds of tasty treats), I found another calling: special education. But after going to college and getting a bachelors in psychology, a stint in a doctoral program, a lot of work experience in special education and an emotionally draining ankle surgery, I found myself looking for a change in my day-to-day life. I wanted to start something fun, fulfilling, energizing, inspiring and new. Basically, I wanted to find my own foodness factor.


While mulling this over one day, I had the thought, “What if I went to culinary school?” Impulsively, and on a level that didn’t really generate words other than “yes,” I thought about it constantly. I did have some misgivings about leaving a budding career in special education and the students I love, but I realized that starting a career in food doesn’t necessarily mean that I can’t work with people with special needs anymore. All it means is that I can’t do that full-time. 


I began baking more, something I had not done much in the various tiny New York City apartments I’ve inhabited over the years. And I began trying new things, even creating my first wedding cake, for a friend’s July nuptials. I began feeling really good. So, even as the Program Director of Daytime Moon Creations, a non-profit organization that provides theater programs to special needs kids, teens, and young adults, I started telling people, “I’m going to culinary school.”


I enrolled in the Pastry & Baking program at ICE, as well as the Culinary Management program, which will start in October. The double diploma was a great fit, because I’d like to have my own bakery one day and know very little about business. In this hypothetical, beautiful little shop, selling some wonderful pastries and coffee, I would love to hire a few workers with special needs, to teach baking and decorating classes, both special needs and not, and to decorate some lovely wedding and occasion cakes.


So now I’m a pastry student, and I am enjoying it so much. It’s flying by, actually, and I almost wish the program would slow down just a little, though I am relishing the jolt of energy it has injected into my life. Time really does fly when you’re having fun. We’re halfway through the second module of the program, and I have started to take some time to reflect on my learning and experiences. This is a program that really values the foodness of our ingredients; when we first started out, we learned extensively about and tasted all of our ingredients, from different kinds of flours to sweeteners to fruits. My favorite ingredient so far is passionfruit—that fruit is pure foodness in and of itself!


I look forward to sharing the incredible joy that fills the pastry program—learning new things, working with your hands, and being proud of what you’ve created. My favorite thing that we’ve made has changed several times:  chocolate mousse, creme brûlée, peanut brittle, cheesecake, bombes of homemade ice cream, sorbet, frozen mousses, eclairs, baguettes, Chelsea buns, focaccia, bagels, gorgeous croissants, pain au chocolat, and doughnuts!


Talk about foodness – every single thing we’ve made has really elevated the ingredients to taste like their best. Bread is a prime example. No one wants to eat flour on its own, but when it comes together with water, salt, and yeast in the proper way, we have a life-sustaining, delicious, French delight—the best that flour can be. I’ve only had 35 lessons so far, and can’t believe I’ve already learned to make so many wonderful things. Every day only gets better.

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