By Rick Smilow

rsmilow headshot

ICE President, Rick Smilow

When possible, I make the enjoyable effort to have a meal in the restaurants that ICE alumni have opened as executive chef and/or owner. I don’t have to travel far to do this in metro New York. But in late August, I made some trips to visit alumni spots in Seattle, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC—all in the space of 12 days! That lead to the idea to have a long distance “round table” interview with the three ICE alumni chef/owners: Joncarl Lachman (‘02), Tiffany MacIsaac (’02), and Rachel Yang (’01).

In 2013, Chef Rachel Yang’s Seattle restaurant Joule ranked 9th on Bon Appétit’s “Best New Restaurants” in America list—an honor that was soon followed by a spot (two notches up) on Seattle magazine’s similar shortlist. Yang, along with chef/husband Seif Chirchi, was also acknowledged by Bon Appétit as a pioneer in Korean-American fusion cuisine, which they feature at Joule’s sister restaurant Revel.

Executive Pastry Chef Tiffany MacIsaac’s recipes have been featured in Food & Wine and her restaurant Birch & Barley, which she runs with her husband, Executive Chef Kyle Bailey, has been recognized by top critics as one of Washington, DC’s must-eat destinations. A James Beard Award semi- finalist for Outstanding Pastry Chef in 2013, MacIsaac oversees the dessert program for all of Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s eateries which, in addition to Birch & Barley, include: Tallula, Eat- bar, Vermilion, Evening Star Cafe, Columbia Firehouse, Rustico, and Buzz Bakery.

Chef Joncarl Lachman is also no stranger to accolades. His Chicago restaurant Vincent was named one of Chicago magazine’s “Best New Restaurants” in 2011 and his HB Bistro was featured in the prestigious Michelin guidebook. This year Lachman opened his highly anticipated Noord, a “Dutch-American” eatery in Philadelphia, the city where he was raised.

We asked these three impressive graduates to give some perspective and insight as to how they each have blazed a successful trail through what can be a very challenging career path. Here’s what they had to say:

Chef Joncarl

Chef Joncarl Lachman

 

How do the foods and flavors of your childhood fit into your current menu?

Joncarl: I grew up in Southwest Philadelphia surrounded by Italians. When I would go to my friends’ homes, their mothers would be making lasagna and meatballs, etc. I would return home to my own Dutch mother’s boiled cabbage and meat. Needless to say, at the moment, it was not a culinary inspiration. Little did I know I would end up in South Philly again surrounded by Italians, but this time it is me, and not my mother, making Dutch food!

Tiffany: I’m from Hawaii and I find that I tend to gravitate toward fresher, more acid desserts,—often incorporating passion fruit, pineapple and other tropical fruits into my menu.

Rachel: Where I was from and my Korean heritage, definitely influenced the menu at Joule and Revel. That’s what makes our restaurants so unique.

At what point in your life did you know you wanted to become a chef?

Tiffany MacIsaac: When I turned 18 I moved to New York where my first job was as a hostess at Michael’s New York. I had never really experienced food as anything other than a way to fill your stomach. After a few months of working, they invited me in to dine in the restaurant. I fell in love with everything. But the moment I knew I wanted to get into the kitchen was when I tried the beef cheeks. It blew my mind and within a week, I was trailing in their kitchen.

Rachel Yang: It was only after college that I decided to cook. I had an idea of what it is like being a chef and a restaurateur, but never thought that I would be one someday.

Chef Rachel Yang

Chef Rachel Yang

What is the process like to open a second, or third restaurant, versus the first?

Rachel: After a while, you can totally visualize the space and how the flow should work, even looking at the floor plan. You can construct a restaurant from every staff  member’s point of view, whereas in the beginning, you can only see the restaurant from a cook’s point of view.

Joncarl: I have to admit, it almost becomes addicting. I was petrified, when I made the first big step to open my own place. My second restaurant, Vincent, was not an easy experience, largely due to the fact that we brought-in other partners. With Noord, while it was certainly a leap of faith, I had more confidence.

Tiffany: I’d like to say that it gets easier with every opening. But after two restaurants, two bakeries, a doughnut shop and a brewery—I can say that each one presented its own challenges. Every time you do it, you are analyzing how to be better, faster, and smarter. You constantly push yourself to think of new ways to do things. Which certainly keeps you on your toes.

What are some of you “signature” dishes and were you surprised when they became so popular?

Rachel: One of our most popular dishes at Joule is our spicy rice cake. It’s really a great combination of the traditional rice cake dish from Korea and other very non-traditional items. It was my personal favorite when we put it on the menu, but I wasn’t sure how people would perceive it since it’s pretty darn spicy. We haven’t had any complaints that it is too spicy and, surprisingly, it’s been the most popular dish on the menu.

Tiffany: I started doing a cookie plate with kid classics and, four years later, it still hasn’t left the menu. Things like the Hostess cupcake, oatmeal cream pie, and Snickers bars—in a more grown-up version—are very appealing to customers. I knew they would be liked, but I didn’t think they would become such a big thing that they would never leave the menu.

Chef Tiffany MacIsaac

Chef Tiffany MacIsaac

Are there some ideas you thought would be a hit and turned out to be a flop?

Tiffany: I can never seem to get desserts with rice pudding to sell. People tell me all the time how much they love it, but I can’t seem to get them to buy a composed dessert featuring it.

How important—or not—are organic ingredients to your menu?

Rachel: It’s certainly important, but sometimes not the priority. We get organic and/or local ingredients whenever we can, but some ingredients are just really hard to come by or too expensive for us to serve at a decent price point.

Joncarl: I had the opportunity to work under Nora Pouillon, the “queen of organics,” at Restaurant Nora in Washington, DC. While it was a fantastic experience, it certainly affects a restaurant’s price point. We do our best to use locally farmed ingredients. If it is organic, it is a plus, but not a necessity.

Composing a new dish is sometimes simple and other times complex. Do you have a framework or set process when creating a new menu item?

Rachel: Sort of. I often have 2-3 key ingredients that I want to use and try to find an interesting way to connect them. Or I sometimes, I have a dish in mind and see a couple things I can change that would give it our signature stamp. At the end, I look for a “wow” factor in each dish, something that makes it stand out from others.

Tiffany: It’s not like I’ve got a sheet with boxes I check off as I’m developing a dessert. But, if all the components span several textures and temperature and you are able to make sure all the flavors taste distinctly like what they are supposed to, you are at a good starting point. I hate when a dessert doesn’t taste like its core components. Like a green apple sorbet that doesn’t have the right tartness or a ginger marshmallow with no bite. Keeping the balance of salt versus sweet will help the dessert from becoming cloying.

As an estimate, what percentage of your customers are regulars?

Rachel: There are quite a few regulars at both restaurants. Especially at Revel, we have a decent number of customers who come for lunch every week.

Joncarl: I would say 20 percent and growing. I love cultivating regular guests. It is honestly like having friends over to my home for dinner.

Tiffany: That’s interesting. At the restaurants we strive for regulars that come in every couple of weeks. At the bakeries we are trying to make people come in 4-5 times a week. I’d say 25 percent of Buzz bakery customer’s start or end their day here 3- 4 times a week, which is great.

What advice would you give to our culinary students on how to make the most of their first jobs out of school?

Tiffany: Find a chef whose food you are passionately in love with and give them everything you have—they’ll likely give a lot back to you. Don’t ask how much money you’ll make, or how long the day will be. That doesn’t matter at the beginning (or ever for that matter). The money will be low and the days will be long, but you aren’t done learning just because you finished school. Think about the hours as an investment in your future. And never leave your job in under 14 months. It just looks bad on a resume.

Rachel: Especially for the first restaurant job, you really need to put your head down and work. It sounds very boring and passive, but there is a reason why someone is asking you to clean a case of mushrooms or to cut quarts of shallots, brunoise, everyday. It takes time to master simple tasks. As you get used to doing this kind of work and can do it fast, your eyes will simply open up to what else is going on in the kitchen.

Joncarl: Keep your eyes and ears open. You know so much less than you think you do. Volunteer for as many events as possible. Be respectful. Get to know as many people in the industry as possible.

America seems to be experiencing a cocktail craze. Why do you think that is, and is mixology important at your restaurant?

Joncarl: I am incredibly annoyed by trends in general. I think the only other trend that annoyed me more was bacon, bacon, bacon….yawn!

As the restaurant scene continues to grow in your market, it must be more difficult to find—and retain—great staff. What methods do you use to deal with this challenge?

Rachel: The first thing that we want to make sure to do when we hire a cook is to see what the reason is that they want to work at our restaurants. We want to make sure that they have a very strong personal interest in working here. They need to love the food that we cook and be proud of where they are.

Joncarl: We have had the good fortune of keeping employees pretty long term. The type of environment I try to cultivate is very “familial.” When team members are emotionally invested in what we are doing, they tend to stay longer.

Tiffany: It is hard, but as a chef you need to always be looking for good people, then give them opportunities to keep learning and growing.

If you could travel to a foreign country to learn about its cuisine, what country would that be?

Joncarl: One of my life goals was to see as much of the world as possible, before I got serious about opening my own restaurants. I have been to 35 countries and spent some time living in the UK and Spain. I think my favorite place to experience the food was Singapore, and it would be great to re-visit and do more street stall eating. The next trip is back to Amsterdam, to catch up on the burgeoning modern Dutch cuisine that is happening in neighborhoods like the Jordaan and dePijp.

Tiffany: I’ve always wanted to go to Thailand. My husband and I thought we’d go there for our honeymoon, but we unexpectedly got job offers in DC and instead of honeymooning, we opened a restaurant—the opposite of a honeymoon.

Rachel: Maybe China. It would be great to learn about all regional Chinese cuisine and go beyond typical “Chinese flavor” that we are so used to in America.

What do you do to achieve a better or acceptable “work-life” balance?

Rachel: I have two little boys, three and a half years old and one and a half. They totally keep me going after a long day at work.

Joncarl: I think when you are a chef/owner the restaurant actually is your life—though it is good to take a mental health day every once in a while.

Tiffany: (Laughing) Is that a trick question? We still haven’t figured that one out yet. I guess I’d have to say that marrying the chef helps. Our work is our life, so I guess if we work all the time, then we balance it pretty well!

 

By Maureen Drum

 

ICE has been training the industry’s top professionals for over 35 years, so it should come as no surprise that our graduates are in every nook and cranny of the food and hospitality field! It’s striking to see, in the past month, just a sliver of what our graduates—both newly minted, as well as seasoned alumni—are up to.

Juliette Pope

Juliette Pope, beverage director of Gramercy Tavern

Many established chefs have been taking the food world by storm as they continue to build their restaurant empires or attract national press attention to their restaurants. For starters, Marc Murphy (Culinary ’90), Chopped judge and chef/owner of several restaurants, including Landmarc Tribeca, Landmarc Time Warner, and Ditch Plains, just added Kingside to his growing restaurant group. Located in the new Viceroy New York Hotel, Marc, in partnership with the Gerber Group, is bringing his signature downtown cuisine to midtown.

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Chef Marc Murphy in front of his new restaurant, Kingside

Meanwhile Miguel Trinidad (Culinary ’07), Executive Chef of both Maharlika and Jeepney (which garnered a Time Out New York Award for “Best Seafood dish of 2013″) has added Golden Cadillac, a new cocktail-focused lounge, to the collection of restaurant menus he oversees. Diverging from the modern Filipino cuisine for which he’s received critical acclaim, Golden Cadillac’s menu inspiration comes from vintage Gourmet magazine dishes from the 1970’s.

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Chef Miguel Trinidad of Maharlika and Jeepney (photo courtesy of Latin Lover Magazine)

This fall, the food press was flooded with ICE alumni mentions. Ann Redding (Culinary ’02), co-chef/owner of the buzz-worthy new restaurant Uncle Boon’s, snagged a Time Out New York “Top 10 Dishes & Drinks in NYC” distinction for the restaurant’s khao soi kaa kai dish, and was also given a shout-out in the “Best Asian” category. Over on the West Coast, Seattle chef Rachel Yang’s restaurant Joule, was selected by Bon Appetit, as one of the “10 Best New Restaurants of 2013.” And front-of-house professionals were not left out either. Juliette Pope (Culinary ’94), Beverage Director of Gramercy Tavern, was lauded by The New York Times for her wine program, naming it one of the “12 Best Restaurants in NYC for Wine.”

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Chef Rachel Yang, of Joule restaurant in Seattle

Each ICE graduate defines her or her own success. For some, this past month brought the realization of long-held plans to open their first business. Scott Edwards (Culinary ’04), whose resume includes time at Veritas, Oceana, and 3-Michelin star Oud Sluis in the Netherlands, is now Chef and Co-owner of Open Kitchen Events, a catering business based in NYC. On the sweet side of things, Treva Chadwell (Culinary ’08), launched BeeHive Oven, shipping the company’s addictive buttermilk and pumpkin biscuits nationwide.

rick mast

Rick Mast, Mast Brothers Chocolate

Exciting ICE alumni news wasn’t limited to the restaurant set—this month also marked the release of two grads’ new cookbooks. Sarah Copeland (Culinary ’02), Food Director of Real Simple magazine, published her latest cookbook, Feast: Generous Vegetarian Meals for Any Eater and Every Appetite. Rick Mast (Management ’06), along with his brother/partner, Michael, are out with their first book, Mast Brothers Chocolate: A Family Cookbook. As owners of Mast Brothers Chocolate, their artisan bean-to-bar company supplies their carefully sourced chocolates to chefs such as Thomas Keller, Daniel Humm, Alice Waters, and Alain Ducasse, as well as chocolate connoisseurs around the world.

SarahCopeland

Sarah Copeland, out with new book, “Feast: Generous Vegetarian Meals for Any Eater and Every Appetite”

And lest we forget our Hospitality Management alumni, the most recent graduating class of 2013 has landed in a range of exciting new careers. Jeremy Shikhman (Hospitality ’13) was hired out of his externship at Club Med’s Sandpiper resort in Florida. He began as an Assistant Restaurant General Manager and is now moving into reception. Victoria Schaetzle (Hospitality ’13) is now general manager of Picnic, a new restaurant featuring contemporary takes on American classics in the East Village. Carol Arciniegas has been hired by Great Performances as venue manager for its Sotheby’s event space. And finally, Valarie Beckford was hired out of her externship at The New York Palace Hotel as a Catering, Meetings & Events Coordinator after the luxury property completed its $140 million renovation.

 

Congratulations to all our graduates from throughout the decades, as they realize their culinary dreams and career aspirations! We can’t wait to see the successes that next month will bring…

 

By Cindi Avila

 

Beyoncé says, “Who runs the world? Girls.” and, as it turns out, they now run many kitchens too. We’ve noticed this first hand at the Institute of Culinary Education, where females make up at least 50% of our student body.

 

Female ICE grads have gone on to amazing success, including James Beard Award-winning chefs Allison Vines-Rushing, Claudia Fleming, and Gina DePalma.The most recent examples of female alumni accolades include Mesa Grill Executive Pastry Chef Clarisa Martino, 2013 winner of Dessert Professional’s Top Ten Pastry Chefs in America and Chef Rachael Yang, whose Seattle restaurant Joule was recently featured as one of Bon Appetit’s 10 Best New Restaurants.

Chef alumnus, Rachel Yang, of Joule and Revel restaurants in Seattle.

Alumnae Chef Rachel Yang, of Joule and Revel restaurants in Seattle

And this success isn’t limited to the restaurant industry. Other female alumni are leaders in national and international culinary enterprises as well, with ICE grad Tina Borbeau as Fresh Direct’s Director of Research & Development, or grad Jill Talcott, Corporate Product Development Manager for Starbucks.

 

Beyond the facts, chefs and restaurateurs alike have noticed major changes for women in the culinary world. Mentions ICE alum Elisa Strauss—Owner of Confetti Cakes, and recognizable from her many TV appearances including the Today Show, Sex and the City, Food Network Challenge and 30-Minute Meals With Rachael Ray— “In the last decade you have really seen a better representation of women in the culinary field from sommeliers to restaurateurs.  The professional kitchen used to be just for male chefs, but I’m happy to see more women chefs [in general], not just a few famous ones whose names keep being regurgitated.”

Alumnae Chef Elisa Strauss of Confetti Cakes

Alumnae Chef Elisa Strauss of Confetti Cakes

ICE’s Director of Management Studies and accomplished restaurateur, Stephen Zagor says “It wasn’t long ago that restaurants were the domain of the male. Kitchens resembled men’s gyms – steamy, sweaty and brassy.”  However, change has come steadily The increased presence of women in pro kitchens and restaurants has generally fostered more civil and calm working environments, and according to Zagor, “that’s a good thing.” Cites Zagor, “In the last 10 years the ‘lipstick ceiling’ has been cracked with more and more women owners, chefs and managers.”

 

ICE Chef-Instructor Michelle Tampakis agrees, citing from the earliest days of her own career that women working in restaurants were mostly waitstaff. ”It was hard to get a position in the back of the house. Kitchens were mostly male dominated.” Tampakis’ own story supports the trend of progress. After breaking new ground as Executive Pastry Chef at Windows on the World in the 1980s, she went on to become a successful competitor on the international pastry circuit and ICE Chef-Instructor. This year, she launched Whipped Pastry Boutique, specializing in gluten-free pastry and baked goods.

Alumnae Chef Ivy Stark of Dos Caminos

Alumnae Chef Ivy Stark of Dos Caminos

Alum and southwest cooking expert Ivy Stark has also experienced this change first hand. As Corporate Executive Chef at Dos Caminos, Stark is about as high up on the industry food chain as one can get. The ’95 grad says, “I am very fortunate, aside from very isolated instances. My employers, colleagues and staff have never treated me differently. I see young hard-working women cooks and chefs in kitchens everywhere being treated as equals by their male colleagues.”

 

2009 ICE graduate Brooke Siem says one thing that has helped women rise in the industry is the variety of jobs now available. “The wave of artisan products and the push for small businesses has really changed the game for female chef. Food is no longer just about dining out at a high-end restaurant. There are more opportunities to create something new and make a name for yourself.” Siem should know. She owns Prohibition Bakery, an innovative cupcake shop on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, crafting sweet treats with a splash of liquor.

Alumnae Chef Brooke Siem of NYC's Prohibition Bakery

Alumnae Chef Brooke Siem of NYC’s Prohibition Bakery

Another instrumental tool that Siem says has helped women isn’t found in the kitchen. “Throw social media into the mix, and suddenly it seems common to see women working and owning their own businesses in the food industry. That inspires more young women to pursue a similar path, and so on.”

 

When it comes to media influence, for alum Gail Simmons—judge on Top Chef and Director of Special Projects for Food & Wine—the sky is the limit. In a day when reality stars are more likely to be bad influences than role models, Simmons proves that it’s possible to build an intelligent public image and dynamic career.

Alumnae Gail Simmons, judge on Top Chef and Director of Special Projects at Food & Wine Magazine

Alumnae Gail Simmons, judge on Top Chef and Director of Special Projects at Food & Wine Magazine

As for the next generation, Stark says, “I absolutely do feel that it is important to mentor other women. It has been an extremely rewarding career for me, and I love passing along my experience to [those] just starting out. The kitchen is still largely male-dominated and can be intimidating [at first].” Stark reinforces her words with action, stating, “I am very proud to say that all of our current Executive Sous Chefs at Dos Caminos are female and started with us as line cooks, some of them straight out of school.”

 

At ICE that’s something we love to hear!

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ICE Senior Career Services Advisor Amy Quazza and Director of Career Services Maureen Drum Fagin with Outstanding Chef Award Winner José Andrés

As we welcome spring, food lovers and passionate diners everywhere look forward to the annual James Beard Awards. Celebrated close to the anniversary of James Beard’s birthday in May, the awards are given to the best chefs, restaurants and media in the country. ICE founder Peter Kump helped launch the James Beard Foundation and ICE is proud to maintain close ties to the organization and their hard work to promote and celebrate food in America. The Awards are regarded as the most prestigious awards in the culinary industry, often referred to as the “Oscars” of food.

This year, the awards ceremonies and festivities were spread over the entire weekend as the food world gathered in NYC for a celebration of all things culinary. On Friday night, the foundation held their Book, Broadcast & Journalism Awards, hosted by Ted Allen of Food Network’s Chopped and ICE alum Gail Simmons of Bravo’s Top Chef. In fact, Top Chef, took home the award for best Television Show, In Studio or Fixed Location. ICE alums Dominique Andrews and Marie Ostrosky were also nominated for the second year in a row in the Television Special category. More…

Last Thursday, the James Beard Foundation announced the semifinalists for their prestigious Restaurant and Chef Awards. Included on the list are ICE alumni Missy Robbins of A Voce in New York City for Best Chef: New York City and Rachel Yang of Joule in Seattle for Best Chef: Northwest. The final list of nominees will be announced on March 21 and we have our fingers crossed for both of these successful alumni. Both chefs are members of our Alumni Hall of Achievement and neither are strangers to awards. Yang was a James Beard Awards semifinalist for Rising Star Chef in 2009 and Best Chef: Northwest in 2010 and Robbins was selected as one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs in 2010.

Also, Food & Wine will be naming a People’s Best New Chef in addition to their annual Best New Chef awards this year, and ICE alums are also nominated for this brand new award. Held in conjunction with CNN’s Eatocracy, the award will be given to a chef selected by the dining public. Among the highly-respected chefs are ICE alums Alex Pope of R Bar in Kansas City and James Holmes of Olivia in Austin. ICE alum Tiffany MacIsaac’s husband Kyle Bailey of Birch & Barley in Washington D.C. is also nominated for the award (MacIsaac heads up the restaurant’s pastry team). You can vote online anytime before March 1.

Good luck to these ICE alumni!