By Caitlin Gunther

When you speak with Adrienne Cheatham (Culinary Arts ’07), you can hear the tenacity in her voice. As a former sous chef at Le Bernardin and executive chef at Red Rooster, and the subject of a recent NY Times Taste Makers video, Adrienne is mindful of the accomplishments behind her. She’s more concerned, however, with the missions that lie ahead — like leaving her comfort zone (if working 16-hour days seven days a week can be called a “comfort zone”) and branching out on her own. Adrienne balances her time in the kitchen with an activity that calls upon a completely different skill and mindset: dance.

While scoping out locales for a potential forthcoming project, Adrienne took a pause to chat with me for the ICE blog.

ICE Alumnus Adrienne Cheatham

First, congratulations on the Taste Makers piece. What was it like working on that?

They were trying to steer the focus of it to the challenges that a woman faces in the kitchen, and I didn’t support that idea. I didn’t want to be a part of that kind of story. I think that kitchens are the great equalizers — either you can do the job or you can’t. It doesn’t matter if you’re short, tall, your gender, your race, none of that matters in a kitchen. That’s why I was glad they took the focus off of that.

Is it a relevant question anymore: what’s it like to be a woman in a kitchen? Or is that a cliché at this point?

In some ways, it’s cliché because it’s asked so much. At least now people are aware of women in kitchens. And yes, women are still the minority, but you experience the same things that the guys do. Maybe you feel differently about a crass or vulgar joke but that offends some men too. It’s not as much of a gender issue as before when it was novel to see women in the kitchen. Don’t get me wrong — I’ve been the only woman in the kitchen for three to six months at a time. I’ve also been the only black person. But anyone can be the minority. You could be the only blond in the kitchen, but it’s not an issue because everyone’s there to work. It’s a complete meritocracy. You’re judged by whether you did a good job at your station.

When did you realize you wanted to work in restaurants? 

In high school, I told my mom that after graduation I wanted to go to a four-year culinary school and she was so unsupportive. And rightfully so — [having worked in restaurants herself] she had seen a lot of her friends burn out and have nothing to fall back on. She said I could go to a regular four-year school first and then if I still wanted to go to culinary school, I could. She told me, we’re not rich, so if you want to go to culinary school, you’re completely on your own.

So I went to college in Florida. I started majoring in business and finance, and then I switched to journalism and PR during my junior year. Business and finance were cool — those were principles I needed to learn. My mom was pushing me to get a job in finance. She told me to make a lot of money and then cook as a hobby. But I still wanted to go to culinary school, and if I wanted something to fall back on in the same industry, I figured that journalism would be the best option.

Do you do any writing nowadays?

I did the recipe testing and editing of the Avec Eric cookbook with Eric Ripert. Recently, I helped write and test the recipes for The Red Rooster Cookbook by Marcus Samuelsson. I also did the book’s food styling, working with the prop stylist and photographer.

What inspired you to go to culinary school?

It was something I had planned already. I was working for a pastry chef at a resort in Florida, and I thought I wanted to go into pastry. The chef and the sous chef knew I wanted to go to culinary school and they were very supportive. They believed that even if you have been working for a few years, it’s good to back up your credibility with a culinary school education. I figured because I’d worked in pastry for a few years, if I go to culinary school, I’d go to the general program to learn new skills. I thought I’d go back to pastry, but the culinary arts program offered such a different mindset, I ended up liking the freedom and creativity on the savory side.


Is that how you ended up working at Le Bernardin?

I got referred there through a classmate. I’m originally from Chicago and I wanted to do my externship there, so I was holding out for Charlie Trotter’s. I thought, in case it doesn’t work out, I should look for something in New York. One of my classmates was doing her externship at Le Bernardin. She gave me the name of Chef Ripert’s assistant and I stalked her. When I didn’t hear back, I said, “Ok, you and I are about to become best friends.” I showed up at the restaurant to leave another hard copy of my resume. I would email her three times a week and call her four times a week until she finally responded. She owns Ardesia, the wine bar, and the Camlin in Brooklyn now.

Did ICE prepare you to work at Le Bernardin?

I felt comfortable in the kitchen because during all the modules at ICE you’re in a kitchen environment. You learn how to stand out of the way and not be intrusive in someone else’s space when it’s not your kitchen. I had great chef instructors and they had the same temperament and demeanor as the chefs at Le Bernardin.

In the NY Times video, you said, “There’s a point in your career when you have to put yourself out there. I do want to open my own restaurant. I want to develop my own style.” Have you reached a point in your career where you’ve developed your own style?

Yes, I think I have. When I tried to put things on the menu at Le Bernardin, Chef Eric would say, “It’s really good, but the ingredients are a little too humble. We have to elevate the dish a lot more.” So I learned the Le Bernardin style of elevating ingredients, making them more than themselves. Then working for Chef Marcus, a lot of the dishes I put on the menu were too sophisticated because Red Rooster is very casual. So the dishes there were too sophisticated for Red Rooster but too humble for Le Bernardin. Eventually, I started running specials—dishes that I wanted to do, separate from the Red Rooster menu. One day Chef Marcus said to me, “I’m not sure if you’ve had time to focus on your style. I think you’re still in the process of developing your style.” That made me realize that I do have to push myself out there. And I’m not going to do it when someone else says I’m ready. It’s a moment that you decide that you’re ready. There’s always more to learn. You’re always going to be learning from different people, from continuing education classes, magazines, visiting other restaurants. You’re not going to stop learning because you open your own place, but you still have to be confident enough in yourself and what you have to share with people. And you have to want to do it, too. I was perfectly happy working for other people. It’s so safe and comfortable. It’s a guaranteed paycheck and the comfort of knowing what you’re going into every day. But at some point, I had to ask myself: What do I want to convey? What do I want to execute that is my vision every day of the week? Plus, with Chef Marcus, I was working seven days a week, 16 hours a day. If I’m going to kill myself, it’s going to be for me.

What is your culinary voice?

Anybody who works in a kitchen and creates food is a very sense-oriented person. It’s about texture, visuals, flavors, aromas — everything that engages the senses. My voice is a reflection of everything about me: not just what I like to eat, but the kind of person I am. So a dish that I put together is an expression of love, of happiness, of learning. Being from Chicago, having family from Mississippi and a fine dining background, it’s not just those things combined. It’s a reflection of all of my life experiences that have created the person I am, and translating that into the food that I create.

Ready to find your culinary voice? Click here for more information on ICE’s career programs.

By Carly DeFilippo

Less than five years ago, the stretch of Harlem between Central Park North and 135th Street was, in the words of Chef Mike Garrett, “a total food desert.” But in October 2010, as the Executive Chef of Marcus Samuelsson’s first independent restaurant venture, Red Rooster, Mike and his staff opened a fine dining establishment that would forever change not just the food of this historic neighborhood, but the culture as well.

Chefs Marcus Samuelsson and Michael Garrett pose with their namesake "Red Rooster"

Marcus Samuelsson and Mike Garrett represent Red Rooster at the New York Wine & Food Festival. Credit:

In 2011, Red Rooster received a rave two-star review from Sam Sifton in the New York Times, but its influence went far beyond great food. The restaurant, whose cuisine pulled from the ethnic backgrounds of the neighborhoods’ many diverse communities, was a galvanizing force in introducing downtown diners to the emerging uptown scene. Today, Red Rooster is in good company—playing the wise, inspiring neighbor to such celebrated newcomers as The Cecil, Barawine and 67 Orange Street.

But back before Chef Mike was revolutionizing Harlem’s culinary culture, he was just a 17-year-old dishwasher in upstate New York. When one of the prep cooks didn’t show up for work, the executive chef asked, “Do you know how to make a burger?” One brutal day on the grill station taught the inexperienced young chef to never underestimate the nuances of any dish—no matter how simple it seems.

Posing with his fellow ICE Chef Instructors and NY Jets greats Willie Colon and Damon "Snacks" Harrison.

Chef Mike, posing with his fellow ICE Chef Instructors and NY Jets players Willie Colon and Damon “Snacks” Harrison.

Mike continued cooking through college as a way to earn money, jumping from hotels to bakeries to restaurants. At the time, his professional goal was to be a radio DJ, but after relocating to Baltimore with a friend, Mike realized that, with a little education, his seven years of kitchen experience might prove to be more profitable. Soon enough, Mike was a new culinary school graduate, working his way up through Baltimore’s restaurant scene.

Eventually, Mike returned to New York, where he found work in restaurateur Pino Luongo’s famed empire. At Coco Pazzo, in particular, his interest in becoming an Executive Chef started to grow, as did his interest in exploring other lesser-known cuisines.

As any of Mike’s culinary students can tell you, he’s very passionate about Asian food, with skills that he picked up during stints at pioneering American sushi restaurant, Ringo (a predecessor to Masa and Kittichai). Eventually, Mike’s network landed him a spot in a very young Marcus Samuelsson’s three star kitchen at Aquavit—the then premiere Swedish restaurant in New York City. From 2004-2010, Mike worked under Samuelsson and Chef Nils Norén, graduating from junior sous chef to executive sous chef.

Chef Mike and Marcus Samuelsson in the kitchen.

Chef Mike and Marcus Samuelsson in the kitchen.



Throughout this period, Mike also found opportunities to open such restaurants as Merkato 55 and Aer Lounge—even spending stints at C House in Chicago. But once Red Rooster came into view, Mike knew it was time to go all-in.

Red Rooster was a massive success from day one. Catering to both the local community and serving as a hip “destination restaurant,” Mike juggled the desires of an almost impossibly diverse clientele. “On a given night, you would have Fab 5 Freddy, Citibank business partners, real estate guys, politicians, actors, musicians—all in the same restaurant. The impact on the local community was incredible.”

But even as he helped Red Rooster open Ginny’s, its downstairs supper club, and reinvent the upstairs menu time and time again, it became clear to Mike that his primary job as Executive Chef wasn’t cooking—it was teaching. And after years of working in fine dining, Mike was most excited to pursue his growing interest in simple, well-executed food.

Meet Chef Mike header

In 2013, Mike joined the Culinary Arts faculty at ICE. As an instructor, he’s particularly adamant about reforming students’ bad habits. (His signature tagline—“control your energy!”—speaks to their tendency to cook too hot, too fast.) He’s also found time to explore his own artisanal hobbies, teaching beer-making or NY Jets tailgating classes for ICE’s School of Recreational Cooking. Yet whether he’s training future chefs or enthusiastic home cooks, Mike’s philosophy remains the same: “[ICE] is the perfect place to make mistakes and iron out the kinks—before you go and test run your skills in the real world.”

Want to study with Chef Mike? Click here to learn more about ICE’s Culinary Arts program. 

Streets Chef Competition

Tim Love, Kerry Heffernan, Lauren Glassberg, Mark Maynard Parisi, Daniel Holzman, ICE President Rick Smilow and Neal Bermas

I’m a big advocate of supporting relatively small, entrepreneurial, and spirited non-profit groups that, in their own way, make the world a better place. One such charity is Hoi An, Vietnam–based STREETS International, founded in 2007 by Neal Bermas, a former ICE Culinary Management Instructor, and Sondra Stewart.

STREETS held its annual fundraiser at Astor Center on Thursday, March 29th. And I was lucky enough to attend with a group from ICE. The event included a walk-around tasting with modern street food, a chef cooking competition (for which I was a judge) and a short film about STREETS. Restaurants that participated in the street food tasting included Red Rooster, Morimoto, Bua, Rosa Mexicano, August, Blue Smoke and more. More…

BlueStar, the manufacturer of professional cooking equipment and the provider of stoves and ovens to ICE’s 12th floor recreational classrooms, recently teamed up with Chef Marcus Samuelsson to benefit the Susan G. Komen for the Cure via its Susan G. Komen Greater NYC Race for the Cure. As part of the event, BlueStar is auctioning a pink 30-inch gas range valued at $4,700 and VIP dinner for six at Samuelsson’s Red Rooster, one of New York’s hottest restaurants. Award-winning chef and ICE Advisory Council member Samuelsson will personally cook a four-course meal for the winner and their guests (dates and times to be mutually agreed upon). And, when they’re ready to cook at home, they’ll also be able to use their new BlueStar eight-piece cookware set, valued at $595. It’s an amazing prize from both BlueStar and Samuelsson, two of ICE’s closest partners in the culinary industry.

To bid, go directly onto eBay’s Giving Works site here.

The auction ends on August 30th, and 100% of the proceeds will be contributed to the charity. The company will provide free shipping. If pink is not your color, you can bid on the range and select any one of BlueStar’s 190 colors, at no extra charge, and still support the cause.

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

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

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

Marcus Samuelsson, Chef/Owner of the Marcus Samuelsson Group, ICE Advisory Board Member and winner of Bravo’s Top Chef Masters, was back at ICE to give another demo yesterday. Samuelsson is one busy chef: in addition to opening his new restaurant, Red Rooster, he is also an ambassador for UNICEF and sits on the board for Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP). He is author of Aquavit and the New Scandinavian Cuisine, The Soul of a New Cuisine and The New American Table. Among his many achievements, he was the youngest chef to ever receive three stars from The New York Times. ICE is always happy when he takes time out from his busy schedule to do a demo at the school.

Samuelsson’s path to award-winning chef has certainly been unique. He was born in Ethiopia, but was adopted and raised in Sweden. He worked in kitchens in Switzerland, Austria and France before moving to New York to pursue his culinary dreams. The dishes he made for the demo reflect this multicultural background. He made Fried Chicken with Spicy Ketchup and Foie Gras Ganache with Quince Chutney. The dishes drew on many influences to reflect current culinary trends. He said, “These dishes are both poultry, but they are totally different. I think they are a reflection of the direction where food is going. One is more high-end and the other is comfort food.” More…

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