By Michael Laiskonis—Creative Director

When I started cooking (well over twenty years ago), society was still squarely in the analog realm. With no formal training—and no Internet—I would seek out and devour whatever limited information I could find, and my sources were few and far between. I relentlessly pored over anything I could get my hands on: namely, outdated cooking school textbooks and a pile of stained, yellowed, hand-written notebooks that I found on a shelf in the kitchen at my first bakery job. Cookbooks and dog-eared magazines were like trophies, rites of passage as I earned my stripes, and the wait for each new source of inspiration seemed interminable.

Tribute - Michael Laiskonis - 1999

The early days – 1999 photo from a guest chef dinner at Tribute in Michigan (I’m at the far left).

With the emergence of new technologies, the evolution of cooking has enjoyed an exponential rate of innovation and creativity. One can only imagine the freedom cooks suddenly felt with the invention of gas-fired ovens or the speed with which they completed manual tasks once kitchens were wired with electricity. Most recently, the culture of food has been propelled by the advent of information technology. In an instant, the Internet provided quick access to information, and cooks in all corners of the globe no longer toiled in obscurity. The nature in which we communicate and share information continues to manifest in new forms. Chat forums, blogs and social media have, without question, changed the way we process information. And they surely have changed how we cook: how we learn about food, how we shop for it and how we document what we eat. Today, culinary creativity is no longer relegated to the ranks of professional cooks; a large segment of our culture regularly expresses itself through the lens of food.

MLaiskonis - Michael Laiskonis - Digital Media - Pastry Chef

I truly believe that chefs are inherently generous in nature and that this cycle of sharing and exchange is what moves cooking forward. I love that professionals and novices alike are blogging and tweeting their latest successes, failures and works in progress. This open exchange has thrown open the kitchen doors, linking chefs on a global level. But this democratization of publishing can seem overwhelming, as there is quite a lot of static to sift through on the web. Trends and fads emerge and then disappear in a nanosecond. And some of us older cooks might claim that the next generation of cooks has it too easy, that all of this “free” information is a shortcut around paying one’s dues in a traditional sense.

Yet even this “old dog” of the kitchen embraces social media and the new tricks to be found in its endless stream of bytes. Beyond a passive means of relaying information, social media can provide a launching point for new forms of collaboration. A few years back, a twitter conversation among peers led to a series of pastry-centric events across the country under the banner of Killed By Dessert; it even inspired regional spin-offs created by other groups of chefs. More recently, I swapped Instagram accounts with Chris Ford, a rising star among the next generation of American pastry chefs, creating a dialogue and the spread of ideas among our wider, combined audience. And on the most basic level, social media has helped me create or maintain professional friendships that may otherwise have fizzled without face-to-face contact.

Instagram - Pastry Chefs - MLaiskonis - Michael Laiskonis - Chris Ford - ButterLoveAndHardWork - Social Media

Switching Instagram accounts with Chef Chris Ford for a #PastryTakeover

Yet deciding how to interact with this new social world isn’t without its challenges. A growing industry of social media experts has evolved, providing counsel on how to optimize an online presence and boost one’s brand. Personally, I’ve defined my approach to social media not by obsessing over the number of followers, likes or retweets, but rather to focus on contributing quality content—an engaging photo, a recipe or a new idea I am researching—sometimes tailoring the message to a specific platform. Moreover, I’ve learned that while a consistent output of ideas can generate attention, true exchange is a two-way street. That means sharing the work of others and stirring up conversation, as the most interesting discoveries often take place when information flows in many directions. Last but not least, I keep my content professional; even with the short attention span of social media, character reverberates far and wide in cyberspace.

MLaiskonis - Social Media - Pastry Chef - Michael Laiskonis

I still see value in spending time with my stacks of books, but I am equally drawn to the real-time access to kitchens across the globe and down the street. Though some users may have a broader reach than others, the democratic nature of the evolving social medium is, in and of itself, inspiring to me. The opportunity to contribute to the virtual dialog has, in subtle ways, pushed my work in new directions and boosted my productivity. The chance to share the results and receive feedback from others then becomes the icing on the cake!

Click here for a full list of advanced pastry classes with Chef Michael.


Afraid your food business is getting lost in the mix? Discover your “niche,” learn to build buzz and boost brand recognition with the “Building Your Marketing Plan” video in ICE and American Express’s four-part Restaurant Success Series. From exploring local advertising to increasing your online presence, learn how having the right marketing tools will set your business apart from the rest.

To help you build your food business’ marketing plan, Lori Greene, digital media expert and Director of Content for ad agency Maxus Global, shares some of her top tips on using social media to build your brand:

  1. Know your audience. Concentrate on the social media platforms used most by your target customers:
    1. Facebook – all demographics
    2. Twitter – 18-49 years old, live in urban and suburban areas
    3. Pinterest – women under 50
    4. Instagram – 18-29 years old, mostly female
    5. YouTube – all demographics
  1. Listen to what people are saying on your social media platforms, and be sure to respond. Social media—at its best—is a conversation and way to engage with your customers. It’s not meant to be a monologue.
  1. Consider advertising on social media. It can be targeted to your key customers and may prove to be very cost effective.
  1. Build a community of people who care about what you have to say. Post useful and relevant content that will appeal to your audience.
  1. Measure what you’re doing and repeat what’s working:
    1. Conversation rate – Are people talking about your posts? What are they saying?
    2. Applause rate – How many people like what you post?
    3. Amplification rate – How many people are sharing your posts on their profiles?
    4. Economic value – Are people coming into the restaurant because of your social promotions?

Interesting in unlocking more marketing secrets? Learn from expert industry consultants


By Stephen Zagor, Dean—School of Management and Business Studies

Have you ever stayed in a hotel where the service didn’t meet your expectations? What did you do? If you’re like many guests today, you probably pulled out your smart phone and immediately turned to Twitter, Facebook, Yelp or TripAdvisor to voice your complaints. For those of us who work in the hospitality industry, this is a marked change in guest relations. The tried-and-true standard of client services—when a client picks up the phone or even visits the front desk to seek resolution—is vanishing even faster than 24-hour hotel room service.


It’s no surprise that the instant gratification of online interactions have replaced the art of conversation and eye contact. But when in-person help is required, one has to wonder about the benefit of public complaints. Is it a helpful warning to future guests—the equivalent of flashing headlights to warn your fellow drivers of a hidden speed trap? Or is this just an exercise in heavy venting, a public flogging of the unfortunate hotel that provided less-than-perfect service?

A few months ago, I stayed in a luxury hotel in a major city. After I settled into the room, I sat on the edge of the bed—only to discover that the mattress and box springs had a pronounced tilt to one side. It was as though Godzilla had just slept there. I didn’t consider sending a note to Yelp or posting a comment on Twitter—to me, that approach as ineffective as dropping leaflets out of a plane. I actually picked up the phone, called the desk and in a matter of minutes was once again settling into a new room—bed fully intact.


No matter your personal views on the topic, responding to publicly posted complaints is becoming an essential part of customer service.

My method of getting resolution may be on the decline. But what is interesting about this new phenomenon of digital complaints is that many hotels now understand and expect it. In fact, web patrols for customer comments have become an essential part of hotel brand management. Many have social media monitoring systems that forward guest remarks to hotel staff in real time. There are numerous software packages that constantly scan the web for complaints (and compliments) about hotel management, in an effort to help staff resolve issues quickly—maybe even fast enough for you to delete or recant that scathing twitter review.

If you think this system is only for hotels it’s not. Many airlines, food businesses and other savvy travel-related brands also employ these tactics—often to great success. But responding to every errant tweet can also lead to previously unforeseen conflicts in customer service. In a recent news story, a family was temporarily booted from a flight after the father tweeted about a run-in with a rude airline employee during boarding.


At the end of the day, a complaint is a complaint no matter where it comes from, and it’s  good business to handle it timely and properly. Company reputations can be made or lost by how well problems are handled. Prevention is paramount, but successful resolution can be even more essential in establishing a dedicated customer base—especially when each complaint is public information. The smartest brands will see this broadcasted criticism as a great opportunity; what starts off as an issue can become a public relations win for all to see.

Next time I check into a hotel and have a problem during my stay, beware my twitter followers. I may just air my issue for all the whole world to enjoy…if only to see what happens.


By Carly DeFilippo


This summer, we launched the “Find your #culinaryvoice” photo contest, asking students from both our Career and Recreational Programs to share what they’ve been cooking at ICE. In this ongoing monthly contest, students who tag “@iceculinary #culinaryvoice” on either Twitter or Instagram have the chance to win a single-session recreational cooking class or other ICE merchandise.


From among the many submissions thus far, we’ve selected four photos that represent the variety of student perspectives and cuisines taught at ICE. And to help select our first ever winner, we want your help! Let us know in the comments below which is your favorite photo.

  • Top Left: @JackieOurman, “Homemade vanilla marshmallows drizzled with#chocolate @iceculinary #candy #culinaryvoice”
  • Top Right: @bagelsbasics, “Hamachi crudo, red, rainbow, yellow beets, wasabi creme fraiche, rice puffs, micro basil #miseenplace @iceculinary#culinaryvoice”
  • Bottom Left: @_ch3w. “Chef Chris Gesualdi making that pasta, “Make it Perfect!” @iceculinary #culinaryvoice#homemadeeverything”
  • Bottom Right: @madsharma: “Pizza day in class. Definitely gonna have egg on my face @iceculinary #farmerspie #culinaryvoice”

ICE’s Culinary Management Instructors are seasoned industry professionals who are still active in the industry and working on their own projects while teaching classes at ICE. Julia Heyer and Vin McCann recently looked at social media’s effect on the restaurant and food world, and today they continue to dive into the complex world of online networks and social media. When we last left off, Vin questioned the long-term effect and at what point the messages turned from fascination to “self-promoting chatter.”

Julia Heyer
People are fascinated with our industry. While they couldn’t care less about what happens in the toothpaste factory at Proctor & Gamble, they are interested in restaurant kitchens. There is a sexiness factor.

For now, that results in a different reach for our biz. The new media allow restaurant businesses to connect with guests, both existing and potential, who want to hear from them.  Instead of using the old adage of “let’s throw a whole bunch of ads out there at that wall and see what sticks,” it allows targeted reach to and identification of your guests. Will it change? As we say in German, Alles hat ein Ende, nur die Wurst hat Zwei — everything has an end, just the sausage has two. More…

Three years ago, I crammed for the New York Food Handler’s Certificate. The potential illnesses in particular left a lasting impression on me — how was I ever going to eat again? For months, I only ate home-cooked meals — overcooked, dry chicken, salads so over-washed that they were broken and wilted and many, many bowls of cereal.

It took a long time to start eating out again. Even 3 years later, I stare down the cashier to see if he handles my food with the same dirty hands he uses to take my cash, I go through a box of disposable gloves over two days and tie my hair in a bun so tight that I have a headache when I let it loose. I try not to think about all of the diseases I can get from my food. Yes, I will always send back a pink chicken, but I still love my eggs sunny side up. If I think about it too much, I can’t finish my meals.

For the past few weeks, I have been reintroduced to the world of unsanitary conditions and foodborne illnesses via preparing for the ServSafe exam. Yesterday, my alarm went off in the middle of a nightmare. I had been dreaming about catching mice when I heard something tapping. When I looked over, I saw a pink lobster jumping across the floor. Then my alarm went off and I was scared awake. It was only an hour later, when we started covering rodent infestation in class, that I realized I had a dream about a mice infestation and an unsafe runaway lobster. Although we’ve finished reviewing all of the chapters and ServSafe videos, I expect that for the next few weeks I will continue to have dreams about jumping pink lobsters. More…

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