By Carly DeFilippo

As a young ICE graduate, Sabrina Sexton launched her career in two innovative kitchens whose exceptional food and casual bistro style would forever change New York City’s downtown dining scene: Chanterelle and Gramercy Tavern. Today, she has returned to ICE as our lead Culinary Arts instructor, training the next generation of game-changing chefs.

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While finishing her pre-med program at Johns Hopkins University, Sabrina realized she was more anxious about becoming a doctor than passing her MCATs. Deep down, she knew it was time to trade in her lab coat for, well, another white coat—an ICE chef’s jacket.

As part of her Culinary Arts program at ICE, Sabrina externed at Chanterelle, a groundbreaking fine dining establishment in Manhattan’s then undeveloped downtown. The restaurant’s SoHo kitchen proved to be the perfect training ground for the young cook. Sabrina describes Executive Chef David Waltuck as the kind of leader who was truly happiest behind the stove and exceptionally “thoughtful about the ‘why’ of cooking.” Under Waltuck’s wing, Sabrina learned to carefully consider flavor pairings and the way different techniques would change the expression of flavor in a dish.

After three years at Chanterelle, Sabrina continued her ascent through New York City’s most iconic kitchens at Danny Meyer’s now legendary Gramercy Tavern. Despite her culinary background, Sabrina entered into the world of Gramercy through fellow ICE graduate Claudia Fleming’s pastry kitchen. Like Waltuck, Fleming was a master of flavor, and Sabrina learned to produce expertly plated desserts in a high-volume setting, while still crafting every component from scratch.

While she greatly valued the time spent on Fleming’s pastry team, Sabrina realized she missed the improvisation of savory cooking. Under Executive Chef Tom Colicchio (of Top Chef fame), she worked her way up Gramercy’s line of all-star cooks and, three years later, was thrust into the spotlight as Tavern Chef. Overseeing the restaurant’s namesake no-reservations, casual dining space, Sabrina’s days revolved around a wood-fired stove—the centerpiece of the Tavern’s cooking style—stoking the literal and creative fire of the restaurant’s menu for nearly four years.

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Where do you go after working at the likes of Chanterelle or Gramercy Tavern? It’s a challenging question for any chef at the top of her game. At Gramercy, in addition to running the Tavern area, Sabrina had been charged with the curation of the restaurant’s cheese selection and briefly considered becoming an affineur. But she was soon recruited to oversee the culinary operations for ABC Network, including executive dining, green rooms and corporate dining—serving 800-1,000 employees on a daily basis.

At ABC, Sabrina gained instrumental experience in the training, supervision and management of a large, diverse staff. In essence, 65% of her job was teaching, so when she reconnected with ICE faculty at the school’s annual alumni party, it was no surprise that they eagerly responded to her interest in becoming one of the school’s culinary instructors.

The rest is, as they say, history. Fifteen years later, Sabrina is now the lead culinary arts instructor at ICE, yet her tenure has made her anything but complacent. One of her favorite aspects of teaching is the opportunity to constantly experiment and try new things in the kitchen—a quality mirrored in the many students she has mentored, from co-author of Modernist Cuisine Maxime Bilet to James Beard Award-winner Allison Vines-Rushing.

Want to study with Chef Sabrina? Click here to schedule a personal tour of the school.

ICE Student Volunteers with Chef Bill Telepan

Last night, the Institute of Culinary Education celebrated at Rockefeller Center at Citymeals-on-Wheels’ A Taste of Home benefit. The yearly culinary event brings together many of the country’s most acclaimed chefs to celebrate the heritage and legacy of James Beard and food in America.

The event dates back to 1985 when twelve devotees of James Beard came together to celebrate his life and love of cooking, all while giving to Citymeals-on-Wheels. Beard co-founded Citymeals-on-Wheels along with Gael Greene to feed homebound elderly New Yorkers.

With a long history of bringing together the country’s greatest chefs for one amazing evening, the event did not disappoint this year. The roster of chefs included Daniel Boulud, Dominique Ansel, Larry Forgione, Marc Forgione, Bryan Forgione, Nobu Matsuhisa, Bill Telepan, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Tom Colicchio, Scott Conant, Aaron Sanchez, Charlie Palmer, David Burke and Alfred Portale, among many others. More…

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…

Included in the grand traditions of Thanksgiving are parades, football and naps (most importantly, naps), but the most consistent thing about the holidays is that every family does it differently. Just this week, a particularly food-savvy friend and I bonded over the shame we feel for our deep-seeded love of gelatinous canned cranberry sauce and boxed stuffing, both having been served at almost every Thanksgiving meal I can remember. This year, I’m looking forward to something different — nothing but homemade, handcrafted deliciousness at a dinner prepared by the most traditional of country moms. (It’s important to note that this model of domesticity is not my mother, though Mrs. Wheeler can certainly hold her own in a kitchen.)

While I’ll be traveling to the wilds of Wyoming for a home-cooked meal, those of you staying in New York have many more options. Many fine-dining establishments around the city set up prix fixe menus. Pastry Chef Jennifer McCoy of Tom Colicchio’s Craft will be among the many chefs working hard to serve those who are happy to leave the cooking to the pros. Luckily, she also taught a class at ICE on how to make some of her favorite Thanksgiving desserts. Over the four hours we made every dessert that will be gracing the pages of Craft’s Thanksgiving menu this year, including a Comice Pear and Cranberry Crumble that has become my single favorite dessert. While I don’t plan on making every dessert, there was certainly a lot to be learned from Chef McCoy:

* The Weight of it All: When making a pie crust there are a couple of tricks to refining a golden crust. For a perfect pumpkin pie, you have to partially bake the crust before filling it. Use a layer of aluminum foil lined with pie weights to help the crust keep its shape. If you don’t have ceramic pie weights, dry beans work just as well. More…