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Alumni Spotlight: Rodrigo Schweitzer, Class of 2011

For our first ICC Alumni Spotlight of 2017, we caught up with Professional Culinary Arts alum chef Rodrigo Schweitzer. Explaining why he felt attending the International Culinary Center in New York was the right choice to pursue his culinary dreams, the Brazil based chef elaborates on ICC’s full immersion program. Learning the fundamental techniques and skills for success in only 6 months, an international student such as Rodrigo has the potential to save thousands of dollars in living expenses and tuition when making their culinary school decision.

The main reason why I chose ICC was because of the full immersion program. So, in my research, I knew that a student here could graduate in 6 months but being taught what they teach in other schools in 2 years. They taught me to be a prepared cook.”

Following up on life after culinary school graduation, Schweizer earned his spot as the winner of Hell’s Kitchen Brasil (Season 3), taking home the 100,000 gold bar prize. Becoming known as the ‘Fit Chef’ while on the show for sharing his weight loss story, Chef Schweitzer helps individuals reach their goals of losing weight through healthy eating habits. With the momentum of the Hell’s Kitchen win still strong, he shares plans to open an elevated pizzeria in Brazil with ‘nontraditional’ toppings.

Watch the full interview to learn about the chef’s new endeavor and more!

 

Click HERE for more information about how you can #LoveWhatYouDo at ICC as an international student.

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Alumni Spotlight: William Roberts, Class of 2006

William is the Executive Chef at Dio Deka, an elevated Greek Tavern in Los Gatos, CA. Tonight’s special? California Sea Bass with ouzo, tomato, olives and capers.
William is the Executive Chef at Dio Deka, an elevated Greek Tavern in Los Gatos, CA. Tonight’s special? California Sea Bass with ouzo, tomato, olives and capers.

Highlighting our talented alumni from the Professional Culinary Arts program, ICC catches up with chef William Roberts from the class of 2006 to reflect back on 10 years in the culinary industry. As Executive Chef of Dio Deka in Los Gatos, California, Roberts leads the only Greek restaurant in the U.S. to be a Michelin Star Recipient and Michelin Star rated.

After graduating from the French Culinary Institute in New York, Chef William Roberts worked under various Michelin-starred chefs in New York City and Woodside (Queens) before heading west to San Francisco to join Michael Mina’s team in relaunching a flagship restaurant in San Francisco. While at Dio Deka, Roberts shares his passion for fine cuisine with guests and actively shows you can #LoveWhatYouDo throughout your career.

ICC: What made you choose to pursue a career in the culinary industry? 

Roberts: “The culinary industry chose me as much as I chose it. What started off as an interesting job grew into an obsession. I worked in restaurants for 5 years before I attended the FCI (ICC). Once I realized that this could be my career I looked to solidify my skills and resume. What has always drawn me to cooking was the transformation of raw ingredients from the earth into something delicious. The idea of creating pleasure and nourishment for a completed stranger is unique to the hospitality industry.”executive-chef-william-roberts-of-dio-deka-los-gatos-ca

ICC: What was the best advice you’ve ever received while in culinary school?

Roberts: “The best advice I ever received was to have relentless determination. Very few people are naturals at anything, for most of us it takes hard work, repetition, and putting in time. The biggest thing that I notice about the younger generations of cooks is that the majority of them doesn’t want to put the time in required to progress and develop into the next generation of chefs.”

ICC: What was your favorite memory attending ICC’s California campus?

Roberts: The FCI ( ICC) was a great experience for me. The network that they create stays with you for your entire career. The quality of the chef-instructors was very high and for the student with no previous experience it does prepare you for an entry level position in a kitchen.

A lasting memory of my time at the ICC is meeting my wife and building friendships that will last a life time.”

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Alumni Authors: Justin Chapple, PCA ’09

Written by Daisy Martinez

After graduating from ICC, Justin worked under Chef Alain Allegretti at Allegretti in New York City, getting his feet wet in a professional kitchen. Justin joined the Food & Wine magazine team in 2010 as an Assistant Event Coordinator for the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen; he rose up the ranks to Senior Test Kitchen Editor and in-house foodie-geek featuring his video series, “Mad Genius Tips”, which he has organized into an accompanying new book of the same name. When he is not busy testing hundreds of recipes for Food & Wine–the magazine, digital projects and their branded cookbooks–he has tested and developed dishes for other publications and appears regularly on many morning news shows, highlighting recipes and those “oh so kooky” shortcuts and kitchen hacks.

 

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Start Up Business Tips: Facility Design

Provided by the Culinary Entrepreneurship Program Instructors

Bradford Thompson
Founder of Bellyful Consulting Inc
Bellyful Consulting, Inc.
is a full service culinary consulting company behind multiple new restaurants, events, catering jobs, TV and film productions and major consumer brands. Bradford and his team have spearheaded projects including Southern Hospitality, Miss Lily’s Favourite Cakes and Grimaldi’s Coal Burger.

Facility Design Tip: Design with sanitation in mind – studies show more labor hours [which means $$$] are spent cleaning than actually preparing food in virtually every type of food service facility.

 

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Profiles in Pastry: Matt Robicelli

Written by Daisy Martinez

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Allison and Matt Robicelli of Robicelli’s Bakery (picture courtesy of Brooklyn Magazine)

Matt Robicelli was an FDNY Paramedic who suffered a career ending injury at the age of 20, as a first responder to the World Trade Center on 9/11.

After spending a year recovering from his injuries and having reconstructive surgery on his legs, Matt was facing a future without a career. He decided to follow his first love of cooking and enrolled at ICC, where he graduated at the top of his class and became a protege of Master Chef Andres Soltner. Their friendship was fruitful and Matt became the final head boulanger at legendary New York City restaurant Lutece, gaining that title before he had even graduated. Since then, Matt and his wife Allison opened their own bakery, Robecelli’s in Brooklyn, New York to critical acclaim.

This autumn, Matt and Allison (and family) have moved their bakery to Baltimore, Maryland and partnered with Fransmart to make their delicious baked goods available nationwide through franchises! We love a story with a sweet ending!

 

 

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Daisy’s Dish – December 2016

Daisy Martinez, Associate Director of Alumni Affairs and graduate of the Culinary Arts and Intensive Sommelier Training programs, shares a holiday send off to 2016!

When I was a young girl, I didn’t understand why adults would say, “I can’t believe the holidays are here again, already!” To my siblings, cousins, and friends, the holidays took forever to arrive, but now, sadly, I think I understand. Time has shifted into “ludicrous speed” (shameless “Spaceballs” reference), and it hardly seems you have time to get over last year’s tumult, before it’s upon you again. I love the holidays, though, the traditions, the memories I have built for my friends and family, and the food that we make to celebrate in our own personal way. I love the preparation, the anticipation, and most of all the giving. It is the time of year when I feel most blessed, and inspired to new beginnings.

This past year was a challenging one for the ICC family. We closed our beloved restaurant L’Ecole and lost our Founder, leader and greatest inspiration Dorothy Cann15068979_10154319356459440_476310123366870661_o Hamilton, but we withstood these losses, together, as a community. We found strength and solace in each other and even managed a smile and a chuckle–Chef Jurgen David in a hot-dog suit comes to mind!
Our halls have been graced by great personalities from the culinary world; Eric Ripert, Claus Meyer, Massimo Bottura, Julian Medina, Jacques Pepin, Andre Sailhac, Andre Soltner, Jacques Torres, Ron Ben-Israel, Ignacio Mattos and so many more. Our classrooms are driven by extraordinary chef-instructors and our offices led by an amazing team of managers, administrators and facilities staff. Last but not least our students, who have the most humble, inspiring stories from all walks of life. This is the ICC family: a unique quilt woven together, resilient, relying on each other, working together towards the same goal.

This is the time of year when we give thanks for all of our blessings; we wish for peace and take inventory of ourselves. We make resolutions with hope for the future year. We all wish you a joyful holiday season and a happy, healthy New Year filled with laughter, love and promise.daisys-dish

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Somm of the Month: IST Graduate, Alan Lane

Written by Daisy Martinez

Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing IST grad Alan Lane recently about his experience at ICC and his transition from a U.S. Army officer to a Certified Sommelier. His passion is so infectious; I decided to let him enthrall you with the story of his journey in his own words.

Early interest in wine: As an English Literature major at Auburn University in the 1990s choosing wine at the supermarket or even at wine shops was a mystery to me.  Red?  Yes.  White?  Not really.  Rose?  No, thank you.  I wanted to know more, but I didn’t really know where to start.  Those of us in the industry know that this a common predicament for many consumers.  “Windows On The World” was the first book I used to try and educate myself.  It wasn’t until I decided to transfer to the Reserve Component from the Active Duty Component as a U.S. Army Officer effective April 1, 2015 that I thought I would pursue a career in the wine industry following release from Active Duty.

alan-lane-sommThe Transition – In November of 2014 my Commander gave me permission to work part time in a local Colorado Springs wine shop, Coaltrain Wine, Spirits, & Craft Beer. I wanted to know more, to be better, and that’s when I read about the 10 week Intensive Sommelier Program at the International Culinary Center.  My wife, daughter, and I toured the New York campus.  I knew it was meant to be.  Under the direction of Scott Carney, MS and other Master Sommeliers our class worked diligently to master our craft.  We bonded, we got to know each other, debated, tasted, searched together in the city for new wine lists, retail shops, experimented with pairings, blind tastings, industry tastings, the lot!  Our class now stays in contact mostly via social media, and I have visited Napa and Sonoma with friends I met in the class, visit my friends from class in NYC when I’m in town, and this is one of the best parts of the program at the ICC.  The camaraderie of the Sommelier Program is the closest thing I have found to parallel the camaraderie and esprit de corps of the military.  There is a common bond, a common goal, and a common passion found in the both the wine industry and the armed forces.

 

Fruition – I’ve worked in retail, distribution, and hospitality in both New York City and Colorado Springs.  Currently, I work as the Sommelier at 2South Wine Bar in Colorado Springs, CO.  Working as a Sommelier, with the Chef, the owners, my co-workers in front of house and back, helping diners find the right pairing or simply a unique wine to enjoy that they’ve never had, that’s where I find satisfaction.  After deploying to Jalalabad, Afghanistan as an Infantry (Pathfinder) Platoon Leader in 2008-2009 I wondered if I would ever find the kind of kinship, the kind of common bond that I found with the Soldiers with whom I served.  The hospitality industry, the wine, spirits, and beer industry, they have given me the same opportunity to work closely with like-minded, driven women and men who share a passion for providing value added experiences to our clients, consumers, and diners.  Without the Intensive Sommelier Program at the International Culinary Center I don’t know how quickly I would have found my place.  My experience there was unforgettable, and I encourage anyone, especially veterans who are interested in a career in the industry to check out the ICC.  It is one of the best decisions I have ever made.

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Alumni Spotlight: Julian Medina, Class of 1999

Julian Medina, chef-owner of Toloache, Toloache 82, Toloache Thompson, both Yerba Buena and Yerba Buena Perry, Coppelia, and Tacuba Mexican Cantina locations in Astoria and Hell’s Kitchen, has been creating refined Latin cuisine for over twenty years.

Raised in Mexico City, Julian’s inspiration was the authentic home cooking of his father and grandfather. Training professionally in Mexico City, Julian was brought to New York City by Chef Richard Sandoval; later Julian was appointed as Chef de Cuisine of Sandoval’s Maya, which earned two stars from the New York Times under Julian’s leadership. Maintaining his position at Maya, Julian enrolled in the French Culinary Institute, graduating with recognition in 1999. Soon after, Julian became Executive Chef of SushiSamba, a New York City Japanese-South American restaurant, and helped to open SushiSamba 7 and South Beach’s SushiSamba Dromo.

In 2003, Julian was appointed Corporate Chef of Sandoval’s Mexican restaurants. Julian’s direction garnered Sandoval’s Pampono two stars from the New York Times. In 2004, Julian became the Executive Chef of Zocalo located in NYC’s Upper East Side.
chef-julian-medinaIn August 2007, Julian opened the theater-district gem, Toloache Mexican Bistro, the success of this first venture catalyzed the opening of seven more restaurants in nine years. He expanded the Toloache brand to include an ever popular Upper East Side Toloache 82 in 2012 and Toloache Thompson in 2013. Exploring all reaches of pan Latin cuisine, Julian opened the first Yerba Buena bistro in 2008 in the Lower East Side, and Yerba Buena Perry, West Village, in 2009. Both restaurants have been highly recognized. In 2011, Julian presented the concept of a 24/7 Cuban diner to New York City with the whimsical Coppelia, offering both day and late night foodies authentic Latin fare and dessert favorites. Most recently, the chef has returned to his Mexican roots with the ceviche, taco and fruit vessel cockteles boasting cantina, Tacuba, its two locations are Astoria and Hell’s Kitchen.

Chef Julian has been featured in many publications, including the Men’s Journal, The New Yorker and The New York Times. In 2010 Sam Sifton, famed New York Times food critic, gave Toloache one star along with an applauding review. In March 2011 Julian made his debut on Iron Chef America: Mexican Chocolate Battle, other television appearances include the Today Show, CBS “The Dish”, Beat Bobby Flay (guest judge), NY1, and Telemundo. His Mexican Hanukkah and Mexican Passover menus have become a delighted New York tradition and receive continual praise each year. Chef Julian continues to open new restaurants throughout New York City. He resides in Manhattan’s Upper East Side with his wife and daughter.

What ingredient is central to your cooking?
I love to cook with chiles as each kind is unique and their personality can be noted throughout the dish contributing to a beautiful flavor complexity.

How do you describe your food?
I believe my food is bold and full of flavor, one bite and you know all about my cooking. Presentation is also important to me so my dishes tend to be very colorful.

What would you do if you weren’t a chef? 
I would have pursued becoming an architect.

What’s on your cooking bucket list?  
Fugu (Blowfish), exploring flavor potentials of the Chilhuacle chile, publishing my own cookbook.

How do you find calm in your kitchen?
When the stress heats up in the kitchen I turn to finding fun to take the edge off, always by laughing and joking with my fellow chefs.

What cookbook is most important to you?
The Art of Peruvian Cuisine, by Tony Custer and The Lutece Cookbook, by Andre Soltner & Seymour Britchky.

Who inspires you?
Chef Daniel Boulud

What do you like to eat and drink on your night off? 
A Mezcal Negroni, a fusion cocktail with mezcal, vermouth rosso and Campari with orange peel garnish, and a good plate of tacos.

When did you realize that you loved food?
I was 15-years old and still in Mexico, and I cooked my first dish which was tamarind pork. I was hooked.

If you could stage at any restaurant in the world, where would you go and why?
Copenhagen or Spain to showcase Mexican cuisine.

 

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How I Got the Job: Rachel Coe Shares Her Somm Story

After my graduation from the ICC in December 2014, I began looking for jobs in the area as a sommelier. Not sure exactly what I wanted to do with my certification, but having experience in both front and back of house in restaurants, I visited the ICC to get some guidance. Thanks to the career adviser, Nicole Harnett, I was pointed in the direction of Rosewood Sand Hill and Madera restaurant in Menlo Park, a five star resort and fine dining restaurant.  I began in February 2015 as the Lounge Sommelier, the more casual side of the operation. Thrown into the fire of having to learn a 98 page wine list with over 2,300 different labels (that also was a Wine Spectator Best Award of Excellence winner), there was no other option except to pick it up – fast!  With three great mentors working above me (wine director Paul Mekis, and sommeliers John McDaniel and Julie Sundean), I learned my way around the cellar and wine list quickly. At Madera, our wine team is extremely fortunate to be able to taste a great number of wines on our list, sometimes even with the winemakers themselves. These tastings proved invaluable in moving forward with me career.

rachelcoe_hm-450x300Three months into my job at Madera I met chef Genaro Mendez, who was in the process of opening his own restaurant in East San Jose, The Creek Eatery. Wanting to expand my horizons and responsibility with a new restaurant, while still keeping my position at Madera, I agreed to be a consulting sommelier & beverage director.  My responsibility was to create a wine list to complement the menu consisting of wood fired pizza and various globally-influenced dishes. For 14 months I met with various vendors, tasted hundreds of selections, researched and ordered wine in anticipation of our summer 2016 opening. This was my first experience working as a wine buyer, where I was faced with the age old dilemma of selecting wine that the customers would recognize and enjoy, not necessarily my geeky somm selections. In June 2016 The Creek Eatery opened for business, featuring a wine list with over 60 selections from around the world.

In August 2015 I was promoted to a position at the Madera restaurant as one of the three full-time floor sommeliers.  Though my title is Madera sommelier, the Madera restaurant is just one outlet in a hotel that brings in over $4 million of profit from the resort wine program. I not only organize the cellar, staff training and tastings, I also help with wine selections in banquets, the lounge, in room dining and the pool bar & grill. Of course, at 5 PM every day my responsibility shifts to being present on the floor, guiding guests through our extensive wine list to select the perfect wine for their meal.

To learn more about the California Intensive Sommelier Training program, click here.

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Alumni Interview with Sylvia Yoo (Pastry’09)

In 2009, Sylvia Yoo enrolled at The International Culinary Center in New York and eventually worked in some of the city’s most formidable kitchens, including Jean-Georges and WD-50. When she returned to Los Angeles she found work at an interior design firm, and tried balancing four days there and two days on the line. The pressure of maintaining both jobs was fierce and exhausting, and Yoo eventually left the culinary industry, but still needed an outlet for her love of the kitchen.

Drawing on her love of ice cream and pastry that she had developed during her culinary ventures in New York, Sylvia was inspired to put the two together and Churro Borough was born!

– What inspired you to go to ICC?

I had taken a trip to Japan and Korea in 2009 and was mesmerized by all the beautiful food products and pastries they had.
Visually, they were like miniature sculptures with beautiful form, color, textures, but those concepts also translated over once you ate them. I thought, being a pastry cook must be like being an architect, just a different medium. Once I had returned back to New York, I decided to enroll in ICC to further my curiosity.

– Was there a moment in your life–in school or otherwise–where it all clicked and you knew what you wanted to do with your career? Can you describe it?

I was living in New York during the time of the recession and was an interior architect by profession at that time. Finding work was getting really tough and I found myself at a crossroads in my life where I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do and wondered if I was actually ever going to get a job back in design. I decided to take that vacation to Japan and Korea during my down time and it was in Japan that I realized that pastry arts was very similar to architecture and design. Once I returned back to NY, enrolled and began courses at ICC, I fell in love with it! I felt like I was in design school again, working with my mind and my hands again, being conceptual and actually building that concept with my bare hands. But the difference between architecture and food was that everyone and anyone was able to enjoy the food you created and you were able to experience the reactions and emotions of the user. In architecture, you don’t get that same connection…that’s when I knew that I wanted to switch careers and be a pastry chef.

Chef Sylvia Yoo Churro Borough

– What was your graduation dream? How does the business you opened reflect that?

At first I thought I wanted to work the ranks at high concept restaurants that make beautiful dessert creations and one day become their executive Pastry Chef. But after a few years of working at these types of restaurants, I started to realize that only a certain percentage of people who can afford these types of restaurants are the ones that get to see these desserts. I wanted to make desserts for EVERYONE, not just the select few. I already knew that ice cream was not only my favorite dessert to consume, but my favorite dessert to make. It’s the first thing I eat off a plated dessert because it’s the best part! Knowing that, and knowing I wanted my desserts to be more accessible, it just seemed natural that I would open up an ice cream shop.

– Any tidbits of advice for others who are considering this path?

Surround yourself with good people and good business partners (if you can afford it). It’s not just about being the chef and being in the kitchen anymore. There’s so much more to owning a business that I didn’t expect and you just can’t do everything. Currently I’m playing General Manager, Executive Chef, Head Dishwasher, Social Media Intern, Deliveryman, Handyman, mentor, mediator, etc…it can get exhausting and overwhelming, but if you can afford to have someone that can take some of the burden off your shoulders, it won’t be as stressful.

– Where do you see your dreams taking you 5 years from now?

I would like to expand the Churro Borough concept to other cities and states – New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco. But for now, just getting a couple more locations opened in Los Angeles would be just as dream-fulfilling!