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Alumni Profile: Bernice Cheng [2014 Sommelier Graduate]

Learn about 2014 Intensive Sommelier Training graduate Bernice Cheng below as she discusses life after Somm School with ICC. Bernice shares her journey from working as a corporate finance lawyer before switching careers to pursue life as a professional sommelier. Following her ICC California graduation, Bernice founded xBorder Wines where she is now based predominantly in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong.

The more I study, the less I know. It’s a never ending journey which fascinates me and I know will continue to be a passion that lasts a lifetime.” -Bernice Cheng


bernice2What is xBorder Wines and, as founder, what does your job entail? 

xBorder Wines by its name “Cross Border” captured in the “x” in xBorder is a way to leverage my prior legal and business experiences doing cross-border mergers as well as acquisitions transactions in private practices (and corporations) into the food and wine world. The business operates primarily in Beijing (where I am based), Shanghai and Hong Kong where there is an abundance of wine lovers, wine students and wine companies of all sizes (local and international) who are thirsty to create ideas and deliver cool innovative products and services to the Greater China market.

I do a fair amount of wine events – ranging from working with chefs to showcase wine pairings with regional Chinese and Japanese cuisine; to coordinating trunk shows with wacky themes for designers in HK breaking into the mainland Chinese market; to hosting wine events for law firms at the partner level on fine and rare wines to more introductory wine tastings for associates.  Given my legal background, I also advice some small wine companies on how to break into the Chinese market, and also local individuals/wine companies which are interested in buying chateaus and wineries abroad.


Please tell us about what it took to create xBorder Wines. What was your vision/goal as an entrepreneur? Do you have a website?

I am currently working with web designers to create a new website for xBorder Wines to showcase all that I do. My previous website xBorderfoods was more focused on food than wine and it was more of a blog to be honest. xBorder Wines had been an evolution, I started blogging about my travels then writing about my experiences in cookery schools and the sommelier courses when I first left the corporate world and still finding my path. Through the site, I received so much encouragement along the way which was enlightening and encouraging. As I gained more wine qualifications and did more wine tastings, the word got around and I slowly evolved my business model. I guess the combo of a lawyer who turned into a wine professional was a bit of a novelty so it helped in promoting my services.


What inspired you to enroll in the ICC?

I had always been interested in food. Initially, I thought this certification (Intensive Sommelier Training) would be a good way to round off my experience so that I could offer a more complete service in pairing wines with food. It was only after I enrolled in the course that I realized wine was my destiny! I felt wine studies encapsulated all of my greatest loves; it is also a discipline which continues to change and challenge the equilibrium.


How have the skills you learned at the ICC helped your career?

The Somm diploma I gained at the ICC was integral in helping me get my Intro and Certified Somm qualification with the Court of Master Sommeliers. Getting the Sommelier job title was the first step for me in my wine journey and  it allowed me to meet the entry requirement to attend trade events. My education was key for me to build my contacts and network in the wine world.


What were your greatest challenges at school and how were you able to overcome them?

The biggest challenge was accepting the fact that everyone in the classroom had tasted more wines than I had, and having the courage to say what I believe—I feared my wine experience was shallow compared to everyone else. Over time, I learned to trust that practice tastings and hard work would somehow pay off. I believe in the process!


What advice would you give to an individual who’s possibly looking to pursue an education in wine studies? 

Life is too short, you only live once. You don’t know what you don’t know unless you’ve tried. Even if you don’t make a career out of it, this is a very pleasurable and sociable life skill to have under your belt.


What is the best industry related advice that has been passed along to you? 

This is the best exam advice I had received – You are your own worst enemy, just trust in the process… it will come to you if you give yourself a chance.


For more information on xBorder Wines and Bernice Cheng, visit www.xborderwines.com

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PASTRY CHEF JASON LICKER REVEALS ‘LICKERLAND’ COOKBOOK + LAUNCH EVENT

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French Culinary Institute  graduate and professional Pastry Chef, Jason Licker has announced the US release of his first-ever cookbook. Celebrating 56 Asian-accented desserts, each recipe is the embodiment of Jason’s journey throughout some of Asia’s most captivating culinary capitals. Lickerland collects Pastry Chef Licker’s most cherished recipes from his magical career, seamlessly balancing Asian ingredients with classic French pastry techniques and presented beautifully with images by award-winning photographer, Jason Michael Lang.

After spending the last 12 years traveling and cooking throughout Asia, Jason is heading back stateside to make the International Culinary Center the first stop on his American Lickerland tour. Currently available throughout Asia and Europe via www.JasonLicker.com, Jason will be commemorating the United States release at his alma mater, the International Culinary Center on Thursday, February 23, 2017 from 3:30pm-5pm ET.

You need to experience the bitter to realize how sweet things can be. This statement isn’t just about understanding your palate; it’s also about perseverance when faced with uncertainty. I never planned on becoming a chef. In fact, I had no idea what I was going to do. I may have always had a love affair with food, but it took a tragedy for me to realize it was actually my true calling. This book is about the memories I cherish that shaped who I am today. It’s about discovering flavors of the world in a journey that changed my life. I hope, in some small measure, it can help change yours. At the very least, you should be well-fed along the way.” Jason Licker, Pastry Chef

Limited signed copies will be available February 11th on www.JasonLicker.com or purchase on www.Amazon.com after February 23rd. A limited amount of signed copies will also be available at the event for purchase.

About the International Culinary Center®:

Founded by the late Dorothy Cann Hamilton as The French Culinary Institute in 1984, the International Culinary Center (ICC) is a global expert in professional culinary and wine education, with programs in New York, California and Italy, and graduates from more than 85 countries. The renowned six-month Total Immersion program has produced such talents as Bobby Flay, David Chang, Dan Barber, Christina Tosi and 15,000 more under the guidance of deans including Jacques Pepin and Jacques Torres. Awarded the coveted “School of Excellence” by accrediting commission ACCSC for its career education, ICC provides students with the credentials, confidence and connections to chart a successful career anywhere in the world.

About Jason Licker:

Before taking his passion for pastry into a global experience, Jason Licker received his diploma in Professional Pastry Arts through the French Culinary Institute (now the International Culinary Center®) in 1999. While in culinary school, Jason earned his first internship at Union Square Café in New York City and following graduation, earned a pastry cook position at the world renowned Jean-Georges Restaurant. Moving on to his first Pastry Chef position at Metrazur for Charlie Palmer at the age of 23, Jason elevated his craft yet again with a promotion to Executive Pastry Chef for The Shore Club in Miami Beach. Overseeing all food and beverage outlets including Nobu Miami Beach, Jason fueled his new found affinity for Asian cuisine. Holding positions as Executive Pastry Chef at the Peninsula New York, The Westin Bund in Shanghai, The Venetian Macau Hotel and Resort among others, the winner of Iron Chef Thailand (Dessert) is now making his way back stateside for the release of his inaugural pastry cookbook, Lickerland.

To RSVP for the event, email MTarigan@CulinaryCenter.com with subject Lickerland.

For all press inquiries, please email ASamartano@CulinaryCenter.com

 

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Alumni Spotlight: Melissa Carroll, Pastry Arts Class of 2012 [California]

In a new alumni spotlight feature, Professional Pastry Arts graduate Melissa Carroll talks to ICC on life after graduating from ICC California’s Professional Pastry Arts program in 2012. Following her California graduation, Melissa traveled the globe before landing in the pastry kitchen of the South Congress Hotel in Austin, Texas.

To me, ‘Love What You Do’ is an incredibly important phrase that everyone should tell themselves. If you’re not enjoying your career, you’re not enjoying your life. We all have to work to provide a life for ourselves. What’s the point in working a job your hate when you could be doing something you love? ”

– Melissa Carroll


ICC: Tell us a little bit about your day-to-day responsibilities working for the South Congress Hotel in Austin, Texas. 

Melissa: I am a pastry kitchen supervisor at the South Congress Hotel in Austin, Texas. My job entails everything I used to do as a pastry cook plus helping with ordering, inventory, and writing prep sheets for our pastry team of about 12 people. Because I work night shifts, I’m responsible for both plating desserts on the line and pastry production. Within the hotel, there are two restaurants, one event space, one ice cream truck, and one bakeshop/coffee shop that we produce for. 


ICC: How did you first get involved with the hotel? melissa-carroll-7

Melissa: Before moving to Austin about a year and a half ago, I applied for the job from Illinois and later had a phone interview with my Chef, Amanda Rockman. Once I arrived, we met for a formal interview and I was offered the position as a pastry cook.  


ICC: What inspired you to enroll in culinary school? Were there certain steps/ thoughts that lead you to the decision?

Melissa: I’ve loved cooking since I was about 12 years old. I always found myself watching cooking shows and enjoyed making dinner for my family every night. Going to culinary school was always something I knew I’d enjoy.


ICC: How and when did you know you wanted to work in the food industry? What about it was appealing to you?

Melissa: In high school, I had dreams of opening my own cafe one day. One of my favorite parts of cooking is being able to cook for other people. Seeing the look on someone’s face when they’re enjoying your food is very rewarding. After high school, I attended art school for a semester. I then took the following semester off to save up for culinary school. I later went back to art school while working in kitchens to finish up my Associates in Fine Arts.


ICC: What were your greatest challenges at school? And how were you able to overcome them?

Melissa: Some of my greatest challenges in culinary school were remembering all of the different types of creams and exact temperatures to cook certain things to. It’s something I still struggle remembering but flash cards were definitely my friends when test time came around.


ICC: If someone were hesitant about pursuing a culinary education, what you say to encourage them?

Melissa: If someone is interested in pursuing an education in the culinary industry I would suggest them to stàge at a restaurant they admire first. Restaurant life isn’t for everyone, but if it’s something that they feel they’d enjoy after stàging for a day or two, I’d say it’s worth it. Being able to cook for people and using your creativity with food as your medium is very fulfilling.


ICC: What is your fondest memory of culinary school? 

One of my favorite assignments at the ICC was coming up with my own seasonal dessert menu for a fictional restaurant concept. My chef instructors then picked two items from the menu and we had to present them. They chose the Gooey Butter Cake with a cranberry orange compote and cinnamon chantilly and a deconstructed “Fig Newton” with fig thyme jam, spiced shortbread, goat cheese anglaise, port wine reduction, and a candied thyme sprig. My favorite event that I was able to attend thanks to the ICC was a dessert tasting and tour at Farallon with Chef Emily Luchetti.

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Alumni Spotlight: Avery Ruzicka, Bread Baking Class of 2011

Throughout Avery Ruzicka’s youth, cooking always played a big role. Her professional interest in food emerged from the extensive time she spent abroad during and after high school, leading to her  first restaurant job in college.

Every night we sat down to a home cooked meal and the entire family took part in preparation,” says Ruzicka, a Greensboro, North Carolina native.

Encouraged by her parents to explore and experience other cultures, Ruzicka moved to Spain as a high school sophomore and also spent a year in England before heading to college. Ruzicka attended the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, where she studied political science, international studies, and creative writing. A study abroad trip to France later exposed her to a new world of award-winning cuisine and led her to explore food writing.

I thought if I wanted to get into food writing, I had better learn the ins and outs of a kitchen, so I worked at restaurants while finishing my degree. I loved the intensity, creativity, and collaboration that came from working in a kitchen and decided to focus on food over writing,” says Ruzicka.

Soon after, she enrolled at the French Culinary Institute (now ICC) where she earned The Art of International Bread Baking diploma in six months.


ICC: In what capacity do you work for Manresa Bread? What does your job entail, both in a broad sense as well as day-to-day?

Ruzicka: The exciting part about Manresa Bread is that my day-to-day responsibilities are ever-evolving. If I look at my role every six months, some part of that has changed in an exciting and positive way. It’s always been my goal to keep learning in the culinary world and the added joy of starting my own business has allowed me to do that every day. If you work in food, you get to do a lot of things. If you are really engaged in it, you can learn a new technique or process all the time. I’m no longer just a baker; I’m a business owner on top of that. It really opens up a number of other doors to continue to learn and challenge myself. There are days where I’m in the bakery wearing an apron and getting my hands dirty and other days where I’m at my desk or hitting up our retail locations in Los Gatos and Los Altos.


ICC: Did your ICC education help you land this job? Do you use the skills you learned at the ICC at work?

Ruzicka: The Art of International Bread Baking program at ICC’s New York Campus definitely gave me a good foundation that I was able to build on with time and practice. I left ICC with a core understanding of how bread works. That’s what I look to Manresa restaurant with me and that’s the foundation for Manresa Bread.


avery-2ICC:  What inspired you to enroll in culinary school? Were there certain steps/ thoughts that lead you to the decision?

Ruzicka: I was interested in getting into food writing and so I thought I should get into a kitchen. I loved it so much and immediately decided to pursue cooking, knowing that I could go back to writing if I wanted to.


ICC:  What were your greatest challenges at school? And how were you able to overcome them?

Ruzicka: There were so many opportunities available to us that it was hard to participate in everything between course work, a full-time stage, and the extra programming offered by ICC. Getting to know the instructors and looking to them for guidance and feedback really helped determine where I wanted to focus my time and energy.


ICC: If someone was hesitant to pursue a culinary education, what you say to encourage them?

Ruzicka: Spend time to self-reflect on pursing a culinary career. It is a quickly changing career choice. From an income point of view, the rewards are not going to be astronomical but it is incredibly gratifying if it is something you are passionate about. The culinary field is a creative and exciting career choice. It will ask a lot of you and you really need to love it. There are so many options within the culinary field that keeping an open mind and committing to trying different roles from line cook to something in research and development can be beneficial to finding the niche that’s right for you. Be imaginative – if you can dream about a role in the culinary world, you can create it.


ICC:  What is your fondest memory of your time at the ICC?

Ruzicka: The joy of learning how to make bread was pretty magical for me. Going in every morning and baking off loaves was always so exciting to me. I have a lot of memories of waking up early to bake – even the smell of the baking bread in the kitchen. That has stayed with me for years!


ICC: What is the best industry related advice you’ve ever received? 

Ruzicka: Be actively engaged and present in your work every day and hold yourself to the highest standard, regardless of any standard someone else is putting in front of you.


For more information on Manresa Bread, please visit: http://www.manresabread.com/ 

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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