“Coming home with a batch of croissants, or a blown-sugar pear, or some beautiful molded bonbons never got old. I never knew I’d be able to do all that stuff, and here I was, doing it!”

Jen King
Current City: New York, NY
Course of study: Classic Pastry Arts
Graduation year: 2008

One food/beverage you can’t live without? The unhealthy me really loves dill pickle potato chips, but if I really had to choose, I couldn’t live without breads, grains, and pasta. And I really enjoy drinking cider.

Describe your culinary POV in three words:
giving, inquisitive, challenging

Best meal of all time?
I was in Massachusetts with my family, and we went to a lobster shack. We went in and ordered steamers, mussels, and fresh steamed lobster. The sun was going down, and you could see and smell the ocean. We weren’t in a fancy restaurant, we ate off plastic trays, but the food was amazing and memorable. It really is about the people you are with and the feeling of eating great and simple food.

What would your last meal consist of?
I would start with blini and caviar, then move over to a steamed lobster, a piece of roast chicken with sautéed kale, and then eat an enormous bowl of kimchi stew my mom makes. For dessert, a simple apple tart with a little crème frâiche. I could eat a lot if I knew it was my last meal.

Liz Gutman
Hometown: Costa Mesa, California
Current city: New York
Course of study: Classic Pastry Arts
Graduation year: 2008

One food/beverage you can’t live without?
Cheese! It’s not like I eat it at every meal or anything, but I’d miss the hell out of it if I couldn’t have it. Also, beer.

Describe your culinary POV in three words:
curious, joyful, appreciative

Best meal of all time?
The one I recall with the most fondness is a dinner we had with extended family in France; it was just a lot of wonderful, simple, delicious food, enjoyed outdoors over a couple of hours, ending with a plum tart that blew me away. I didn’t know such a simple thing could taste so good; it was pretty much a butter crust, plums, and a little sugar; topped with a dollop of crème frâiche. It’s still one of the best desserts I’ve ever eaten, and impossible to replicate without really superb ingredients and a lot of love.

What would your last meal consist of?
A Manhattan, soup dumplings, spicy pickled okra, a lobster roll, an awesome cheese platter, the olive oil gelato from The Bent Spoon. But ask me tomorrow and it’ll probably be something different.

Current positions: co-owners, Liddabit Sweets

When did you first know you wanted to be a chef?
Liz Gutman: I first knew I loved it when I kept coming back to the kitchen, even after months of long hours, no sleep, and several emotional meltdowns. I felt I owed it to myself to keep my head down and keep working. I love learning new things, and this was like a mother lode of stuff I had no clue about.

What was your level of culinary knowledge specific to what you chose to study before you started at the International Culinary Center?
LG: I’d made some candy before, and baked a lot; I knew a little about chocolate. I didn’t know too much about the science behind it all, though.

Jen King: I had a huge cookbook collection; I read all the magazines; I cooked a lot. At work, I was the one always baking and bringing stuff in.

What were you doing before you came to the International Culinary Center? If this was a career change, why did you decide to change your career?
LG: I actually came to New York for acting school. I finally figured out that the life of an actor was too damn hard for me, so I got a really miserable office job and tried to figure out my next move. At the time, I was in a relationship with a serious foodie, and he got me cooking again. I honestly doubt I would have ended up at the International Culinary Center if it weren’t for that.

JK: I was still living in Michigan, working for the Michigan Democratic Party. I really loved cooking and always thought about it as a career. I guess I was having a really bad day at work, like, Is this what I want to do with my life? I started looking at culinary schools and found the International Culinary Center.

What was your deciding factor for attending the International Culinary Centerover other schools?
LG: I chose the International Culinary Center because the facilities are amazing, and the pastry program seemed the most comprehensive to me. I also liked that there was encouragement to get an internship, but it wasn’t a requirement.
JK: There were a couple of factors. I really didn’t want to go to school for a year or two, so I liked the fact that I could take as little as six months (I took the evening program, which was nine months). The International Culinary Center also has a wide range of contacts. The fact that they could help me get into a lot of places and help me obtain an internship was huge.

Please describe a typical day in the classroom at the International Culinary Center. What was the atmosphere like? What was the pace like?
LG: I did the night class; I was working a temp job during the day and going to class three nights a week. It was definitely fast-paced. Most of us were working day jobs full-time, so we were all pretty dedicated, and I think that made for the friendly-but-hardworking vibe our class had. We did a lot of goofing around, but we were able to put our heads down and just plow on through when we needed to.

How was it working in a professional kitchen compared to your home kitchen?
JK: It’s really different—baking a dozen cupcakes versus baking 10 dozen cupcakes at a time. You have to be very organized; you have to be able to multitask and think ahead, because you’re doing three things at once, while also thinking about the next three things you have to do.

What was the most rewarding part of your International Culinary Center education?
LG: Finding out all the things I was capable of. Coming home with a batch of croissants, or a blown-sugar pear, or some beautiful molded bonbons never got old. I never knew I’d be able to do all that stuff, and here I was, doing it!

What was the most valuable lesson you learned while attending the International Culinary Center?
LG: Screw up? Fix it. Mistake? Find a way to make it happen. You have to be creative at solving problems, and quickly, because when your showpiece backdrop shatters 45 minutes before it’s due to be judged (as mine did), you have to figure out something. There’s just no option to stop and freak out.

What advice would you give to students who are interested in opening their own business?
JK: The best advice I can say is you have to be really determined; you have to be prepared for how hard it is. I would definitely do research; check out who is doing something similar to yourself. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and you have to be prepared to ride a roller coaster of emotions.

Do you actively pursue hiring International Culinary Center grads?
LG: Yes. Three of the five interns we’ve had, we found through the International Culinary Center, one of whom ended up being our first employee! Because we’ve been through the program, we have a really good idea of what grads know and what we might need to teach them.


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