Led by Chef Jansen Chan, the Professional Pastry Arts chef-instructors and students at International Culinary Center became kitchen elves this past week, building this year’s gingerbread showpiece.
From the brioche apartment buildings to the doughnut lighthouse to the cracked egg waterfall forming the town river, Pastry-Ville is a sweet lovers’ paradise. The Garden District’s asparagus houses and carrot row houses are made of fondant, while the upside down ice-cream cones turn waffle cones into cozy homes.
With its charming candy cane bridge, jellybean pathways and classic gingerbread house, transporting the 4-foot structure was the morning’s entertainment for passersby in Soho, as chefs and students navigated the long block at a snail’s pace. Says Chef Chan, “Taking a large, complex and detailed sugar showpiece through the streets of Soho on a cart to Bloomingdale’s was risky and a little insane.”
Egg Water Tower: it is cracked and is the source for the river and lake (Pastillage)
Egg River, Waterfall & Lake (Sugar)
Birthday Cake Bakery Store (Fondant)
Candy Cane Bridge (Candy Canes)
Eggplant Diner (Fondant)
Asparagus Trees (Fondant)
Carrot Row Houses (Fondant)
Cupcake Cottages (White Cake & Frosting)
Cheese Wedge Office Building (Fondant)
Upside-down Ice Cream Cone Homes (Fondant & Sugar Waffle Cones)
Brioche Apartments (Brioche)
Doughnut Lighthouse (Pastillage)
“Ginger” Statue (Pastillage & Gingerbread)
Classic Gingerbread house (Gingerbread & Pasta)
Christmas Tree (Gingerbread & Pasta)
Palmier Fence (Palmier)
Marshmallow Wall (Marshmallow)
Ice Sugar Wall (Sugar)
Trees (Gingerbread & Pasta)
Snowflake Gingerbread (Gingerbread)
Intrigued by a career in Pastry Arts? While gingerbread sculptures is not part of the award-winning school’s Professional Pastry Arts program, the techniques and ingredients used are. To find out more, attend an Open House or arrange a personal tour.
By Lauren Fuschillo, ICC Italian Culinary Arts student.
(Read Part 4 here)
Last week I had the utmost pleasure of visiting the EXPO in Milan. Can you believe it? The one time I just so happen to be living in Milan, they’re having the World’s Fair? I may have lost love in NYC, hurt my leg in Indonesia and had my belongings stolen from me in Apulia, but damn, I’ve still got good luck!
EXPO 2015 is the current Universal Exposition, and as I mentioned, is being hosted by Milan, Italy. The opening took place on May 1st, 2015 at 10:00 am and the expo will close on October 31st, 2015. Fun fact – this is the second time Milan has hosted the exposition, the first being the Milan International in 1906.
This time around there are 145 countries participating and the theme is “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life”. It is a grand celebration of slow food, local agriculture and healthy eating sustained by energy saving methods.
Some say that Expo 2015 has been one of the most controversial World’s fairs ever staged in Europe for a number of reasons, some being the ballooned expenditures for the pavilions and transportation. However, I am a tourist; a proud traveling American and I’m here to see the pavilions for fun. I find this to be a fabulous way Italy is using eco-tourism to improve their struggling economy, provide jobs and use this event to their advantage.
In the morning all of the students meet and hop into the van. I’ve got a comfy seat to myself and pastry in hand, thanks to my bud Mikey (you probably see him on my Instagram on the reg, he’s one of my best friends and pretty soon going to be one of the most amazing chefs around!) We chat, we nap, we jam out and we get ourselves psyched to see one of our favorite teachers, Michele Crippa, and visit the Expo!
We arrive and set our sights on the first pavilion, Japan. It is one of the most talked about pavilions, as it is so grand and absolutely beautiful. The interior took us on a food tour that started in a techy rice paddy and demonstrated how rice is grown. Then we saw what different ingredients are used for and in what dishes they are used, the production, the recipes things are found in and then what the finished product looks like. Okay, they did NOT stop there. Japan went above and beyond and demonstrated what a future restaurant in their country will be like. It was surreal and a part of me doesn’t want to give too much away because it was just that amazing. (yes, you’ve gotta go see it!) But what the heck, peep some photos below. You’re welcome!
We visited Japan as a class and afterwards we split up to see a few things on our own before meeting home, well, I like to think of it as home. After all, it is the American Pavilion.
My first stop: Indonesia! I had the most incredible of experiences in Indonesia. I could smell the different spices of Bali, the incredible scents coming from the burning incense and I got to enjoy some Indonesian street food, Nasi Goreng. Mmm, I was a very happy camper!
Next stop: America! As soon as I walked up the stairs of the American Pavilion I was personally greeted by a lovely woman. I put out my hand to shake hers and she went in for a hug. She was kind and very welcoming. Her name is Dorothy Cann Hamilton. Dorothy, a true “foodie”, was ready to show us what she and her team had created and more importantly, what the U.S. brought to the world with regard to the future of food. She led us to a balcony off to the side of the pavilion and then I looked up in amazement. It was what Dorothy described as a vertical farm. Above us were giant oscillating boards several stories tall that house soil for plants to grow and there were actual plants in those huge planters: everything from kale and chard to all sorts of herbs. It was quite impressive. It only got more interesting as Dorothy explained how this could become the future. These sections could be removed from the partition and be placed on a truck with plants intact and still planted in the soil, so they are fresher longer during transportation.
Then we made our way to these informative video displays which demonstrated the different aspects of food, like farming industry and nutrition, which delivered an impactful message of the current status and a look towards the future. Afterwards we where whisked downstairs to the main event, which were a clever series of seven short video clips that describe the American food culture’s past, present and future.
Once that was over, we took a short climb up the escalators to the rooftop deck and enjoyed a toast and got to chat with Dorothy, who shared some of her wisdom with the group. Not because I am American or a student of ICC, but I truly believe that the U.S. Pavilion was the best thought out and executed, it maintained the main focus on the Expo theme while at the same time having fun. What a wonderful pavilion and what an honor it was to have Dorothy as our guide!
Directly following our visit, I grabbed a lobster roll and some pulled pork with Marianne, Sara, Andrea and Michael (a few of my ICC besties) and we talked about some of the pavilions we were looking forward to seeing. With all of this excitement building up, I couldn’t help but jump from my seat and go on to the next “country”! I would then visit 10 more pavilions!
I had a map that I used as my guide. I circled all the pavilions I wanted to see and crossed each one as I visited them. I was a girl on a mission.
Kuwait was enchanting. The sand drew me in and I was greeted with the beautiful perfumes, spices and traditional garb. Absolutely beautiful and I must say they spent quite the pretty penny on this pavilion because much like Japan, it was extravagant.
Moving on, I didn’t waste time. We were told that the United Arab Emirates was a must see, and I am usually never the one to follow directions, but this was a directive I knew mustn’t be ignored. I walked around this great giant and stood in the makeshift sand dunes and waited in line for 30 minutes. I felt like I was in the actual desert and feared my sweat would soon be staining my clothes. Sexy, right? After the introduction to UAE I walked into the theatre and sat through what seemed like a full blown production. The film told a beautiful story about a young girl in search of water in the desert and then fast forwarding to the future and proving how much we waste water nowadays. Now I felt bad about complaining that my wait felt like a wait in the desert. Awesome A++ pavilion!
Then I dropped by Belgium, The Netherlands and Thailand. Thailand was breathtaking and full of life. It brought back so many memories for me, especially having green curry chicken and mango with sticky rice! I saw Hungary and watched a musical performance that touched my heart but as the day went on, so did my yearn to snack and I popped over to China for some goodies. On my way out I ran into my friends Mikey and Ian, and we decided to visit Argentina. We went in without any idea of what it would be like and what might unfold before our eyes..or ears. The drums were going and then the beats started flowing.
There was lots of clapping and a big crowd that kept inching closer and closer to a stage. Yes! The colors were vibrant, the beats-exciting and the dance moves were electrifying and hot, probably as hot as the desert-like-weather that day. They banged on pots and pans; the men spun the women around before dipping them and then pulling them in all close and sexy. There was music coming from bright yellow painted garbage cans and cool blue barrels. These people were playing and dancing their hearts away and I knew I wasn’t the only one in the crowd that wanted to jump on that stage and join them. Downright fantastic pavilion. Mikey, Ian and I definitely won’t be forgetting that any time soon. Thanks Argentina!
A little stop to check out India’s digs, to buy some new incense and get a henna tattoo. Eeek, that tattoo wasn’t drying fast enough and I had to book it to meet my pal (and ICC student), Benito, for some tacos and margs’ at Mexico’s pavilion before we got back to the bus. All of our friends had visited Mexico that day and were ranting and raving about not only the food, but about how cool it was.
But it was all ‘cool’: grand, majestic, amazing, wondrous, eye opening, and much, much more. What an experience! Thank you, International Culinary Center and ALMA, for sending us to EXPO Milan 2015!
Imagine this: A room filled with 11 different types of cookies, a panel of feisty celebrity judges, and a band of students hoping for gold. Cue: The International Culinary Center’s first annual Cookie Olympics. And things got a little kookie at this cookie competition. Let me explain.
The national anthem was supposed to kick off the events, but a mishap in sound department resulted in “O Canada!” blasting from the speakers. No one seemed to notice until a young kid behind me asked the very astute question: Why is Canada’s anthem playing?
Alan Richman, the sometimes salty critic and one of the guest judges, teased, “Can we grade the sound?”
The event was then proceeded with the lighting of the torch—or the blowtorch in this culinary sporting—err…eating—event. The torch carrier made a loop around the darkened room, and came full circle to emblaze three Sterno burners (the ones used for chafing dishes at catered functions). Let the games begin.
The judges were poised to judge each of the 11 cookies (each from a different country) on flavor, texture, difficulty of technique, presentation and ease of eating. The first-prize winner would be treated to a free dinner at the school’s restaurant, L’Ecole, and have their recipe and cookie featured on the restaurant’s menu.
Contestants and Judges
When the singing and pyrotechnics were finished, the eating began. Tasked to test their taste buds was the row of famed judges:
The judges ate cookies from Canada, China, Bangladesh, Japan, Mexico, Ukraine, Russia, India, America, Jamaica, and France. Milk and champagne fueled them through this massive sugar rush.
“Punch up the flavors,” and “Add a little more salt,” were Chef Baldwin’s repeat comments every time she tasted a cookie.
The judges loved the savory cookie entries like India’s Chana Masala shortbread, which was made with chickpea flour and topped with a ginger and sundried tomato jam. It made me wince, but the judges loved the spicy topping.
One of the crowd favorites was America’s Fred Flintstone cookie, which was a glorified chocolate chip cookie with a Cocoa Pebbles brittle baked in. Chef Iuzzini noted that if the student coated the cereal with a caramel, and let it dry before mixing it into the cookie batter, the brittle would’ve maintained its crunch rather than becoming soggy and chewy. (I still would’ve eaten a dozen of these in one sitting.)
Bojena Lotina cutting her Dulcetto Baz cookies
The ultimate winner was Russia’s Dulcetto Baz cookie, which was kind of an enigma if you didn’t have a recipe in front of you. Bojena Lotina, an International Culinary Center culinary student, took home both the gold and the “Fan Favorite” award.
“It makes no sense to me, but I love it,” was Richman’s first reaction to this dense dulce de leche cookie, which was studded with shortbread bits.
The second and third prize winners were the Indian Chana Masala cookie and the Jamaican spice cookie, respectively.
The event had a palatable amount of kitsch, and the students were genuinely excited to bake their original cookie recipes to a crew of talented bakers. It was safe to say that everyone left the event with a sugar high and a few good tips for perfecting a great cookie:
Using nuts? Toast them to extract more flavor. –Johnny Iuzzini
Add salt to make the flavors pop. – Kierin Balwin
Need more structure in a cookie? Add more flour. –Johnny Iuzzini
Your cookie name should match the cookie’s flavors. Making a cherry and green tea cookie? Both elements should be prominent in the cookie. –Dan Kluger