Alumni Spotlight: Jae Lee, 2016 California Culinary Arts Graduate

After immigrating to America, Jae Lee owned and ran a successful Japanese restaurant. Over time though, he realized the need for a solid culinary education to build on and solidify his knowledge. Read the story of how Jae Lee went from 2016 California Culinary Arts graduate to Sushi Chef and General Manager of Kenji Sushi in San Jose, California.


There are times when you’re so tired from work, but still can’t hate it because you love what you do.” – Jae Lee


ICC: What were the steps and thoughts that lead you to the decision to attend the ICC?

Jae: I was born and raised in Korea, and during my childhood days, I remember always making my own snacks after school. Even with the instant cup noodles, I tried something different by adding seafood and some spices to make a fancy noodle soup and I did this pretty much throughout my childhood days. After I graduated high school, I wanted to go to culinary school in the U.S. but I first had to take ESL classes and learn English. During those days, I worked part-time jobs in the food industry. After I got married, I thought skipping culinary school and owning my own business would be a good idea so I started my own Japanese restaurant. I owned this restaurant for seven years and although is was successful, I wished I knew more than just Japanese or Korean food. I wanted to broaden my knowledge in professional culinary techniques. I had regrets on not going to culinary school, so I sold my business and found ICC.


ICC: Today, you have taken on responsibility in your family’s business—How you get involved with Kenji and what are some of your day-to-day tasks?

Jae: Working as a Sushi Chef and also in general management, I start my mornings off by making sure all staff members are prepared for the day. I check the receipt and quality of all deliveries for the day’s ingredients and I ensure the cleanliness of the restaurant. The task that gives me the most joy is creating a meal with raw fish behind the sushi bar while a customer is in front me watching how I make things. I love seeing the smiling faces of customers and hearing them tell me that they love what I made them.

I work at Kenji because my family owns the restaurant but, my main motivation is the style and the concept that this restaurant pursues. It blends in with my previous Japanese restaurant business and the new things I learned at ICC.


ICC: What advice would you give to someone considering enrolling in culinary school?

You should not hesitate to pursue a culinary education if you love sharing with people the food you’ve made. You learn so much in school! Even after owning my own restaurant business for 7 years, there’s still so much I learned. Coming to ICC was definitely one of the best decision I made throughout my career.


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

Jae: My greatest challenge at school was attending evening classes while working full time but my passion for learning new things kept me going.


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

Jae: The best advice I’ve ever received was when one of my professors who said that most important thing about business is the ‘concept of the restaurant’. Because my career goal is to have my own restaurant again, I find this very practical advice.


ICC: Tell us about your current role at Kenji Sushi in San Jose?

Jae: I work as a Sushi Chef at Kenji and also do general management. I start my morning off by making sure all staff is covered, checking all deliveries for today’s ingredients and cleanliness of the restaurant. Creating a meal with raw fish behind the sushi bar, while a customer is in front of you watching how you make things; this is one of my joy of my job. Seeing the smiling faces of customers telling me they love what I made them.


Connect with Jae Lee on Instagram via  @jay_lee_man and @kenji_sushi.

ICC Announces Outstanding Alumni for 2017 Commencement Ceremony

The International Culinary Center® will celebrate the annual commencement ceremony for students who have completed programs between May 2016 and April 2017. The ceremony, held at the iconic Carnegie Hall in New York City, will feature keynote speaker and Dean of Special Programs, Jacques Pépin. Each year during the ceremony, ICC honors one alumnus from each field of study in a series of Outstanding Alumni Awards. This year, ICC dedicates the Excellence in Culinary Arts award to Chef Julian Medina, Chef / Owner of Toloache, Tacuba, Coppelia, Yerba Buena, and La Chula. Excellence in Pastry Arts will be awarded to Susanna Yoon, Founder and Head Chocolatier of Stick With Me Sweets. Culinary Arts and International Bread Baking graduate and Head Baker of MeyersUSA, Rhonda Crosson, will receive the Excellence in Bread award. The Excellence in Entrepreneurship award will be presented to Hugh Mangum, Chef/Owner of Mighty Quinn’s and a graduate of ICC’s Classic Culinary Arts program. Lastly, the Outstanding Sommelier recipient and alumnus will be Jhonel Faelnar, AS, the Sommelier at The NoMad.

The commencement will be held on Sunday, April 23rd. For media inquiries, please email Angela at asamartano@culinarycenter.com


I’m honored to provide this extraordinary group of individuals with the distinction of Outstanding Alumni during the 2017 Commencement Ceremony at Carnegie Hall. It’s extremely inspiring to watch former ICC students, and even my own classmates, go on to thrive in the hospitality industry. We acknowledge Julian Medina, Susanna Yoon, Hugh Mangum, Rhonda Crosson and Jhonel Faelnar for excellence in their respective fields and hope their stories inspire our new graduates to love what they do in any career path they follow.” – Erik Murnighan, President of the International Culinary Center.


Read about the recipients of ICC’s 2017 Outstanding Alumni awards below.
EXCELLENCE IN CULINARY ARTS
Julian Medina | Chef/Owner of Toloache, Tacuba, Coppelia, Yerba Buena, La Chula | Classic Culinary Arts, 1999

Julian Medina, chef- owner of Toloache, Yerba Buena, Coppelia, Tacuba Mexican Cantina and La Chula has been creating refined Mexican cuisine for over fifteen years. Raised in Mexico City Julian moved here in 1996 and graduated from ICC (formerly French Culinary Institute) in 1999. He has been featured in many publications, including The New York Times, The New Yorker and on Iron Chef American in 2011.


EXCELLENCE IN PASTRY ARTS
suzanna-yoon-stick-with-me-sweets-icc-alumniSusanna Yoon | Head Chocolatier/Founder of Stick With Me Sweets | Classic Pastry Arts, 2010

Susanna Yoon is the Head Chocolatier, Founder and heart behind one of New York’s finest confectionaries and chocolate shops, Stick With Me Sweets. Susanna was rewarded Top Ten Chocolatiers in America by Dessert Professional and attributes her intense, keen eye for perfection to her training in Michelin starred restaurants. Stick With Me Sweets’ chocolates were included amongst Oprah’s Favorite Things this past year and continue to receive many accolades for their exquisite bonbons.


EXCELLENCE IN ENTREPRENEURSHIP 
hm-headshotHugh Mangum | Chef/Owner of Mighty Quinn’s | Classic Culinary Arts, 2001 

Born to a father from Texas and a mother from the Bronx, Mangum grew up among the diverse food culture of Los Angeles but always found the best barbecue in his backyard, prepared by his father. Honoring an inheritance he received after the passing of his father, Hugh Mangum graduated from New York’s French Culinary Institute in 2001. “My father had a lust for life,” he says. “I wanted to continue that tradition as we shared it—through food.”  In 2011, Mangum took his passion to the next level as Co-Founder and Pit Master for Mighty Quinn’s Barbeque which defines a distinct brand of New York-style barbecue that slots neatly into the fast-casual industry. Named after his eldest son and inspired by his late father, Mangum handles recipe development for menus across all Mighty Quinn’s locations. Mangum has also won Food Network’s hit series Chopped and has been featured on programs such as Beat Bobby Flay, Unique Eats, and more.


EXCELLENCE IN BREAD
rhondaRhonda Crosson | Head Baker at MeyersUSA | The Art of International Bread Baking, 2004 | Classic Culinary Arts, 2006

Rhonda has worked for and with some of New York’s best bakeries and high profile chefs; from Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery and Per Se to Amy’s Bread, Daniel Boulud and Marcus Samuelsson, where she first got her interest in Scandinavian bread making. Rhonda used to work as a chemist and holds a degree in Biological Chemistry from Bates College, as well as diplomas in both Bread Baking and Culinary Arts from the International Culinary Center, where she has also been a bread instructor. Rhonda takes great pride in perfecting her rye bread, so it tastes like that of a Danish grandmother, and when not baking, she loves to travel the world.


OUTSTANDING SOMMELIER 
jhonel-thumbJhonel Faelnar, AS | Sommelier at The NoMad | Intensive Sommelier Training, 2014

Jhonel Faelnar is currently a Sommelier at the NoMad Restaurant in New York. He has been with the Make It Nice family since 2015 and has recently taken the helm of the NoMad’s Beer Program, while preparing for the rigorous Master Sommelier examinations in 2018. Graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Management Engineering from the Ateneo de Manila University and as captain of the men’s Judo team, wine and hospitality were far from mind in the beginning. Leaving home and moving to Osaka and then New York opened up a different culinary world that inspired his first foray into the industry in 2013, with scholarships from both the James Beard Foundation and the International Culinary Center, and an internship with Wine & Spirits Magazine. Obsessed with wine at this point, he pursued further education with Scott Carney, MS at the ICC’s Intensive Sommelier Program and the Court of Master Sommeliers at the close of 2013. Hitting the ground running from there, he worked with Roger Dagorn, MS on his first wine program where he learned invaluable lessons on wine and hospitality. Eventually moving to the NoMad Restaurant and pursuing further growth, he passed the Advanced Examinations of the CMS in July of 2016, happily the first graduate in the New York program’s short history to have done so.


 

Alumni Profile: Lauren Dinley [2015 Culinary Arts Graduate]

Lauren Dinley is a graduate of the International Culinary Center in Campbell, California. After receiving her diploma in Professional Culinary Arts, alumni Lauren Dinley took on a very sweet position with B. Toffee.  Learn her story below on following your passion and setting realistic expectations for yourself to achieve goals.


In what capacity do you work for B. toffee? What does your job entail in a broad sense as well as day-to-day?

B. toffee, although is growing rapidly, is still a small company with a reasonably small team. When I started working for B. toffee, my main job description was toffee production and packaging. In the last year, I’ve worked with the owner, Betsy, in the office, in an attempt to see the business side of things more. Prior to this holiday season, we added a few new people to our team, giving us time to train them in production. Because of this added help, I was in charge of all of our web orders, getting them packaged, labeled, and shipped. On a day-to-day basis, I’ll arrive early in the day and either start toffee production or packaging of the toffee. Some days we have more orders going out, so I help ship them before getting started in the kitchen.


How did you get involved with the company?

 

In Fall 2012, pre-ICC, I took a semester at Orange Coast College in their Culinary Arts program. Periodically, restaurants or other companies in the industry would contact the director of the program seeking interns or students looking for employment. Betsy had emailed our director and upon reading the job posting I applied, this was either November or December of 2012. I actually didn’t get hired until February 2013 because Betsy was so busy with the holiday season!

 


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

Cooking has always been something I’ve enjoyed. When I was 16, I was going through a major chef wannabe phase and I began researching culinary schools. Shortly into my research I came across The French Culinary Institute (Pre-ICC days!) and realized that’s where I wanted to learn. I continued my research once I graduated from high school, but started taking courses at Orange Coast College until I knew for sure what I wanted to do. At that point ICC opened a California campus, I emailed the school to set up a meeting/tour. I also reached out to CIA in Napa, why not check it out if I was to be that close? I knew instantly upon arriving that that was the school for me; the tour was amazing, every chef I encountered was great, and the students were both friendly and informative. The school (ICC) was warm and friendly. After my visit, I went back to Southern California where I completed a few more semesters at OCC. This included the one culinary semester. I spent an entire summer saving money and by December 2013 I was officially attending ICC!


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

Honestly, being away from home was the hardest. At that point, it was the first time I’d be out of my family home, and it was exciting and fun, but difficult at times. Luckily, my roommates and classmates became my new little family away from home, and we’re still close friends. School itself came easy to me, I think that’s because I found my niche. I felt comfortable at school, even on challenging days I was calm and ready for whatever was to be thrown our way. Every chef instructor was incredible, they all had a great sense of humor and were so knowledgeable.


If someone was hesitant to pursue and education in the culinary arts, what would you say to encourage them?

I’d tell them to first get a job in the industry. I think a lot of people have this fantasy of what its like to work in the industry based off of cooking shows, celebrity chefs, and even food bloggers. I think a lot of people don’t realize how hard the work is, and that chances are you aren’t always going to be recognized right away. You have to, in most cases, put in the hard work, challenge yourself. You have to be willing to work under great chefs, who at one point in their lives were in the same place as you. I think another important thing for people considering going to culinary school is that the possibilities in the food industry are endless; you don’t have to only pursue a career in restaurants. I think it’s important to get experience in as many different areas within the industry as possible. I knew going into school that long term, restaurants was not where I wanted to end up, but getting some experience from them is so beneficial.”


Connect with Lauren on Instagram via @_tothetable_ 

ICC In The News: Highlights from March 2017

Welcome to a new monthly feature! ICC In The News will provide monthly highlights from articles published that feature alumni, deans, faculty and more within the ICC community. Alumni successes are always popping up across various publications and this will be our new way to aggregate content with the purpose of congratulating those highlighted and inspiring students [and potential students] to continue to follow their passion and love what they do throughout their career.


THE WORLD’S 50 BEST RESTAURANTS [51-100 LIST]
  • On the newly released 2017 list, ICC California Dean David Kinch lands at #90 for his Manresa restaurant, while alumni David Chang’s Momofuku Ko in New York City’s Bowery neighborhood makes the list at #58. Click here for the full list.

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PASTE MAGAZINE | LIFE LESSONS FROM 10 FEMALE TV CHEFS

Paste shares some valuable lessons for life beyond the kitchen from female TV chefs such as Julia Child, Martha Stewart, Lidia Bastianich and ICC Associate Director of Alumni Affairs, Chef Daisy Martinez. Click here for the full story.

daisy-martinez


TASTING TABLE | NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK: 15 RISING CHEFS TO WATCH RIGHT NOW

ICC alumni Rawlston Williams makes the list for the unbeatable flavors of the Caribbean he brings to the menu at The Food Sermon in Brooklyn, New York. Later this year, Williams will also take his unique cooking style to the second restaurant in Brooklyn’s Navy Yard. Click here to view the full list

rawlston


EDIBLE MANHATTAN | HOW DO YOU PREPARE A SPRING MENU IN THE WINTER?

Edible Manhattan talks to ICC alumni Franco Barrio, chef at the West Village restaurant, Bespoke Kitchen, in regard to creating a vibrant and fresh menu for spring in the dead of winter. Along with details Barrio’s rich culinary résumé, click here to learn tips on how to create seasonal menus.

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NBC NEWS | MUSEUM OF CHOCOLATE COMING TO NYC 

This month, Dean of Pastry Arts, Jacques Torres, opened a brand new chocolate museum in the heart of New York City. ‘Choco-Story’ has received press from various publications including NBC News, Eater, Time Out New York, Insider Food, Refinery29 and more. To read the NBC News article and purchase your museum tickets, click here.

Chocolate Museum


TELEGRAM | CELEBRITY CHEF GEOFFREY ZAKARIAN TO HOLD CULINARY CONVERSATION AT HANOVER THEATRE

When asked about the biggest influences in his life, celebrity chef Geoffrey Zakarian mentions ICC’s Dean Emeritus proclaiming, Chef Alain Sailhac for his tremendous knowledge of culinary techniques and cuisines — he taught me most everything I know.”  Click here to read the full article.

Geoffrey Zakarian


BETHESDA MAGAZINE | SOUTHERN LIVING NAMES BETHESDA RESTAURANT ‘BEST IN MARYLAND’ 

Alumni and restaurateur Ashish Alfred opened Maryland restaurant Duck Duck Goose less than one year ago. The chef-owner of the contemporary French bistro was surprised to learn that his venue received the distinction of “Best in Maryland” by Southern Living Magazine. Click here for the more details, including Alfred’s reaction.

Duck Duck Goose Maryland


OLIVE OIL TIMES – SOMMELIER WASTE NO TIME SHARING THEIR KNOWLEDGE

Graduates of ICC’s Olive Oil Program are already applying their expertise across networks and around the world. Click here to read the Olive Oil Times’ catch up with the new Oleologists.

wilma

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

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

lickerland-cover
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

 

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.

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/ 

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.

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.”