ESTER JANNE HILL

 Intensive Sommelier Training, 2014

I tell my children to only get married when they can’t imagine themselves not being married to the person that they love.  My work is the same for me.  I really can’t imagine doing anything else.  -Ester Janne Hill

Helping people enjoy good wine is a passion for Ester, who lives in Sellwood with her family.

A Leningrad (St. Petersburg) native and Israeli immigrant, she  began her career with an emphasis on cooking. She studied at the Israel Institute of Culinary Arts apprenticed at the innovative Catit Restaurant in Tel Aviv, then went on for additional culinary training in Rome and Florence.

After moving to the United States, Ester completed extensive studies in wine, including:

  • Certified Sommelier – Court of Master Sommeliers
  • Certified Specialist of Wine – Society of Wine Educators
  • WSET Level 3 – Wine & Spirit Education Trust
  • French Wine Scholar –  French Wine Society
  • Italian Wine Specialist – North American Sommelier Association
  • California Wine Appellation Specialist – San Francisco Wine School

She worked in San Francisco in wine sales, and as a sommelier and wine director. Today, Ester is focused on offering excellent wine values and advice at Orange Line Wines. Come in to find a shop that has great matches for everyone, whether you’re an occasional wine drinker, an enthusiast or anyone in between.

In an interview, Ester Hill, a former accountant in the Tech Industry, gave us some insight on her professional journey. After graduating from the ICC’s Intensive Sommelier Program in 2014, she became an entrepreneur in the Food & Beverage Industry, opening her own wine shop.

 

 

ICC: How did you end up as an entrepreneur in the Wine Industry?

Ester: Completing the sommelier program  at the ICC,  led me to positions in San Francisco as a wine sales associate, sommelier, and wine director. In Portland, I found a dynamic community with a growing interest in wines and a high demand for dedicated wine shops. Last year, I opened a retail wine shop in Portland, Oregon that offers more than 400 labels and stocks 3000 bottles.

ICC: As a wine shop owner, what does your job entail–both in a broad sense and day-to-day?

Ester:  My job entails selecting the wines for the store to carry (through industry tasting events, winery visits, and meetings with distributors), rating and writing about those wines (every wine on the shelves is labeled with a description and score that I assign), hosting weekly tasting events (I prepare background material on each of the wines to be poured) and…of course…selling wine!

ICC: Did your ICC education help you become the successful entrepreneur you are today?

Ester: The sommelier training that I received from ICC provided me with the knowledge and experience essential to selecting and selling great wines.  I use the skills that I acquired at ICC every minute of every day. I completed many wine courses, but none were as intense and comprehensive as the ICC Sommelier Program.

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

Ester: English is my not my native tongue so many of the vocabulary words I learned in the courses were new, not just the French ones!  I studied very very hard, made a lot of flash cards, and tasted as much wine as I possibly could.

ICC: Do you have a fondest memory of your time here at the ICC?

Ester: I have many excellent memories of learning from the Master Sommeliers, getting to know students from all over the U.S., the challenge and satisfaction of the exams, and the great celebratory meals after each exam.

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

Ester: One of the Master Sommelier instructors recommended that after graduation we should be humble and start out in the lowest position at the best restaurant that we can find.  At the time, I was shocked by the thought of washing dishes after training so hard as a sommelier.  I see now how important it is to be prepared for long and difficult work in an industry that values experience so highly.

ICC: What advice would you give to someone considering a career in wine?

Ester: The food and wine industry is highly competitive. If you are going to enter it, you will need every advantage that you can get to help ensure your success.  In particular, you will need ability, education, experience and perseverance.  Do yourself a favor, and get the best education that you possibly can.

 

Check out her website: www.orangelinewines.com

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Picture of Victor standing in a bread kitchen.

Alumni Spotlight: Victor Chen, Culinary ’11

Since graduating from ICC’s Professional Culinary Arts program in 2011, Victor has developed a multi-faceted career in the food industry by working for Michelin Star fine-dining restaurants, causal fare gastropubs, corporate catering companies, and farm to table dining. Today, he is working at a bakery in Mountain View, CA called the Midwife and the Baker where he and his team create artisanal breads and pastries for wholesale and their stands at local farmer markets.

“I love my career, the crafts I’ve dedicated my life to, and the training and support that I’ve received from ICC in the various pivotal moments in my career as a chef and baker.”

 

What did your life look like before going to culinary school? 

My life before taking the Culinary Arts program at ICC involved being an accountant, sitting in an office waiting to get out of work to enjoy my one great passion in life: going out with friends to eat. Even though I had a passion of eating delicious meals, I had no idea how to cook or bake and was completely lost in the kitchen. I knew that going into class I would be a complete blank state and actually had a bit of fear even handling the knives we were provided.

What inspired you to enroll at ICC?

The pivotal moment was coming to an open house and observing a class in person. After seeing how each of the students worked on dishes and gained personal feedback in their training, I knew that I had to enroll.

Can you describe what your experience was like as a student and some of your fondest memories?

Having hands-on experience with professional equipment, responsive feedback from the instructors and learning how to work in teams were the best preparation for my career in the culinary industry. There are so many aspects about cooking that you just can’t learn from reading in books or from watching videos online. The best training is when you’re actively in the environment using all your senses to focus on mastering your craft. Will this bread take exactly 10 minutes to bake? Will this sauce only need 10 grams of salt just because it is written in a recipe half a lifetime ago? Learning to deviate from recipes, to save a sauce that is off- balanced in flavor or rescuing a dish that wasn’t coming together were some of the many lessons that I learned in the classroom and kitchen environment at ICC.

My fondest memories were listening to stories that the instructors shared about their own experiences working in the industry and how demanding workloads or inspiring moments helped shaped their career development. The stories really helped to bring a humanizing perspective to being in this rewarding career and to know that even the best trained chefs in the world have made mistakes too.

As a career changer, did you ever have any doubts about leaving accounting and pursuing a career in the food and beverage industry? Where did you find the reassurance to persevere?

Yes. About halfway through my classes, I was still unsure if I really wanted to take my training further and work inside restaurants. The culinary world appeared so mysterious to me and I didn’t know if I would thrive in a professional kitchen. It was through the guidance of my classmates and also of the ICC career services office that helped encourage me to interview at local restaurants. After participating in an internship at a French Brasserie, I was hooked. The training in class was instrumental in helping me feel confident in the restaurant when my chef would ask me to make an emulsified sauce, scale a recipe, or try plating the night’s special—I knew this was where I wanted to be.

What advice do you have for students new to the kitchen?

My advice to new students is to have patience for your craft. Don’t get frustrated when you don’t quite get a technique, if you make mistakes, or if it just seems like you aren’t making leaps and bounds and getting any recognition. Mastering a craft takes a lot of discipline and a lot of time. It may take much longer than you expect but as long as you keep making small improvements every day, work a little cleaner, faster, and tastier, you’ll make progress and reach your goals. If you keep learning, keep improving and avoid making the same mistake twice, you’ll be on the right track.

How have you used your education in the your culinary career?

The training and support that I have received from ICC were crucial to helping to prepare me for my time working as a cook in restaurants as well as my eventual transition to becoming a baker. Technical training in class such as having knife skills, moving quickly, working in a clean fashion, and having enthusiasm for our craft were all elements that were valuable in all of the kitchen environments I would later join. Even as I transitioned from being a savory line cook to becoming a bread baker, those lessons that I learned from ICC were carried forward in providing me an advantageous perspective to learning new techniques, working as a valuable teammate, and honing my expertise in my new-found craft.  Now whenever I go out to eat, or enjoy a delicious pastry, I can look between the lines and analyze all the tender care and techniques used to create complex sauces, intricate lamination between dough’s, and the time and work that went into the craft. Whenever people see an amazing dish and ask if I can recreate it, I know with eagerness that even if I couldn’t right at that moment, I have the training needed to learn. By taking the training I received from ICC and pursuing a career in both the restaurant and bakery worlds, I knew it was one of the best decisions I could have made.

You started out as a cook. How did you discover your love of bread and become a baker?

Two years ago while working the pasta station, I was asked by my chef to fill-in for our pastry chef who was taking time off. After being instructed on how to create these delicious loaves of bread, I felt the need to learn more. Using the resources available to me at the ICC student library, I read about bread baking and researched the craft. It was soon after I decided to make an official pivot in my career and become a bread baker. I was able to make a successful transition from a cook to bread baking because I made use of ICC’s alumni resources: I contacted ICC career services office to seek advice in how to best make the career change and also for contacts in a new city. The amazing team responded with incredible kindness and direction to help get me transition into a new role in a new city. I felt so incredibly supported throughout the process and couldn’t thank the career services office enough.

Tell us about The Midwife and the Baker and what your role is in the bakery.

I am currently working as an artisanal bread baker in a local bakery called The Midwife and the Baker located in Mountain View, California. My role as a bread baker varies day to day but includes responsibilities such as scaling recipes, mixing and developing doughs, shaping, baking bread, organizing distribution, and selling breads to customers at the bakery and at local farmer markets. The job is physically demanding as there are long hours on your feet, constant heavy lifting, and being blasted by the heat of a hot oven, but the rewards of a hard morning’s work to create sensational breads and mastering a craft outweigh all of the physical pains. My favorite part of the day is examining the breads and seeing how any small variation I have made in my technique has on improving the quality of the bread, whether it be shaping the dough tighter or looser, adding more or less water to the dough, or just letting the bread bake a little longer. My mind races to run all of the computations on how all of these little small variations result in the final product, to record them in a mental log of all my experiences and to produce an even better product tomorrow.

What is next for you?

My goal is to tie together all of the past elements of my life experiences: business, savory, and bread baking, and to open my own bakery and café. I believe that with the instructions I have received from ICC and the guidance and practice I have experienced in my time working at restaurants and bakeries will be instrumental in preparing me for success in the near future. Can’t wait to make my dream come true!

Aaron Babcock, Advanced Sommelier, Sommelier at Quince

Aaron Babcock, AS

Aaron Babcock, Advanced Sommelier, Sommelier at Quince

Starting his restaurant career, at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, in a small town just south of Pittsburgh, PA. Aaron developed a deep curiosity about wine, being exposed to a large cellar and Wine Spectator award winning list. Having had the honor of working throughout various restaurants on the property he honed his skills in fine dining.

With wine on the mind, California dreaming wasn’t far away. In 2012, he enrolled at the International Culinary Center in Campbell, CA to complete the Intensive Sommelier Program as well the CMS certified exam, at the age of 21. From there he returned to Nemacolin for a year. But California again came calling, this time in the form of a job offer at Manresa, at the time a 2 star Michelin restaurant by Chef David Kinch in Los Gatos, CA. There he worked as a Sommelier with Jim Rollston MS. After recovering from a devastating fire that closed Manresa, Aaron was privileged to be part of the team when Manresa earned their third Michelin star.

After passing the CMS Advanced Exam at the age of 24, he consulted briefly for the wine list at the Inn at Park Winters. Quince in San Francisco was the next stop. At Quince Aaron has been able to help expand the wine program, as well as being able to be part of the transition from 2 to 3 Michelin stars once again. While remaining at Quince Aaron continues to prepare for the Master Sommelier exam and occasionally teaches wine educational classes in the Bay Area. Aaron is the 2018 recipient of ICC’s Outstanding Alumni Award for Outstanding Sommelier.

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Steven Cook, Co-Owner of CookNSolo Restaurants

Steven Cook

Steven Cook, Co-Owner of CookNSolo Restaurants

One of the country’s top restaurateurs and the 2016 James Beard Award winner for “Best International Cookbook” and “Book of the Year” for his and business partner Chef Michael Solomonov’s first cookbook, Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking, Steven Cook is the co-owner of CookNSolo Restaurants, home to some of Philadelphia’s most distinctive culinary concepts. His culinary mark began with Zahav, the pioneering modern Israeli restaurant that puts the diverse cuisine of Israel on the map, and extends to Federal Donuts, Abe Fisher, Dizengoff, Goldie, and the philanthropic luncheonette, Rooster Soup Company, which donates 100% of its profits to their non-profit partner, Broad Street Ministry Hospitality Collaborative.  Cook is also co-owner of Dizengoff NYC.  Prior to founding CookNSolo, Cook left his job as an investment banker in New York to return to Philadelphia and pursue a career as a hospitality entrepreneur, graduating from the International Culinary Center (formerly The French Culinary Institute) in 2000. Steven is the 2018 recipient of ICC’s Outstanding Alumni Award for Excellence in Entrepreneurship.

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Chef Anna Bolz, Pastry Chef Per Se

Anna Bolz

Chef Anna Bolz, Pastry Chef Per Se

Anna Bolz is the Pastry Chef at Per Se where she oversees the production of all  the dessert offerings and chocolate production for the restaurant, while ensuring that her team exceeds the guests’ expectations and standards of excellence set by Chef Thomas Keller. Prior to joining the team at Per Se in 2009 , she was a pastry cook at Porterhouse and Jean-Georges restaurants in New York City. Born and raised in small town Iowa, Bolz is deeply rooted in community and the stories behind meals shared by friends and families. She continues to find inspiration in the people, kitchens and stories that surround the staff and guests at Per Se. She holds a degree in music from Luther College and received her pastry and baking certificate from the International Culinary Center in 2007. Anna is the 2018 recipient of ICC’s Outstanding Alumni Award for Excellence in Pastry Arts.

I am honored and humbled to be recognized among the very talented alumni of ICC.  Beyond what this award means to me personally, I think it’s an excellent way to highlight the work that ICC students do after graduation: collaborate with our colleagues, help elevate the standards of those around us and, ultimately, raise the bar for our entire profession.”

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Angie Mar

Chef Angie Mar, graduate of ICC’s Classic Culinary Arts program in 2011, has spent most of her life around the world of food. A native of Seattle, Washington, she comes from a family of food lovers and restaurateurs. Her aunt was the infamous Ruby Chow who pioneered Chinese cuisine in Seattle and these deep rooted ties have given Angie an innate love for bringing people together around a dining table.

Angie had the privilege of getting her training in some of New York City’s renowned kitchens, including honing her skills at whole animal butchery and open fire techniques at Andrew Tarlow’s lauded Brooklyn restaurants Reynard, Diner, and Marlow & Sons. She went on to work at The Spotted Pig, where she learned an unparalleled dedication to perfection and a love of simplicity.

In October 2013, Angie took the helm of storied West Village restaurant, The Beatrice Inn. Best known for her love of working with whole animals, live fire and dry aging techniques, she revamped the menu and began to create her signature style.

Under Angie’s guidance and vision, The Beatrice has become one of the most coveted reservations in the city, known for its meat forward menu and show-stopping presentations. She is now the owner and executive chef at The Beatrice Inn, re-opening the doors in September 2016 with a fresh perspective and a celebrated new menu. Her signature dry aging techniques are widely regarded as some of the best in the city, her Duck Flambe is an international hit and her Butcher’s Blocks are a meat lovers dream.

The Beatrice Inn and Angie Mar continue to gain momentum and praise in the food community. Pete Wells awarded the restaurant an impressive 2-star review for the New York Times, calling it “One of the most celebratory restaurants in the city” and “a place to go when you want to celebrate your life as an animal.” Angie was named “Chef of the Year 2016” by Thrillist and most recently, she was chosen as one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs for 2017; the only chef from New York selected to receive this honor. She is the 2018 recipient of ICC’s Outstanding Alumni Award for Excellence in Culinary Arts.

Angie Mar on becoming a Chef & attending Culinary School:
Angie Mar on her inspiration for The Beatrice Inn:
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ICC Sommelier Alumna, Minjoo Kim

Alumni Spotlight: Advanced Sommelier, Minjoo Kim

Minjoo Kim, Advanced Sommelier, began her foray into food and wine training to become a chef and received her Culinary Arts Diploma from Le Cordon Bleu in Sydney, Australia. It was during her time as a culinary apprentice that she realized her passion for wine and sought to further her education at the International Culinary Center in New York, enrolling in the Intensive Sommelier Training program. In 2013, after passing the Court of Master Sommeliers Introductory and Certified Sommelier Exams at ICC, she returned to Korea to begin her wine career. Over the years Minjoo has worked as both Manager and Chief Sommelier for Hannam Liquor, retail shop and wine bar, as well as a tasting educator for the International Food and Wine Society, and Judge of the Korea Sommelier Wine Awards and Korean Wine Fair. In 2017 she passed the Court of Master Sommeliers Advanced Sommelier Exam.


What was your first (or most fond) memory of wine to date?

A glass of Vouvray, Huet ‘Le Haut Lieu’ demi-sec.


When did you know that studying wine would be a passion you’d like to pursue professionally?

While I was studying at ICC, the Master Sommeliers inspired me to believe that one day I could possibly do this like them.They were amazing.


Your extensive range of culinary and wine education ranges from a Culinary Art Diploma from Le Cordon Bleu’s Sydney, Australia campus as well as ICC’s Intensive Sommelier Training program in 2013 and more. What made you decide to move forward with a wine career over a more traditional culinary path?

I learned that wine could be more than just an alcoholic beverage when I visited Sydney’s fascinating restaurant Sepia—two hats ranked ay that time—to try a pairing menu for study as a culinary apprentice. Before that I wasn’t very fond of alcoholic beverages and simply hated drinking. But that night I was overwhelmed and began noticing that wines could be just more than alcoholic beverage. It was at that moment that I decided to learn about wines. That is what brought me to New York City and ICC right after finishing my 2 and a half year culinary path. I believe that knowing and understanding wine broadens my culinary horizon.


You recently received your AS [Advanced Sommelier] certification. [Congratulations!] What was the most difficult hurdle you faced prior to achieving this status?

I actually didn’t receive my certification the first time I took the Advanced Sommelier exam, despite passing the Theory and Blind Tasting portions. With only have 5 years of experience as a sommelier and having never worked for any formal, fine dining restaurants, I believe it was my minimal service experience that was the biggest reason I didn’t pass the exam. But I can tell you that I definitely learned a lot from that failure. Last year, I retook the Advanced Sommelier exam and passed my second time around!


What has been the most rewarding experience thus far in your wine career?

For the past three years I had been working as both a manager in a retail wine shop and chief sommelier for a wine bar at  the same time and place up until very recently. During this time, it was difficult to balance my roles in both sections. But it provided me with experience and communication skills for both wine retail and service, as well as the opportunity to try many interesting promotions, events and educational classes. It was a lot of fun and I learned a lot!


Your extensive background in wine has landed you as a judge in 2017 for both the Korea Sommelier Wine Awards and the KWC (Korean Wine Fair.) Through these particular experiences and beyond, do you feel that mentorship plays an important role for those looking to develop a career in the field? If so, why?

I think that mentorship is a crucial part of this industry. I see many people who have mentors easily approach their goals and achieve what they are trying to go after. It’s important for those just entering the wine world to have mentors like I did. At the very beginning, I was struggling with no one to discuss matters I encountered like big career path decisions, preparing for competitions and the Advanced Sommelier exam, etc. I still hope I can find someone to seek help and advice from, but I also want to be the someone who can help future sommeliers.


If you weren’t a professional sommelier or chef, what career path would you have gone down?

I’ve always aspired to find beautiful things in my life such as food and wine. My major in University was Fashion, so I’m guessing I would have worked vigorously in any fashion business with a beautiful glass of wine!


For any new individuals looking to make their mark on the world of wine, please share your advice for a flourishing wine career?

Have passion and be full of energy. With that combination, you can make any mark you wish. I learned this from five of the Master Sommeliers I met while taking the program at ICC.


What are your professional goals for the next few years? Any exciting news on the horizon to share?

I definitely want to take the Master Sommelier exam in the next few years and want to do anything I can here to help the wine industry in Korea grow. Without growth in this industry, there is no dream for us Sommeliers.


 

ICC Alumnus David Israelow competing in the Washoku World Challenge

Alumni Spotlight: David Israelow

David Israelow is a market analyst turned chef.  He is a graduate of the International Culinary Center and the Tokyo Sushi academy.  David has cooked and trained in New York City, Colorado, India and Japan.  He recently won the World Washoku Challenge, hosted in Tokyo.  Currently, David is working on food and farm related projects in the Hudson Valley and New York City.  

What motivated you to enroll in the Professional Culinary Arts program after working in financial industry for some time?

When I was working in finance, I got to the point where I was ready to move on, but wasn’t sure in what direction.  I looked around for a new job but didn’t find anything that interested me.  I decided instead to enroll at ICC in the evening program.


What did you enjoy learning the most while enrolled in culinary school?

French technique is the reason I enrolled in culinary school.  I really enjoyed learning the foundations from knife work to sauce making to potatoes, veg, proteins, etc.


Tell us a little bit about your first culinary job after graduating from ICC.

While I was finishing at ICC I started interning at ABC Kitchen and then at En Japanese Brasserie.  After graduating, I had a chance to travel, so I ended up in India for 6 months.  When I returned, I wanted to work in fine dining and spent time trailing and volunteering around NYC before starting at Betony.  I spent about a year there.  It was a very demanding kitchen and environment but I learned a lot.


We know that you served as a volunteer to Chef Hiroko Shimbo’s 5-day Essentials of Japanese Cuisine course at ICC. When did you realize were you inspired by Japanese cuisine and which aspect of the cuisine were you attracted to the most?

I have always been interested in Japanese cuisine.  There aren’t many structured programs to study Japanese technique, so when I saw the opportunity to assist Hiroko’s class as a student I was very excited.  I actually assisted her twice for essentials and once for ramen and gyoza.


How did working at American and French restaurants help your understanding of Japanese cuisine?

Many American restaurants are founded in French systems and techniques that were explicitly codified and widely adopted.  So working in American restaurants its easy to learn a lot of French technique and vocabulary without even realizing it.  This is not necessarily the case with Japanese cuisine.  Often Japanese vocabulary is borrowed to describe American food that has little to no foundation in Japanese technique.

On the other side of the coin, there are some American restaurants with deep knowledge of Japanese cuisine doing really incredible work developing new methods founded in technique and tradition.  But I don’t think it’s very common.


Tell us a little about your experience heading to Japan and enrolling in a Japanese cooking school.

I went to Japan with no plan, no contacts and no idea what I was doing.  I was lucky to make some amazing contacts and was able to stagiaire in several kitchens, travel widely and eat amazing food.

When I found out about the program offered in English at the Tokyo Sushi Academy, I decided to enroll.  I saw it as an opportunity to round out the experiences I had in kitchens that weren’t always easy to understand or readily translatable.  It was a great curriculum at the TSA with dedicated and skillful instructors, I was able to learn a lot very quickly.


While in Japan, did you acquire any apprenticeships? If so, please share your favorite experience.

In Japan I’ve trained in restaurants in Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka.  I wouldn’t go as far as to say I had a favorite experience, but preparing osechi ryori (Japanese new year food) in Osaka was certainly a highlight.  On the final day, all of the cooks spent 24 hours straight finishing all of the jubako (boxes holding the new year food).


Would you recommend that chefs should study Japanese cuisine, even if they are not working full-time with the country’s cuisine?

Japanese cuisine is founded in technique and tradition.  Traditional Japanese cuisine, Washoku, has been designated UNESCO intangible cultural heritage.  I think it is certainly worthwhile topic of study for any aspiring cook, chef or food related endeavors.



How has life changed after receiving first prize at the Washoku World Competition? Have there been any exciting, new opportunities popping up?

A lot of very interesting opportunities have begun to unfold following the WWC.  I met some amazing people and expanded my network both in and outside of Japan during the competition.  I look forward to seeing what presents itself.


Aside from the Washoku World Competition, what other goals do you seek to achieve in the upcoming months/years within your career?

I’m currently working on some projects in the Hudson Valley and New York City.  I plan to learn more about farming and to continue my culinary training in Japan.

 

An array of spices

Alumni Spotlight: Kiah Fuller + Carla Lopez, Professional Culinary Arts, 2017

Inspired by the catchphrase of one of their former Chef Instructors, the name “Far Out Catering” captures the idea of achieving the unimaginable. Coming from two completely different backgrounds and with over a decade in age difference between them, Kiah and Carla have taken their culinary education and quickly made real world application.

Incorporating their shared passion for food and common entrepreneurial goals, Kiah and Carla are the successful owners of a Bay Area based catering company that aims to aim to bridge the gap in cultural differences and put forth a menu that is “far out” from what you have seen before.

As the owners of a catering company, what activities are you involved with on a day to day basis?

Kiah + Carla: In one day, we can go from being the head chef to being the accountant, the marketing rep, and even the dishwasher. We work around the clock to create new menus, manage food cost, contact potential clients, and our favorite part, cook for weddings, private parties, and corporate events.


What led you to enroll in culinary school?

Kiah: Just before attending the ICC, I graduated college with a degree in Business Administration. Some people might think, “wow, what a complete career change!” However, obtaining both types of training prepared me to be a business owner.

Carla: Before [the] ICC, I earned a degree in Interior Design and for the last 10 years, worked with newborns as a certified Doula. Although I knew I wanted to work in food industry for long time, it was a hard decision to change my career.


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

Kiah: On the first day at class, when our Chef Instructor told us get started, I remember everyone running to grab pots and pans for themselves. It was then that I first interacted with Carla who kindly brought back a pot for the both of us. It was at that moment when we initiated a seamless alliance that would eventually develop into a business partnership.

Carla: When my class was assigned to make family meal. I appreciated the fact that my Chef-Instructor gave me the opportunity to share my personal food heritage with the entire campus. I took lead in preparing two Peruvian-style dinners and everybody was receptive to the meals. That positive feedback gave me the courage and confidence to later highlight my culture on my menu for FOC.


The idea of loving what we do means putting endless hours and devotion into one thing that we do very well and never growing tired of it– for us that’s Far Out Catering.”


Follow them on Instagram and Facebook via: @faroutcatering

5 Takeaways from ICC’s Ask The Alumni Demo with Adam Lathan, Co-Founder and Executive Chef of The Gumbo Bros.

Written by: Cathi Profitko 

Adam Lathan, co-founder and Executive Chef of The Gumbo Bros., is a native of the Gulf Coast of Alabama and a graduate of ICC’s Culinary Entrepreneurship program. In 2016, he and his business partner Clay opened their first location in Brooklyn to rave reviews. He recently joined ICC students for an Ask the Alumni event where he shared his experiences and advice on opening your first restaurant …as well as some secrets to making a great Gumbo.

Opening a restaurant is both exciting and overwhelming. It means you are creating a business that not only feeds your soul but will pay your bills. A big difference between those who succeed and those who don’t, is how they prepare for and manage the unexpected. How did Adam approach this? Here are some highlights from his discussion.

1. First things first, prepare a business plan.

A business plan is your road-map and will make you focus on all aspects of your business – not just the ones you are best at but more importantly the ones you are not.

2. Be generous with your estimates and set aside contingency to cover the inevitable yet unexpected.  

One area that many people miss is that in addition to construction and other startup costs, you also have operating costs (lease, utilities, insurance) to pay, even before you open. Setting aside sufficient working capital to cover this is critical.

3. You will need help.

Use resources and the network at ICC to assemble a team of advisers that will give you honest feedback and advice. The Gumbo Bros. has been operating successfully for well over a year yet Adam still actively maintains and expands his relationships with advisers and mentors.

4. Work with people you trust.

In addition to your advisers, mentors, and business partners, find a real estate broker and an attorney that care about your business as much as their own. You are tied to your lease for at least 10 years… be ruthless in making sure it is the best you can get. Remember, if you can’t take it with you when you leave, negotiate to have your landlord pay for it.

5. Understand what each member of your build out team – Architect, Engineer, Contractor(s) – is responsible for and hold them accountable.

Having had plenty of experience in general contracting while working for his father, Adam understood a lot more than most going into the build out. He recommends hiring a self-certifying architect to save time on approvals, working a “no change order” clause into your contractor agreements and take LOTS of pictures throughout the ENTIRE process. You don’t want to have to take down an entire wall to find out where a leaky pipe is 6 months after you open.

This discussion on restaurant construction could have gone on forever as Adam is a wealth of knowledge… but we were all getting hungry so Adam made us some Cajun Gumbo (the roux is oil based). And, of course, it was delicious!


Fun fact: Do you know the difference between Cajun and Creole cuisine? Cajun is referred to as country cooking where ingredients harvested from the swamps and bayous are used prominently; Creole cooking is referred to as city cooking as it came out of the diverse kitchens of New Orleans where the ports supplied an abundant array of less local ingredients.