James Beard Foundation Award Semifinalist: Greg Vernick

Greg Vernick was born into a family who knew a lot about genuine quality food. His mother ran the Haddonfield Diet Shop in New Jersey, and his grandfather ran their family Philadelphia’s butcher shop Friedman’s Market. A graduate of Boston University, he went straight into CIA’s Culinary Program and soon after, the French Culinary Institute’s Sous-Vide Intensive and Pastry Techniques program.

Vernick moved to New York City to work on the line for the opening of Jean-Georges Vongericten’s Perry Street, under Chef Gregory Brainin. Vernick rose through the ranks and served as sous chef at Jean Georges, Nougatine, and Spice Market and became their corporate chef trainer for restaurants in Qatar, Tokyo, Vancouver, Boston, and Park City, Utah. After five years in the Vongerichten empire, Vernick took his final post away from home as chef de cuisine of New York’s Tocqueville.

In 2012, Vernick returned to Philadelphia and he and his wife, Julie, opened the doors to their first restaurants, Vernick Food & Drink, and soon after he received a James Beard Nomination. He would then be nominated for the award, 2 more times in 2015 & 2016.

Nomination: Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic (Vernick Food & Drink)

For more information on the 2017 James Beard Foundation Awards Semifinalists, click here. 

James Beard Foundation Award Semifinalist: Ashley Christensen

In college, Ashley Christensen began cooking by throwing dinner parties for her friends and family. She then recognized her passion for cooking and sharing food,  which lead her to take her first professional cooking job at the age of 21. After years of working in various top restaurants, she would become a restaurateur in 2007, opening Poole’s Dinner. Four years later, she opened three new restaurants, Beasley’s Chicken + Honey, Chuck and Fox Liquor. In 2014, Ashley was awarded the James Beard Award for “Best Chef: Southeast.” Then a year later she opened two new ventures, Death & Texas, a restaurant celebrating wood-fire cooking with Southern ingredients and Bridge Club, a private event loft and cooking classroom. Ashley’s work has gained national attention from such publications as Bon Appétit, Gourmet, The New York Times, Southern Living and Garden & Gun. She has appeared on Food Network’s popular series Iron Chef America and MSNBC’s Your Business. She has also  completed ICC’s Sous-Vide Intensive program.

NominationOutstanding Chef (Poole’s Diner)  

For more information on the 2017 James Beard Foundation Awards Semifinalists, click here. 

James Beard Foundation Award Semifinalist: David Kinch

A recipient of the Best Chefs in America award for the Pacific region from the James Beard Foundation and awarded two Michelin stars for five consecutive years, David Kinch is creating a legacy in the advancement of California cuisine in the 21st century. At Manresa, his restaurant in Los Gatos, California, where he is executive chef and proprietor, his philosophy is fostered by the “sense of place” of the California Coast, and the kind of ingredient-driven cooking and modern technique he studied in France, Spain, Germany, Japan, and the United States.

In 2006, he formed an exclusive partnership with Cynthia Sandberg of Love Apple Farm in the Santa Cruz Mountains, which supplies Manresa with year-round provisions and vegetables grown using biodynamic practices. By producing sustainable vegetables, he is creating a closed circle among guests, the garden and his highly personal cuisine. Today, David Kinch is a Dean at the California campus of the International Culinary Center.

Nomination: Outstanding Restaurant (Manresa)

For more information on the 2017 James Beard Foundation Awards Semifinalists, click here. 

James Beard Foundation Award Semifinalist: Tory Miller

Before Miller was a devotee to sustainability, he graduated the French Culinary Institute (now the International Culinary Center), looking for training and experience in professional kitchens. He worked in several of New York’s best restaurants, including Eleven Madison Park and Judson Grill, before arriving at L’Etoile to work as Odessa Piper’s chef de cuisine. In 2005, Miller purchased the restaurant with his sister and business partner, Traci Miller. Seven years later, he earned L’Etoile’s second James Beard Award for “Best Chef, Midwest.”

While Madison, Wisconsin may not be known as a culinary mecca,  Chef Tory Miller has created a small gustatory oasis with his four restaurants: L’Etoile, Graze, Sujeo, and Estrellón. Miller specializes in dishes made from locally grown, sustainable, organic ingredients, executed in part through a rigorous “put-by” system, in which he preserves summer produce for use year round.

Nomination: Outstanding Restaurant (L’Etoile)

For more information on the 2017 James Beard Foundation Awards Semifinalists, click here. 

James Beard Foundation Award Semifinalist: Ghaya Oliveira

Upon graduating from the Culinary Academy, Ghaya earned her degree in Restaurant Management from the French Culinary Institute. Ghaya joined Café Boulud in New York in 2001. As a pastry commis, under Executive Pastry Chef Remy Funfrock, Ghaya learned the importance of precision and refined her technique. At Café Boulud, Ghaya was promoted on several occasions, first to Pastry Cook, then to Pastry Sous Chef. She continued to learn from Chef Funfrock, as well as Daniel Boulud’s Corporate Pastry Chef Eric Bertoia. She credits the former with teaching her to cook fruit with delicacy, care and respect for their natural flavors.

When Chef Daniel Boulud opened Bar Boulud in 2007, he called upon Ghaya to become Executive Pastry Chef.She became responsible for menu development and sourcing ingredients, citing the local farmers’ markets as inspiration. When neighboring Boulud Sud opened in May 2011, Ghaya’s sheer talent and ambition led Boulud to make her the Executive Pastry Chef there, too. At Boulud Sud she debuted her Grapefruit Givré – a whimsical dessert composed of a frozen grapefruit filled with grapefruit sorbet, fresh grapefruit jam, sesame crumble, sesame foam and rose water loukoum, topped with halva ‘hair’– which has received countless press accolades and praises from diners.

In July 2013, Boulud named Ghaya Executive Pastry at his flagship DANIEL. She brings traditional French pastry training, a refined palate, and unexpected flavor combinations, juxtaposed with a sense of playfulness; but above all, she brings an unwavering desire to delight! Her professional approach and talent were recognized by the James Beard Foundation with a 2012 nomination for “Outstanding Pastry Chef” and again in 2015, 2016. “Working for Daniel means always reaching for the best,” she says. “It’s knowing how to be classic and modern at the same time.”

Nomination: Outstanding Pastry Chef (Daniel)

For more information on the 2017 James Beard Foundation Awards Semifinalists, click here. 

James Beard Foundation Award Semifinalist: Andrew Zimmerman

After graduating first in his class from the French Culinary Institute, Zimmerman went on to work in various kitchens before landing a position at 2Senza in Red Bank, New Jersey. Working for three years under his mentor, Chef Renato Sommelia, the rising star chef packed his bags for the Midwest upon accepting a position along Chef Sandro Gamba at Park Hyatt Chicago. In 2004, Zimmerman met restaurateur Terry Alexander, who hired him as Executive Chef at MOD, and after his stint at MOD, the duo opened the widely-acclaimed del Toro. Zimmerman later returned to the Park Hyatt as the chef de cuisine at NoMI, under Chef Christophe David. In 2008, he was introduced to Emmanuel Nony, and the next year, Nony offered Zimmerman the executive chef position at Sepia. At this West Loop restaurant, this rock star chef integrates modern American and traditional European influences into dishes that blend complex textures and flavors with and clean, elegant presentations—sort of like a tight riff on a classic melody.

Nomination: Outstanding Wine Program (Sepia)

For more information on the 2017 James Beard Foundation Awards Semifinalists, click here.  

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

[Recap] Jason Licker Returns to ICC to Launch First Cookbook

On Thursday, February 23, international Pastry Chef and alum Jason Licker returned to his Alma mater for a special event to launch the United States release of his first-ever cookbook, Lickerland.  Having lived abroad exploring various parts of Asia for the last decade, the culture definitely has influenced Jason’s flavor profile and approach to pastry arts. Encompassing dozens of Asian-accented desserts, the unique cookbook also includes pages that help consumers decipher the different taste experiences (including sweet, salty, sour, etc.) of each recipe.

During the 90-minute event, attendees learned more about Chef Licker through a fun-spirited Q&A with his former Pastry Chef-Instructor, Jurgen David. Additionally, everyone in the audience experienced a tasting from the cookbook. Chef Jason Licker took us through the step-by-step process of creating his White Chocolate-Junmai Sake Cream dessert with a toffee crumble. Utilizing techniques he learned in his Professional Pastry Arts many years ago, it’s easy to identify how his culinary school education has played a major influence throughout his career.

Attending the ICC was critical because in any profession, you need to crawl before you walk. With the hands-on schooling experience, I built a firm foundation of pastry knowledge.  There is nothing like learning during a hands-on job, but if you have a great education, you have an advantage. I think I would have discovered my passion for Asian cuisines no matter what because I just love food and discovering other cultures. With the culinary education I had though, it made it easier to apply those experiences abroad and translate that into my style of pastry.

 

Following the event that included students, faculty, family, friends and press, we asked Jason Licker about how it felt returning to his culinary school after all these years.

 It was an incredible moment of overwhelming joy to launch my first cookbook at where I first learned the foundation of pastry. It was a feeling of coming home.  Having (Pastry Chef) Jurgen David, a teacher of mine, now question me about my book was a full circle feeling. I was once a student in the audience, and now, I was demonstrating how to make one of my signature desserts. The team at the ICC made this special moment memorable.”

Watch highlights from the event below!

To purchase your copy of Lickerland, visit www.jasonlicker.com

James Beard Foundation Award Semifinalist: William Wright

Executive Chef William Wright has embraced the art of regionalism and simplicity into his cuisine. He honed his culinary skills at Michelin-starred restaurants in Sicily, where he served under legendary Italian Chef Pino Cuttaia at Ristorante at La Madia, and in New York City at Telepan and A Voce. After moving to Houston, he served as sous chef at Philippe Restaurant and then Table on Post Oak. His menu introduces Houstonians to delicious but unfamiliar flavors and modern trends in Greek cuisine while retaining the simple, healthy, fresh style at the heart of Greek cooking. His menu introduces Houstonians to delicious but unfamiliar flavors and modern trends in Greek cuisine while retaining the simple, healthy, fresh style at the heart of Greek cooking.

Nomination: Rising Star Chef of the Year

For more information on the 2017 James Beard Foundation Awards Semifinalists, click here. 

James Beard Foundation Award Semifinalist: Alex Roberts

At the age of 15, Alex Roberts was working as a dish washer at Caspers, a restaurant in southern Minneapolis. When a cook didn’t show up to work one night, the Chef asked Roberts to work in the kitchen. From that day forward, the chef told the owner, “He’s with us now. Get a new dishwasher.” and thus began his cooking career!

Now the chef/owner of Restaurant Alma for the last 17 years, Chef Alex Roberts continuously elevates his cuisine and venue. Converting an adjacent coffeehouse into a casual, all-day cafe and adding a six-room hotel upstairs, the culinary entrepreneur certainly earns the title of ‘Outstanding Chef’ — regardless of who wins the award.

Nomination: Outstanding Chef (Restaurant Alma) 

For more information on the 2017 James Beard Foundation Awards Semifinalists, click here.