wine

Student Life: Beginning the Intensive Sommelier Training Program

I started the Intensive Sommelier Training program on Monday. It’s now only Tuesday and my head is SPINNING. Learning wine is daunting. You need to remember that you can’t expect to know everything (at least in a day!) and it’s nearly impossible to have tried every wine available. It’s like film, in that you will probably never see every single movie ever created.

I certainly didn’t come in “cold” as I’ve been working as a wine clerk in a boutique wine shop for four years now. The shop wine experience has been great, the owner, values our opinions in the buying process so we taste everything and debate it coming in, he has supplemented my Intermediate Certification through the WSET and he charges us cost on our take home bottles. It’s been a great recipe for gaining hands on spit bucket experience, but is it a career?

jared-screenshotGreat wine knowledge can open the doors to opportunities working in retail beyond a clerk position. I could move on to a store that needs managers, or could work for a larger retailer that uses buyers. Or even transition to the distribution side and begin representing wine portfolios to stores and restaurants. Will I stay with retail after getting that pin? IF I get that pin?

This is a real study and the last thing I should do is get too cocky just because I happen to know what Tokaji is. [Our instructor] Scott stressed HUMILITY in his first lecture on Monday night. If the current 200-something individuals who have achieved the Master Sommelier level can accept the concept of humility, I think I can too.

Despite my head start, I am nowhere near where I need to be yet to become a Certified Sommelier. I am familiar with a different tasting method, which I’m going to have to unlearn to some extent. I am going to have to learn to slow down and deductively ascertain varietals and regions. I am woefully unkempt in appearance, coming from the more relaxed hardwood floors of hand sales rather than the more refined manner of dress seen throughout high end restaurants and expected for class. I feel like Jed Freakin’ Clampett over here!

My study skills are weak. I managed to read the material for the first class and get my notes taken, but my head and focus are so addled that it took me all day to get through it. In any case, despite what some might think, this is rigorous joyful labor and definitely not a dalliance into a hobby. Not at this level. I am ready to become a Certified Sommelier, but my head? Still spinning!

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Student Life: The Transition From Biology to Baking

I fell in love with baking at a very young age. My homemaker mom loves to bake, and so I would always be right by her side learning by osmosis. It was fun not only eating a yummy homemade dessert but also getting to spend some quality time with her. 

ava3The thought of going to pastry school was far from my mind so after I graduated high school, I went off to college with a love for science and laboratory research and majored in biology. Along with biology classes, but I also had to take other science classes, such as Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, and Genetics. These classes were incredibly difficult, and the vast amounts of homework and studying took a toll on me. Baking helped me to release the stress and keep me focused. I always thought baking is a science: you follow a recipe to create something, just like you follow a procedure to obtain results in an experiment. Kitchen, research lab, same difference, right?


This past summer was tough for me because I finished my four years and I needed to find a job. While in college, I realized I loved being in the lab, though I knew something was missing. I thought I wanted to land a job as a research scientist, but when I spoke to someone in the field, he made me realize that it was not for me. During my job search, I baked cookies, brownies, cakes, and cupcakes that I gave away with utter abandon. I doled out my confections to family, friends, neighbors, and the firemen that came one evening when the smoke alarm when off (Don’t ask. I now know what not to do when making caramel.) They all praised me for my skill. Most recipients told me I should sell my products!ava12

Today, I am halfway through the Professional Pastry Arts Program. I have already learned so much, from baking cookies and piping rosettes to learning how to properly ice cakes with butter cream. I even had the honor of volunteering at a Jacques Torres demonstration, and it was an amazing experience. It was like watching Picasso paint! I also love that I can go home to teach my mom some of the techniques I’m learning. She sparked my love for baking and taught me so much over the years, so it is nice for me to be able to teach her for a change. 

Follow along with Ava’s adventures on Instagram, via @ava_szabby.

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Watch ICC’s Culinary Arts Students Do the Mannequin Challenge

Watch as ICC Level 4 Culinary Arts students take a break from working hard in the classroom, to standing completely still. Watch as ICC students engage in the latest social media trend, the Mannequin Challenge. Special thanks to Chef Jeff Butler, Chef Herve Malivert and Chef Karen Chirgwin for participating as well!

 

For more information on our Professional Culinary Arts program, click here.

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The Food Network Magazine Cooking School Experience

Written by Kait Freeberg
ICC Food Writing Student

This past weekend, I had one of the most incredible experiences of my professional career.

My dream of one day becoming a food writer has led to cooking recipes that come to me by way of cookbook or recommendation, and then writing about the experience in my notebook for practice. Over the last few years, I have grown a fondness and drawn inspiration from Maile Carpenter, editor-in-chief of Food Network Magazine. As an ICC graduate and someone who is constantly improving her writing career, she has become a figure I look up to in the culinary world.

So, when I discovered I had an opportunity to meet her, I jumped at the chance. Food Network was hosting its very first cooking school and created a foodnetworkmag1partnership with ICC to bring it together. There were two sessions being offered, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon. After signing up for the afternoon class, I arrived 30 minutes early in hopes of being at the front of the line. However, there were many guests already lined up. Some had even purchased their tickets months ahead of time to guarantee themselves a space. After speaking to a number of these guests, I discovered that the majority were house moms who read Food Network Magazine in their downtime. Once I was allowed inside ICC, we received our itinerary and I was assigned in Group D. After the ICC hosted lunch, guests would go to their assigned classrooms. I would learn how to make pie dough and then move along to an “everything turkey” demonstration, ending with a hands-on appetizer creating experience. But for now, it was time to mingle with the others.I found myself a drink and took my time looking around the room at everyone who was attending.

There was a buzz of excitement in the air. Some participants were lining up to take photographs with Chopped Judge and restaurateur, Marc Murphy. Others were piling their plates high with sandwiches, sides and cookies, and making their way to a space at the belly bars. And then, she caught my eye. Maile Carpenter was standing off to the side of the room, behind a very large November edition of Food Network Magazine. She was alone, scanning the
room and taking in the scene. Knowing this would be my one and only chance to speak to her, I immediately gathered up my courage and went straight over.

What followed was a conversation I won’t soon forget. Maile was so kind and took a genuine interest in what I had to say. She gave me some very useful career advice about pursuing my food writing dream, and even accepted my business card when I asked if we could email further. I am so happy that I pushed out of my comfort zone, took a risk and put myself out there. Now I have a great memory to share with my friends and hopefully one day, I could be working for Maile.

From the beginning, the event was very well organized. I learned how to make flaky, buttery pie dough, and taste a version of apple and pumpkin pies that the student helpers made. Our pastry foodnetworkmagazinecookingschool2016moqwtwltyikxchef, Lindsay Busanich, allowed us to take our creation home. Knowing my pie dough wouldn’t survive the flight back to California, I offered mine to David, a dad from Long Island whose children sent him to this event as a birthday gift. He was very thankful.

The turkey demonstration was by far the most informational and educational aspect of this day. I took so many notes that I ran out of paper! Chef John Cumming allowed the audience to ask questions, and he patiently answered them while showing us the best techniques to use on Thanksgiving Day. I am currently testing my newfound knowledge on a chicken, to get the brining method just right before the big turkey.

Our last course ended making appetizers with Chef Herve Malivert. He taught us how to create meatballs, cheesy potato skins and fresh hummus, which were all big crowd-pleasers. Our group was treated to a tequila cocktail, and we snacked on our tasty creations to end the afternoon.

foodnetworkmagazinecookingschool2016qywqjsiyoipxAfter our class concluded, we collected our items from the coat check and were handed gift bags from the Food Network staff. They were filled with items that would definitely come in handy for Thanksgiving day-aluminium foil, chicken stock, olive oil, kitchen utensils, coupons and more. At the end of it all, I am incredibly grateful that ICC sent me to this event. Not only for the people I was able to meet, but for the experience of being in the professional kitchens. It reignited a fire inside of me and now I can’t wait to eventually be a student at ICC. This was more than an awesome experience- it was a day that furthered my career and my dreams.

 

 

 

Connect with Kait on social media via @afreebirdlife or on LinkedIn via Kait Freeberg 

All photos provided by Getty Images 

 

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Student Life: The Importance of Mise en Place

Written by AJ Fusco
Professional Culinary Arts Student

I would like to start off by introducing myself and giving you a little background on myself.  I am a career firefighter in Westchester County and also attend ICC in the Professional Culinary Arts program.  My passion for cooking is just as strong the one I have for firefighting, which is what led me to the decision to become a “career adder.”  I have always had a second job while being a firefighter, and decided I would like to pursue something I truly loved.  Now, I have the best of both worlds!

One of the first things we learn at ICC is “Mise en Place”, or “to put in place”.  The emphasis my Chef Instructors put on this concept could not be greater, but rightfully so.  We all know the kitchen can be a volatile environment filled heat, smoke and the ever present danger of fire and injury.  And now that I think about it, the kitchen is very similar to being in a fire!  The intense adrenaline rush of service parallels those same feelings I get when operating on the fire-ground.  And just like cooking in a kitchen, being prepared as a firefighter is vital to a successful operation.  This is when I started to connect the dots between having your mise en place in both the kitchen and the firehouse.  

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We train in the firehouse to make sure we are prepared for whatever emergency may come our way.  The fire trucks are set up in a way so that equipment is organized together and easily accessible at any moment’s notice, just like having your ingredients and tools ready to go for a busy dinner service.  But before I started ICC, I admittedly was a messy cook in the firehouse.  Having all my ingredients ready to use was just not on my mind, which certainly didn’t help the situation of not knowing if an alarm would come in while getting dinner ready for a group of hungry firefighters.  That all changed when I learned about this thing called “Mise en Place”.  Suddenly, my meals not only tasted better but I was able to cook more efficiently in the unpredictable firehouse kitchen.  Countless times I have been prepping for a meal, when suddenly an alarm comes in and everything has to stop.  The oven and burners get shut off, and we are out the door, unsure of when we will be back to finish cooking the meal.  But having everything ready to go when we return to the firehouse has prevented plenty of take-out which is always a plus. So to say “Mise en Place” has changed me for the better as a cook would be a severe understatement!

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From Puppies to Pasta Part II

By Kris Feliz,
ICC Italian Culinary Arts graduate.
Read From Puppies to Pasta Part I

I got to culinary school having romantic ideas of Italian landscapes and giant bowls of pasta, thinking tradition and family was what drives cuisine in Italy but looking back at the Italian Culinary Experience at ICC — this total immersion curriculum expanded and exceeded my whole understanding of learning, cooking, what it means to be a chef, interacting with other chefs, and the beautiful countryside of Italy.

In the New York portion of the program, we learned all aspects of Italian cooking techniques and the connections that the cuisine has to culture, history, and language. It’s amazing how detailed and packed those days were — and Chef Guido is an excellent and genuine instructor. The foundation I built at ICC paved the way towards having a successful experience at ALMA.

As a school, ALMA is a precious gem in the Italian culinary world and it completed my education with a polish that has impacted the way I view the bigger picture of my job as a chef. Learning a complete body of wine, culture, history, language, and cooking techniques from all areas of the fine dining kitchen is just part of what I walked away with. The dedication and self discipline required to complete the complex coursework has shaped the kind of professional I am now becoming in the job market.

The campus environment is beautiful and truly helped to shape my thinking about the cooking community. Every week, we met with guest chefs who shared their wisdom and experience, allowing us to learn how these exceptional visionaries carved out their place in the modern cooking world. Simplicity, elegance, and elevation became fundamental for creation that reinforces the values of respect for the ingredients, expands traditions, and pushes the limits of today’s modern cooking techniques. Going to ALMA changed me, from a person who wanted to cook, to a chef who wants to create.

Italian Culinary Experience

Living in Italy was such a magical experience! ALMA is situated in a great location for access to many major cities, and there just wasn’t a reason not to enjoy the benefits of our free time. It’s always full sensory participation of foods, architecture, and cultural events no matter what city you visit. Travelling by train was easy and comfortable, and there’s always something happening in Italy. I had so many spontaneous experiences just because I was standing in the right spot when the marching band passed by, or when the festivals were visiting. I fell so in love with the sky, the trees, every building and cathedral, the coastlines, and mountains that I wanted to stay!

Luckily I was coming back to New York City with its high-quality, high-volume kitchen culture that is fueled by creative passionate chefs. I run into other ICC grads all the time in kitchens and it feels good to see us working and producing. I feel proud to be a working member of our graduate community! And I look back at the brilliant education I received with fondness for my creative and passionate instructors, mentors. This motivates and drives me to keep practicing, keep pushing this craft into a lifelong career of learning and giving back.

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Finding my sweet niche

By Breana Alper
ICC Professional Pastry Arts 2016

Growing up in an Italian household, I would always come home to a house filled with many delicious aromas. My mom would have sauces boiling on the stove while making one of my favorite desserts, banana bread, which was also the first dessert I mastered. My mom would always be the cook and I eventually took on the role of the dessert maker. I guess you could say that’s how I fell in love with baking. After dinner each night, my family couldn’t wait to see what kind of dessert I had chosen to make. It was most likely something with chocolate, since I basically eat, breathe, and drink chocolate!

I have always been searching for my “niche” in life, but couldn’t find it…until recently. What I failed to realize was that the answer was right in front of me the entire time. I Love To Bake! Baking is literally the one thing I am good at that I have consistently done throughout my life. I was baking all the time, my mom jokingly blamed me in advance for all the weight she suspected she would gain from eating the baked goods!

Breana Alper International Culinary Center

A family friend of mine always comes into my house and says “Ay Betty Crocker, what’s crackin’! What are ya baking today?” To this very day he still calls me “Betty Crocker” any time he sees me. What he doesn’t know is that this nickname will always encourage me to push myself a little further each time I bake something. I love seeing the expressions on people’s faces whenever they eat something that I spent whole day baking.

For me, baking is a time to get away from all my thoughts and feelings and just focus on one thing — perfecting whatever dessert I decide to take on. I bake because it is something that I enjoy doing, not necessarily because I want to eat what I make. In my mind, baking was just a hobby that I loved and nothing more. I never thought I could bake as my career, but people started suggesting it more and more. This is how my story begins.

Six months ago, I decided to take a huge step away from the path that everyone says you need to follow — college. I was starting my junior year at The University of Delaware when I reached a point where I said to myself, “Isn’t now the time when I am supposed to be pursuing my dreams and passions?” So I told my parents that I needed to find my real direction, which meant taking time off from school. Thankfully, they were nothing but super supportive. They are the ones who pushed me to pursue culinary school and even came with me to tour International Culinary Center in New York City. My mom was in awe the whole time, because she has also always dreamt of attending culinary school.

Breana Pastry School Student

Fast-forward to the present and I am now on day 21 of the Professional Pastry Arts program, with aches in my back and pain in my feet, but I couldn’t be happier! There was a lot of back and forth in my mind choosing between pastry and culinary arts. It was a hard decision to make, but in the end I am glad that I chose the pastry route. There is something special about being surrounded by people from all over the world who share the same passion as you. Each and every day gives me the validation that I made the right choice coming to The International Culinary Center!

– Breana
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No more cakeless meetings

By Lindsay Morrison
ICC Professional Pastry Arts 2016

My favorite quote has always been, “a party without cake is just a meeting” … Trust me, I would know. I’ve sat in a lot of meetings for the past 6 years. I’ve had a day job, and a night hobby.

I may have had a business card labeling me as a Sales Manager, but most people know me as Benny’s Baker (#bennysbaker), an Instagram hashtag I made to show my friends and family all the things I bake for my husband, Benny. Luckily for my coworkers, I quickly started baking more than he could handle eating. What started as a hobby quickly turned into so much more.

I went to work every day counting down to five o’clock so I could rush home to bake. I would show up the next morning with cookies, a pie, a cake – sometimes all three. I had a chalkboard office door full of desserts my coworkers wanted me to bake for them. I dragged my colleagues to bakeries in between sales calls and catered breakfast pastries for our morning meetings. Physically, I spent my days at the office in a desk chair but mentally, I was at home in my kitchen wondering if I had enough butter and sugar for my next recipe.

Pastry Career

Believe it or not, I toured ICC for the first time in 2010. It took me six years to realize that I go to bed happiest on days I’ve created art through food. I fall asleep mapping out what I’ll bake tomorrow, and I wake up excited only on the days I get to spend in a kitchen. After six years dreaming of the day I could trade in my suit for an apron, I was finally ready to turn my passion into a profession with a pastry path at the ICC.

The only problem was that I lived in Florida – with a husband, a dog, and (amongst dessert dreaming) a great job. It wasn’t an easy decision, but after months of planning, preparation and deep, deep thought, I finally took the plunge. A six month adventure in New York City to live a dream I’ve had as long as I can remember was something I simply couldn’t not do. The game changer for this career changer was that realization.

Lindsay Morrison Pastry Student

So, here I am: Lindsay Morrison, 27 years old, Pastry Arts Student – Level 1, Career Changer, from Delray Beach, Florida. Sure, I’m husband-less, wienerdog-less, family-less (at least there’s FaceTime), but I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. I’m learning everything I’ve always wanted to learn, amongst a new family I’ve found at ICC. I’ve stopped staring at the clock and counting down the minutes until I get to go home – because I’m finally exactly where I want to be, doing what I love alongside inspiring Chefs and my talented classmates from all over the world. After only a few weeks here, I already feel more confident than ever that I made the right decision, more inspired to continue to do what I love, and more convinced that we should never, ever have cakeless meetings.

I’m so excited to be here and thrilled to be writing all about it – I can’t wait to share my experiences, recipes and everything else along the way with you.

– Lindsay
Blog // Instagram

alma

Italian Culinary Experience Diary

After ten weeks of studying Italian cooking fundamentals, authentic ingredients, traditional dishes and Italian language in New York City, our students fly to the famed Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. For nine exhilarating weeks, they study at our sister school, ALMA, The International School of Italian Cuisine near Parma, where our students expand their knowledge with history, visits from master chefs and field trips to the sources of authentic Italian cuisine: regional farms, factories and vineyards that employ traditional methods.

Italian Culinary Arts student Lauren Fuschillo documented her ALMA experiences in the series of blog posts:

Part 1: From New York to Italy.

“Gratitude fills my heart as I pack my knives, my passport and those travel converters. Excitement engulfs my thoughts as my mind races – thinking and daydreaming about all the adventures I’ll experience while spending the next six and a half months in Italy with the nine members of my new chosen family. We’re Chef Guido’s “soldiers” and here we go, we’re getting on the plane to cook our hearts out and own every second that this world can give.”

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Part 2: First days at ALMA.

“We reviewed all the routine procedures, met the faculty and chefs, were fitted for uniforms, etc. We toured the classrooms, demo rooms and kitchens – all beautiful and grand! In the middle of it all there’s an adorable little cafe serving up delicious espresso for the students and faculty all day long. Pinch me?”

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Part 3: A day in the life

Here’s how Lauren spent her days at ALMA.

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Part 4: EXPO Milano 2015.

“In the morning all of the students meet and hop into the van. I’ve got a comfy seat to myself and pastry in hand, thanks to my bud Mikey (you probably see him on my Instagram on the reg, he’s one of my best friends and pretty soon going to be one of the most amazing chefs around!) We chat, we nap, we jam out and we get ourselves psyched to see one of our favorite teachers, Michele Crippa, and visit the Expo!”

Part 5: Externship assignments.

“They announced each assignment one by one, accompanying the announcement with a photo and map of where each student will be. We went in alphabetical order, so I was fifth to hear the news. My stomach was rumbling and my hands were shaking, and then it all stopped. “Lauren Fuschillo will be going to Cagliari, Sardegna to work with Chef Stefano Deidda at Dal Corsaro Restaurant.””

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The next Italian Culinary Experience program starts on March 7th, learn more.

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From military newsroom to chef’s whites

By Shira Vissoker,
ICC Professional Culinary Arts student.

I was born 25 years ago in a desert town in the south of Israel. Like any other Israeli, I joined the army right after I finished high school. But unlike most of my friends, I was lucky enough to do something different during my service and got into the IDF radio station, called “Galey Tzahal”, and became a radio broadcaster.

I served as a military journalist for 3 years, and later on I worked at the most popular media channels in Israel. I edited, produced and broadcasted radio shows for over 1,000,000 listeners. Although I have learned a lot and got to talk and write about culture, music and even food – I was also exposed to a lot of disasters and crimes.

I was in the direct career path to become a successful reporter – the one who sits in a studio and tells the world about the horrible murders or the latest politic bribe affairs.

So, why am I here instead?

For the same two reasons as everyone else: I want to make my dream come true and to make people happy. Food makes people happy – that’s the only thing I knew when I imagined pursuing a culinary career. I wanted to combine my passion to be heard, with my long forgotten love for cooking. I’ve always loved to cook, but never had an opportunity or courage to do something about it.

The major change in my life happened when my boyfriend told me he was moving to New York – I decided to join him! The move to NYC became my official opportunity to get the culinary education I couldn’t get in my homeland. After a long search, I came for a private tour to ICC. That was when everything finally felt right, and I became certain of what I really wanted to do in life and how I wanted to do it.

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When I decided to go for it and apply to ICC, everyone told me I was crazy: my parents, my friends, and even my boyfriend who started this whole thing. I had a promising career and a very easy and interesting life back in Israel, and all of a sudden I decided to leave everything and pursue my culinary dreams. More importantly, do so in a very expensive city, 5600 miles away from home.

That’s what I did, and it was the best step I could have taken. It’s very hard, it’s even harder in a foreign country – I see more people on the subway everyday than I saw in a month on the streets of Tel Aviv. Working in the kitchen is hard: it’s hot, it’s competitive and very demanding. But it’s also the place when you can actually make the best lemonade out of lemons, and the clearest consommé out of raw bones – and everything you ever wanted to make.

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I’ve learned so much over the past two and a half months! Not just about food – but also about my working habits. I’ve learned that cooking combines amazing creativity with strict rules and major organization skills. Most of all, I’ve learned that I knew nothing about food and I am really excited that I have so much more to learn and research.

So, here I am! My name is Shira, which means “poetry” or “her song” in Hebrew (and also the name of the “princess of power” from the 80s TV show). I’m a culinary arts student, passionate writer, and a young woman who aspires to be a successful chef. For some reason I listened to myself when everybody said I shouldn’t, and I work every day to prove them (and myself) that I was right.

– Shira