A feature of ICC grads Wylie Dufresne, Hooni Kim, Kee Ling Tong, and Hugh Mangum.
“Young Chefs of New York”
Alder’s Wylie Dufresne
Q. How did you become a chef?
A. From age 11 onwards I worked at a restaurant every summer. I peeled potatoes, served dishes and washed the plates. But I decided I should finish my schooling first so I majored in philosophy then after graduation I went to the ICC to learn how to cook professionally. My mother was a good cook but I was also influenced by my grandmother. The reason why I started to like eggs was because my grandmother made me scrambled eggs or omelettes.
Hanjan’s Hooni Kim
Q. I heard you were a medical student. How did you start to cook?
A. It was my childhood dream to become a doctor. I studied really hard in the West Coast and was interning at a hospital, when suddenly in my fourth year I just realized I couldn’t stand the smell of hospitals. So I had to take a year off and I thought I would learn how to cook since I always had interest in that. Growing up in New York, both of my parents worked so we always ate out and I experienced a lot of different cuisines because of that. Since I had no experience as a chef I was looking for the fastest entry point into the industry. That’s why I decided to enroll at the ICC because it was hard training for a short period of time. Thanks to the ICC location in SoHo I would finish my lessons and go to work as an intern in famous restaurants to practice the learning.
Q. You completed the ICC course and you started at Daniel as a chef. It’s the West Point of the culinary world yet you managed to get in without any experience. How?
A. I did kind of wonder if I should go back to medical school after completing the ICC course, but I decided it wouldn’t be too late to experience working at a fantastic top restaurant first. So I went to Daniel and offered to work as a free intern. I worked hard for several months and then the manager asked me if I would consider going in as a full time worker. I was actually so happy I could cry when I heard the offer but instead I said, “Let me think about it.” I went in the next day to accept the offer, of course.
Mighty Quinn’s Hugh Mangum
Q. I heard you were in a band. What instrument did you play?
A. I was a drummer for a long time, we weren’t amazingly popular but we still managed to tour all over America. But I was always interested in food. I didn’t really have a lot of time and I was starting out much later than your typical chef. I found out about the ICC in New York so I finished my course there. It was a very short course but it was a very tough time for me – I copied out each recipe word for word every night to memorize it. Still maybe I couldn’t be mature enough to drop my drumsticks and I actually rejected my first job offer because I thought the pay was too low compared with what I was earning as a drummer. But my fellow chefs at the ICC lead me down the right path. Actually that ICC network is one of the school’s hugest pluses and the driving force behind what I am today.
Kee’s Chocolate’s Kee Ling Tong
Q. Please tell us how you came to open a chocolate shop.
A. I started working at JP Morgan in my teens and stayed there for over 15 years. When I became thirty, I thought, “Don’t I need to do something fun for myself now?”
I decided to quit my job and just throw myself into the ICC course. It was a present to myself. Initially I was focusing on baking but as time passed I found myself drawn to chocolate making. After I graduated I spent two and a half months in southern France learning about chocolate, then I opened the shop. In the beginning I had a flower shop too, but the chocolate shop became so popular I didn’t have the time to focus on the flowers. So after a year I closed down that business.