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.


 

Alumni Spotlight: Chantale Doinel, Culinary Arts Class of 2016

As native of Normandy, France, Chantale Doinel grew up with a love of French cuisine and an appreciation for seasonality. For the last 35 years, she has been working as an esthetician and owner of a skin care salon. However, it was her passion for food and cooking that inspired her return to school to embark on a new career. Chantale graduated from the International Culinary Center’s Silicon Valley campus in 2016 with a diploma in Professional Culinary Arts. Today, she is working as a successful private chef based in the San Francisco Bay Area. We sat down with her to discuss how she switched gears professionally for a life dedicated to the culinary arts.

Thrive to improve, do not complain, and practice.”


What makes the culinary industry appealing to you?

Chantale: Whether it’s a dinner for two, a picnic in the woods, a banquet on a beach or a well-prepared sandwich on a hike, I find great satisfaction in procuring balanced and memorable meals for other people.

When did you know you wanted to work in the food industry?

Chantale: About 12 years ago, when my friends asked me to share my knowledge of regional French cuisine, I started giving them cooking lessons. I realized then that I wanted to learn more about the industry as a whole so that I could better transmit knowledge to my peers. As I am constantly eager to learn, I sought a certification to validate my qualification as a cook.

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

Chantale:  Speed, timing and organization were challenging concepts for me, not to mention the fact that, as I went to school at night, I was working full-time during the day. I tried to overcome these obstacles by being prepared for each class, mindfully studying the  material and practicing knife skills at home.

What inspires your style of cooking?

Chantale: My mother taught me everything about traditional French family cooking. Growing up, our refrigerator was always empty as I was raised to do the shopping on a daily basis and get inspiration according to the season.  As we were a large family, my brothers and I were assigned tasks in the kitchen; from an early age we were roasting, braising, grilling, and making pastries. We often ate specialties from the Normandy region and the Loire Valley and but also exotic dishes from the places we traveled to with my father when he was in the army such as Morocco and Germany.

 

Follow Chantale’s culinary creations on Instagram via @chantalescuisine

Celebrating Culinary Entrepreneurship Grads for National Entrepreneurship Month

November has officially been named as National Entrepreneurship Month, with the official day of recognition for Entrepreneurs’ Day landing on Tuesday, November 21. Throughout the years, the International Culinary Center (and formerly the French Culinary Institute) has provided the technical training to give students and hopeful entrepreneurs the opportunity to have their ideas flourish into reality.

This year, we focus on 6 fearless female graduates of ICC New York’s Culinary Entrepreneurship program to show you the businesses they built from the ground up after receiving their Grand Diploma from our SoHo campus. With ICC’s recently launched Stacy’s Rise Project scholarship, future female entrepreneurs have the chance to earn up to $6,950 toward their Culinary Entrepreneurship education. Through the program, students will receive mentorship and guidance to aid prospective entrepreneurs to go from concept to business plan in just 6 weeks.

The following women have completed the program and have moved on to start a business where they can love what they do on a daily basis.


Rosemarie McNish

ICC Culinary Entrepreneurship Graduate 2016

 Owner of KaRosie Cakes | http://www.karosiecakes.com

KaRosie Cakes, founded by Rosemarie McNish, was conceptualized in 2012 after years of watching her mother bake delicious cakes enjoyed by family and friends.  In an effort to keep the legacy going Rosemarie learned the recipes herself and expanded on her mother’s creations.  The flagship product of KaRosie Cakes is an authentic Jamaican-Style Rum Cake, a deliciously flavored, rum-infused cake that her mother created as a young girl in Jamaica.  Always made with love, and usually only available during Christmastime and weddings, Jamaican-Style Rum cake is now available all year round and for any event.

The name KaRosie Cakes is a combination of the two McNish daughters: Karina and Rosemarie (Rosie) and was also a common misnomer in the household whenever Dave and Jackie McNish were calling for their daughters.  Rosemarie felt it was extremely important to share how significant her family was in turning her dream into a reality and takes great pleasure in explaining the name to everyone.

KaRosie Cakes has developed over the years from the concept of just a Jamaican Rum Cake business to a Cake business focused on many Caribbean Flavors.  Thrilled to introduce unfamiliar flavors to the masses, Rosemarie enjoys adding a beautiful twist to the flavors she grew up with.

Officially launching the business in early 2017, Rosemarie is excited to embark on this new journey that’s been in the making for years.

 


Diana Egnatz

ICC Culinary Entrepreneurship Graduate 2016

Daaamn Good | http://www.dianaegnatz.com 

Diana is the founder of the Sweet Tooth Tuesday blog and the preserves company Daaamn Good. Daaamn Good offers modern twists on classic preserving techniques utilizing locally sourced produce + exciting flavors while providing our patrons with recipes that use our products in interesting ways. This project has been a long time coming for Diana. For years she has spent summers hauling pounds of seasonal produce from the Union Square Greenmarket to her tiny New York kitchen, and would jam up a storm! After coming home from work and going straight to the kitchen to make fig preserves, Diana realized that making jars of delicious goodness was an obsession worth creating a business around. Developing exciting and unusual flavor combinations that taste Daaamn Good is her mission; along with teaching customers how to use our products as more than just jam on toast!

A New York City-based artist, Diana is an honored alumna of the School of Visual Arts BFA Photography department and Mentor program. She works as the Director of Photography for the SVA yearbook. When Diana isn’t dancing around the darkroom or naked before her camera, she enjoys whipping up concoctions in her kitchen!  Winner of PDN Taste Award 2015.


Erica Barrett

ICC Culinary Entrepreneurship Graduate 2016

Southern Culture Artisan Foods
https://southernculturefoods.com

Erica Barrett is the Founder and CEO of Southern Culture Artisan Foods, a breakfast lifestyle brand she started after visiting the grocery store and seeing that there was a lack of quality breakfast products on the shelf. Erica is most notably known for appearing on the Emmy Award Winning Show “ABC’s Shark Tank” where she went head to head with the Sharks and received two offers; one from Kevin O’Leary and one from Barbara Corcoran and ultimately landed a deal with Barbara Corcoran on the show. Erica’s approach to food is to always create the best version of what you love.

Southern Culture, Erica’s Breakfast lifestyle brand is a salute to breakfast and her strong Southern roots. Erica has built her business from the ground up with an idea, tremendous faith and a will to succeed. Her products can now be purchased at 4,000 retailers across the  U.S and in three countries internationally. Erica’s passion for food and desire to build a food empire has inspired Erica to launch her own YouTube Channel and Branded Restaurant Concept.

A native of Mobile, AL Erica is a graduate of Clark Atlanta University with a BA in Business Finance but was inspired to follow her dream to cook professionally after becoming the grand prize winner of a video recipe contest with Foodnetwork.com and Lea and Perrins. She is a graduate of the International Culinary Center (formerly French Culinary Institute) with a Grand Diploma in Culinary Entrepreneurship.

 

 

 


Leticia Skai Young

ICC Culinary Entrepreneurship Graduate 2015

Lolo’s Seafood Shack http://www.lolosseafoodshack.com

Born and Raised in Harlem and a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Leticia Young has amassed more than a decade of experience in hospitality, entertainment and tourism having worked alongside Caribbean Hotel Brands and Tourism Boards; including the Anguilla Tourist Board, Cuisinart Anguilla, ViceRoy Anguilla, and Cap Juluca. Leticia brings a unique blend of Ivy League acumen and entrepreneurial driven creativity to the hospitality industry, as a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and the Culinary Entrepreneurship program of the International Culinary Center.

Your next island getaway just got a lot closer!  Executive Chef Raymond Mohan and Restaurateur Leticia Young opened LoLo’s Seafood Shack in the Winter of 2014.  LoLo’s Seafood Shack serves up a variety of seafood from the coastal comfort foods of the Cape like sauced shrimp to Caribbean street eats like our crunchy conch fritters.  LoLo’s is a New York Times Critic pick that has been featured on ABC, CBS, NBC, Eater, Potluck Video, The Infatuation, NY Post, NY Daily News, NY Magazine, Nation’s Restaurant News, Refinery 29, Food & Wine, Village Voice and Zagat among others.

Island time hospitality seeks to create transportive and uplifting dining experiences through people in the various hospitality concepts, and consumer packaged goods we develop.  They create restaurant concepts that become unique gathering places at the crossroads of every community that they serve and invest in. Taking inspiration from their authentic passion for culture, global travel, and the culinary arts, the mission at LoLo’s Seafood Shack is to provide freshly cooked quality ingredients with authentic flavors to the massive via fast and friendly service at accessible prices.


Annie Shamoon

ICC Culinary Entrepreneurship Graduate 2016

Just Hit Send
https://www.justhitsendgifts.com

Founded by Dallas-based events planner Annie Shamoon, Just Hit Send attempts to make gift giving easy — with just a click, they will design, package, and send unique, high-end themed gift boxes to your friends and family. Each box contains three to six items that fit a unique theme. For example, the Cheers to You box packs in sparklers, matches, confetti and champagne glasses.

Sending someone a gift adds meaning to the moment. And all you had to do was hit “send”! I hope you enjoy gifting these packages as much as I loved designing them.

 

 

 

 

 


Ellie Pegler

ICC Culinary Entrepreneurship Graduate 2016

Farine +Four
https://farineandfour.com

Farine + Four is a developing bakery, led by New York City trained, Ellie Pegler. Utilizing strict technique and simple ingredients, the company sets out to create thoughtful and forward-thinking breads, pastries, ice creams, and chocolates.

When it comes to making bread, Ellie Pegler definitely knows a thing or two. She grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska where she worked at a local bakery making cookies for 9 years while still in her teens, graduated from the University of Nebraska, then followed her heart to New York City to attend the French Culinary Institute (now The International Culinary Center) to learn the art of bread baking and entrepreneurship. She honed her skills working at top restaurants in New York including the Michelin-starred restaurants Aquavit and Marea, and Vaucluse as Head Baker. Passionate about baking, she is now launching Farine + Four in Omaha Fall 2017.


To learn more about our Culinary Entrepreneurship program now, click here

To learn more about the Stacy’s Rise Project Scholarship, click here.

Are you a graduate of the International Culinary Center (or French Culinary Institute) and an entrepreneur we should know about? We’d love to be updated on your culinary career! Email your story to asamartano@culinarycenter.com to be included in future updates.

Review: Ask The Alumni Event with Tracy Obolsky

Written by Olivia Hamilton
Culinary Arts Student, Level 3

Tracy Obolsky is chef and owner of Rockaway Beach Bakery, as well as a graduate of the Pastry Arts program here at ICC. Prior to attending the French Culinary Institute over 10 years ago and realizing her passion for the food industry, Tracy attended the Pratt Institute. Before embarking on the adventure to open her own bakery, Tracy has had a variety of experience working in restaurants such as Esca, North End Grill, Burrow Food and Drink, and more.  She even helped chef and restaurateur Nick Morgenstern to open a few of his venues.

As Executive Pastry Chef at Esca at the age of 26, Obolsky was challenged to revolve her dishes around Italian cuisine. As a self-proclaimed American influenced chef, she knew that Esca would not be home for long. Eventually landing the same position at Danny Meyers’ North End Grill, Tracy was granted more creative freedom in her recipe development. One of her most prized dishes while at North End Grill was creating a chai-spiced funnel cake.

While she loved working in the city and enjoyed the fast-paced lifestyle, she was commuting to and from Rockaway Beach (Queens) every day for 10 years and it eventually began to take a toll on her. She knew it was time to make the transition to leave the Manhattan restaurant scene and pursue her dream of opening up a bakery.

When Chef Obolsky started to make her dream a reality, she quickly realized she wasn’t as business savvy as she originally had thought. Though she had worked at many great places, there were a lot of things (especially permits) needed that came as a surprise to her. Once she decided on her shop in Riis Park, she said it was, “”literally bricks and a toilet”. When budgeting for the costs of opening her bakery, the biggest shocker was the plumbing costs. She admitted to the audience that while originally estimating a $2,000 budget for plumbing, it wound up costing over $16,000! Investing her life into this project with her husband by her side, the duo also acquired an Angel Investor to help speed up the timing of renovations prior to the grand opening.

Though the chef was finally living her dream, she missed the collaboration that goes on in a restaurant kitchen. That’s when she got the idea for the croissant project. The croissant project is chef Obolsky’s way of continuing to collaborate with local Chefs. Currently, they are working with Breezy’s BBQ to make burnt ends croissant with maple and sea salt.

She expressed to students that working in a seasonal beach town can be tricky, but she is always thinking of ways to keep the customers coming in. At first, they didn’t understand the limited quantity and selection of items, but Chef Obolsky likes to think of it as a boutique bakery where everything is special since she personally fresh bakes items every day. The operation is currently only a 3-man team, one of the employees being her younger brother. He didn’t have any prior experience but has learned very quickly and has a natural talent for knife skills. His pies are so good now that Chef Tracy is unable to tell the difference between ones baked by him or her own.

One of the biggest boots she received in business was when a journalist from the New York Times came into the bakery to review the venue. After the article came out, business doubled! To check out the full NY Times review, click here.

ICC Alumni Among 2018 Michelin Star Recipients

The following winners listed consists of the 2018 Michelin Star recipients that feature an International Culinary Center alumni, or ICC Dean, either as a chef/owner of the restaurant or an integral member of the kitchen. We congratulate the following venues and individuals who prove that hard work tastes good throughout their culinary careers.

Stop by one of the following locations, if you’re lucky enough to get a reservation, and catch our alumni in action as they love what they do in their culinary careers.


New York City

Three Stars (“Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey.”)

Eleven Madison Park, Chris Flint, Chef de Cuisine
Per Se, Anna Bolz, Pastry Chef

Two Stars (“Excellent cooking, worth a detour.”)

Ko, David Chang, Chef/Owner

One Star (“High-quality cooking, worth a stop!”)

Agern, Rhonda Crosson, Head Baker
Ai Fiori, Nelson Gonzalez, Sous Chef
Babbo, Rebecca DeAngelis, Executive Pastry Chef
Bâtard, Jason Jacobeit, Wine Director
Blue Hill, Dan Barber, Chef/Owner
Café Boulud, Ceasar Guitierrez, Sous Chef
Contra, Jeremiah Stone & Fabian Von Hauske, Chefs/Owners
Cote, Brenton Lee, Executive Sous Chef
Del Posto, Justine MacNeil, Executive Pastry Chef
Gramercy Tavern, Howard Kalachinikoff, Chef de Cuisine
La Vara, Mary McCauley, Wine Director
Meadowsweet, Polo Dobkin,  Chef/Owner
NoMad, Mark Welker, Pastry Chef


Chicago

One Star (“High-quality cooking, worth a stop!”)

Sepia, Andrew Zimmerman, Executive Chef


San Francisco

Three Stars (“Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey.”)

Saison, Joshua Skenes, Chef/Owner

Manresa, David Kinch (ICC Dean), Chef/Owner

One Star (“High-quality cooking, worth a stop!”)

Rich Table, Sarah Rich, Chef/Owner

 

James Beard Foundation Honors Chef Dan Barber at Upcoming JBF Food Summit

What’s Your Consuming Power?

Each year the James Beard Foundation hosts the JBF Leadership Awards as part of the annual JBF Food Summit. The awards aim to shine a light on the importance and complexities of sustainability, food access, and public health.

This year the foundation celebrates ICC Alumnus, Chef Dan Barber, as one such visionary “for his work in blending the dining and educational experience to reduce waste, improve food taste and sustainability, and promote a soil-to-table approach.” Dan Barber, chef/owner of Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, is best known for his innovations in the dining experience that promotes a more sustainable food world. But what many don’t know is that his collaboration with ICC’s Farm-to-Table extension of the Professional Culinary Arts program is actively training the next generation of chefs to cook responsibly. Through the program, Chef Dan Barber is challenging the chefs of tomorrow to make sustainable choices in their kitchens that create a healthier and safer food world.

Ready to join the conversation? Attend the two-day JBF Food Summit: Consuming Power October 23-24 in NYC. This year JBF is bringing together a diverse group of experts, including Chef Dan Barber, from across disciplines to look into the genesis and changing dynamics of consumer power and apply that knowledge to various food-system issues we’re facing today. Learn what Americans want from their food, the challenges and opportunities for a sustainable food system in our new political landscape, and the role chefs and other culinary leaders can play.

Early bird tickets are on sale til October 2nd. For more information & registration, visit jamesbeard.org/foodsummit.

Discover The May-Mei Italian Culinary Academy

Calling all culinary professionals – May-Mei Italian Culinary Academy is launching a new, modern Culinary Institute for the hospitality industry, young professionals, culinary institutions and Italian cuisine enthusiasts around the world. Beginning this year, May-Mei will offer intensive short courses for individuals, with limited time availability, who wish to learn or refresh their knowledge of Italian cooking techniques, Italian food products, the flavors, the traditions and culture of the Italian table.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

Founded by Tony May, Sergio Mei and Bruno Libralon, May-Mei Italian Culinary Academy offers a five-day short intensive course, arriving in Italy on Sunday and returning home on Saturday. Perfect for young students and professional development, this course combines theory and practical lessons with hands-on experience and field trips to local producers. Each day culminates in the kitchen where students cook what they learned during the day.

SPECIAL OFFER FOR ICC ALUMNI

The board of the May-Mei is extending an exclusive offer to ICC Alumni for the initial course, September 17-23, 2017 at Gambero Rosso in Rome, of 25% off the published website price.


 

Interested in attending? Please contact Tony May at tonymayitaliancuisine@gmail.com.

To review the course program at Gambero Rosso, price, studies, and visits to producers for this inaugural class, please visit https://www.may-mei.org/en/schools/#rosso for details about the offer.

For more information and a schedule of the 2017-2018 dates, please visit www.may-mei.org or www.may-meiitalianculinaryacademy.com.

 

ICC In The News: Highlights From April 2017

ICC In The News provides monthly highlights featuring ICC alumni, deans, faculty and friends. Stories of our 15,000+ alumni network and their successes are continuously popping up across various prestigious publications. Below, we have aggregated some of our favorites from April 2017, aimed to inspire readers to #LoveWhatYouDo in the kitchen and beyond.


Christina Tosi Opens New NYC Milk Bar Location in Financial District.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ICC Professional Pastry Arts alumni, Christina Tosi,  opened her 9th NYC location and 12th overall location of Milk Bar in the city’s Financial District. Tosi joins a plethora of influential chefs and restaurateurs who are embracing the FiDi neighborhood, with new outposts of Mario Batali’s Eataly, Daniel Boulud’s Épicerie Boulud, and an upcoming 6,000 square-foot venture from Danny Meyer in the works for the area. Read more about MilkBar FiDi, here on Time Out New York.


ICC Expands Olive Oil Certification Program to California Campus 

The Olive Oil Program at the International Culinary Center will be expanding to the Campbell, California campus with a six-day, two-level olive oil sommelier certification course this July in conjunction with The Olive Oil Times and Curtis Cord, the program’s executive director. An international faculty of renowned experts will guide students through more than 100 olive oil samples from 26 countries in the world’s most comprehensive curriculum in olive oil quality assessment. Click here to learn how to register.


Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs 2017 

Alumni and executive chef of The Beatrice Inn, Angie Mar, makes the list of culinary newcomers to be recognized by Food & Wine Magazine. As an alum of The Spotted Pig and Marlow & Sons, Angie continues to break the mold of the male-dominated meat world. To see all the honorees, click here.


The Real Differences Between Yams and Sweet Potatoes

Learn the differences between yams and sweet potatoes from ICC Master Chef Marc Bauer, including how to spot them out in a grocery store. Chef Marc also discusses the nutritional differences between the two with Real Simple. Click here to read the full story.


The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2017  [1-50]

In April, The World’s 50 Best announced the honorees for the 2017 edition of the top 50 restaurants across the globe. While NYC’s Eleven Madison Park earned the #1 spot, the ‘Highest Climber Award‘ was bestowed upon ICC alumni Dan Barber‘s Blue Hill at Stone Barns located in Pocantino Hills, New York. ICC’s Farm-to-Table program students actually have the luxury of spending a full week at Barber’s farm, while being mentored by the agriculturally conscious chef. To view the full list of restaurants, click here


Macaron or Macaroon? Here’s the Difference

In an article for Real Simple, Director of Pastry Operations, Jansen Chan, explains the major differences between macarons and macaroons. Discover the history behind both in the full article, here.


GQ Talks With Dean of Special Programs Jacques Pépin 

In a brand new interview with GQ Magazine, ICC’s very own Dean of Special Programs, Jacques Pépin, speaks out on his upcoming episode of American Masters on PBS, his funniest Julia Child story, drinking wine over water and much more. Learn more about the legendary chef, here.

Julian Medina

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 America in 2011.

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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.