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.

ICC Announces Outstanding Alumni for 2017 Commencement Ceremony

The International Culinary Center® will celebrate the annual commencement ceremony for students who have completed programs between May 2016 and April 2017. The ceremony, held at the iconic Carnegie Hall in New York City, will feature keynote speaker and Dean of Special Programs, Jacques Pépin. Each year during the ceremony, ICC honors one alumnus from each field of study in a series of Outstanding Alumni Awards. This year, ICC dedicates the Excellence in Culinary Arts award to Chef Julian Medina, Chef / Owner of Toloache, Tacuba, Coppelia, Yerba Buena, and La Chula. Excellence in Pastry Arts will be awarded to Susanna Yoon, Founder and Head Chocolatier of Stick With Me Sweets. Culinary Arts and International Bread Baking graduate and Head Baker of MeyersUSA, Rhonda Crosson, will receive the Excellence in Bread award. The Excellence in Entrepreneurship award will be presented to Hugh Mangum, Chef/Owner of Mighty Quinn’s and a graduate of ICC’s Classic Culinary Arts program. Lastly, the Outstanding Sommelier recipient and alumnus will be Jhonel Faelnar, AS, the Sommelier at The NoMad.

The commencement will be held on Sunday, April 23rd. For media inquiries, please email Angela at asamartano@culinarycenter.com


I’m honored to provide this extraordinary group of individuals with the distinction of Outstanding Alumni during the 2017 Commencement Ceremony at Carnegie Hall. It’s extremely inspiring to watch former ICC students, and even my own classmates, go on to thrive in the hospitality industry. We acknowledge Julian Medina, Susanna Yoon, Hugh Mangum, Rhonda Crosson and Jhonel Faelnar for excellence in their respective fields and hope their stories inspire our new graduates to love what they do in any career path they follow.” – Erik Murnighan, President of the International Culinary Center.


Read about the recipients of ICC’s 2017 Outstanding Alumni awards below.
EXCELLENCE IN CULINARY ARTS
Julian Medina | Chef/Owner of Toloache, Tacuba, Coppelia, Yerba Buena, La Chula | Classic Culinary Arts, 1999

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 American in 2011.


EXCELLENCE IN PASTRY ARTS
suzanna-yoon-stick-with-me-sweets-icc-alumniSusanna Yoon | Head Chocolatier/Founder of Stick With Me Sweets | Classic Pastry Arts, 2010

Susanna Yoon is the Head Chocolatier, Founder and heart behind one of New York’s finest confectionaries and chocolate shops, Stick With Me Sweets. Susanna was rewarded Top Ten Chocolatiers in America by Dessert Professional and attributes her intense, keen eye for perfection to her training in Michelin starred restaurants. Stick With Me Sweets’ chocolates were included amongst Oprah’s Favorite Things this past year and continue to receive many accolades for their exquisite bonbons.


EXCELLENCE IN ENTREPRENEURSHIP 
hm-headshotHugh Mangum | Chef/Owner of Mighty Quinn’s | Classic Culinary Arts, 2001 

Born to a father from Texas and a mother from the Bronx, Mangum grew up among the diverse food culture of Los Angeles but always found the best barbecue in his backyard, prepared by his father. Honoring an inheritance he received after the passing of his father, Hugh Mangum graduated from New York’s French Culinary Institute in 2001. “My father had a lust for life,” he says. “I wanted to continue that tradition as we shared it—through food.”  In 2011, Mangum took his passion to the next level as Co-Founder and Pit Master for Mighty Quinn’s Barbeque which defines a distinct brand of New York-style barbecue that slots neatly into the fast-casual industry. Named after his eldest son and inspired by his late father, Mangum handles recipe development for menus across all Mighty Quinn’s locations. Mangum has also won Food Network’s hit series Chopped and has been featured on programs such as Beat Bobby Flay, Unique Eats, and more.


EXCELLENCE IN BREAD
rhondaRhonda Crosson | Head Baker at MeyersUSA | The Art of International Bread Baking, 2004 | Classic Culinary Arts, 2006

Rhonda has worked for and with some of New York’s best bakeries and high profile chefs; from Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery and Per Se to Amy’s Bread, Daniel Boulud and Marcus Samuelsson, where she first got her interest in Scandinavian bread making. Rhonda used to work as a chemist and holds a degree in Biological Chemistry from Bates College, as well as diplomas in both Bread Baking and Culinary Arts from the International Culinary Center, where she has also been a bread instructor. Rhonda takes great pride in perfecting her rye bread, so it tastes like that of a Danish grandmother, and when not baking, she loves to travel the world.


OUTSTANDING SOMMELIER 
jhonel-thumbJhonel Faelnar, AS | Sommelier at The NoMad | Intensive Sommelier Training, 2014

Jhonel Faelnar is currently a Sommelier at the NoMad Restaurant in New York. He has been with the Make It Nice family since 2015 and has recently taken the helm of the NoMad’s Beer Program, while preparing for the rigorous Master Sommelier examinations in 2018. Graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Management Engineering from the Ateneo de Manila University and as captain of the men’s Judo team, wine and hospitality were far from mind in the beginning. Leaving home and moving to Osaka and then New York opened up a different culinary world that inspired his first foray into the industry in 2013, with scholarships from both the James Beard Foundation and the International Culinary Center, and an internship with Wine & Spirits Magazine. Obsessed with wine at this point, he pursued further education with Scott Carney, MS at the ICC’s Intensive Sommelier Program and the Court of Master Sommeliers at the close of 2013. Hitting the ground running from there, he worked with Roger Dagorn, MS on his first wine program where he learned invaluable lessons on wine and hospitality. Eventually moving to the NoMad Restaurant and pursuing further growth, he passed the Advanced Examinations of the CMS in July of 2016, happily the first graduate in the New York program’s short history to have done so.


 

Alumni Profile: Lauren Dinley [2015 Culinary Arts Graduate]

Lauren Dinley is a graduate of the International Culinary Center in Campbell, California. After receiving her diploma in Professional Culinary Arts, alumni Lauren Dinley took on a very sweet position with B. Toffee.  Learn her story below on following your passion and setting realistic expectations for yourself to achieve goals.


In what capacity do you work for B. toffee? What does your job entail in a broad sense as well as day-to-day?

B. toffee, although is growing rapidly, is still a small company with a reasonably small team. When I started working for B. toffee, my main job description was toffee production and packaging. In the last year, I’ve worked with the owner, Betsy, in the office, in an attempt to see the business side of things more. Prior to this holiday season, we added a few new people to our team, giving us time to train them in production. Because of this added help, I was in charge of all of our web orders, getting them packaged, labeled, and shipped. On a day-to-day basis, I’ll arrive early in the day and either start toffee production or packaging of the toffee. Some days we have more orders going out, so I help ship them before getting started in the kitchen.


How did you get involved with the company?

 

In Fall 2012, pre-ICC, I took a semester at Orange Coast College in their Culinary Arts program. Periodically, restaurants or other companies in the industry would contact the director of the program seeking interns or students looking for employment. Betsy had emailed our director and upon reading the job posting I applied, this was either November or December of 2012. I actually didn’t get hired until February 2013 because Betsy was so busy with the holiday season!

 


What inspired you to enroll in culinary school? Were there certain steps/thoughts that lead you to the decision?

Cooking has always been something I’ve enjoyed. When I was 16, I was going through a major chef wannabe phase and I began researching culinary schools. Shortly into my research I came across The French Culinary Institute (Pre-ICC days!) and realized that’s where I wanted to learn. I continued my research once I graduated from high school, but started taking courses at Orange Coast College until I knew for sure what I wanted to do. At that point ICC opened a California campus, I emailed the school to set up a meeting/tour. I also reached out to CIA in Napa, why not check it out if I was to be that close? I knew instantly upon arriving that that was the school for me; the tour was amazing, every chef I encountered was great, and the students were both friendly and informative. The school (ICC) was warm and friendly. After my visit, I went back to Southern California where I completed a few more semesters at OCC. This included the one culinary semester. I spent an entire summer saving money and by December 2013 I was officially attending ICC!


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

Honestly, being away from home was the hardest. At that point, it was the first time I’d be out of my family home, and it was exciting and fun, but difficult at times. Luckily, my roommates and classmates became my new little family away from home, and we’re still close friends. School itself came easy to me, I think that’s because I found my niche. I felt comfortable at school, even on challenging days I was calm and ready for whatever was to be thrown our way. Every chef instructor was incredible, they all had a great sense of humor and were so knowledgeable.


If someone was hesitant to pursue and education in the culinary arts, what would you say to encourage them?

I’d tell them to first get a job in the industry. I think a lot of people have this fantasy of what its like to work in the industry based off of cooking shows, celebrity chefs, and even food bloggers. I think a lot of people don’t realize how hard the work is, and that chances are you aren’t always going to be recognized right away. You have to, in most cases, put in the hard work, challenge yourself. You have to be willing to work under great chefs, who at one point in their lives were in the same place as you. I think another important thing for people considering going to culinary school is that the possibilities in the food industry are endless; you don’t have to only pursue a career in restaurants. I think it’s important to get experience in as many different areas within the industry as possible. I knew going into school that long term, restaurants was not where I wanted to end up, but getting some experience from them is so beneficial.”


Connect with Lauren on Instagram via @_tothetable_ 

ICC In The News: Highlights from March 2017

Welcome to a new monthly feature! ICC In The News will provide monthly highlights from articles published that feature alumni, deans, faculty and more within the ICC community. Alumni successes are always popping up across various publications and this will be our new way to aggregate content with the purpose of congratulating those highlighted and inspiring students [and potential students] to continue to follow their passion and love what they do throughout their career.


THE WORLD’S 50 BEST RESTAURANTS [51-100 LIST]
  • On the newly released 2017 list, ICC California Dean David Kinch lands at #90 for his Manresa restaurant, while alumni David Chang’s Momofuku Ko in New York City’s Bowery neighborhood makes the list at #58. Click here for the full list.

51-100-2017-listinpics-header


PASTE MAGAZINE | LIFE LESSONS FROM 10 FEMALE TV CHEFS

Paste shares some valuable lessons for life beyond the kitchen from female TV chefs such as Julia Child, Martha Stewart, Lidia Bastianich and ICC Associate Director of Alumni Affairs, Chef Daisy Martinez. Click here for the full story.

daisy-martinez


TASTING TABLE | NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK: 15 RISING CHEFS TO WATCH RIGHT NOW

ICC alumni Rawlston Williams makes the list for the unbeatable flavors of the Caribbean he brings to the menu at The Food Sermon in Brooklyn, New York. Later this year, Williams will also take his unique cooking style to the second restaurant in Brooklyn’s Navy Yard. Click here to view the full list

rawlston


EDIBLE MANHATTAN | HOW DO YOU PREPARE A SPRING MENU IN THE WINTER?

Edible Manhattan talks to ICC alumni Franco Barrio, chef at the West Village restaurant, Bespoke Kitchen, in regard to creating a vibrant and fresh menu for spring in the dead of winter. Along with details Barrio’s rich culinary résumé, click here to learn tips on how to create seasonal menus.

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NBC NEWS | MUSEUM OF CHOCOLATE COMING TO NYC 

This month, Dean of Pastry Arts, Jacques Torres, opened a brand new chocolate museum in the heart of New York City. ‘Choco-Story’ has received press from various publications including NBC News, Eater, Time Out New York, Insider Food, Refinery29 and more. To read the NBC News article and purchase your museum tickets, click here.

Chocolate Museum


TELEGRAM | CELEBRITY CHEF GEOFFREY ZAKARIAN TO HOLD CULINARY CONVERSATION AT HANOVER THEATRE

When asked about the biggest influences in his life, celebrity chef Geoffrey Zakarian mentions ICC’s Dean Emeritus proclaiming, Chef Alain Sailhac for his tremendous knowledge of culinary techniques and cuisines — he taught me most everything I know.”  Click here to read the full article.

Geoffrey Zakarian


BETHESDA MAGAZINE | SOUTHERN LIVING NAMES BETHESDA RESTAURANT ‘BEST IN MARYLAND’ 

Alumni and restaurateur Ashish Alfred opened Maryland restaurant Duck Duck Goose less than one year ago. The chef-owner of the contemporary French bistro was surprised to learn that his venue received the distinction of “Best in Maryland” by Southern Living Magazine. Click here for the more details, including Alfred’s reaction.

Duck Duck Goose Maryland


OLIVE OIL TIMES – SOMMELIER WASTE NO TIME SHARING THEIR KNOWLEDGE

Graduates of ICC’s Olive Oil Program are already applying their expertise across networks and around the world. Click here to read the Olive Oil Times’ catch up with the new Oleologists.

wilma

Recipe: Chai Panna Cotta

Article by ICC Alumni Swarna Koneru
2016 California Professional Culinary Arts Graduate

Recipes involving chai vary widely all over India  —the country of its origin. Now found throughout the US,  chai flavors are very popular with variations of cardamon, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, black pepper etc added into the mix.

These days, chai latte mixes are readily available in the super markets where you can steep into water or milk directly and enjoy. While a latte generally means a mixture of steamed milk and espresso, a chai latte is made with tea powder in a similar fashion.I happened to find this Dulce De Leche Chai Latte mix at a gourmet store and wanted to experiment with it.

I ended up creating a Chai Panna Cotta in a 2 oz shooters size for my guests at a recent party. I felt this size of desserts was good in that everyone can taste each kind, yet not eat a ton of dessert.

Preparation time
20 minutes, plus 4 hour setting time 
Serves
4-6 larger portions, or 18 2 oz portions
Serving Size
One 2 oz shooter
Calories Per Serving
Approximately 98 per serving
Difficulty
Easy
Ingredients:
1  cup whole milk
4 teaspoons plain gelatin powder (I used Knox)
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
3 Tablespoons Chai Latte Powder of your Choice (I used Mc Stevens Dulce De Leche Chai Latte)
½ cup  sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract (Optional)

Procedure:

Sprinkle Gelatin powder all over the milk in a small shallow bowl and allow gelatin to soften.

In a medium saucepan set over low heat, bring the heavy cream and sugar to a low boil, and add the Chai Latte Powder and mix until combined and simmer for about 5 minutes.

Remove cream mixture from heat and whisk in the vanilla and gelatin along with the milk until combined. Strain through a fine mesh sieve and transfer to your serving cups and refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours.


Tips:
  • You can serve this with a little whipped cream on top or some caramel sauce or chocolate sauce on top if you like.I sprinkled a few coffee flavored chocolate shavings on top.
  • If you do not like a lot of sweet, reduce the amount of sugar you add, sugar content in the mixes can vary by brand so first add the chai latte powder and then adjust your sugar content accordingly.
  • If you do not have access to the chai latte powder, you can use your homemade masala chai mix as well.
  • When sprinkling the gelatin do not dump it in one place in the milk else it will not soften completely and get lumpy.

 

What is your favorite flavor combo with Chai? Let me know what you think!


Connect with Swarna on https://prathimakoneru.com as well as Pinterest and Facebook

James Beard Foundation Award Semifinalist: Steven Cook

After graduating the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, Chef Steven Cook completed the Professional Culinary Arts program at the French Culinary Institute in 2000. His education and drive combined make him one of the heavyweights in the Philadelphia scene of restaurateurs and culinary entrepreneurs.

In 2005, as chef-owner of Marigold Kitchen, Cook met his business partner Michael Solomonov. Together, they opened Zahav in 2008. The restaurant earned “4 bells” in its first year from Philadelphia Inquirer critic Craig La Ban. At Zahav, Cook and Solomonov served Israeli cuisine of salatim and mezze, and their collaboration also merged with the restaurant movement for small plates.

In 2012, Food & Wine recognized the pair as ‘Empire Builders’ for their restaurant group, CookNSolo. The empire now spans various cuisines and cites, and their first book Zahav: A World of Israel Cooking earned the James Beard Award for “Best International Cookbook” in 2016. In partnership with Broad Street Ministries, Cook also helped develop soon-to-launch, nonprofit Rooster Soup Company.

Nomination: Outstanding Service (Zahav)

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

James Beard Foundation Award Semifinalist: Josh Skenes

Becoming a chef has always been something Josh Skenes wanted to pursue. He remembers making mud pies as a child and growing his own herbs in his gardens to add to his omelettes. Right after his high school graduation, he moved to Boston with the expectation of going to Art school. However, Skenes rerouted his life and moved to NYC instead to attend the International Culinary Center to pursue his passion for cooking and food.

While a student at the International Culinary Center, he worked full-time under the famed Chef Jean Georges in Jean-Georges Vongerichten. After graduating culinary school in 2001, he moved back to Boston and cooked under Anthony Ambrosia at Ambroia.

In 2003, he moved to San Francisco where he became the executive chef of Chez and help the restaurant received a star rating of 3.5 /4 by the San Francisco Chronicle. Skenes caught the attention of Chef Michael Mina and was asked to help open Stonehill Tavern at the St. Regis Resort in Monarch Beach in 2005. There, Skenes was awarded more stars for his innovative spin to modern America cooking. He returned to San Francisco, where he served as a consultant to various restaurants and help them develop their recipe, menu, and overall concept.

While he was helping others develop their concept, he started to cultivate his  own concept for Saison – which he opened first as pop up and then opened it as a full restaurant. Skenes has received many awards and accolades for his talents and restaurants. This year makes the third consecutive year that Skenes has earned a 3 Michelin star rating for his venue.

NominationOutstanding Service (Saison) 

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