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.

Jacques Torres Sugar Demo, Through the Eyes of a Culinary Student

Written by Olivia Hamilton
Culinary Student, Level 1

ICC had a sweet treat yesterday with Chef Jacques Torres, also known as Mr. Chocolate and the Dean of Pastry Arts at ICC. He is multi-talented in the world of desserts but one of most impressive disciplines he practices (in my opinion) is his work with sugar. As a current Level 1 student in the Culinary Arts program, it’s exciting to see how the other half (pastry) lives.

Sugar is hard to work with no matter who you are, or how long you’ve been working with sugar. It will burn you if you aren’t careful, along with breaking or falling apart just when you thought you had it finished. Even with these obstacles, Chef Jacques Torres made his sugar sculpture demonstration seem like a walk in the park while keeping us laughing. Whether he was using molds or manually pulling the sugar, we, the audience, were on the edge of our seats the whole time knowing how delicate sugar can be.

While filling the molds with the hot liquid sugars, Torres explained that it is best to use glucose with poured sugar. Whereas pulling sugar is more successful mixed with vinegar because it stays pliable for longer, but is also more delicate to work with. The molds were to be used to create the base structures for the sugar masterpiece that was unfolding in front of our eyes.

The Dean then showed us how to properly mix the color into pulling sugars which reminded me very much of an omelet. Clear pulling sugar is placed on a Silpat then drops of red, blue, and green food coloring is added about 3 inches apart only using the bottom half of the sugar. Chef then used a cake tester to spread a bit of the food coloring within each section. Then came the folding; he folded the sugar over in half like you would with an omelet before presenting it. Then Chef separated it into 3 sections (by color) and began to knead the sugar almost how you would with bread dough.

Torres shared with us that no matter how many years he has worked with sugar, he always seems to have the red food coloring dye his hands. While working with the super hot sugar, he also explained how your reflexes may not always help you. When you burn your finger, your first instinct is to put it in your mouth but then you burn your finger and your mouth. The best thing to do when you have sugar burning you is to wipe it off in a towel/apron or place your finger in cold water. Also sometimes you’re too late to realize that you have burned your hands and may end up with blisters that can last up to 10 days.

With all that potential of getting burned, the Dean still prefers to work without gloves, since that is the way he started doing it almost 40 years ago. Also when he started working with sugar, gloves were hard to come by and could only be purchased at a medical store. Though sweat can affect the sugar, Torres noted that his hands no longer sweat, or perhaps he sweats sugar?
Once the sugar was the right temperature to pull, Chef started to place celery sized pieces of each colored sugar next to each other. He then started to pull and stretch the sugar with a pastry students help. The sugar was pulled so far it seemed as if it was as long as the student was tall. He then used this long, skinny, multi-colored ribbon to create a bow that looked like it belonged on a birthday present.

Next, Torres showed us how to make a beautifully blossomed rose for the display piece. He started with an oval type of shape about the size of my thumb. After, he would create each petal by pulling a bit of sugar from the colored sugar patty increasing in size with each petal. He said the trick with making a good rose is, “the less you touch it, the better it is”. Another important part of making beautifully pulled sugar is that if it is too warm when you pull it, it won’t be shiny.

The master of sugar then showed us how to make a bird with a cute bonnet upon its head. The body was about the size of a hummingbird and a knife was used to help define its neck. Similar to the rose, he created the bird’s wings by pulling it piece by piece laying 5 on top of each other in a fan style. He then “glued it” by using the torch to melt the wing slightly enough that the melted sugar would help it stick to the body. He then repeated this for the other wing and did the same technique to place on the beak.

Watching Chef assemble this piece was like seeing someone play Jenga with puzzle pieces. Each piece of sugar, whether it was the stand, backdrop, or the delicate ornaments (like the bow, bird, and flower), had to be placed ever so carefully. It would be so easy for this whole creation to be destroyed in a split second, but Dean and Chef Jacques Torres is a master for a reason.

 

Pastry Plus 2017: A Student’s Perspective

Article by Katie Malkin
Professional Pastry Arts Student

As someone who’s new to the professional pastry world, I was excited to volunteer for the International Culinary Center’s first conference for pastry professionals and listen in on some of the talks, panels, and conversations to hear what has the pastry industry abuzz.

As it turns out, there are a number of current trends that happen to be popular in the minds of top pastry chefs. While these are just the tip of the iceberg, please reference my takeaways on three of these trends below.

  • Sustainability and Wellness – Bill Yosses, Pastry Chef to the Obama’s while they were in the White House, discussed the need for pastry chefs to show leadership in considering the health impacts of their products, both to consumers and to the environment. Dessert has a place in our diets, but Bill asked chefs to encourage their customers to indulge responsibly.
  • Insta-worthiness – Magritte Preston, freelance food writer, talked about the struggle of pastry chefs to compete in the world of Instagram, on which followers tend to flock toward eye-popping, yet taste-devoid desserts. She explained that chefs could incorporate decadence, novelty, and nostalgia into their social media posts to get views while maintaining their professionalism.
  • High-Tech – Beyond the mobile technology that’s changed the way chefs promote their food, there have been a number of other technological advances that are changing the way chefs make their food. In one example, Oliver LeRoy from Sasa DeMarle discussed advances in manufacturing, such as 3D printing, that allows them to create custom molds for chefs. These kinds of innovations are helping to democratize tools for creativity throughout the industry.

Determining how to combine sustainable products and practices, Instagram-friendly desserts and experiences, and cutting-edge technologies is a difficult, yet exciting, challenge facing pastry chefs today. Pastry Plus offered industry leaders a platform for sharing ideas on how to tackle this challenge with their peers. Hopefully, there will be future opportunities and platforms for collaboration in the pastry industry. Aspiring pastry chefs like myself will keep our fingers crossed.

View the full photo gallery below with highlights from the full day of panels with some of the biggest names in the pastry industry including Emily Luchetti, Ron Ben-Israel, Jacques Torres, Miro Uskokovic, Jiho Kim, Kelly Fields, and more.

All photography courtesy of Krystal Spencer.

Food For Thought: Recapping The Culinary Conversation Among Women

Written by: Sylvanie Tweed
Professional Pastry Arts Student

A loud roar echoed throughout the International Culinary Center’s Amphitheater as women from all walks of the culinary and hospitality industries converged on the evening of March 29th for­­ Food for Thought: A Culinary Conversation among Women. And with that roar, a strong female presence was felt. Food for Thought; a collaboration between ICC and Journee, brought together a diverse panel of women chef’s and industry insiders to discuss relevant issues affecting women in the Food Industry today.

photosbyarielle-67The evening commenced with a vibrant meet-and-greet session complete with delicate hors d’oeuvres and provided an excellent opportunity for students and guests present to network with fellow industry professionals. The amphitheater filled within minutes and the sustained buzz of excitement gently carried the ladies (and three very supportive gentlemen) to their seats as they settled in for what proved to be a heated, intense, and informative panel discussion.

Our moderator, Dana Cowin formerly of Food and Wine, lead the charge as the seven featured women discussed how to help women go further in our industry and have their voices heard and their stories told. The popular topics of financial management, confidence building and dealing with failure and mistakes all got their fair share of input, interspersed with lively banter and a few laughs all around. This segued into a question and answer segment where the heated question came from an ICC chef via the way of maternal leave in the Food Industry and its effect on women. Should women feel forced to choose between having a family and having a career? This was certainly #foodforthought!

photosbyarielle-116


Connect with Sylvanie Tweed on Instagram via @CakeShoppeCo, www.facebook.com/cakeshoppeco or www.cakeshoppeboutique.com


James Beard Foundation Award Semifinalist: Ghaya Oliveira

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

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

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

Nomination: Outstanding Pastry Chef (Daniel)

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

Chocolate Demo with Dean of Pastry Arts, Jacques Torres 2/1/2017

To kick off the month of February, Dean of Pastry Arts Jacques Torres prepared the ICC community for the upcoming Valentine’s Day holiday. Sharing words of wisdom on chocolate trends, the business side of Valentine’s Day and advice on how the famous Jacques Torres Chocolate locations handle one of the busiest seasons of the year.

Watch the full Facebook Live video, here. 

Want the ability to use the techniques shown here by Dean of Pastry Arts, Jacques Torres? Click Here to learn more about ICC’s Professional Pastry Arts program.

View the full gallery, here: 

Inside ICC: Creating Heart Sablée Cookies with Chef Jurgen David

In a brand new video, we get you geared up for Valentine’s Day 2017 with Senior Coordinator of Pastry Arts, Chef Jurgen David. Watch as Chef Jurgen elevates an average vanilla sablée cookie recipe into a festive edible arrangement sweet enough for your sweetheart. Follow his recipe below and watch along!

Want to learn from Chef Jurgen David? Click Here to learn more about our Professional Pastry Arts program in New York City.


Recipe: Vanilla Sablée Dough

Yield: 615 g

  • Ingredients:
    270 g all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 225 g butter, room temperature
  • 100 g sugar
  • 20 g egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Procedure: For the Vanilla Sablée Dough

  1. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5-7 minutes.
  2. Slowly, add the egg and then milk. Mix to combine, making sure to scrape between additions.
  3. Add the flour mixture to the bowl all at once, then mix on low speed until just combined.
  4. Wrap dough well in plastic wrap and chill before rolling.
  5. The dough can be stored for 3-4 days or frozen for up to 2 months.

 

Alumni Spotlight: Melissa Carroll, Pastry Arts Class of 2012 [California]

In a new alumni spotlight feature, Professional Pastry Arts graduate Melissa Carroll talks to ICC on life after graduating from ICC California’s Professional Pastry Arts program in 2012. Following her California graduation, Melissa traveled the globe before landing in the pastry kitchen of the South Congress Hotel in Austin, Texas.

To me, ‘Love What You Do’ is an incredibly important phrase that everyone should tell themselves. If you’re not enjoying your career, you’re not enjoying your life. We all have to work to provide a life for ourselves. What’s the point in working a job your hate when you could be doing something you love? ”

– Melissa Carroll


ICC: Tell us a little bit about your day-to-day responsibilities working for the South Congress Hotel in Austin, Texas. 

Melissa: I am a pastry kitchen supervisor at the South Congress Hotel in Austin, Texas. My job entails everything I used to do as a pastry cook plus helping with ordering, inventory, and writing prep sheets for our pastry team of about 12 people. Because I work night shifts, I’m responsible for both plating desserts on the line and pastry production. Within the hotel, there are two restaurants, one event space, one ice cream truck, and one bakeshop/coffee shop that we produce for. 


ICC: How did you first get involved with the hotel? melissa-carroll-7

Melissa: Before moving to Austin about a year and a half ago, I applied for the job from Illinois and later had a phone interview with my Chef, Amanda Rockman. Once I arrived, we met for a formal interview and I was offered the position as a pastry cook.  


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

Melissa: I’ve loved cooking since I was about 12 years old. I always found myself watching cooking shows and enjoyed making dinner for my family every night. Going to culinary school was always something I knew I’d enjoy.


ICC: How and when did you know you wanted to work in the food industry? What about it was appealing to you?

Melissa: In high school, I had dreams of opening my own cafe one day. One of my favorite parts of cooking is being able to cook for other people. Seeing the look on someone’s face when they’re enjoying your food is very rewarding. After high school, I attended art school for a semester. I then took the following semester off to save up for culinary school. I later went back to art school while working in kitchens to finish up my Associates in Fine Arts.


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

Melissa: Some of my greatest challenges in culinary school were remembering all of the different types of creams and exact temperatures to cook certain things to. It’s something I still struggle remembering but flash cards were definitely my friends when test time came around.


ICC: If someone were hesitant about pursuing a culinary education, what you say to encourage them?

Melissa: If someone is interested in pursuing an education in the culinary industry I would suggest them to stàge at a restaurant they admire first. Restaurant life isn’t for everyone, but if it’s something that they feel they’d enjoy after stàging for a day or two, I’d say it’s worth it. Being able to cook for people and using your creativity with food as your medium is very fulfilling.


ICC: What is your fondest memory of culinary school? 

One of my favorite assignments at the ICC was coming up with my own seasonal dessert menu for a fictional restaurant concept. My chef instructors then picked two items from the menu and we had to present them. They chose the Gooey Butter Cake with a cranberry orange compote and cinnamon chantilly and a deconstructed “Fig Newton” with fig thyme jam, spiced shortbread, goat cheese anglaise, port wine reduction, and a candied thyme sprig. My favorite event that I was able to attend thanks to the ICC was a dessert tasting and tour at Farallon with Chef Emily Luchetti.