Since the early 1980’s, Women’s History Month marks a time to recognize, honor and celebrate the achievements of women around the world throughout the month of March. There are so many prevalent women in the world of food to thank for shaping the culinary and hospitality industry as we know it today. To acknowledge the importance of this month—not just as Women’s History Month, but also as the 35th Anniversary of the school’s founding and our annual Founder’s Day celebrations—we are proud to pay tribute to the life and legacy of our Founder, Dorothy Cann Hamilton. The everlasting effect she has had on both the school and the food industry can still be felt today. Below, learn about the legacy of Dorothy and use her spirit as your guiding light as you begin your new career.
In 1984 across America and the world, everything was changing. Astronauts Bruce McCandless II and Robert L. Stewart made the first untethered space walk, while Steve Jobs sold the first Apple Macintosh computer to the public back on Earth. President Ronald Reagan defeated Walter F. Mondale with 59% of the popular vote, and as many of the achievements of men were being widely recognized, a culinary revolution was beginning on the corner of Broadway and Grand street. This would later give way to culinary giants & thought leaders like Bobby Flay, Dan Barber, Christina Tosi and so many more.
Since 1984, thousands of chefs, culinary & pastry professionals, sommeliers and industry leaders have received their education at the International Culinary Center, founded as The French Culinary Institute. The school’s reputation and graduate success can be credited to our Founder Dorothy Cann Hamilton’s original vision—to establish a culinary school that would educate aspiring chefs in a fast-paced program that got them into the workforce quickly and well prepared.
It all began while studying at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in England, during which Dorothy made frequent trips to France that exposed her to the world of French cuisine. After spending time in the Peace Corps in Thailand following college, she ventured back to New York City to work with her father, the Founder of the Apex Technical School. During this time, she continued her education, attaining a Masters in Business Administration from NYU. With a deep love of food at her core, it was then that she envisioned a way to bring her passion for food and education together.
It’s hard to imagine there was ever a time in New York City without a variety of cuisines at your fingertips—before you could order from virtually any restaurant on Seamless. A time before the Michelin Guide was even handing out stars in America. But, it’s true. There was indeed a time when the diversity of food culture was absent and the infamy of chefs did not yet exist. Dorothy’s vision for culinary education began to take shape alongside the evolution of cuisine and dining in New York City during the late 80’s and 90’s.
Many have said this before, but Dorothy was a true visionary. Known for her ability to identify what was missing and find a way to fill in the gaps, she brought a limitless creativity and resourcefulness to any problem. She identified a void in the culinary education of chefs in America—all over the world chefs were being trained in the codified techniques of French, but there was no true equivalent in the US.
Only someone with Dorothy’s determination and fearless spirit could bring the right people together to make this happen. From gathering a roster of legendary deans—Jacques Pépin, Alain Sailhac, André Soltner and Jacques Torres—to the support of industry giants like Julia Child, some of the most well known chefs in the world joined her dream, believing in what she set out to accomplish. That was the special thing about Dorothy; she had a keen ability to connect people from all walks of life. Dorothy didn’t just have a seat at the table—she was the one that built the table for the culinary world. Her gravitas and ability to connect those around her was her superpower. For this reason, many sought out her mentorship, helping numerous individuals launch their own careers, businesses and ideas in the food industry and beyond.
She cared deeply about education and the success of her students. From creating the renowned TV series Chef’s Story—later a podcast on Heritage Radio Network, featuring candid conversations with the biggest names in the industry—to her blog, and eventually book, Love What You Do, Dorothy was passionate about setting people up for success in their careers. Dorothy wasn’t afraid of failure; rather, it was another way for her to learn and educate others. Her desire to continue to learn allowed her to embrace new educational pursuits for the school, establishing ICC’s Intensive Sommelier Training program and Olive Oil Sommelier Certification programs in recent years. It was her passion for education that inspired the recent addition of a Professional Development Scholarship for industry professionals to continue the pursuit of their education at ICC.
Today, we hope that each student who walks through our doors charts their own successful career with Dorothy in mind. Her vision, passion for food and the culinary industry, as well as her innovative spirit can be applied to everything that you do.