How to Safely Forage

How To Safely Forage

If you’ve read our Foraging in New York City article or our Quick Guide to Foraging, by now you know that foraging comes with many recommendations, tips and tricks to be able to forage safely. While foraging is an amazing way to connect with food and bring local ingredients to your table, there are some rules to follow before venturing into the woods or your own backyard.

In order to have a successful foraging experience check out a few of our top tips to keep you safe while on your foraging adventures!

  1. Don’t take more than you need. In order for generations of future foragers to enjoy these gems of nature, only take what you need and will use. Most of the time, edible plants and wild mushrooms have a short shelf life, so if you don’t plan on cooking with it immediately or preserving it, it’s best practice to leave most of what you find behind.
  2. Don’t harvest in questionable areas. Especially if you live in a city, toxic areas can be abundant and are best to avoid. Toxic areas include anywhere that might have been sprayed with pesticides, near or around dog parks, or along busy roadways. These areas can make edible plants no longer edible.
  3. Don’t forage plants that appear unhealthy. This seems like an obvious statement, but plants that don’t look like their normal, healthy selves are not safe to eat. This will depend from plant to plant, so always be familiar with a plant’s healthy appearance and discuss with your foraging mentor or expert before foraging.
  4. A group foragingDon’t forage alone. Foraging is an activity that is best, and safest, when done in groups. Whether it’s a tour group, with a mentor or a friend, be sure to grab your foraging buddy before venturing into the wild. Two sets of eyes are always better than one and can help to ensure that you are safely foraging. One of the best ways to work in a kitchen is in a team, and the same can be said for foraging!
  5. Consult with an expert before you eat anything. Send pictures to your mentor or expert and have them double check what you have found.
  6. Always consume small quantities to ensure that you are not allergic to anything first. When ingredients are found in the wild, you never know what you could be allergic to.

While these are just four of the top tips to safely forage, there are many different elements to foraging that haven’t been covered here. Always do your research, be prepared with gloves and warm clothing, and bring paper bags to store your edible plants and mushrooms. Foraging is a perfect group activity and takes years of experience, and knowledge, to perfect. Always be sure of what you are foraging for, and if you’re looking to get started, check out our quick guide here.

Bread that Yasmin baked

Time Management: An Underutilized Skill & Asset

Written by Yasmin Rasheed

Yasmin RasheedYasmin Rasheed is a 2018 graduate of The Art of International Bread Baking program. Previously, she spent 30-years in Financial Services in Executive Management, focused on coaching and developing talent. Currently, she curates wholesome recipes on her food blog, Juliet Kitchen

As a tenured corporate executive whose focus on coaching for peak performance delivered numerous commercial successes, it has become painfully clear that time management is a grossly underutilized skill. With practice, this life skill can provide ongoing work-life integration, less stress and improved productivity. The basic foundation to achieving any definition of success, time management only calls for our thoughtful and productive use of time.

Practicing effective time management leads to improved outcomes across both our professional and personal objectives. Managing this limited resource—time—more thoughtfully can be life changing and it’s is not nearly as complicated as you may think. Here are three key steps to assist you in making the most of your twenty-four-hour day!

  1. Start Early: Many successful people employ this routine daily. This habit has been hard wired into my DNA since childhood and continues to serve me well while studying in The Art of International Bread Baking program at the International Culinary Center in NYC. Since starting school, I was challenged with finding time for my usual daily exercise at the gym due to a very lengthy commute. I committed to arriving in SoHo early enough to walk for a half hour prior to the start of class. Additionally, this practice allowed me to get to the kitchen with time to spare so that I could get my station set-up for a successful day.  By creating a life-long daily routine that includes waking up one to two hours early, the “extra time” allows for “no excuses.” As a result, value-added activities don’t have to be sacrificed. This start early lifestyle keeps me motivated, highly productive and limits my stress!
  1. Create A Plan: It’s important to write down your plan for your goals and objectives; review it regularly and modify as needed. According to Forbes magazine, research shows that “People who very vividly describe or picture their goals are anywhere from 1.2 to 1.4 times more likely to successfully accomplish their goals, than people who don’t.”  Write down your daily to-do list to support the plan—in doing so employ the 80/20 rule (also known as the Pareto Principle, which states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.) This simply means that you need to prioritize the most impactful activities. Consider writing down your to-do list at the end of each day verses the start of the day; this practice will actually help you sleep better and prepare you for a new day with less stress and improved productivity. Priority planning is immensely valuable in a highly intensive culinary kitchen where the bread baking process is fast-paced and complicated. ICC Chef-Instructor Johnson Yu made it a point to give us a syllabus in advance which enabled effective planning and scheduling of how breads will be mixed and baked.
  1. Create A Schedule: Scheduling is as important as creating a plan. Prioritize high impact activities and tasks. Use a calendar, such as outlook, and add a reminder. If it’s on the calendar it is extremely likely to be completed. Creating an effective schedule requires an investment in your time—it is one of the most arduous tasks, but the reward far outweighs the cost.  Calendaring your activities keeps you organized and productive, and is a routine that continues to deliver rewards during my culinary education. Having an effective and efficient schedule in any culinary kitchen is a non-negotiable!

Applying these time management approaches thoughtfully in your professional and personal life will place you at a competitive advantage, especially if you’re pursuing a career in the culinary industry.  It will open doors more rapidly and deliver outcomes better aligned with your objectives.  You will find that you are in control of your time verses your time controlling you. So, before you begin feeling stressed, remember these three steps to manage your time and you’ll begin reaping the benefits of a happier, healthier and more productive lifestyle!

Tips To Grow Your Beverage Program

This month, our Business Bites Resources—brought to you by ICC’s Culinary Entrepreneurship (CE) program—provides tips for food businesses looking to bolster their drink menu.

the panelists from the eventAt the beginning of November, members from the culinary community gathered for a panel to discuss the importance of having a beverage program in your restaurant that gets customers back to the bar.  The four panelists were experienced members of the culinary and beverage industry, including Jason Hedges, Bar Director of Gotham Bar & Grill and Partner of BarIQ; Noah Rothbaum, Editor of Half Full from The Daily Beast; Nora Favelukes, President of QW Wine Experts; and Vanessa Da Silva, Sommelier at Ninety Acres.

In the discussion, they shared their tips for creating and managing a successful beverage program, as well as how to turn your drinks into dollars. We’ve gathered some of their tips for success below!

Specialty Cocktails Drive Sales

Our panelists all agreed that specialty cocktails can drive sales and bring in new customers, while increasing margins for the business. Not only are cocktails experiencing a renaissance among bar scenes, but they can also be a fun and visual “Instagram-able” feature on your menu, increasing brand awareness. One tip that we learned from our experts—using fresh juice not only makes a cocktail more delicious, but is surprisingly a way to save money as it can be cheaper than buying expensive pre-made mixes.

Invest in Ice

For most guests, their first experience in a restaurant is ordering a cocktail, so why not take your cocktail to the next level? Ice is a daily requirement in all restaurants, and a universal ingredient in bar drinks. Despite its importance, ice can often be overlooked. Many bar programs are turning to ice blocks, specialty cubes and more to provide a better appearance and experience for their customers. In the end, the cocktails look better, but can also taste better as ice that is higher in quality won’t dilute a cocktail with water as fast.

Bar Software

Bar software can make or break a restaurant in today’s world. According to San Pellegrino, 100% of US restaurants on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list are using a software called BinWise. In addition to these restaurants, Jason Hedges and Vanessa Da Silva, both panelists that work in the restaurant industry, also use BinWise to manage their restaurants inventory and more. There are many other options on the market, so the key is to find a software that works for your business. In the end, bar software programs can increase time saved during inventories, help to gain insights into what products are being poured the most, create a database to have information readily available, and help to recapture lost money.

ABOUT BUSINESS BITES

The BUSINESS BITES, brought to you by the Culinary Entrepreneurship program at ICC, is a series of workshops, discussion panels, networking events and resources designed to support entrepreneurs in the food industry.

apple and pumpkin pie

Thanksgiving Tips From The Pros At ICC

This Thanksgiving, whether you plan to be the executive chef in your kitchen, or assume the role of sous chef, you’ll likely spend an average of 7 hours cooking your Thanksgiving meal! So how do the approximately 96% of American families that gather for Thanksgiving get through the daunting task of preparing this family feast? With advice from the professionals of course!

This year, our ICC Chef-Instructors shared their knowledge on everything from turkey safety tips and how to save your thanksgiving meal, to pro tips on how to make your own pumpkin spice blend and homemade sprinkles. We were challenged to create the world’s fastest pumpkin pie recipe—spoiler alert: it’s actually crust-less! We even celebrated our roots as The French Culinary Institute and shared recommendations on the perfect French Classic cocktails, appetizers, side dishes and more to accompany your traditional Thanksgiving Turkey.

So, in case you’re behind on your Thanksgiving meal prep, or need a little inspiration before you begin cooking tomorrow, check out some of these tips from ICC Chefs Hervé Malivert, Marc Bauer, Jansen ChanJürgen David and ICC Dean Alain Sailhac.

Do's & Don'ts of Holiday Dinner Safety

Chef Hervé Malivert, Director of Culinary Arts & Technology shares his Turkey Safety Tips, from how to thaw your turkey to the proper internal temperature of your cooked turkey. And, if you insist on deep frying your turkey, Chef Hervé also shares his recommendations to keep you and your loved one’s safe. Click here to watch the video feature on CBS New York.

How To Make Your Own Pumpkin Spice Blend

In need of a fall pantry staple? Chef Jansen Chan, Director of Pastry, shows you how to make this DIY pumpkin spice blend to add fall flavor to any dish, whether it’s on your Friendsgiving table, or throughout the winter season! Click here to see the Chowhound video.

8 Ideas for a French Thanksgiving

While it’s hard to think of a more American tradition than Thanksgiving, it’s actually quite easy to add a little French flavor to your dinner. Chef Alain, Chef Hervé, and Chef Marc give their recommendations for their favorite French classics that pair perfectly with turkey! Click here to read the feature in France-Amérique Magazine.

The World's Easiest (Crust-less) Pumpkin Pie!

Don’t have time to make a pie crust this year? No problem! Chef Jansen Chan’s pumpkin pie hack lets you make one from scratch in less than 30 minutes. Click here to see how in this Chowhound video.

How To Make Homemade Sugar Sprinkles

Love decorating with sprinkles but tired of the same old rainbow colors? Now you can make your own sugar sprinkles at home, in any color and shade you please! Chef Jansen Chan shows two great baking decorating techniques in one, how to make royal icing and how to turn that royal icing into your own homemade sprinkles. We went with fall colors, but you can easily adapt this for any time of year! Click here to see how in this Chowhound video.

Quick Fixes for Thanksgiving Dinner Slip-Ups

Chef Hervé Malivert, Director of Culinary Arts & Technology, and Chef Jürgen David, Associate Director of Pastry Arts explain how to save your Thanksgiving feast from the most common kitchen mistakes like dry turkey, lumpy mashed potatoes, and more! Click here to watch more on CBS New York.

Two ICC Alumni Win at the World Bread Awards

For the first time, the Tiptree World Bread Awards with Food is GREAT came to New York to celebrate the very best in American bread bakers. Now in their sixth year since starting in England, the Awards are the top annual competition for professional bakers in the United Kingdom.

The Awards include 13 categories, from sourdough to baguettes and bagels. The bakers in this year’s inaugural US competition were judged by 36 industry professionals from around the country, including ICC’s very own Director of Pastry, Chef Jansen Chan.

ICC is proud to recognize two alumni who took home awards this year in the categories of baguettes and bagels. Clémence Danko, Founder of Choc O Pain French Bakery in Jersey City, and a 2010 graduate of the Art of International Bread Baking Program, brought home the American Bakers Association Baguette Award for her Baguette Traditionelle. David Shalam, 2011 graduate of the Professional Pastry Arts program and Founder/Head Baker of Heritage Bakers in Glen Cove, New York, took home the Bagel Award for his signature Heritage Bagel.

Congratulations to all of the evenings winners! Check out the full list of awards here.

David ShalamCelemence Danko

About The Art of International Bread Baking Program:

Our Art of International Bread Baking program was created 20+ years ago to create the future bakers of tomorrow. In this program, students learn 85+ breads and learn the art of bread baking. In eight weeks, you’ll travel the world through bread baking in our pristine New York City kitchens. Develop a fundamental understanding of the science, ingredients and techniques you need to master artisanal hand-crafted breads. Learn more here.

About the Event Partners:

Tiptree has always had strong links with the USA. Scott Goodfellow, Wilkin & Sons Joint Managing Director commented, “C. J. Wilkin, the son of our founder, toured several states back in the 1890s, to learn about fruit growing and jam making. New York City has a global reputation for excellent food, so it makes the perfect spot for the inaugural overseas Tiptree World Bread Awards. We are very much looking forward to discovering the world of artisan bread that is available across the USA.”

The Food is GREAT campaign is a government initiative to support UK food and drink exports and to increase positive public perception and demand of UK food and drink around the world. www.great.gov.uk

The American Bakers Association (ABA) is the Washington D.C.-based voice of the wholesale baking industry. Since 1897, ABA has represented the interests of bakers before the U.S. Congress, federal agencies, and international regulatory authorities. ABA advocates on behalf of more than 1,000 baking facilities and baking company suppliers. ABA members produce bread, rolls, cookies, crackers, bagels, sweet goods, tortillas and many other wholesome, nutritious, baked products for America’s families. ABA works to grow and enhance the industry through public policy advocacy, education and networking. ABA brings together industry leaders to share ideas, develop industry solutions and network with industry colleagues.  Follow ABA with #AmericanBakers www.americanbakers.org

2019 Michelin Star Recipients

18 ICC Graduates Among 2019 Michelin Star Recipients

The highly anticipated MICHELIN Guides have finally been unveiled for the 2019 New York City, Chicago, Washington D.C. and San Francisco markets. We’re very excited to announce that this year 18 ICC alumni and Dean David Kinch have received a total of 28 stars combined! Of the 76 restaurants that made the New York City list, 16 newly starred restaurants were bestowed the reputable designation. Two of the newly starred restaurants, Oxomoco—owned by ICC graduate Justin Bazdarich—and Atomix, where alumnus Jhonel Faelnar is the Wine Director, both opened in 2018. To receive a Michelin star is a huge feat, and to receive it within the first year is even more incredible!

While New York City’s Michelin Guide is in its 27th year, Chicago and Washington D.C. are in their 9th and 3rd years, respectively, and San Francisco remains the city in the United States with the most three starred restaurants (8!). ICC is thrilled to have alumni and Dean David Kinch represented in all of these cities, feeding hungry diners and adding to growing restaurant scenes around the country.

The following winners listed are the 2019 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. ICC is proud to congratulate the winners across America being recognized by the industry for their hard work and dedication to their craft.

Stop by these restaurants to check out our graduate’s and dean in action, if you’re lucky enough to get a reservation!


New York City

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

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
Atomix, Jhonel Faelnar, Wine Director
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
Gramercy Tavern, Howard Kalachinikoff, Chef de Cuisine
Meadowsweet, Polo Dobkin,  Chef/Owner
NoMad, Mark Welker, Pastry Chef
Oxomoco, Justin Bazdarich, Chef/Co-Owner
Tuome, Tom Chen, Chef/Owner


Chicago

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

Sepia, Andrew Zimmerman, Executive Chef 


Washington D.C.

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

The Dabney, Alex Zink, Owner/Bar Director 

 

San Francisco

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

Saison, Joshua Skenes, Chef/Owner

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

Quince, Aaron Babcock, Sommelier

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

Rich Table, Sarah Rich, Chef/Owner

Pu'er Tea

A History of Pu’er Tea

For a tea that has been around for thousands of years in China—originating along The Silk Road and dating back to the Eastern Han Dynasty—Pu’er remains a unique and sought after tea in both eastern and western markets. Reaching peak popularity in the Qing Dynasty, it continues to be a desired tea for its ease of transport and ability to improve with age. Through a tasting of eight Pu’er tea varietals, Rishi Tea & Botanicals treated us to an informative presentation on the history & processing of Pu’er tea and best practices for tea buying, storing and brewing!

rishi tea demonstrating

The Unique Aging of Pu’er Tea

Over the years of harvesting Pu’er farmers found that the leaves improved as the tea fermented with time, or fermented through the roasting process, which increased its popularity. The aging capabilities of the tea trees deep in the jungles where Pu’er is found also impacted the desire for the tea. Some trees are said to be thousands of years old and still produce a great amount of leaves. Unlike grape vines that yield less grapes as they age, tea trees maintain their ability to yield a solid amount of leaves thousands of years later.

Pu'er teaPu’er belongs to the category of “dark teas” in the west, and “black teas” in China. It can be confusing as teas that are considered “black teas” in the west are actually referred to as “red teas” in China. It’s clear though that Pu’er is best categorized in the dark tea group as these teas are also known as “aged,” “vintage” or “post-fermented.”

 

 

Harvesting & Processing Pu’er Tea

Map of ChinaPu’er tea can be made and categorized in two different ways, but it must be from the large-leaf Assamica variety of the Camellia Sinensis tea plant and made in the Yunnan province of China to be named Pu’er. The Sheng category of Pu’er means that the tea is “green,” “raw,” or “uncooked.” The second category,  Shou, is also known as “black,” “cooked,” or “ripened.” Both of these will go through the normal tea production process of picking the leaves, rolling & forming by hand or machine, sun-drying, steaming, and shaping the leaves.

The only difference between the two categories is that Shou has an extra step of “cooking” the leaves, which means to pile them and help in the fermentation process. This process breaks down the enzymes naturally, which creates heat and helps to “cook” the leaves, in turn adding a different dimension to each cup of tea.

loose tea leavesAfter the entire process is completed for either category, the tea leaves can be left as loose leaves or shaped into different forms—most commonly a tea cake—which makes it easier to transport. After 3 months, Pu’er tea can be brewed for drinking, but additional years of aging will allow the tea to develop its uniquely aged flavor.

Similarly to the importance of terroir for wine, each cup of tea reflects the terroir of where it came from. Terroir can greatly impact flavor in tea as tea leaves soak up anything from its environment. When it comes to Pu’er tea, each farmer and estate has a different way of producing the tea based on millennium old traditions, location, harvest time, how long the leaves were “cooked” for—or if they were at all—and so on. The aging and fermentation process can also impact the flavor and impart different depths to each cup and brew of tea. Tea leaves are sensitive to any change in environment, so anything can really impact the flavor of the tea.

Tips to Buying, Storing and Brewing Your Pu’er Tea

Buying your tea from a trusted source is vital to the quality and consistency of Pu’er tea. Similarly to how Champagne can only come from one region in France, only Pu’er tea from the Yunnan province can be called Pu’er. It’s important to buy from a source that is trustworthy in order to ensure that what you are buying is actually Pu’er.

It is also extremely important to purchase organically-made teas. In the same way that the quality is vital, organically-made teas are shockingly harder to find, but necessary. As tea can (and does) soak up anything from its environment, if the tea is not organic, it will absorb pesticides and harmful substances that is then brewed directly into your cup.A student drinking tea

Storing your Pu’er tea in a cool, odor free and dry location will prolong the life and quality of your tea. Leaving your tea exposed to air is harmful to the tea and can make it oxidize faster—although this can add flavor, it will shorten your tea’s life—so be sure to repackage your tea after each use. It is also important not to touch the leaves frequently with your hands—using a tea pick or a measuring spoon is best practice.

Each Pu’er tea that you buy will be different, so the temperature to brew, steep time, and so on will vary. When brewing your Pu’er tea, consult with your tea shop beforehand to brew correctly.

Rishi TeaA special thanks to Rishi Tea & Botanicals for sharing their vast knowledge on Pu’er Tea. They are the largest importer of certified organic specialty Green, White, Black and Pu’er teas from Yunnan, China in the USA, so be sure to check out their online store here.

Friuli wine

Friuli Venezia Giulia— What to Know About This Lesser Known Wine Region

wineFriuli Venezia Giulia, the north-eastern most region in Italy—with coastal lands, mountains, and characteristic rocky soil—is perfect for wine-making. Though the fifth smallest region in Italy, it produced 18.2 million cases of wine in 2017 alone. Friuli Venezia Giulia is most well-known for their white wines, which happen to be some of the best that Italy produces. Amazingly, 77% of the 18.2 million cases were white wines in 2017.

Friuli Venezia Giulia is also a highly complex region. For thousands of years many different empires battled to control the region, which has resulted in a diverse culture that contributes to the environment where the wine is grown. Between the Romans, Venetians, French, Austrians, Italians, and many more, each have left their mark and changed the development of wine produced in this region.

Cristina from VIASToday, the wines continue to evolve and change throughout the region. Even though many consider it the best white wine region in Italy, there are many other characteristics that contribute to its great wine-making success. So, what makes this small region in Italy so unique? Read below to find out what Vias Imports taught us about the region.

Soil

The soil of Friuli Venezia Giulia, particularly in the Collio region, is known as Ponca in the Friulano dialect, or Flysch in specific geological terms. This soil is found throughout the region and is comprised of marls (chalky clay) and sandstone, two substances which make soil very rocky. Rich in calcium carbonate and alkalinity, the soil helps to give the strong mineral notes and aromatic complexity in many of the wines from this region.

Even though Ponca contributes to the region’s most desired wines, it does have its downfalls. In rainier years it becomes prone to landslides and can destroy entire sections of vineyards in an instant.

Despite it’s notorious difficulty, winemakers have a particular fondness for it due to its ability to produce wines so unique to the region: rich in texture, high in acidity, but still balanced through the acidity.

Climate

The region is characterized by a unique geographic location; on the edge of the Mediterranean climate, marked by the meeting of the Julian Alps mountains and the Adriatic sea. The climate can change in any area of the region at any moment, which can make for unique vintage’s and an ever-changing growing process.

Each of the growing areas in the region tend to have a wide variety of climates, which makes for varying wines. In the Collio DOC near the Slovenian border, the hilly land protects the vines from the cold winds and the close proximity to the Adriatic Sea helps to contribute to a mild and temperate climate. These temperature fluctuations heat and cool the soil which helps to ripen the vines to perfection, making for one of the most unique growing areas in Friuli Venezia Giulia.

Native Grape Varieties

students at the wine tastingMany of the growing areas have grapes that are native to the region. Although many wine growing regions also have native grape varieties, the history of Friuli Venezia Giulia is what makes the native grapes so interesting.

Ribolla Gialla, a tart wine with a hint of salinity, is one of the ancient native varietals from the region, first mentioned in a medieval deed of sale dated to 1299. Long considered one of Italy’s greatest wines, it was appreciated by the nobility of Germany and Venice in the 13th century.

The most beloved wine of the Friulan people, aptly named Friulano or Tocai Friulano, has been a part of the wine-making tradition in this region for centuries. Evidence of this indigenous grape in Friuli dates back to the 12th century. Originally, many thought it was from Hungary, while others argue that it originated in Italy. Interestingly, experts recently found a wedding document that confirmed the grape came from Italy. In 1632, countess Aurora Formentini went to Hungary to marry Prince Adam Batthyany, and brought him “300 grapes of Tocai” as a wedding gift. The native Friulano grape has grassy aromas, similar to Sauvignon Blanc, although they are not related. It has fresh, ripe fruity flavors, that are balanced by herbaceous notes.

Cookbooks and cake

Christina Tosi Is All About Cake

Christina Tosi is a pastry force to be reckoned with—the two-time James Beard Award winning pastry chef and graduate of our Professional Pastry Arts program is known for pastry confections that seemingly break all the rules! While the Milk Bar co-founder, MasterChef guest judge, and featured chef of Netflix’s Chef’s Table: Pastry juggles an already busy schedule, she has still found time to author three deliciously inspiring cookbooks—Momofuku Milk Bar, Milk Bar Life: Recipes and Stories, and Milk Bar: All About Cake.Christina Tosi

This month, ICC welcomed Christina back to her alma matter for a discussion about the inspiration behind her latest cookbook, Milk Bar: All About Cake, and how she’s developed as an author and pastry chef. While Christina’s built a business known for their creative cakes, growing up, she actually didn’t love cake. She found it to be boring and almost always following the same old formula, spongy bases of barely-there flavor topped with too-sweet frosting. After years of experimenting in the Milk Bar kitchen—and recently opening her 15th store—Christina has built a brand embracing the fantastic potential of cake, establishing that cake can (and should!) have personality, integrity, texture and visual appeal!

All About CakeThese four characteristics that cake should have are the basis of Christina’s ground rules for cake. In writing her third cookbook, Milk Bar: All About Cake, and developing her love for cake, she found that as long as cake had personality, integrity, texture and visual appeal, you could be on your way to making something delicious. Read below to find out what Christina shared in the discussion about her life and latest cookbook!

The cake must have a strong point of view, a flavor "story."

Every chef has a story, and Christina’s involves taking a leap to move to New York City, having only visited for a day once before. After studying to become an electrical engineer, she realized that what she really wanted was to bake cookies for the rest of her life. So, she sought to get an education to learn how to do just that!

In researching culinary schools, Christina shared that she “…wanted to go to the best culinary school, the most intense culinary school, that was going to put me into the wild, wonderful world of becoming a pastry chef, and there was only one place, and it was here (ICC).”Christina at the discussion

She then used ICC’s job board, what she calls her “greatest resource” at the time, to find internships and jobs that would allow her to work her way through the culinary industry. She was curious about every aspect of the industry and wanted to find her place in the food world, eventually working with two other ICC alumni, Wylie Dufresne and David Chang, which led her to open Milk Bar in 2008.

Every single layer must be amazingly delicious on its own.

Adjusting to life in New York City and attending pastry school came easy enough for Christina, as it does for many of our students, because she was so passionate about what she was learning in the kitchens of ICC every day.

Early on in her schooling at ICC, she realized that she would get out of the program what she put into it. She brought everything she could into the classroom and learned how to be proactive, which eventually grew her career into what it is today. For her, it was the difference between being a good cook and a great cook, and Christina shared that she learned that at ICC.

Hidden gems of texture within are key.

Cake TruffleChristina’s biggest piece of advice for those looking to open their own bakeries? Make sure you can sell a lot of what you want to bake to pay your rent! Christina shares that you have to love the uphill climb—every day can bring a new challenge, so it’s important to be able to be flexible and diversify yourself when opening your own bakery.

In the early days of Milk Bar, concerns would revolve around ordering enough butter for the holiday season, storing cookies in their original baking facility on the Lower East Side, and whether or not there was enough oven space to fulfill orders. Although these are still concerns of the business 10 years later, now conversations about quality control and hiring become more prevalent for the Milk Bar team as they expand across the continent. Christina explains that your business needs and concerns will evolve over the years, but at the end of the day, it is important to stay true to your brand.

...I won't frost the sides of the cake.

During Milk Bar’s early years, and while baking new desserts for David Chang’s Momofuku restaurants, customers would ask “what’s in cereal milk?,” and “can I get the recipe for compost cookies?”  Growing up cooking at home, Christina was raised with the practice of writing, word-for-word, recipes onto index cards.

Today, her cookbooks have become a way to memorialize the memories of Milk Bar and share how she, and her employees, overcame “…everything in the pursuit of doing what you love and bringing it to life.” The pages-long recipes of her famously unfrosted layer cakes don’t leave anything out, just how Christina lives her life.Christina Tosi Peace sign

When you read her three cookbooks, you feel like you’re a part of the Milk Bar family, just how Christina wants it to be. In sharing the ideas, flavor combinations, and passions of what motivates her team, she wants readers to see inside the unfrosted layers of a Milk Bar cakes, and go on to create something of their own that’s unique to themselves.

One last piece of advice for those looking to write their own cookbook—publishers look for someone with an audience who is interested, but most importantly, they look for individuality. Christina remarked that the world of cookbooks needs more individual flair. So, when you sit down to write the 200+ recipes for your cookbook, think about what makes you unique and make sure you have something to say.

Check out some of our favorite moments from the evening with Christina Tosi below!

Highlights From The Evening

Incubators for Entrepreneurs

This month, our Business Bites Resources—brought to you by ICC’s Culinary Entrepreneurship (CE) program—provides tips for food businesses looking for shared kitchen spaces in the wake of the sudden closing of Pilotworks earlier this month. Out of nowhere, 175 small businesses were displaced “after failing to raise the necessary capital to continue operations.”

Specialty food businesses are becoming more prevalent than ever before in today’s fast-paced retail sales market. In 2014, in the US alone, specialty food businesses were worth over $85 billion dollars. This billion dollar industry didn’t just appear out of nowhere—it came from hardworking, determined individuals who had a dream and a concept that they’ve developed into a viable food business, as many of our students have done through the CE program.

More often than not, these food business concepts started in shared kitchens and incubators around the country. Shared kitchens are the lifeline for small business entrepreneurs looking to turn their idea into a working business. They offer a commercialized kitchen space that follows federal food safety laws where innovators can create their products in a safe environment. Incubators on the other hand also help to develop the packaging, marketing, and selling of products, while still offering the shared kitchen component. Often, these incubators and shared kitchens are much more economical for small businesses that aren’t making enough money to rent out a whole commercial kitchen themselves.

Each incubator also tends to work a little differently. Our partner, Hot Bread Kitchen, allows new businesses on a rolling basis. Many incubators start new businesses in a group and only allow applicants a few times a year. The differences extend from there, including capital offered, applicants accepted, and training programs.

These incubators offer support and allow businesses to grow and flourish, which is why it was devastating to learn that Pilotworks abruptly closed their doors to 175 small businesses.

Our Culinary Entrepreneurship graduate and owner of Brutus Bakeshop, Lani Halliday, was one of the small businesses affected by the Pilotworks shut down. Halliday and her business partner, Woldy Reyes of food service company Woldy Kusina, were in the midst of planning Dominga, a cafe opening in 2019, when they were told about the news of the closing via an email. Lani, recipient of the Stacy’s Scholarship for Female Culinary Leaders, attended ICC’s program this fall on a full-tuition scholarship to formalize the business plan for Dominga.

Lani told us that “we aren’t sure what happened as it was so sudden and unexpected, but we are just trying to stay positive and use this as fire to launch Dominga.” She also shared that “it’s been beautiful to see the community coming together in such a short amount of time.” In an effort to reconcile all that they lost in the Pilotworks closing, our Culinary Entrepreneurship instructor, Alek Marfisi, started a GoFund Me to support Lani. Check out the fundraiser for Dominga here.

In support of the food business community at large, our Culinary Entrepreneurship program compiled a list of commercial kitchens, shared kitchen spaces and incubators in the NYC & Tri-State area that are available for businesses.

Shared Kitchens

Manhattan

Hot Bread Kitchen
1590 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10029
Phone: 212-369-3331
Email: Incubator@hotbreadkitchen.org
Website: www.hotbreadkitchen.org

City Cookhouse
1325 Fifth Avenue @ 111th Street
Manhattan, NY 10026
Phone: 646-580-1325
Email: info@citycookhouse.com
Website: http://www.citycookhouse.com

Brooklyn

Hana Kitchens
34 35th Street
Brooklyn, NY 11232
Phone: 718-369-7594
Website: http://www.hanakitchens.com

NYC Commercial Kitchens
Phone: 516-698-7087
Email: info@nyccommercialkitchen.com
Website: www.nyccommercialkitchen.com

Bronx

NYC Commercial Kitchens
Phone: 516-698-7087
Email: info@nyccommercialkitchen.com
Website: www.nyccommercialkitchen.com

Queens

Mi Kitchen es su Kitchen
36-46 37th Street
Long Island City NY 11101-1606
Phone: 212 452 1866
Email: MiKitchen1866@aol.com
Website: www.MiKitchenEsSuKitchen.com

BAO Food and Drink Organic Food Incubator
23-23 Borden Avenue
Long Island City, NY 11101
Phone: 718-391-0009
Website: www.organicfoodincubator.com
Contact: Pete Herman

NYC Commercial Kitchens
Phone: 516-698-7087
Email: info@nyccommercialkitchen.com
Website: www.nyccommercialkitchen.com

Tiny Drumstick
48-18 Van Dam Street,
Long Island City NY. 11101
Phone: 718.392.9092
Email: info@tinydrumsticks.com
Website: http://www.tinydrumsticks.com

Entrepreneur Space
36-46 37th Street
Long Island City, NY 11101
718-392-0025
Website: http://www.entrepreneurspace-qedc.com

Industry City
https://industrycity.com

New Jersey

Saveur Creole
131 Grove Street
Montclair, NJ 07042
Phone: 973-687-5612;
Contact: Magalye M.

Jersey Girl Cafe – Madeline’s Table
Hamilton, NJ
Phone: 908-421-6434
Contact: Chef Kathy

Bella Casa
2 Acme Street
Belleville, NJ 07109
Phone: 973-985-1224
Contact: Peter Norton

Cherry Street Kitchen
1040 Pennsylvania Ave.
Trenton, NJ 08638
Phone: 609-695-5800
Contact: John

Hesperides Kitchens
150 Florence Avenue
Hawthorne, NJ 07506
Contacts:
Albert (845) 216-1696
Lisa ( 845)216-1282

Jesse’s Cafe & Catering
139 Brighton Ave.
Long Branch, NJ 07740
Phone: 732-229-6999
Contact: Jesse Novak

Puccini Foods
1 Morris St,
Paterson, NJ
(973) 796-7677
Contact: Anthony Salvator

NY - Outside NYC Area

Battenkill Kitchen
PO Box 784
58 E Broadway
Salem, NY 12865
President: Will Lennon
Phone: 518-854-3032
Website: http://www.battenkillkitchen.org

Cook & Bake Center
360 C Mount Pleasant Av
Mamaroneck, NY 10543
Phone: 914-698-3663
E-mail: info@cookandbakecenter.com
Website: www.cookandbakecenter.com

Hometown Foods, LLC
362 Eichybush Rd
Kinderhook, NY 12106
Owner: Anna Dawson
Phone: 518-758-7342
Website: www.hometownfoods.net

ABOUT BUSINESS BITES

The BUSINESS BITES, brought to you by the Culinary Entrepreneurship program at ICC, is a series of workshops, discussion panels, networking events and resources designed to support entrepreneurs in the food industry.