Work Hard Cook Hard

By Danielle Marullo
ICC Student, Professional Culinary Arts

Greetings fellow foodies! My name is Danielle Marullo, and I am obsessed with good food and entertaining. I am a graduate of Penn State University’s School of Hospitality Management and am currently the Assistant General Manager of the Todd English Food Hall in the iconic Plaza Hotel. I ran my own baking business at the age of 13, appeared on Anderson Cooper Live! where I won the “Chopped Challenge” moderated by Food Network’s Ted Allen, and most recently I was the third place winner on Spike TV’s new culinary competition “Frankenfood.”

In June, 2013 I started my very own website “Got Room For More” where I share my original recipes, food articles and instructional cooking videos. My dream in life is to be the next big television chef, like my idol Mr. Bobby Flay (an ICC alum), as well as become the best restaurateur I can be. As of May 2014 I am now a student in the amazing Professional Culinary Arts night program!

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You may be just like me, someone who works a very demanding full-time job, so you’re thinking how can I possibly go to culinary school and still keep my job so I can pay my bills. Trust me, if I can do it you can do it!

I will admit, that the first month was not easy. I will always remember how I felt the first few days of class. I was stressed, anxious, hot, exhausted and a little bit out of focus. By the 4th week I had my routine down pat, and my body began to adjust to the long hours on my feet, the high temperature of the classroom, and the high-pressure environment. I like to compare this transition to learning knife skills: when you first get the knife in your hand it feels awkward and even a little heavy, your feet are clenching in your leather clogs from the tension, and the stress of the instructor hovering over you makes you feel like as if the blade will slip any moment and catch your finger.

After a few weeks of practice your body begins to loosen up, your hands become one with the knife and the blade slides thorough the vegetables with ease. Each stroke of the knife starts feeling organic and effortless… not to mention your julienne carrots finally start looking like julienne carrots. That’s exactly how the transition from Restaurant Manager to Restaurant Manager PLUS Culinary Student felt. Here are some tips to ease your stress and to ultimately help you succeed at both:

Get into a routine. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I know I have to leave work at 5pm in order to get on the subway, and make it to the school with enough time to change and have a few minutes to get my “mis en place” together. It will take a few days of trial and error, but you will find the exact time you must leave work in order to get to ICC safe and sound…and not leave work so early that you anger your boss/coworkers. If you have the time before you begin the program, do a practice run of your commute so when the first day of class comes you will feel a little more comfortable.

Send out your laundry to be washed and folded for you. Yes, this costs some money and maybe this isn’t in everyone’s budget, but I truly feel during the 6 or 9 months you are in culinary school it is worth it! For someone with a tight schedule, you know doing laundry is just another arduous task you have to tack onto your work week, so eliminate it by sending your chef whites out to be cleaned for you once a week or on a need to basis to free up a few hours!

Pay attention and take notes in class! For someone like me who has very limited time to study for the exams, it is crucial that you jot down information during lecture. The chefs usually put the information you will be tested on on the front board so be sure to take down these notes or even snap a picture on your phone to ensure you have it all down.

– While you’re on the subway or commuting from work, take that time to read over the recipes for the class that day. This will help you to make mental notes about what you need gather on your station when you get to class and also move at a faster pace because you wont have to go back to your notes a tremendous amount of times to see which step comes next.

– Get to know your classmates. There will be days when you have a hard day at work and cooking for 5 hours in a 90 degree kitchen is not exactly what you want to do that evening, but if you make some friends in class you will have that sense of support and love you need to keep yourself motivated and positive.

Bring plastic tupperware to class everyday! You will have many opportunities to bring the food you cook home with you, so make sure you are prepared! You can eat these leftovers on the days you don’t have class to free up some time in your schedule to catch up with friends and family. You can also show off your skills by giving your friends and family a taste of the amazing dishes you created in class. Trust me their reactions and praise are enough motivation to keep you going!

In conclusion, balancing work, school and your personal life is not a piece of cake (pun intended), but with the right preparation and attitude you can do it and succeed at it! I have been having the time of my life at ICC and feel the skills and techniques I am learning will get me exactly where I want to be!

Learn more about Danielle’s class: Professional Culinary Arts 

Food Craze Alert! Balanced Diet is Best

By Renee Farrell
ICC Student, Professional Culinary Arts

How many articles can the Internet find on “bacon jam”? Google comes up with 16.6 million results. What about “juice cleanses”? 13.2 million results. Now let’s try something that fits snugly in between those two extremes: “balanced diet”. Only 11.4 million hits. Why is this topic the least popular? Probably because it’s less sexy, doesn’t act like a reality TV show and doesn’t photograph well for glossy magazines.

The fact of the matter is that sensationalism draws attention and balance doesn’t. Crazes come and go (Atkins 1972) and sometimes they even get an encore (Atkins 2011), but balanced diets have worked for centuries and remain the original and most effective way to ensure the best possible existence you can achieve.

It’s nutrition week at ICC for my Professional Culinary Arts class. We started with Meatless Monday and have rounded out a week of lectures from our French Master Chef-Instructor Marc Bauer. His attitude towards food was formed as a youngster growing up on an Alsatian Farm, and later refined through study of nutrition at university. His approach is simple: eat a little bit of everything. There is particular emphasis on the “little”. In France he was taught to leave the table feeling a little less than satiated, which is very different from the American approach to eat until your full.

Diets are also factors of economy. Larger consumption of food requires cheap inputs with long shelf life in order to be affordable, which is why highly processed carbohydrates, fats and sugars play such a starring role in manufactured foods. When I first came to America as an exchange student in 2004, I was mesmerized by all of the sweet, inexpensive, long shelf-life products I found and tried. Bread would last two weeks, unlike the three days we used to get back in Australia, and ketchup was much sweeter and saltier than I had ever tasted. All of these staples of the American diet were pretty inexpensive, very convenient, had a lot of sugar and packed with preservatives to extend the used-by date. There is also another cultural factor supporting the trend of high consumption of sugar and preservatives, and that’s the popularity of prescription medication. If an imbalance exists in your body it can be treated with ease. And vitamins can back you up. There really is a pill for everything.

In this fast-paced modern world with a growing population I understand the need for cheap and convenient food, however, eggs are pretty cheap and convenient. So is an apple.

I’m not writing to debunk any myths or sway you from starting a new diet trend, but I am advocating that a balanced approach, over a long period of time, may just be the best way to go. And think of the benefits a little bit of everything will bring. I’m pretty sure Chef Marc said good things about red wine.

Learn more: Professional Culinary Arts

Assisting Master Chef Ron Ben-Israel

By Camille Sedayao
ICC Student, Cake Techniques & Design

It would not be an exaggeration to call my love for cakes an obsession. I am continuously looking for new techniques to apply to cakes and admire those who have found their niche as cake designers. So, when our class was asked for volunteers to assist ICC’s Guest Master Pastry Chef Ron Ben-Israel during a cake demo, I jumped on the rare opportunity.

An hour before the demo, my chef-instructor took me and another volunteer to Ron Ben-Israel Cakes to meet with Ron and pick up supplies. Little did I know he would invite us in for a tour. His pristine shop was naturally lit and the shelves were filled with the most unique display cakes. He had countless pre-made sugar flowers in airtight containers, stacked almost as high as the ceiling. I did not want to blink; afraid I would miss something. Then, Chef Ron took us to his walk-in refrigerator where he showed us parts of a cake with real Swarovski crystals! After a quick meet-and-greet with his employees, it was time to walk back to school.

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As an assistant, I was able to get a sense of Chef Ron’s organizational process. During set-up, he asked an assistant to fetch six half-sheet pans. He explained that each pan would contain tools for each stage of his demo, allowing a smooth transition when shifting gears. I could see how his meticulous habits, beginning with his tools, allow him to create such flawless cakes. After set-up, Chef Ron needed little help from the assistants until, to our surprise, it came time to decorating the cake!

The theme of Chef Ron’s demo was summer cakes. He brought a citrus cake layered with three flavors of Swiss meringue buttercream: coconut, lemon and raspberry. He made the crowd laugh by saying we could each have a slice “if [we] were good.” When designing and decorating a cake, Chef Ron noted that it is best to stick with two motifs and build from there. For this demo, he demonstrated how to make and apply textured horizontal stripes and large peony flowers.

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Chef Ron began by covering a 5-inch tier cake with fondant. It was already perfectly iced with Swiss meringue buttercream and he said there was no secret to achieve this, only lots of practice! As for rolling the fondant, his recommendation was to use a PVC pipe, which is food-safe, and could be bought at a hardware store. His cakes sit on predrilled Masonite boards, which are sturdier than cake circles and the hole allows him to place the cake through a large center dowel.

Once Chef Ron built the three-tier cake, it was time to decorate! He used a pasta machine attached with a motor to roll out sugar paste. To give the paste texture, he placed a long piece of lace on top of the rolled paste and put it through the machine together. He cut strips of paste and tasked the assistants with applying the strips horizontally. Chef Ron joked that they must be perfectly straight, making us more nervous than we already were! The three assistants worked together and applied the strips, the best we could, using piping gel and real ribbon to help space them out. The audience cheered us on and gave us encouragement to finish the job well! Chef Ron completed the demo with peony flowers and placed them on the cake. For serving cake, Chef Ron recommends a long knife meant for cutting smoked fish. To ensure a neat slice, clean the blade between cuts.

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Overall, it was a great experience assisting a Master Chef. I am glad I was able to have this opportunity and learn first-hand some amazing tricks and techniques for cake decorating. I would not have been able to have this experience were it not for the International Culinary Center and its goal to provide continuing education outside the classroom.

Learn more: Cake Techniques & Design

Cake Techniques & Design: Sweet Progress

By Camille Sedayao
ICC Student, Cake Techniques & Design

The Spring 2014 Cake Techniques & Design class is on its last leg of the three-month program. As part of the class, I can say that I am truly astounded by the progress that each of my classmates have achieved. We all came into this program from different backgrounds and varied experiences with cake decorating. However, the immersion method has allowed us to cultivate our individual skills, as well as learn to work with each other. Here is a look into what we’ve been baking up so far.

At the start of the program, we were immediately introduced to the basics of baking. We learned a wide array of tasty cakes and buttercreams to add to our repertoire, such as a genoise and pate-a-bombe buttercream. Piping and fondant techniques were also introduced as we became tasked with building and decorating fun two-tiered cakes, such as the gift box cake. Personally, I hadn’t had much experience covering cakes in fondant, especially square cakes, but with the chef instructor’s guidance, I was able to do so.

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Into Unit 3, we began building our sugar flower skills. This is the time when our kitchen turned into a garden. The class spent a week learning how to make all sorts of flowers that could be used for special occasion cakes and wedding cakes. One of those days we visited by the world renowned Ron Ben-Israel, who taught us his method for beautiful, realistic looking sugar roses! Once we were finished, our vibrant floral arrangements were displayed at the window of the school’s restaurant, L’Ecole.

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As my class moved into the final unit, we were assigned to work in pairs to create carved whimsical cakes that include elements taught in previous units, such as pastillage and modeling. We were encouraged to show our individual creativity and as a team, bring our ideas together in a cohesive manner. Other advantages with working in teams are the opportunity to learn techniques from each other, and gain experience with brainstorming and completing a project with another person, just as one might in the real world. It is evident in the picture that our class has come a long way from the plainly iced genoise!

Our latest project was the Russian Doll Cake, which consisted of carving a delicious pound cake in the shape of a matryoshka doll and decorating it in a traditional or non-traditional way. This individual project was a major challenge in design and technical skill, and the humid weather was not much help. However, we ended the day with great results and a variety of colorful characters!

When it comes to this cake class and chef instructor, there is much to be proud of and even more of which to look forward. Everyday we are gaining the necessary skills and the self-confidence to test our limits and create something new, and as always, delicious!

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If you would like to attempt your own carved cake, or you just enjoy a slice of pound cake, here is the recipe:

Pound Cake, One-Step
For One ½ Sheet Pan
– 282 g all-purpose flour
– 388 g granulated sugar
– 1 t grated orange/lemon peel
– ½ t salt
– ½ t baking soda
– 220 g sour cream
– 227 g butter, softened
– 1 t vanilla extract
– 3 eggs

Heat oven to 325°F.
1. Generously grease with butter and lightly flour pan.
2. In large bowl, blend all cake ingredients at low speed until moistened.
3. Beat 3 minutes at medium speed.
4. Pour batter into prepared pan.
5. Bake for 55-60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes our clean.
6. Cool to lukewarm. Invert onto cooling rack.

The choice: Part Time vs. Full Time?

By Renee Farell
ICC Student, Professional Culinary Arts

As a member of the Professional Culinary Arts evening program at ICC, I benefit from a lot of spare time. I’m lucky to have been able to leave my former path and start afresh, and chose the weeknight class to immerse myself in the industry while gaining my culinary education.

There are two tracks at ICC. You can choose the intensive program and complete all coursework in six months, or you can do the weeknight track and maintain a part-time (or in some cases, full-time) job while completing your studies.

As a career changer, I chose the first option. Since leaving the finance industry and starting the evening Culinary Arts program, I’ve worked for Sur La Table, started a food blog, gained food media exposure by networking with test-kitchen experts at Bon Appétit magazine, helped food-focused not-for-profit the Healthbarn Foundation get their social media strategy on track, and have been introduced to entrepreneurs and chefs that I would never have gained exposure to were it not for the doors that ICC opened.

A lot of people ask how I’ve found the time to do all of this in the two short months since I’ve started. To tell you the truth, I don’t think I’ve done all that much compared to some of my classmates. One of the top performing students in my class is a mother who recently put two kids through college (one through law school), currently works full-time, and runs six miles five times a week – all while acing the evening culinary arts program. I feel lazy in comparison.

As I see it, the major benefits of the full-time program are definitely the immersion and intensity. What my class will achieve in nine months, the full-timers will achieve in six. It’s a big commitment, but immersion is the most active ingredient. Without constant participation and interest it’s impossible to achieve the full potential the culinary arts program offers. It’s an amazing opportunity that leaves you wanting to squeeze out every last drop, and hang onto every word of advice that your chef-instructor imparts.

Which brings me to my final point: it’s what you put into the program that will determine what you get out of it. The choice to go full-time of part-time will depend on your specific circumstances, the more important choice is to be present, alert and prepared. You’ll be glad you did.

Student’s Cake Inspires Donations to Doctors Without Borders

By Camille Sedayao
ICC Student, Cake Techniques & Design

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International Culinary Center’s Cake Techniques & Design program is no piece of cake. The chefs and curriculum continuously challenge the knowledge and skill of each and every student, from baking to decorating. The two-tier midterm cake is one such challenge, consisting of two types of cake, two fillings, buttercream icing and fondant or gumpaste décor based on an assigned theme.

Once the theme of Travel/Vacation/Bon Voyage was announced, I was quickly inspired by events in my personal life. My best friend, a registered nurse, had recently begun a fundraiser called 2 Nurses 2 Bikes for Doctors Without Borders (DWB). She has planned a month-long, 2,000-mile bicycle excursion all around France, where DWB was founded. I wanted to encourage my friend along her journey and convey my appreciation for her tireless efforts through this cake.

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In my design process, I decided that a model bicycle made from gumpaste would be the focal point of the cake. This was the perfect opportunity to use the gumpaste bicycle tutorial by Michelle of Sweet Dreams Cake App. Since the trip will take place in France, I also imagined lavender fields and cobblestone. I included these elements in my sketch as well. However, it was not until the cake started to take shape did I make alterations and hone my design.  During this process, I learned that it is important to be prepared with an idea, but creativity is not limited to what’s on the paper. The end result was a cake iced in Swiss meringue buttercream with simple fondant and piped buttercream décor, a gumpaste bicycle and picnic basket complete with French baguette.

I was so excited with the results of my midterm cake, especially the gumpaste bicycle, that I shared it with Michelle of Sweet Dreams Cake App. She loved the cake and its inspiration so much that she donated $100 to the fundraiser! I was caught by surprise again when a fellow classmate, Tammy Watts, made an incredibly generous donation. I did not imagine that my simple cake could have this ripple effect, but it has been very gratifying.

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Attending ICC’s Cake Techniques & Design program and completing this midterm project have strengthened my love for cake. What we do, as cake decorators, goes beyond making dessert. Our purpose is to convey a message and create edible art that moves those who see and taste it.

Learn more about our Cake Techniques & Design program here: https://www.internationalculinarycenter.com/courses/cake-techniques-and-design/

ICC’s Culinary Intelligence

By Renee Farrell
ICC Student, Professional Culinary Arts

Alums Blog

International Culinary Center has a long list of famous alumni, the most impressive of whom have photos and imprints of their hands mounted ceremoniously on the walls in the school’s hallways. This huge network of game changers, thought leaders, rule breakers and style makers have helped shape the culinary intelligence of America as we know it today. Two exceptional renegades come to mind:

Game Changer & Thought Leader – Dan Barber (ICC, 1994), Restauranteur & Author
An important development in the US over the last thirty years has been the championing of healthy food production methods and increased education about health and nutrition. You can see the East Coast movement flourishing at the bustling Union Square farmers markets on any given Saturday morning. One of the biggest and most effective champions of this movement is restaurateur Dan Barber of Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, located in the non-profit farm Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture. Not only does Barber practice what he preaches by offering fresh, seasonal, produce-driven menus at his restaurants, he also authors books on the topic, and more recently was appointed by President Barrack Obama to serve as a food expert on the President’s Council on Physical Fitness, Sports and Nutrition. In 2009, Barber was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world. I wonder if he ever daydreamed about these accolades while turning cocottes at ICC back in the day.

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Rule Breaker & Style Maker – David Chang (ICC, 2001), Restauranteur & Entrepreneur
Who says you can’t put fried chicken on a noodle bar menu? When David Chang opened Momofuku Noodle Bar in New York City’s east village he broke every rule. It was fine dining but it was ramen, it was in the grungy rock’n’roll east village but it was sleek and modern, and it was tiny but could pack a crowd. Every rule once written now erased. And there were lines around the corner to prove it. Chang’s restaurant success lead to more posts of the beloved Momofuku franchise, as well as Lucky Peach magazine.

From their humble beginnings as students at ICC, alumni are changing the face of America’s culinary intelligence by expanding conventional wisdom and championing a better understanding. This leaves me to ponder the impression I’ll make once I graduate. I plan to take the culinary intelligence that I’ve gained, continue to expand on it and meaningfully communicate all things “food” in any medium possible.

To my fellow students, what will you do with your diploma?

My Journey from ICC to Momofuku

By Aaron Hutcherson
2012 Professional Culinary Arts Graduate

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My goal upon graduating from the Professional Culinary Arts program at the International Culinary Center was to gain a position in food media. As such, I accepted an internship with Food Arts Magazine to gain experience and try to get my foot in the door. After about 10 weeks my internship ended and I had no job prospects in that field, so I decided to join full time as a cook at Northern Spy Food Co., where I had been working weekends during my internship.  Throughout that time, I continued to search for what I thought to be my dream job. Alas, after a year of looking and no such luck I decided to take a pseudo break from life by baking at Camp Ballibay, a summer camp for Fine and Performing Arts in the mountains of Pennsylvania. I figured it would give me the time and environment to clear my head and re-evaluate what I wanted to do with my life. (Plus I thought it would be beneficial to experience nature after living in New York City for four years.)

As I was approaching the end of my sabbatical from urban life, I came across a posting on Good Food Jobs for an operations position at Momofuku. Working for such a well-regarded restaurant group seemed like a one-in-a-million opportunity, but reading through the job description and desired requirements, I was unsure if I was qualified enough to be considered. Every couple of days I would revisit the job posting to mull the idea over. After about two weeks of this—and noticing that the position was still unfilled—I decided to cast my doubts aside and submit my cover letter and resumé.

A few interviews and several months later, here I am as a member of the Momofuku family. I work in the “operations” department, which really means I do a little bit of everything. A few examples of some of my tasks have included purchasing restaurant equipment, formatting menus for several of our restaurants, analyzing sales data, helping manage technology systems, and much, much more. Since it can be so varied, I sometimes have a hard time describing what I do whenever posed the question, but that diversity is what helps keep things interesting—that and a good group of co-workers.

And, to answer the question I’m sure you’re all wondering—yes, I do have access to a regular supply of Milk Bar treats.

Follow Aaron’s culinary journey on The Hungry Hutch.

Memorial Day Grilling Tips and Recipe

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!
To help kick-off the start of summer, we wanted to share some tips for grilling from the experts at ICC! Share your holiday recipes and photos with us on Facebook and Twitter with #ICCGrills.

Adapted from “The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Cuisine”

When grilling, the grill must be absolutely clean, very hot and lightly oiled. The item to be grilled should also be oiled to prevent sticking. To achieve crisscross grill marks (quadrillage), place the item on the hot grill at a 30 degree angle, toward the right. The item is grilled without moving for a few minutes, or just until the grill marks are seared into the meat (or other item). The item is then turned at a 30 degree angle to the left and grilled without moving, just until the grill marks are seared into it. The process is then repeated on the opposite side of the item. Meat to be grilled should be brought to room temperature before being placed on the grill to ensure that it does not remain cold in the center when cooked to rare and that the intense heat does not cook the exterior before the interior reaches the desired degree of doneness.

Meat usually has to be checked for the desired degree of doneness with an instant-read thermometer or by the touch test. The touch test is best practiced on the fleshy part of the palm of your hand. When the hand is relaxed, the softness of the fleshy part is equal to the elasticity of rare meat; as you open your hand and the fleshy part gets firmer, it will gradually equal medium and then well done meat. However, touch-test accuracy is also a function of the type of meat, cut, age, thickness, and so on; each type has to be learned. For instance, a filet does not feel like a strip steak. Again, time and practice are necessary to gain confidence at this age-old cook’s skill. Until you master it, check yourself with a thermometer.

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Roasted Red Pepper-Ancho Chile Vinaigrette
Recipe by Alumnus Bobby Flay
“The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Cuisine”
Tip: Serve over grilled filet mignon topped with goat cheese.
Serves: 4

2 ancho chiles
2 red bell peppers, roasted, peeled, stems, seeds and membranes removed
3 cloves garlic, crushed
45 milliliters (3 tablespoons) red wine vinegar
14 grams (1 tablespoon) honey
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
60 mililiters (1/4 cup) canola oil
15 grams (3 tablespoons) chopped fresh cilantro

Place the ancho chiles in a heatproof bowl. Cover with boiling water and set aside to soften for 1 hour.

Remove the softened chiles from the water but reserve the water. Remove and discard the stems. Coarsely chop the chiles and place them in a blender. Coarsely chop the bell peppers and place them in the blender. Add the garlic along with the 60 milliliters (1/4 cup) of the chile soaking liquid. Process until smooth. Add the vinegar, honey and salt and pepper to taste and blend for 2 seconds. With the motor running, slowly add the oil, blending to emulsify. Pour into a nonreactive container and stir in the cilantro. Drizzle over steaks and serve immediately.

My Final Months at ICC

Amanda Neal
ICC Student, Professional Culinary Arts plus Farm-to-Table

It’s hard to believe that I’m halfway through level six at the International Culinary Center, and that I’m less than a month away from graduating from culinary school! It’s been a crazy, busy and exciting five months, and I’m excited to be at the tail end of my education and ready to enter the food industry as a professional chef.

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Level five at ICC is the first level where we actually cook at the school’s restaurant: L’Ecole. It’s a fully functioning, professional kitchen and restaurant where all the school’s students cook dishes for patrons. It’s just like any other working kitchen; you prep food for lunch or dinner, run service, then break down and clean up. Because I am a day student, my classmates and I work lunch service every day. The restaurant maintains a steady amount of covers, and it’s a great atmosphere to learn kitchen etiquette and technique if you’ve never experienced working in a kitchen before. You also get to experience working at every station: starting with entremetier, then garde manger, poissonnier, saucier and finally patissier.

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Level six is exactly the same as level five, except we have a few written tests to review information we learned in levels one and level two. We are also challenged with a whole new menu – brand new dishes to learn. These dishes will become what we’ll have to prepare for our final exam. In this level, it is important not to miss even one class, because every day is an opportunity to practice creating each dish. The more you get to practice, the more prepared you will be for your final. The final exam seems really stressful, but after a month of practicing and studying, cooking the dishes should come naturally. With only a few weeks left, our final is quickly approaching, and I’m more excited then ever to graduate from ICC!