Genevieve Yam Kopman

My Favorite Books: An Interview with Alumna Genevieve Yam Kopman

“If I can’t read it or eat it, I’m not interested”

Meet Genevieve Yam Kopman. Culinary Arts ‘17 Graduate. Pastry Chef de Partie at Per Se.

Yam and Pepin

A culinary book helped to change Genevieve Yam Kopman’s life—so it’s not surprising that she logged some significant time in the library while she was studying at ICC. “I love books, especially culinary ones,” she says now. ”If I wasn’t here, I was at [the bookstore] Kitchen Arts and Letters.”

Before culinary school, she was working as a data associate in Toronto, at a startup called Zomato. But she found working with Excel all day “soul-sucking.” That’s when the former restaurant stagiaire started reading Dan Barber’s The Third Plate—and figured out what she really wanted to do with her life. “Someone referred to food as my ‘side hustle’” she says now. “I didn’t want it to be a side hustle, I wanted it to be my career.” In November 2016, Yam enrolled in ICC’s Professional Culinary Arts program + Farm-to-Table extension, hoping that her newest life dream—working at Blue Hill at Stone Barns with Chef Dan Barber—would work out.

And it did: after her externship at Blue Hill at Stone Barns was complete, she was hired at the restaurant full time! Though her training at ICC was in culinary, she ended up transitioning to pastry, both because of her interest in it and because the pastry department was short-staffed. She learned a lot of pastry techniques during the whirlwind two years she spent at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, and “loved every minute of it.” In February, she moved on to become a pastry chef de partie at Per Se.

Unsurprisingly, she admits that her style of cooking and the way she uses ingredients has a strong farm-to-table slant, influenced by the time she spent working for Chef Dan Barber. “It’s definitely seasonal and very much plant and ingredient driven. I like to keep things simple. As for desserts, I really enjoy desserts with fruit. I love sweets but don’t like desserts that are too sweet. Desserts and baked goods should never just taste like sugar—they should always have a flavor of their own.”

This spring, we challenged Genevieve to come up with the five books that influenced her most during culinary school—and which she felt would be most useful to ICC students pursuing their passion in the kitchen. Here are her top choices:

1. The Third Plate by Dan Barber

the third plateThis book really changed the way I thought about food, cooking, and agriculture. It’s insightful and makes you think critically about the way food is grown/raised, prepared, and served. It made me feel hopeful about the future of food. I can’t even begin to sum it up in a few sentences! After I read it, I wanted to share it with everyone I knew. 

2. On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee

on food and cookingThis book continues to answer so many of my questions. How can we make something delicious if we don’t know anything about our ingredients? It looks at the history of milk, eggs, meat, fruits, vegetables, spices, grains, nuts, bread, sauces, sugars, alcohol, and food additives, and discusses nutrition and the principles of cooking. Along the same vein, I highly recommend Kitchen Mysteries by Hervé This…

3. The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Elix Katz

the art of fermentationI am endlessly fascinated by fermentation and preservation. Some people find fermentation very intimidating but Katz breaks it down really well and you will want to ferment everything when you’re through with it.

4. Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison

vegetable literacyKnow your vegetables! Vegetable Literacy is so helpful for identifying different plant species and families. 

5. The Art of French Pastry by Jacquy Pfeiffer

the art of french pastryI didn’t go to school for pastry, so this book was very helpful and instructive for traditional French pastry techniques. A lot of what I know was learned on the job, but most of it also came from taking the time to learn when I wasn’t at work. It’s very straightforward and the recipes are great— I think it’s one of the best pastry books out there.

There are so many other books I’d like to include (including The Last Course [by Claudia Fleming]) but I think these are… very essential, the ones that have really influenced the way I think about food.

Cookbook Conversation With Alumna Anna Gass & HarperCollins

On May 30th, join us for a discussion with Cristina Garces, Editor at HarperCollins Publishers, in conversation with ICC Alumna Anna Francese Gass, author of newly released cookbook Heirloom Kitchen. Gain insight into what it takes to write a cookbook, as well as what publishers are looking for and the working dynamics between an author and publisher. Learn about food styling, writing and editing recipes, and even tasting (and testing) the recipes. Plus, taste one of the final recipes in her book, “Church Festival” Spanakopita, and ask the questions you need to get your cookbook published!

Copies of Anna’s new book, Heirloom Kitchen, will be available for purchase. Anna will also be signing books after the event.


Thursday, May 30th | 3:30-5:00pm
International Culinary Center
462 Broadway, 2nd Floor Theater

Anna Francese Gass grew up in a small town on the Rhode Island shore before moving to New York City for university and an exciting new life. After a stint in the corporate world, she decided—in order to be truly happy—she needed to spend her time in the kitchen, instead of an office cubicle.

She quit her fast-paced sales job and, in 2011, enrolled in the Professional Culinary Arts program at the French Culinary Institute, now The International Culinary Center, in Lower Manhattan to follow her dream of cooking. Soon thereafter, she found her niche in test kitchens, and has worked for Whole Foods, Mad Hungry, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and Food52.

After assisting on numerous successful cookbooks, she decided to write her own, Heirloom Kitchen. For this cookbook, she traveled around the country cooking with Mothers and Grandmothers, and her hope is that by transcribing these cherished recipes, they will continue to be shared and loved for generations to come.

business bites

Business Bites: Reaping The Benefits of Going Green

The BUSINESS BITES SERIES, brought to you by the Culinary Entrepreneurship program at ICC, is a series of workshops, discussion panels and networking events designed to support entrepreneurs in the food industry. Each event is designed to provide education, information and the opportunity to connect with industry experts in a collaborative setting.


Thursday, April 18th | 6:30-8:00pm
International Culinary Center
462 Broadway, 2nd Floor Theater

63 million tons of food is wasted annually in the US—that’s equivalent to 180 Empire State Buildings—and the restaurant industry alone generates 11.4 million tons of food waste each year. There’s no denying that there remains great room for improvement to make food businesses and restaurants more sustainable. In addition to the environmental and social reasons, there are also many economic incentives for businesses to adopt sustainable practices. For instance, did you know that for every dollar invested in food-waste reduction, restaurants can realize about $8 in cost savings? Energy efficiency, composting, recycling, ingredient sourcing and packaging are all ways that food businesses can incorporate sustainable practices to improve their bottom line.

So what does it take to make your restaurant or food business sustainable through the front door and out the back?

In celebration of Earth Day this April, and part of our Understanding Your ‘Foodprint’ series, our latest installment of Business Bites, Reaping the Benefits of Going Green, will demonstrate how these ethical choices can help to reduce your bottom line. Hear from a panel of experts operating local restaurants with an emphasis on sustainability, as well as professionals working to bring solutions in food waste to consumers and food business owners a like. They’ll discuss NYC requirements for commercial organic waste, solutions for hauling food waste, composting, compostable packaging & products, sourcing ingredients, energy efficiency and more. Plus, you’ll also have ample time for networking and the opportunity to learn how ICC’s Culinary Entrepreneurship program can take you from concept to business plan & pitch in just 6-weeks!


Alek Marfisi
Alek Marfisi – Owner, Upwind Strategies & ICC Entrepreneurship Instructor

Alek Marfisi is a native New Yorker with a passion for building things and helping people. After working advising small businesses for five years, Alek launched Upwind Strategies in 2015 with the mission of providing deeper and more relatable services to small businesses: the anti-business-school services firm. He previously worked with the NYS Small Business Development Center where he dove into the exciting intricacies of making entrepreneurial projects a reality. Since then, Alek has logged more than 11,000 hours working with small businesses and has been recognized as one of the top drivers of economic development in the country.


christina mitchell grace
Christina Mitchell Grace, CEO of Food Print Group

Christina Grace is a leader in sustainable food systems planning and zero waste. She is CEO of Foodprint Group, a services business that helps food, hospitality and corporate office teams design for zero waste through better purchasing, recycling infrastructure and integrated training. She is co-author of the NYC Zero Waste Design Guidelines, and an advocate for sustainable food and waste policies. She has 15+ years experience as a food systems planner working from farm to compost. She is a trained cook based in Brooklyn where she’s raising two kids and a startup.

john opperman
John Oppermann, Executive Director of Earth Day Initiative

John Oppermann serves as Executive Director of Earth Day Initiative, an environmental non-profit with a variety of sustainability initiatives, including the Gotham Grazer sustainable food education program and a community solar program helping to bring rooftop solar facilities to New York City.  The Gotham Grazer program includes various sustainable food toolkits, including a mock negotiation placing participants in the roles of stakeholders trying to bring sustainable food solutions to a food desert.  He also serves as an Associate Real Estate Broker at Compass, specializing in green and healthy homes, and an adjunct professor at NYU with a course titled Marketing Green Homes, which looks at how a variety of green and healthy building features and standards (including LEED, Passive House, and WELL) resonate with home buyers.  John is a graduate of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and Harvard Law School.​

Naama Tamir, Co-Founder of Lighthouse & Lighthouse Outpost

Naama Tamir born and raised in the city of Rehovot in Israel, she moved to NY in 2000 after her mandatory IDF service. She studied Philosophy and Psychology at Hunter college while moonlighting in the hospitality industry. Upon graduation it became clear that her passion lies in restaurants, sustainability and education. In 2011 along with her brother-partner Assaf Tamir, they opened Lighthouse in South Williamsburg, a sustainable and forward thinking restaurant. In August 2016 the opened a second location named Lighthouse Outpost in Soho.

Other commitments include : Producer of Umami Food and Art Festival, Chair of sustainability practises and green initiative at BaBar (bar & restaurant alliance), Co-founder NFL – No Free Lunch sustainability platform at the Institute of Public Knowledge, Collaborator in the reusable to go container project by sanitation department, Guest speaker : NYU, New School,  ICE – ‘Sustainability Plate by Plate’ Conscientious Capitalism’, Consultant & leader : Fair Kitchens initiative, Contributor : James Beard Foundation Impact Program

michael chernow
Michael Chernow, Co-Founder of The Meatball Shop & Founder of Seamore’s

Michael Chernow started working in restaurants as a teenager on New York City’s Upper East Side.  He has since built a successful career in the industry including seven years at Frank Prizanzano’s eponymous flagship restaurant, Frank, where he cultivated a large, loyal following.  In 2007, Michael enrolled in the French Culinary Institute, graduating with honors and an associate’s degree in both Culinary Arts and Restaurant Management at the end of the two-year program.  In 2010, Michael teamed up with his childhood friend Daniel Holzman and debuted The Meatball Shop in New York City’s Lower East Side. The mix-and-match menu of meatballs, served in a warm and convivial environment, was an instant hit.  Five more locations of The Meatball Shop—in Williamsburg, the West Village, Chelsea, the Upper East Side and the Hell’s Kitchen—opened in quick succession. Michael also co-authored The Meatball Shop Cookbook, which was published to much acclaim in 2011. A passionate fisherman since childhood, Michael combined his love of fishing and his culinary expertise with Seamore’s in New York City, which opened in summer of 2015 to immediate and consistent buzz. Michael has appeared in countless broadcast segments including ABC’s Good Morning America, NBC’s TODAY Show and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno as well as in an array of widely reaching local and national publications such as The New York Times, Food & Wine, Saveur, People, Food Network Magazine and GQ. 


Sharing the Slice: Finding Balance

On Sunday, March 24th, 2019 the International Culinary Center hosted a jam-packed day of discussions and networking for pastry professionals at the second Pastry Plus Conference. Pastry Plus provides a unique opportunity to connect the innovative minds of pastry professionals to meet and discuss the changing landscape of the industry. As a community, pastry chefs, sous chefs, line cooks, bakers and pastry business owners address the evolving workplace, learn about industry innovations and expand the sphere of the modern pastry chef.

panelThe theme of this year’s conference, Sharing the Slice, focused on how the industry must consider the way in which we connect and share information. Cooking has always been a shared experience. As Emily Luchetti—Chief Pastry Officer of Big Night Restaurant Group & ICC Dean of Pastry—shared in her conference address, pastries and desserts are innately created to be shared at the end of a meal. The morning forum, presented by our partner Callebaut®, brought to light how chefs share ideas and communicate in today’s changing landscape of modern technology. The panel discussion moderated by Mitchell Davis, Chief Strategy Officer of The James Beard Foundation, featured Zoe Kanan (Head Baker of Simon & The Whale and The Studio), Rose Levy Beranbaum (Cookbook Author) and Ron Ben-Israel (Owner of Ron Ben-Israel Cakes). Everything from the future of cookbooks to the risks and rewards of increased connection through social media were discussed.

zoe kananPastry Plus also provides an opportunity for current ICC students to volunteer for the day’s events—sit in on panels, individual classes and meet their future colleagues in the industry. Current ICC Professional Pastry Arts student, Samantha Daily was one of 15 volunteers that attended the conference. Samantha began the day greeting guests; little did she know VIP guests and speakers would also be entering with attendees. She shared that this was her “first indication of just how much this conference drew professionals from the pastry industry together.” From industry legends like Elizabeth Falkner and Claudia Flemming, to rising pastry talents like Zoe Kanan and Eunji Lee, Samantha remarked that “everyone was treated equally”. “Everyone walked in the same door, had the same breakfast, and attended the same conference,” said Samantha. We asked Samantha to share some of her biggest takeaways from the panel and opening forum to hear from the next generation of pastry professionals. Read below to hear about her experience at Pastry Plus!

Social Media Promotes The Sharing of Ideas

rose levy barenbaumRose Levy Beranbaum, author of The Cake Bible, spoke about how cookbooks once sparked a change in the industry by pushing people to share what they know. Before cookbooks were widely popularized, chefs guarded their techniques and recipes as secrets. Cookbooks built the foundation of communication among professionals and home cooks alike.

Today, social media and the internet have completely changed the landscape. For better or worse, chefs are almost expected to share what they know. The positive is that often by sharing their ideas through posts on their social channels, they allow budding chefs to grow through their knowledge and connect with other colleagues around the world.

Ron Ben-Israel shared the story of how he met Rose years ago. At the time, there was no direct message on social media to contact someone you admired. Instead, Ron wrote to the publisher of Rose’s cookbook with words of admiration for her work. The letter made its way to Rose and she ended up meeting with Ron because he took the time to write to her. Nowadays, Ron commented that this has changed within the industry because of social media, and it’s not always positive. Instead of decorum and professionalism, people often message him on Instagram asking for his recipes. As someone who values teaching others, he would be willing to share helpful tips, but there is an air of expectation with this communication that does not promote growth in the industry. What is his suggestion to rising chefs? Strive to build relationships with chefs and learn from them in a different setting.

Giving Credit is Important

The panelists all agreed—giving credit where credit is due is essential to protecting other chef’s brands, hard work and promoting your own reputation. Many chefs post their creations and share their recipes, but it can be off putting when many people, other chefs included, use their ideas without recognizing who they took inspiration from. Innovation is something we strive for in our industry, so to discover a new way of doing something just to have it stolen by another can be disheartening. Giving credit shows integrity and respect, and in turn, builds your reputation within the tight-knit pastry community.

On the Topic of Following Others…

emily luchettiIn Emily Luchetti’s opening speech, she shared that “you won’t find your own style by following what everyone else is doing.” This speaks volumes about what is happening on social media today. It is too easy to see what others are doing and repeat their post. So, how can you be innovative without simply following what is trendy? Ron and Rose agreed with panelist Zoe Kanan when she spoke of trusting her instincts to follow those you admire. Use social media and cookbooks as a source of inspiration, but listen to “the mixing bowl in your mind” to create your own style and become who you’re meant to be as a pastry chef.

Trends vs. Innovation

Trends only last so long. Maybe a week, or a month, but they are fleeting and soon replaced by the next trend. Innovation is progression and evolution. It is something we should be striving for as a pastry community. Innovation is what will further the industry as a whole, ensuring that classic and modern pastry techniques are carried into the future. Innovation lasts—trends change.

About Samantha Daily

samantha daily and christina tosiSamantha Daily is a current student in the Professional Pastry Program here at ICC! She grew up cooking and baking with her mom and sister and has always had a passion for it. She was in school studying equine science and management when she got the amazing opportunity to compete on MasterChef season 9, going on to place 4th in the competition and was blessed with an amazing scholarship from Gordon Ramsay. While in school, she is getting the most out of her experience by attending almost all of the demonstrations & events and working part time at fellow ICC alumna Christina Tosi’s Milk Bar.

mimi chen

ICC In The News: Highlights from March 2019

ICC In The News provides monthly highlights from articles published around the world that feature alumni, deans, faculty and more within the ICC community. Stories of our 15,000+ alumni network and their successes are continuously popping up across various prestigious publications. Below, we have brought together some of our favorites from March 2019, aimed to keep you connected with our community and inspire readers to #LoveWhatYouDo in the kitchen and beyond.

rural kitchen
Best Filipino Restaurants in Metro Manila

Finding the best Filipino restaurant in Metro Manila is a difficult task, so Esquire put together a list of their favorite restaurants, including our graduate, Justin Sarabia’s The Rural Kitchen. This tiny 30-seater restaurant in Makati features decades-old recipes and the province’s stellar natural produce. Read more about his restaurant, The Rural Kitchen, here.

Executive Chef Michael Williams, ICC Professional Pastry Arts graduate, is a talented chef whose expertise shines through in his desserts. All desserts, including ice cream and sorbet, are made fresh on-site in a dedicated pastry kitchen. Read more about his restaurant Winston in Mount Kisco, NY.

Bird Rock Coffee in Carlsbad, CA was founded by ICC graduates Justin Gaspar and Sean Le. Here, they serve breakfast burritos, croissants, salads and more. Read more about their San Diego coffee shop in Eater here.

Gigi Pascual, who studied Professional Pastry Arts at ICC, launched Dough & Arrow last year, a cookie and coffee shop in Costa Mesa, CA. Check out her shop & learn more about her desserts here.

mimi chen
What It’s Like to Be a Commis at the Bocuse d’Or

Our Professional Culinary Arts graduate Mimi Chen served as the Commis for Team USA in the Bocuse d’Or this past January. Read about her experience and what it was like to train for a year for the most famous culinary competition in the world.

Review: Meroma Is the Best Restaurant in Mexico City You Haven’t Heard of Yet

Chef’s Cusic and Bernal met while attending ICC and bounced around cooking in Manhattan (Del Posto, Café Boulud), London (L’Atelier Joel Robuchon), Rome, and Jackson Hole, Wyoming. After they got married in 2013 and decided to open a place of their own in Mexico City. Now, it’s one of the best new restaurants in the city. Read about it here.

New owner of PJ Murphy’s Bakery in Minnesota, Chef Francois Kiemde, sat down with Twin Cities to tell his story of becoming a baker. Read about the ICC graduate here.

ICC alumna Melissa Weller is a master baker whose work has received critical acclaim. In 2013, she created a sensation by selling her hand-rolled bagels at the outdoor Smorgasburg market in Brooklyn, which led to her partnership with the Major Food Group to create and open the bagel-centric restaurant Sadelle’s. Get her famous pumpernickel bagel recipe in Bake Mag here.

Vegan chef & ICC alumnus Matthew Kenney is set to open two restaurants in Baltimore. Kenney has been named one of “America’s Best New Chefs” by Food & Wine Magazine, has received two rising star chef nominations from the James Beard Foundation, and authored 13 books. Learn more about his newest restaurants here.

chef al
After Overcoming Opioid Addiction, Chef Finds Solace Back in the Kitchen

Chef Ashish Alfred of Duck Duck Goose Baltimore, George’s Chophouse & Duck Duck Goose Bethesda, shared his inspirational story on the Today Show & TODAY Food. A 2011 graduate of our Professional Culinary Arts program, his restaurants feature the French techniques learned during his time as at student at FCI, now ICC! Learn how to create his Steak Au Poivre, a classic French dish, here.

jacques pepin
Chef Jacques Pépin to Receive Lifetime Achievement Award at Daytime Emmys

Congratulations to our Dean Jacques Pépin on his Daytime Emmys lifetime achievement award! He is the first culinary professional to be recognized for this award, and it is well deserved—since the 1980s, he has inspired millions on television and beyond to cook at home or become chefs, including our very own students at ICC. Read more about this achievement here.

Dave Arnold, ICC’s Associate Dean of Culinary Technology, is visiting Houston to host a cocktail takeover at UB Preserv as part of the inaugural Southern Smoke Spring event series, raising funds for the Southern Smoke Foundation. The co-owner of Existing Conditions in New York City,  Arnold also invents kitchen devices, hosts the podcast Cooking Issues, and curates the Museum of Food and Drink, too. Read more about his upcoming event here.

Jacques Torres, ICC Dean of Pastry, created a masterful chocolate showpiece with ICC alumna & host of Eater’s Sugar Coated series, Rebecca D’Angelis. Watch how he creates magical chocolate showpieces from start to finish! Want to learn more from Mr. Chocolate himself? Join our demonstration with him on April 17th to learn the art behind chocolate showpieces from the master, in person.

This month, we celebrated the Official Good France Day on March 21st in partnership with the French Consulate of NY’s Good France Festival. In this segment from TV 5 Monde, watch Chef Serge Devesa teach his signature bouillabaisse dish in the kitchens of ICC.

pastry plus
Pastryland Bake Sale at International Culinary Center

Missed the Pastryland Bake Sale earlier this month? Our media partner for Pastry Plus, Pastry Arts Magazine, has the scoop on what you missed, including 19 one-of-a-kind desserts, a gold egg cream and an 8 foot piped icing wall! Read about the chefs who created the desserts & more at the successful charity bake sale!

thai food

The Truth About Authentic Thai Cuisine

Thai Cuisine, well known for its spiciness, is really better characterized by its complex balancing of five distinct flavors—sour, sweet, salty, bitter, spicy—and is the secret to mastering Thai food. Thai cuisine is vast and varied, heavily influenced by regional ingredients, food traditions and the cultures of surrounding countries. For instance, the food of Southern Thailand tends to be very spicy and incorporates a lot of seafood. In other regions, dishes are served with different types of rice—Central Thailand leans toward jasmine rice while sticky rice is a staple of Northeastern Thailand.

During the last week of March, ICC and the National Research Council of Thailand hosted a 3-day series of hands-on classes, workshops and demonstrations promoting authentic Thai cuisine. Throughout the week, the techniques behind Thai cooking were shared to the ICC Community—including chef-instructors, current students and alumni—through the Thai Cuisine to Global Market project. Alumna of ICC’s Professional Culinary Arts program, Chanchana Siripanwattana, who brought the project back to her alma matter, was excited to help promote her country’s amazing food in NYC.  From ingredients, techniques, unique recipes and cooking processes, read about what we learned in our week of activities below!

The Harmony of Flavors is Important

crispy noodlesThai cuisine is all about balancing the five distinct flavors consistently found among the various dishes—sour, sweet, salty, bitter and spicy! Typically, a truly authentic dish has at least two of these flavors working together to pack a powerful punch. Many people initially think of Thai food as extremely spicy, but it’s important to know that not all Thai food is created equal!

Cooking Techniques in Thailand Were Learned From Many Countries

Thai cuisine is a melting pot of other culture’s techniques and flavors that, over thousands of years, were adapted to create the country’s distinct food culture. Popular stir-fry dishes came from China, while notable Thai curries were adapted from India’s well known versions. Different areas of Thailand also have vastly different cuisines because of ingredients readily available. The culture of regional villages and cities also vary depending on the influences of neighboring countries. So, if you’re travelling around Thailand, expect to experience new dishes in each place!

It's Common For Food To Be Served at Room Temperature

Unlike Western cuisine where food is served chilled or piping hot, many Thai dishes are served at room temperature! Some say it’s to create a more relaxing dining experience, while others say its to help bring down the spice level in some dishes. Whatever the reason, don’t be surprised if a dish arrives at room temperature—it’s definitely intentional!

The next time you order Thai food, or maybe even journey to Thailand, think about the balancing act of flavors that the chefs aim to achieve, the melting pot of techniques & cultures, as well as the differences in Western cuisine!
About Chanchana Siripanwattana

Chanchana Siripanwattana is a 2011 graduate of ICC’s Professional Culinary Arts program. Before graduating with her Grande Diplomé, she received a Bachelors of Science in Microbiology from King Mongkut Institute of Technology and Masters of Food Technology from Chulalongkorn University. After spending time in NYC at ICC, Chanchana returned to Thailand to receive her PH. D. in Technopreneurship and Innovation Management from Chulalongkorn University. Now, she is the Head of Culinary Technology and Service at Suan Dusit University and also manages the university’s bakery by developing new products and using local ingredients. She is currently traveling with the Thai Cuisine to Global Market Project to bring the flavors of her home country around the world!

design in pastry

Defining Design in Pastry

By Valeria Pinto, 2019 Pastry Plus Next Gen Winner

One of the most important elements of pastry is the design and execution behind it. Throughout time, pastry chefs have been pushing the boundaries to create desserts that not only look beautiful, but tell stories about who they are and what they feel. At this year’s Pastry Plus Conference at the International Culinary Center, pastry chefs Francisco Migoya and Eunji Lee shared how their experience, background, and creativity impact the ideation process behind any of their creations. They discussed how different elements such as aesthetic, flavor, personal experience and new technologies all play important roles in the creation of their sweet results.

designFrancisco Migoya, Head Chef at Modernist Cuisine in Seattle, explained his thought processes when coming up with new ideas for a pastry. He highlighted how patterns are one of the most important aesthetic elements to think about. Thinking how things work as a group, rather than on their own will help any pastry chef be more creative. Francisco reaffirmed that imperfection in pastries can be very beautiful, and that traditional patterns can be offset by more asymmetrical ones to create different stylistic effects. In his passion fruit dessert, he positions each individual square in a different direction that doesn’t follow a specific pattern. This creates new shapes and shadows in the piece as a whole.

yuzuOn a different note, Francisco talked about thinking outside the box of how an ingredient can be represented in a pastry. Years before, he had created a Yuzu dessert in the shape of a Yuzu fruit, which he later realized was too big of a portion and not easy to share. When remaking this dessert, he thought about the letter Y and all the possible meanings it could stand for. It stands for Yuzu, but can also be interpreted for words such as Why or Yes, or any other personal connotation to it. Francisco mentioned how the actual shape of the letter Y lends itself to be shared, which is the purpose of most pastries. Thinking about shareability and typography can elevate the design and experience someone has with a dessert.

design moldsThe pastry chef panelists also discussed the importance of new technologies such as 3D printing in the process of developing an idea for a pastry. This technology opens up opportunities for unique collaborations between pastry chefs and 3D modelers, designers and artists like never before. By using techniques such as casting, 3D modeling and printing, and 3D scanning, artists and designers can work together with chefs to make their creations edible. Aside from these specific technologies, there are also increasing amounts of molds that open up new ideas for pastry chefs. Finding ideas for the molds you want to design does not have to come only from other pastries, but from unexpected places like tiles, walls, art, and everyday objects that are not associated directly with pastry. They concluded this topic by asking: “Or why use a mold at all?” as there as endless ways to use kitchen and organic objects to create a new pastry or concept.

bread dessertEunji Lee, Pastry Chef at Jungsik in New York, described how she goes from inspiration to the execution of her desserts. At Jungsik, she has a dessert tasting menu that integrates the 3 most important elements of pastry creation in her life: identity, seasonal ingredients and visual appearance. She mentioned how living in Korea and France both shaped her identity, and how now living in New York has brought new opportunities for her to get inspiration from. Eunji is inspired by traditional Korean shapes and symbols. However, her pieces are modern, clean and visually intriguing. She gives priority to seasonal ingredients in order to have the best availability for fruits and vegetables, along with the freshest flavors. For spring, she created a Bread and Butter dessert. One of the techniques she uses most is deceiving her eaters to think they are eating one thing, and having a surprising seasonal flavor on the inside.

banana'In another dessert, she uses a custom mold to create a banana and coffee dessert with a pastry shaped like an actual small banana. Her intentional use of color, design and element of surprise creates an unforgettable experience for anyone who tries her desserts. Eunji explains how she always starts with the flavors or ingredients she wants for her dish, inspired by her identity and the places she has lived in. Then, she develops an idea to render it in a new, unexpected way that will make the dinners experience the flavors differently.

Both Eunji Lee and Francisco Migoya agreed that inspiration for a dessert can come from unexpected places. For beginners, the best way to get better is to replicate while always giving credit to the sources of your ideas. Once you develop your own style, the most important thing is to make your own vision a reality and have fun with it. Francisco asked the audience: “Why go into such a beautiful career to go and do the same thing [as others]?”

Pastry design is going into new and exciting places with 3D printing, a wide variety of silicone molds and a new trend towards organic flavors and intentional uses of design. Both panelists agreed that color should be used deliberately and not out of wanting to represent the entire color wheel. Elements such as shareability, postion, asymmetry, inspiration from unusual objects, exploration of world flavors, and purposeful use of color can help a pastry chef explore all the possibilities in pastry design. There are no limitations to what you can create when you understand your identity and what you want your customers to experience.

good france festival

Celebrating French Cuisine in NYC

At the International Culinary Center, we love any excuse to celebrate French food and wine—we were founded as the French Culinary Institute after all! So this March, we were thrilled to participate in the Goût de France festivities with the French Consulate as they expanded the Official Good France Day, March 21st, into a 4-day festival celebrating la cuisine Provençale all around New York.

From March 20-23, New Yorkers had the chance to experience a taste of Provence with a spotlight on the region’s best chefs and its iconic dishes. ICC was proud to host the educational series of the Goût de France festival on Thursday, March 21st (the Official Good France Day worldwide) with a full day of hands-on classes, workshops and a celebratory reception.

Throughout the day, attendees learned about the incredible ingredients of Provence and how they could use them in their own kitchens. Below, learn what these seven featured chefs taught our attendees and find the recipes for their French classics to create at home.

On the morning of March 21st, 24 eager attendees gathered to create one of the most iconic dishes of Marseille— bouillabaisse. Chef Serge Devesa, Executive Chef of the Loews Regency in NYC, taught the secrets behind creating his perfect seafood stew.

A native of Marseille, Chef Serge has been cooking French, Asian and Caribbean cuisine for over 30 years. His bouillabaisse recipe is said to be one of the best in the country, and participants were lucky enough to learn how he’s been creating it for decades. Seemingly simple tricks like asking your fishmonger for the bones of the fish you’re purchasing were divulged, as well as incorporating fish stock to your rouille sauce to add a punch of flavor to your dish. For Chef Serge’s iconic bouillabaisse recipe, click here.

chef herveAfter Chef Serge’s hands-on class, cooking class attendees, ICC students & alumni and community guests were treated to three demonstrations throughout the day. First up, our very own Director of Culinary Arts & Technology, Chef Hervé Malivert, demonstrated how to make a delicious snack from Provence—panisse! Panisse is a fried chickpea flour cake straight from the south of France and served best with a glass of rosé in the summer months, or paired with heavier dishes in colder months.

panisseChef Hervé stressed that when you’re cooking the batter, it is vital that you cook off the chickpea flour to avoid having a raw flour flavor. This cooking time will vary, but you’ll be able to tell when the mixture begins pulling away from the sides of the pan and the starchy flavor has dissipated. Chef Hervé paired his dish with a delicious aioli & tapenade. You can recreate this snack from the South of France using his recipe here.

olivierFollowing Chef Hervé’s demonstration,  Chef Olivier Reginensi, Corporate Executive Chef of Maison Kayser, NYC taught attendees how to make a traditional soup from Provence—Pistou! Pistou is a healthy spring soup with onion, garlic, tomato, pasta and pesto, perfect for the rainy days of April & May.

Interestingly enough, you’re not supposed to make Pistou soup with chicken or vegetable stock for a few reasons. For one, it is supposed to be a cheap soup that is filling, and shouldn’t require purchasing stock. In addition, it also allows the fresh flavors of the vegetables to be showcased in the soup. Chef Olivier stressed paying attention to the different vegetables when cooking as cook times vary. For instance, the cranberry beans that are essential to the soup take 15 minutes to cook, while the zucchini would be too soft if you cooked it in the soup for that long.

saint victors navettesTo pair with his Pistou soup, Chef Olivier also made Saint Victor’s Navettes. The texture of these sweet, mini baguettes reminded some of biscotti. When making Saint Victor’s Navettes, it’s important not to skimp on the orange blossom—a key ingredient in these mini treats. Find Chef Olivier’s recipes for Pistou soup and Saint Victor’s Navettes here.

Rounding out the day of educational workshops, Chef Florian Hugo—cookbook author & chef—joined the ICC community to create one of the most widely recognized French dishes, Ratatouille, along with a sugary dessert, Chichi-Fregi, that was not to be missed. Unlike Pistou soup, where the vegetables are can be alternated depending on what’s available and in season, ratatouille must be made with a few key ingredients: tomatoes, onion, garlic, eggplant, red pepper and zucchini.

ratatouilleAfter enjoying Chef Florian’s perfectly plated ratatouille, he treated attendees to a sweet finish—chichi-fregi. Chichi-fregi is a fried, light & airy doughnut that is rolled in sugar and commonly served as street food. They are similar to beignets found in New Orleans, but with an orange blossom twist for added flavor. Find both of his recipes here.

To conclude the day, Chef Jean-Louis Dumonet, President of the Maître Cuisinier de France-North American Chapter, Chef Jean-Louis Gerin, President of the Academie Culinaire de France-US Delegation and Chef Sébastien Baud, Chef of the Consulate General of France-NY featured signature dishes from Provence in passed canapés and glasses of Rosé provided by Château D’esclans.

New York’s Consul General of France, Anne-Claire Legendre, ended the night with a speech that was a perfect conclusion to the day of festivities. As she said, “When you think of Provence, you think of long lunches by the sea, fantastic landscapes and a long swim in the sea.” By bringing the five events to ICC, attendees were able to feel just that in the heart of NYC.


Vanilla: 5 Countries, 5 Flavors

beth and emilyOn March 24th, 120+ pastry professionals—pastry chefs, sous chefs, cooks, bakers, business owners and students—gathered at ICC for the second Pastry Plus Conference. In addition to the morning forum, panel discussion and keynote address, conference goers selected three breakout classes to attend from nine different topics surrounding craft, innovation and workplace in the pastry industry. One of the first sessions of the day, Vanilla: Anything But Plain, dove into the world of one of the most beloved, and difficult to source, ingredients.

Beth Nielsen—3rd generation owner & Vice President of Culinary for Nielsen-Massey Vanillas, Pastry Plus contributing sponsor—as well as Emily Luchetti—Chief Pastry Officer of Big Night Restaurant Group and ICC Dean of Pastry—offered up their expertise on the complex flavors, agriculture, production and varietals of vanilla.

In this sold out session, attendees tasted five different vanilla varietals, generously provided by Nielsen-Massey, in a dessert that relies on prominent vanilla flavors—pot de créme (basically a créme brûlée without the brûlée)! The vanilla samples all came from countries near the equator including Madagascar, Tahiti, Uganda, Indonesia and Mexico. Below, we’re sharing what we learned about the countries producing vanilla & how this impacts the differences in flavor.


  • Vanilla is one of the world’s most labor intensive crops, second only to saffron.
  • Vanilla is the only fruit bearing orchid, but cannot pollinate on its own—every crop must be hand pollinated, or in the case of Mexico, have an indigenous bee to pollinate it.
  • The window for pollination is only 12-24 hours, one day a year!
  • Vanilla is grown within 10-20 degrees of the equator.
  • Similar to how the terroir of a vineyard affects a bottle of wine, the landscape of where vanilla is grown will give each bean a unique flavor.


Although Madagascar produces 75% of the world’s vanilla, Mexico is actually the birthplace of the vanilla orchid, also known as Vanilla planifolia Andrews. For centuries, vanilla could only be found throughout Mexico because of an indigenous bee called the Melipona, which is the only insect to pollinate the orchid flower that produces the fruit. Vanilla was finally introduced to the rest of the world when the pods were brought back to Spain in the late 1700s.

Mexican vanilla has flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg and hints of spice—much like the delicious savory food from Mexico! This vanilla is great for fall flavors and pairs well with warmer spices.


In the late 1700s, vanilla was brought from Mexico to the island of Réunion in Madagascar. It took 50 years for vanilla to finally start growing consistently after a botanist realized the indigenous bees of Mexico were the ones pollinating the orchid flowers. After this was discovered, a Malagasy man perfected the method for fertilizing each flower by hand, which is still the method of fertilization today!

Madagascar vanilla is characterized by the familiar flavors that everyone recognizes it for—sweet, creamy and perfect in almost everything (yes, even savory food!)


Similar to Madagascar, Tahiti’s tropical climate is perfect for growing vanilla. In the mid 1800s, after a few years of various vanilla species being imported into the country, Tahitian Vanilla was born—Vanilla Tahitensis. While Madagascar, Mexico and Indonesia all produce the same species, the Tahitian variety are distinctly fruity and larger than other species.

Tahitian vanilla has distinct flavors of floral and fruity notes with a surprising punch of cherry at the end. Tahitian vanilla is great in heat-sensitive dishes.


Uganda is one of the most recent countries to start producing vanilla in the year 1940. While other countries in the world can only harvest vanilla once per year, Ugandan vanilla can be harvested twice per year in December and June or July because of the unique weather.

Ugandan vanilla has flavors of chocolate and is most similar to vanilla from Madagascar. This may be due to the similar processing that the two countries use.


Indonesia produces a product that is most similar to vanilla from Madagascar. This country has become the second largest producer of vanilla, second only to Madagascar. Indonesia focuses on quantity production and harvests all of the beans at once, which saves time and yields a greater crop.

Indonesian vanilla has unique smoky and woody flavors that pair well with chocolate. Indonesian farmers use a different, complicated process for curing their beans. While you usually have to add vanilla in at the end of cooking to prevent the fragile flavors from disappearing, Indonesian beans are great for high-heat cooking.

The next time you reach for vanilla in your spice cabinet, consider using one from a different country depending on the application! The signature characteristics of each can help to bring out different depths of flavor in your cooking.


Nielsen, Beth, and Emily Luchetti. “Vanilla: Anything But Plain.” Pastry Plus. Pastry Plus, 24 Mar. 2019, New York, New York.

Ruggiero, Jocelyn. “The 4 Kinds of Vanilla Beans to Know.” Food & Wine, 23 May 2017,

Spiegel, Alison. “It’s About Time You Knew Exactly Where Vanilla Comes From.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 6 Nov. 2014,

“Where Does Vanilla Come From? – Nielsen-Massey Vanillas.” Nielsen, 16 June 2018,

Business Bites Resources: Managing Your Staff

Maintaining a healthy team is vital to the success of your business. Whether you run a kitchen, own a bakery or are looking to open a restaurant, it’s important to learn the key steps to managing and motivating your staff to success. Jackie McMann-Oliveri, Director of Talent and Culture for Bold Food, joined us at Pastry Plus this March to answer everyone’s burning question, how do I retain employees and build a successful team? A certified Professional in Human Resources, Jackie is responsible for supporting all of Bobby Flay’s restaurants, and brings her HR knowledge and experience to ICC’s Culinary Entrepreneurship programs.

jackie mcmann oliveriIn her 75-minute breakout class on managing your staff, Jackie shared the importance of selection and hiring, training and retraining, and lastly, engagement and retention to a sold out class of pastry professionals—pastry chefs, bakery owners, and aspiring pastry business owners. Jackie began by discussing what makes a great leader. Great leadership encourages quality work and staff retention, the hallmarks of a successful establishment. Read below to see Jackie’s three qualities of great leadership and learn how you can adapt them for your team!

Select and hire amazing people.

Hire for character and a passion for the job, not necessarily skills, which can be taught. More time hiring means less time firing.

Give them the tools and support they need to do their job.

An employee handbook is a necessity for effectively managing your staff. This handbook clearly states the rules and expectations of your business. While many companies have a handbook, Jackie recommends going over one topic a week at a short meeting, which keeps the staff engaged and reminds them of the rules in the workplace that must be respected.

People follow leaders, not because they have to, but because they want to. Leaders listen more than they speak, are trustworthy, and accessible to their staff. Recognizing employees through rewards and other means goes a long way in retaining staff, as does actively promoting a work-life balance.

Practice consistent accountability.

Practicing consistent accountability is necessary so that the rules are enforced and respected. Conversations with unhappy employees are uncomfortable, but having the conversation is necessary and usually results in a positive outcome. Get to know your staff and trust your gut. While navigating this in small business models can seem more challenging than a large company, these fundamentals on leadership and staff management are applicable to all business models.


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.