“We guide the students to learn and be confident; to be in many kitchens and to understand the language of the kitchen.” – Master Chef Alain Sailhac

Roaming the halls of the International Culinary Center in New York City, it is impossible to ignore the tremendous presence of Master Chef Alain Sailhac in the classroom kitchens.  On any given day, the Dean Emeritus can be seen inspiring students and staff alike to strive for and attain greatness. To fully understand the magnitude of learning from Sailhac, one must fully educate themselves on his rich 67-year history in the culinary world.

Beginning his culinary studies at only 14, Alain Sailhac started as an apprentice at the Capion restaurant in his small hometown of Millau, France.  This led to various stints throughout Paris, Corfu, Rhodes and Guadeloupe before landing the sous chef position at the Michelin Guide two-star Château de Larraldia. Upon arriving to New York City in 1965, Sailhac quickly became established as chef de cuisine at Le Mistral and Le Manoir, two top-tier French fine dining establishments. Following his introduction to the New York dining scene, Sailhac moved on to curate the cuisine at several Parisian hotels and restaurants, including executive chef at l’Hôtel Royal in New Caledonia and at Le Perroquet in Chicago.

Returning to New York City in 1974 to work at Le Cygne, Chef Sailhac became ‘The Original Four-Star Chef’ when aiding the restaurant to receive the first-ever highly coveted rating of four stars from The New York Times in 1977. However, his true impact on American fine dining cuisine occurred during 1978 through 1986, while executive chef at Le Cirque.  As executive chef, he served the crème de la crème of the entertainment and political industries including everyone from Frank Sinatra to Barbara Walters, Jackie Kennedy to Princess Grace. It was also at Le Cirque where Sailhac, along with owner Sirio Maccioni, developed their own version of the classic crème brûlée.  And following that dessert reincarnation Sailhac says, “It was copied by everybody in the world.” Before joining The French Culinary Institute as Dean of Culinary Studies in 1991, Sailhac was also the executive chef of 21 Club, culinary director at the Plaza Hotel and even a consultant to the Regency Hotel.

After being presented with the Silver Spoon Award for sterling performance along with his wife Arlene by Food Arts, Sailhac shared his how he is able to translate his passion for French cuisine in the American kitchen. ”My mission at FCI has been to teach what’s best about French cuisine, to fill students with passion and pride for the profession,” says Sailhac. “When I first came to America in 1965, there were Germans, Swiss, French, Italians, and Latinos in the kitchen. Now, there are Americans—lots of them, and talented, too. At FCI, we’ve contributed to that.”

Everyone from chef instructors to students and faculty of the International Culinary Center, all recognize the extraordinary value of seeing Dean Emeritus active throughout the school.  Since becoming a pivotal member of the institution, Chef Alain has preserved set a classical and professional tone in the classroom, mentoring many of the chef instructors that students at the ICC learn from on a daily basis.

 “Chef Alain is a chef with much wisdom, and an immense personality. He has been, to many people, much more than a famous New York City chef of the 1980s. He is a chef with soul and generosity. He is a mentor and has much consideration for every member of a team. He is very sensible and can feel the soul behind ones grin or frown.”  –  ICC Master Chef, Marc Bauer

Sailhac’s passion for culinary arts and years of immersive mentorship have helped to shape the careers of some of the world’s most recognized modern chefs, even beyond ICC. Geoffrey Zakarian, restaurateur of New York City hotspots The Lambs Club and The National, was mentored under Chef Alain Sailhac during his first restaurant position at Le Cirque from Sous Chef to Chef de Cuisine. Last year, Zakarian revisited his early years with Sailhac to USA Today during a mentorship event at The Lambs Club, which attributes everything he knows to his time at Le Cirque.

“I followed him like a baby duck followed his mom, whatever he was doing, I would watch and I would suck his brain, literally, to get his information.”Chef and Restaurateur Geoffrey Zakarian

Today, Sailhac remains an indispensible asset to students as a mentor to hundreds of students during his tenure at ICC. At the young age of 80, the master chef holds a treasure trove of knowledge, and is still passionate about sharing that with every student and graduate who’ve had the honor of being guided by the French culinary master.

 “Chef Alain is an extraordinary teacher. He has had such a profound effect on culinary students and professional chefs for decades, having molded so many chefs in his restaurant kitchens and students at ICC.”  –  ICC President, Erik Murnighan
  • The Original Four Star Chef” – Sailhac helped Le Cygne receive the first-ever four star rating fromThe New York Times in 1977
  • Chef Alain appeared on Late Night with David Letterman in 1984
  • In 1997, Sailhac received the Silver Toque after he was named Chef of the Year by the Maîtres Cuisiniers de France (Master Chefs of France),
  • 2003 recipient of “Who’s Who in Food and Beverage in America” Award from James Beard Foundation
  • 2004 recipient of Ordre National du Mérite (National Order of Merit Award)
  • Received Silver Spoon Award for sterling performance in 2003 with wife Arlene Feltman-Sailhac
  • Active member of numerous prestigious culinary organizations, including the Maîtres Cuisiniers de France and the Société Culinaire Philanthropique.