kamayan feast

A Kamayan Feast With Woldy Reyes and ICC Alumna Lani Halliday

lani and woldyLani Halliday of Brutus Bakeshop and Woldy Reyes of Woldy Kusina are renowned Brooklyn chefs known for their innovative and collaborative projects. Since 2015, Lani has made a name for herself with her delicious, gluten-free creations, including her popular snake cakes. A graduate of ICC’s Food Business Fundamentals program, she was recently featured on the cover of Cherry Bombe magazine’s 14th issue. This month, Lani and business partner Woldy, bring a new immersive dining experience to the rooftop of the Ferris restaurant at the MADE Hotel, “Departure – A Modern Kamayan Feast”.

You could say the stars aligned for Lani and Woldy who met at commercial co-working space, Pilotworks, which closed down abruptly in late 2018. Before the closure, the duo had been working out of Pilotworks on a project that launched their partnership. Unfortunately, the sudden closure forced them to leave behind all of their food stock and supplies. When one door closed, the two found a way to open another—they began working on a new project, Departure Kamayan.

Woldy, the son of two Filipino immigrants, loves to share his heritage with the world through food and aims to modernize traditional Filipino feasts through this project. Alongside Chef Tyler Heckman and Charles Seich of Ferris restaurant at the MADE Hotel, Lani and Woldy are bringing an intimate, immersive experience to the rooftop dining room of the MADE Hotel, set in a tropical oasis. The evening features plant-based interpretations of classic Filipino dishes including Pansit, Lumpia, Adobo, Kare Kare and Bibingka, with flavors that transport you far from NYC.

#DepartureKamayan kicked-off last week as a limited, ticketed dinner series running on select days from January 21 through the end of March. Tickets are $100 per person (+tax) and can be purchased through Ferris on RESY for February 11, February 25, March 10 or March 24. We sat down with the duo to learn more about their partnership and the launch of their festive Kamayan feasts. Check out our interview with them below!

First of all, congratulations Lani on your recent cover of Cherry Bombe! What has it been like to gain this acknowledgement for everything you’ve been doing in the food industry?

Lani: Thank you so much! It’s been really dreamy to be honest. On the one hand it’s been a fantastic opportunity to practice the art of acknowledging and receiving. I definitely identify as someone who can mechanically move through accomplishments without fully acknowledging, celebrating and fully luxuriating in my experiences. So I’ve consciously chosen to do that this time around. Its also been really fun! Anyone who knows me knows i LOVE to connect and collaborate and this has certainly made that process easier. It’s opened doors for me to continue to do what I love to do best. 

How did your partnership come about?

Woldy: Lani and I met at a commercial kitchen co-working space, Pilotworks which closed down abruptly in late 2018.  Lani is the owner and pastry chef of the custom gluten-free baked-goods project, Brutus Bakeshop and I’m the chef and owner of a catering company Woldy Kusina. We admired each other’s work and I would buy her gluten free pastries for catered events. From there, we continued to collaborate on projects and we are excited to partner with Ferris’s team Chef Tyler Heckman and Charles Seich on this dinner series – #DepartureKamayan.

Lani, you opened Brutus Bakeshop in 2015 and later took ICC’s Food Business program in 2018. How would you say ICC’s program has helped you in operating an existing business?

L: The program was invaluable. I already owned Brutus when I took the course, but what the course gave me was an opportunity to ‘level-up’. I was able to learn new things, enrich areas of familiarity and crystallize some things that I already knew. It certainly clarified the areas of importance and showed me ways of understanding that I didn’t previously possess. I walked away being able to write an incredibly solid business plan as well as a skill set that will allow me to do that again for my next venture. 

What would you say is the most important trait to find in a business partner?

W: Lani and I operate and run our own businesses, respectively and we are so lucky enough that we share the same ideas and approach to doing business. Having similar ideals around hospitality, beauty, and what luxury, care and service looks like is important. Plus we enjoy and respect each other so very much. We’re like a double act. We have our own language. It’s definitely the mutual admiration society with tons of laughs with us.

What has it been like to build this partnership and dinner series?

Both: This journey has been a blessing and we are so fortunate enough that the team at Ferris has been so open and accepting of the vision that we want to share with people. They have definitely provided a safe and warming space for us to share our talents and story!

What made you want to showcase Filipino food in the Kamayan-style feast? How does it differ from other Filipino restaurants in NYC?

W: I wanted to share an important part of me which is being a proud Queer Filipino-American and to share with people a celebratory and elevated Filipino food experience. Lani and I envisioned this feast to be a multi-sensory eating experience. When guests arrive, they enter into a tropical oasis and greeted with a cocktail called “Ube Bae” a Filipino take on a piña colada. Guests then witness the feast being built and laid out onto a banana leaf covered table. As each dish comes out, the room is filled with aromas and guests are excited to eat. Before eating, we do a ceremonial hand washing. It’s a spiritual way to start the dinner. Then everyone dives into the feast and enjoys it!

kamayan dinner

Kamayan feasts are traditional in Filipino culture for celebrating community, but DEPARTURE is a modern take on this tradition. Can you share what traditional elements will be experienced in DEPARTURE, and what modern elements are being brought to the table? 

Both: Kamayan is an abundant and luscious Filipino feast served on a banana leaf and eaten with your bare hands. It’s a communal experience. I love the idea where strangers come and sit down to see a colorful array of food laid out in front of them and there are no utensils except your hands. Eating with your hands is a spiritual and personal experience. Then you formulate a conversation and bond with people around you who were once strangers, but are now your eating buddies! This builds community.

The modern approach to this Kamayan dinner is that we took classic Filipino dishes which are usually meat heavy and made it very vegetable forward. Save for fish sauce, the dinner is vegetarian, and gluten-free, save for the lumpia.

We’re seeing more dining experiences pop-up in NYC that push diners out of their comfort zone. Can you share what you hope to achieve by bringing people together in this intimate setting? Are there any challenges that you foresee?

Both:Yes, that’s a really valuable part of what we have to offer. DEPARTURE is certainly that—a departure from the familiar Euro-centric dining format that most New Yorkers identify as “normal”. As chefs, we get so much out of seeing the emotional and intellectual journey that the diners get to experience. It’s really an incredibly unique experience. The only challenges (as well as the resolutions) lie in the individual diners themselves. DEPARTURE really is a celebration of abundance, play and fun.

Oh, actually food allergies are a challenge! Because of the format, we can’t really offer concessions, substitutions or modifications. At all. We love people, we love hospitality and we really, really love to feed people, but unfortunately this one is not for our friends with certain food restrictions.

What does the future hold for Woldy & Lani? Can we expect more unique dinner-series pop-ups? What will you team up to do next?

Both: As part of our goals and fresh outlook for the new decade, we’re consciously choosing to focus solely on this series in terms of what’s next. We’ve got another 2 months left to relish this series and luxuriating in that is key to the beauty of the project. That said there are tremendously exciting things (including more projects with the Ferris Team) that are percolating for the both of us and you can follow along on our respective social media channels for updates!

Follow Lani on Instagram @brutusbakeshop and visit her website at www.brutusbakeshop.com.
Follow Woldy on Instagram @woldykusina and visit his website at www.woldyskusina.com.
will pacio

How Pared Is Solving Staffing Needs For The Restaurant Industry

will pacio

By Will Pacio, ICC Professional Culinary Arts ’03 and CEO & Co-Founder of Pared

A veteran in the restaurant industry. Will started as a cook at Per Se in New York and went on to run IT for Thomas Keller’s restaurants. He was founder and CEO of Spice Kit, a popular fast-casual concept. Studied at Stanford. Trained at the French Culinary Institute, now the International Culinary Center.

From Per Se & The French Laundry To Opening My Own Restaurants

In 2003, I moved from California to New York to attend the International Culinary Center (what was then the French Culinary Institute) and pursue my dream of becoming a chef. I can still remember how nervous I was walking into the classroom that very first day, but being within earshot of some of my childhood heroes like Jacques Pépin and André Soltner was a dream come true. It was a crash course on how to become  a chef and learn the fundamentals of classic cuisine, all while balancing the fear of messing up as my chef instructor, Chef Sixto, watched my every move.

Will in 2003
Will in 2003 in what was then the level 1 kitchen of The FCI.

After graduating from ICC, I was lucky enough to land my dream job as a commis on the opening team of Per Se in 2004. ICC had given me the foundation of technique, but working for Thomas Keller for the next 5 years changed my entire mindset about what could be accomplished in the restaurant world. I learned how to execute with exacting standards at a breakneck pace—all while building a mindset that nothing is impossible because the team around me would do anything to ensure guests got exactly what they wanted. Being part of a team that earned 3-Michelin stars and 4 stars from The New York Times was not only validation for us, but a reason to keep pursuing excellence.

After working at Per Se and The French Laundry, Thomas Keller’s other 3-Michelin starred restaurant in California, I started my own restaurant, Spice Kit, in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2010. Entrepreneurship and opening restaurants are their own school of overcoming the impossible. From finding investors, negotiating with landlords, and dealing with construction and permit delays, I’m amazed that we were able to open not one, but three restaurants over the course of a few years. During those years, I met many other ambitious chefs that were opening restaurants across the country—I became more amazed at the entire food industry.Thousands of chefs, just like me, were also taking on the same challenges of opening a restaurant to make their own dreams come true.

Will with Thomas Keller
Will with Thomas Keller

Throughout my journey as a culinary student, a cook, a chef, and a restaurant owner, I experienced the reality of our industry: it’s hard work. As a young cook, it’s difficult to make enough money and to find the right opportunities. As an operator, it feels impossible to keep a restaurant fully staffed while trying to keep all of your guests happy and making enough money to keep the lights on.

Innovation In The Restaurant Industry

These realities brought me to the next step of my journey in this industry, founding Pared. Our mission is to make restaurant life easier. Pared is a technology platform and mobile app that solves staffing needs for our industry. We are accomplishing this by giving the professionals in our industry a digital resume where their career lives, enabling them to earn more money with each new job. We’re allowing them to find opportunities that help them level up their skills and careers. Our platform also assist restaurant owners, managers, and operators by helping them keep their restaurants fully staffed with skilled people. Having a fully staffed business means they can focus on serving their customers and grow a thriving business instead of spending all of their time posting jobs and interviewing candidates.

In just a few short years, we’ve expanded from San Francisco to New York, Philadelphia and Washington, DC. We now have over 100,000 professionals on our platform. We still have a long way to go, but everyday I’m inspired to make restaurant life easier for the one in ten Americans who work in our industry. Our goal is to help everyone who works in food service—from the culinary student at ICC who is looking for their first job, to the restaurant owner in Toledo, Ohio who wants to open their next location. It may seems impossible to solve these challenges in our industry, but I don’t think so.

Want to try out Pared for your food business? Click here to sign up and get $50 off the first gig for any new location using an exclusive code for the ICC community (ICC2019). Offer ends 12/31/19.
anthony contrino

How To Make It In The World Of Food Styling With Alumnus Anthony Contrino

Anthony ContrinoAnthony Contrino has always had a passion for food, so when the time was right, he enrolled in the International Culinary Center’s Professional Pastry Arts program. 10 years later, he’s an Emmy-nominated culinary producer, food stylist and chef. He’s collaborated with clients like Wendy’s, Lavazza Coffee, and even Ancestry.com, and has worked on TV shows on The Food Network, USA Network and The Today Show.

We spoke with Anthony to learn what led him to become a food stylist for The Today Show, what it’s like to work on live TV and his advice for aspiring food professionals. Check out our interview below and be sure to watch a few of his segments on The Today Show!

Why did you decide to attend culinary school?

I always knew that I wanted to go to school, I just never knew when the right time was. Finally, the right opportunity came along, and I knew that I would learn a lot more than what you would learn just in a kitchen. One of the best parts about going to school was the networking and connections that I gained since then. I still talk to my classmates all the time! I went the pastry track because I’ve always loved dessert, and I’m kind of a picky eater, so I wanted to make dishes that I really enjoyed. Luckily, pastry is very technical, so the skills that I learned definitely apply to savory cooking too.


What led you to follow the path of food styling?

I always knew that I wanted to write a cookbook, that was my ultimate goal. There was a posting to assist a well known pastry chef on his second cookbook on the ICC job menu and I was at a good time in my life to take this opportunity. I was literally doing this job just to understand the behind the scenes of working on a cookbook. Within a few months, people were calling me to work on their cookbooks and do other food styling jobs without any real experience in the field. It happened by accident, but all of a sudden I was working for Food Network, then the Today Show too. This is one of those sectors of the industry where you really have to put yourself out there and make the right connections.


Do you have any tips for people looking to break into the world of food styling?

Definitely check out the ICC job menu! There are food styling assistant jobs that pop up, so it’s always great to take those opportunities. When you’re first starting, you should understand basic knife skills and the process of cooking food. This helps to explain how we prepare a dish and what we need to do to fake it. Ask questions, don’t be afraid to go out of your comfort zone, and don’t be afraid to reach out. Even if you don’t have the exact experience, it never hurts to ask and reach out to people. Just be willing to learn and have the basics skills—this is one of those jobs that you have to be mentored in, so find the right person that’s willing to teach you.

Get Anthony’s Cooking Secrets in this Today Food Segment

What is it like working on live TV segments?

I prefer live TV, believe it or not! It sounds like it would be more stressful, but there are specifics to what you’re supposed to be doing. When you’re styling for live TV, you know exactly when they need the food styled and when you’ll need to get it done by. There aren’t many jobs that you can say they’ll need a turkey and mashed potatoes prepped for 8:53 AM. If you’re organized and ready to go, 95% of the time it’s a breeze.


Do you have any advice for aspiring food professionals?

At the end of the day, the world of food styling is a lot of fun. We all get into food because we love it, so find what makes you happy and go for it. There’s so many different sub genres of food, so it’s just finding what keeps you passionate about food.

Get a Behind-the-Scenes Look at Life as a Food Stylist on the Today Show

chef oscar barrera

From Doctor to Chef—How ICC Grad Oscar Barrera Followed His Passion

Oscar Barrera wasn’t always a chef—before he followed his passion for the kitchen, he was a medical resident studying to become a doctor in Chile. After realizing that food was his true calling, he competed on MasterChef Chile and worked with The World’s 50 Best Restaurants organization. It was through these experiences that Oscar desired to develop his skills in the kitchen—leading him to enroll in the International Culinary Center’s Professional Culinary Arts program in 2017!

Chef Oscar Barrera with a student and fellow ICC graduate from Chile

Chef Barrera recently returned to his alma mater to showcase the flavors of Chile and the diversity of his home country. In the demonstration, we tasted three different dishes including Rica-Rica Meringues with lime curd and desert rose petals; Charquicán, Sopaipillas and Pebre—or potato, pumpkin and meat stew with fried pumpkin bread and pico de gallo; and finally Paila Marina—or fish and shellfish soup. But before we tasted the vast cuisines of Chile, we sat down with Chef Barrera to talk life after ICC, what it’s like to open your own restaurant and more. Check out our interview with him below!

oscar barreraWhat made you decide to attend culinary school and pursue a new career as a Chef after your profession as a Doctor?

I decided to follow the culinary path because it’s my passion—basically, that’s the main reason. I discovered throughout the years that I wanted to cook, so I finished medical school and came to New York, my favorite city, to study at the best school possible.

Why did you choose to travel internationally and enroll at ICC in NYC to receive your culinary education?

When I was very little, I used to stay up late watching re-runs of TV shows with New York in it. I came to New York for the first time when I was 14 and fell in love with the city. Because of a friend, I knew about ICC, so I came to visit and knew that it was the place for me.

How did you get your start in the Culinary Industry?

Around the time that I realized I wanted to be a chef, I was still studying in medical school. Every day, I would go to school, then the gym, and I would run on the treadmill and study medicine so that I could go home after and focus on cooking. My goal was to cook a new dish each day and post it on Instagram, and this caught the attention of The World’s 50 Best organization. They had a food competition where amateurs could submit pictures, recipes and videos of dishes that they were cooking, and I won the competition! The prize was going to one of the awards ceremonies of The World’s 50 Best, and I kept in contact with them afterwards. I ended up working for the organization and created content for them and took over their social media, so that was really my first taste into the culinary world.

What was your experience like competing on MasterChef Chile?

It was very fun to compete, but after all, it’s a reality show with cooking. So, you learn some things and it’s fun, but I did it because I was an amateur cook at the time and wanted to take every opportunity that I could. I don’t regret it at all—I had the desire to be a chef before I was on the show, and I had already decided to pursue a culinary career, so the show was really a turning point for me.

meringueWhere did you find your passion for educating people about Chilean flavors and ingredients?

Chilean food and ingredients were not really known until recently—we had this big breakout where it got popular about 10 years ago. We have great chefs [from Chile] working around the world, like Victoria Blamey who is the Executive Chef of Gotham Bar and Grill in NYC, but still, the world wasn’t really seeing Chilean cuisine. Since I had gotten visibility from The World’s 50 Best and MasterChef, and after becoming a professional chef, I realized there was a possibility for me to showcase the flavors of my country.



What advice would you give to aspiring chefs who are hoping to change careers?

If you’re thinking about changing careers and getting into the culinary world, the most important thing is that it must be your passion. It’s hard work and you work long hours, so you really have to make sure that it’s what you want to do. Follow your dreams—it sounds cheesy, but it’s true. Don’t just be a cook—give your career a twist and use your previous career as an advantage.

What are some of the  projects you are working on right now?

I’m very excited to launch my own brand RAM. It’s a restaurant, but not just in one place. It’s inspired by NYC’s culture, as well as global issues like eating healthy. So I’m excited to combine my past career as a doctor into my new career. I’m also a teacher in Chile, and I teach different things like nutrition and fermentation, and I do a lot of research on dairy and food philosophy. Finally, next year, I’m taking part in the biggest food festival in South America, The Ñam Food Festival. Different chefs and people in related professions gather from around the world to do talks and find solutions for food issues in Chile!

oscar barrera with studentCould you have imagined you would be sharing your expertise and knowledge back at your alma mater only 3 years after graduating? What is it like to come full circle?

After I graduated, I went back to Chile and decided to follow my dreams. It’s amazing to think about all that has happened in 3 years. It’s not really about being in the right place at the right moment—it’s much more about taking every opportunity. I’m no longer working in a restaurant, so working independently has made me more aware of the business aspect of things and taking chances. You fail thousands of times, but there’s always a success that will come and you have to take those chances. ICC gave me a lot, so being here only a few years after graduation is a dream come true. This is a way for me to give back to the school and the students.