holidays around the world

Holidays Around The World

The holiday season is a time for family, and friends, to come together and create lifelong memories while celebrating the cherished traditions of their culture. For most, these gatherings are centered around sharing meals with loved ones that highlight some of the best food traditions the world has to offer! Since our chef-instructors hail from many different countries around the world, we asked them to share some of their favorite holiday food memories and cherished traditions of their childhoods. Read their stories below and get some inspiration for your holiday menu!

1. Chef Jürgen David, Associate Director of Pastry

Vienna, Austria

“One of my favorite childhood memories was going to the big Christmas Market in front of Town Hall in the heart of Vienna. The largest Christmas Market, it was beautifully decorated with sparkles, candles gingerbread and Christmas trees everywhere. The town hall would be lit up with lights that you could see from a mile away!

There would be lots of tasty morsels and hot cider, but the best thing was having your pockets filled with roasted chestnuts. We would get a little paper cone—there would be about 10 to 12 little pieces—and you put them in your cold pocket. Not only were they delicious, but they would also keep your hands warm while you walked around the market. These were my favorite thing to eat during the holiday season. It still warms my heart every time I think about it, and makes me homesick—in a good way. It’s not Christmas without roasted chestnuts, so I make them every year!”


Chef Jurgen
Chef Jürgen getting chestnuts at a Christmas Market as a child

2. Chef Natalia Pozzi, Events Coordinator

São Paulo, Brazil

Chef Natalia Pozzi

“Every year, the Christmas dinner would happen at my grandmother’s house where she lived in the country, and we would have our traditional Brazilian Christmas supper. Usually it includes turkey, Chester chicken, salted Bacalhau, rice—of course, because we are from South America—a lot of fruits and a panettone. My favorite part of the meal also included Farofa, which is a toasted manioc flour mixture. It can be sweet with fruits or salty with bacon, and I remember my mom always making this for any holiday occasion.

My favorite Christmas memory has to do with my father. Two months before Christmas, I would go with my dad to a place where they raised suckling pig. He would choose the pig to eat at Christmas, and he would marinate the pig in the fridge for days and baste it for hours before the meal. At the end, he would pour the hot oil over the skin and it would become crispy and golden. I remember him putting the pig on the table, and every year he would serve it because he knew the proper way for everyone to get the moist meat and crispy skin.

Both of my parents are very good cooks, so all of my inspiration about flavor and traditional technique comes from them. My dad in particular loves to cook anything Brazilian style. Nowadays, we compete to see who is the better cook, and he always wins!”

A young Chef Natalia dressed as Santa Claus

3. Chef Kir Rodriquez, Associate Pastry Coordinator & Chef-Instructor

Puerto Rico

“Growing up in Puerto Rico my family was all about food, specifically during the holidays.  My grandfather had a big farm with pigs for lechón, chickens for arroz con pollo, cows for fresh cheese and root vegetables like taro root, malanga, potatoes, as well as other vegetables like plantains and bananas for pasteles. And let’s not forget about the coquito (like an eggnog without eggs and lots of rum).

The holidays were a big family event and everyone was involved in the preparations. Holidays for us meant the whole month of December all the way to January 6 which is Three Kings, and then we would start the Octavitas, which was an extension of the holidays for two more weeks.

So much fun. I still celebrate Three Kings with a big party for all the family in our home in New Jersey.”

Chef Kir shares a Christmas photo celebrating the holidays with his mom

4. Chef José Menéndez, Chef-Instructor

Madrid, Spain

Chef Jose“Most people have memories of Christmas celebrations during their childhood, and although I lived a happy childhood thanks to my parents, I remember Christmas as a time of work for my whole family. My parents, both Chefs, had several restaurants in Spain, and we grew up surrounded by the constant hustle and bustle of the kitchens. During Christmas and around the busy holiday season, the work quickly multiplied by ten.

So, instead of a picture of my family enjoying a dinner at home, I wanted to share a picture of my father’s first restaurant in 1952, as this is how I remember my childhood. My brothers and I worked to help my parents, as they would give many of the staff the time off to enjoy the holidays with their families.

Our Christmas dinners were with all the staff of the restaurant, so that memory and reality has accompanied me throughout my professional life. Even so, I remember the dinners with a great union and camaraderie that I have always taken with me wherever I have gone. The classic main course of the holiday dinners would always be a roasted milk fed lamb which I remember to this day.”

Chef Jose's father's restaurant
Chef Jose’s father’s restaurant in 1952. His Father, Emilio Menendez, is second from the left.

Create Warm Spiced Mulled Cider Using Vitamix

Traditional apple cider gets a kick of warm winter flavor with some Winter Spice Seasoning. Transform this warming beverage into a cocktail by adding 1 cup (240 ml) of dark rum, bourbon whiskey, or favorite flavored vodka.


Ingredients + Procedure for Winter Spice Seasoning* 
*Make in advance and keep on reserve this versatile spice blend to have you feeling the warmth of the holidays in every dish.

3 cinnamon sticks
2 Tablespoons crystallized ginger
¾ teaspoon ground cardamom
3 Tablespoons salt
1 Tablespoon pink peppercorns
1½ teaspoon whole cloves
½ cup (50 g) dried orange peel
½ cup (110 g) brown sugar, packed


Place all ingredients into the Vitamix container in the order listed and secure lid.

Select Variable 1.
Start the machine, slowly increase to its highest speed.
Blend for 30 seconds or until desired consistency is reached, using the tamper to push ingredients into the blades, if needed.

Mixed peppercorns can be substituted if unable to find pink peppercorns.

Yield: 6 cups (1.3 L) / Total Time: 15 minutes / Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients for Cider:
2 (400 g) seasonal apples (red varietals work the best) quartered, seeds removed
4 cups (960 ml) apple cider
½ cup (75 g) dried dates, pitted


– 1 Tablespoon Winter Spice Seasoning*
– Place all ingredients into the Vitamix container in the order listed and secure the lid.
– Select Variable 1, start the machine, slowly increase to its highest speed, and blend for 5 minutes 45 seconds; or select the Hot Soup program and allow the machine to complete its programmed cycle.

The Importance of Charcuterie: A Step-by-Step Process

The International Culinary Center lead chef-instructors are here to make sure you’re fully prepared for your home festivities. No matter which holiday your family celebrates, there’s never a wrong time to cook a ham from scratch.

Charcuterie is a major portion of the Professional Culinary Arts program within Level 3. Cured meats are a staple in the culinary world, no matter where you are in the world and the International Culinary Center’s program truly prepares you for every and any meat-based dish you may desire.

Lead Chef-Instructor Jeff Butler, explains the importance of acquiring a professional education regarding proper techniques and execution of charcuterie.


Charcuterie is important because it differs greatly from regular cooking. It requires discipline, great attention to detail and patience. A dash extra of salt or the lack of an ingredient can result in an inedible product. In regular cooking, we can play with the seasoning and adjust until the moment we put it on the plate. In charcuterie, you might not know the results of a recipe until months later after the item has aged. Good charcuterie skills allow for the almost complete use of a pig from head to tail. It puts the chef in touch with ancient skills that go back thousands of years, history on a plate. You can’t learn it in a day and we put a lot of effort into the curriculum to give the student a strong foundation of charcuterie skills. Plus, you get to make hotdogs – and I love hotdogs.”



  • 1- hind leg of pork with all bones removed except for the shank, approximately 10-12 lbs. 4.5-5.4 Kilo
  • 5 Liter cold water
  • 480 Grams of Kosher Salt
  • 20 Grams of Pink Curing Salt #1
  • 150 Grams of Honey
  • 5 Grams Brine Phosphate (optional)
  • Activa Meat Glue (optional)

Equipment Needed 

  1. 5 gallon Bucket
  2. Brining needle
  3. Ham netting
  4. Hog rings
  5. Hog ring pliers
  6. Immersion circulator
  7. Hand immersion blender
  8. Powdered sugar shaker

Step by Step Process: 

Step 1: Mix the water, salt, sugar, pink cure #1 and phosphate with the hand blender for approximately 2 minutes, until no solids are visible.

Step 1.

Step 2: Using the brine needle, gently pump the meat. Keep the meat in a large tub so as to not lose any leaking brine. Pump the brine in a grid pattern with a 1 inch spread. Do not try to poke needle through skin. Do try to pump around the shank. When finished pumping, submerge meat in remaining brine  and the brine that has leaked off during pumping in the bucket.

Step 2
Step 2

Step 3: Let sit in refrigeration for 3 days. And then resume with the brine in the bucket and repeat step 2. This ensures that your meat is completely saturated with brine and the curing is complete.

Step 4: Let sit for 2 days. And remove from brine. Discard leftover brine. Pat meat dry with paper towel.

Step 5: Using Activa, in the powdered sugar shaker. Liberally dust the interior of the ham. This will keep the ham from having holes in the finished slices.

Step 5

Step 6: Tie the Ham into the Ham netting.


Step 7: Twist the Ham inside the netting to tighten it upon itself and  hog ring pliers to clamp the netting closed and to hold the tension. Use an extra hog ring to ensure it stays closed. Let the Ham sit in the refrigerator over night to set the Activa. You can also use butchers twine to truss the Ham, but take great care to keep it tight and trim loose ends to make sure they will not be caught in the immersion circulator.


Step 8: Set up the immersion circulator and set it to 145 F or 63 C. Submerge the ham in the water bath and cook for 14 hours. You can vacuum seal the Ham prior but you do not have to. The water bath will be discarded when finished.

Step 9: Remove Ham from the circulator.  Take off netting , score the skin with a cross hatched pattern, be careful to not go into the flesh.

Step 10: Put ham in a roasting pan fitted with a rack.  Begin to bake at 250 F.  bake for 2 hours.

Step 11: Remove from oven and turn the temperature up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit with the convection fan turned on if possible.

Step 12: Brush ham with vegetable oil and place in the 450 degrees Fahrenheit oven after fully preheated.

Step 13: When the ham is beautifully browned remove it from oven and allow to rest for 30 minutes and serve with the sauce of your choice.


Step 14: ENJOY! 


To learn more about the various levels of ICC’s Professional Culinary Arts program and reserve your spot during our January 30 start date, CLICK HERE.

#InsideICC Holiday Hacks: How To Use Leftover Candy

Wondering what to do with Halloween candy after (or before) October 31? Well, the International Culinary Center has you covered this season with a series of holiday hacks that will provide you with the inspiration to love what you do, in your own home kitchen. Learn how to kick up your cookie game a few notches with this Halloween inspired hack demonstrated by ICC Chef Instructor Lindsay Busanich. 


  • Start by chopping up any additional candy you may have around the house. Chocolate based candy works best. M&Ms, candy corn and Reese’s Pieces are used in the following video.
  • Fold candy into already-made chocolate chip cookie batter gently with spatula.
  • Place batter into small bread loaf pan to create thicker cookies. 4×4 inch pan used in video. 
  • Add additional candy pieces on top of batter
  • Bake at 350F degrees for 8-10 minutes until golden brown
  • Add more candy as for a decorative garnish!


For more videos, visit our YouTube channel: