Ten Skills Every Cook Should Know Class at Sur la Table

Keeping up with the learning theme, I signed up for a cooking class, 10 Skills Every Cook Should Know at Sur La Table in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen on 57th Street. The class seemed basic enough to give me a sense of what a class at Sur La Table was like without being too technical. I had seen classes advertised on their site and noticed kitchens in a few of their stores and was excited to give them a try.

After singing up, I wasn’t sure how hands on the class would be, how skilled the instructor would be or what I would be learning with respect to the “10 skills”. I assumed that they would be basic things like knife skills, sauté, braising and a few other cooking techniques. To my surprise and delight, the class was more well-rounded and was very hands on. The goal of the class was to complete a meal with team members using the following skills.

  • Vinaigrette
  • Pan Roasting
  • Pan Sauce
  • Blanching
  • Sauté
  • Pesto
  • Whipping Egg Whites
  • Roux
  • Soufflé
  • Coulis

These skills were used to create a truly tasty meal of:

  • Spinach Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette
  • Pan Roasted Chicken with Sage White Wine Pan Sauce
  • Sautéed Asparagus with Basil Pesto
  • Chocolate Soufflé with Raspberry Sauce

I would say that most people in the class were of average skill, loved food and were very familiar with the school. The time flew by as were guided by the chef instructor Jessica and her kitchen assistants. We used induction stovetops in addition to the main stove which was very cool as I had never used them before. They were so easy to use and are even easier to clean.

All in all, the class was a great experience and the meal was delicious. I would definitely attend another cooking class again. It was very different from a commercial kitchen setting and felt a bit more like a home kitchen.

Here are some pictures I took throughout the class to document the progression and composition of the meal.

Sur La Table NYC Cooking Class - 10 Skills Every Cook Should Know Sur La Table NYC Cooking Class - 10 Skills Every Cook Should Know - Classroom Sur La Table NYC Cooking Class - 10 Skills Every Cook Should Know - Mise En Place Sur La Table NYC Cooking Class - 10 Skills Every Cook Should Know - Mise En Place Sur La Table NYC Cooking Class - 10 Skills Every Cook Should Know - Making Pesto Sur La Table NYC Cooking Class - 10 Skills Every Cook Should Know - Making Pesto Sur La Table NYC Cooking Class - 10 Skills Every Cook Should Know - Asparagus Sur La Table NYC Cooking Class - 10 Skills Every Cook Should Know - Grilled Asparagus Sur La Table NYC Cooking Class - 10 Skills Every Cook Should Know - Melting Chocolate Sur La Table NYC Cooking Class - 10 Skills Every Cook Should Know - Melted Chocolate Sur La Table NYC Cooking Class - 10 Skills Every Cook Should Know - Whipping Egg Whites Sur La Table NYC Cooking Class - 10 Skills Every Cook Should Know - Whipped Egg Whites Sur La Table NYC Cooking Class - 10 Skills Every Cook Should Know - Prepping Chicken Sur La Table NYC Cooking Class - 10 Skills Every Cook Should Know - Cooking Chicken Sur La Table NYC Cooking Class - 10 Skills Every Cook Should Know - Shallots for Pan Sauce IMG_6024 Sur La Table NYC Cooking Class - 10 Skills Every Cook Should Know - Making Pan Sauce Sur La Table NYC Cooking Class - 10 Skills Every Cook Should Know - Salads Sur La Table NYC Cooking Class - 10 Skills Every Cook Should Know - Meal Sur La Table NYC Cooking Class - 10 Skills Every Cook Should Know - Plated Meal Sur La Table NYC Cooking Class - 10 Skills Every Cook Should Know - Chocolate Soufflé

 

Continue Reading

International Culinary Center (ICC) Open House

After leaving the open house for Institute of Culinary Education (ICE), I went home and signed up for the next upcoming open house at the International Culinary Center (ICC) in New York which happened to be last night. Being near the office, it was a quick walk on a great summer night. As a top rated school, originally opened as the French Culinary Institute, I was interested in comparing the two with respect to approach to teaching, classroom setup, resources and how they “sold” themselves. The ICC definitely touts a long line of successful grads in the professional world as well as affiliations with the tops chefs in the field.

International Culinary Center (ICC) Entrance

My arrival and greeting were a bit different. When I walked in, I entered what appeared to be the admission office section.

International Culinary Center (ICC) Admissions

I was shown into a room with applications and binders describing the various programs available at the school. It was after finishing the application that the tour began. We were a group of about 15 and were taken around the school to see various classrooms for culinary, pastry, bread baking and general use.

International Culinary Center (ICC) Class International Culinary Center (ICC) Class International Culinary Center (ICC) Class International Culinary Center (ICC) Class International Culinary Center (ICC) Class

During the the tour we stopped by a wall of handprints. They reminded me of the molds my mother made of my and my sister’s hands when we were babies. It represented a closer personal connection with chefs the school is affiliated with through instruction whether part of the faculty or through events that have been held.

International Culinary Center (ICC) Famous Affiliated Chefs

The hallways of the school were adorned with showpieces made by the pastry students. They produced some truly impressive work.

International Culinary Center (ICC) Show Pieces International Culinary Center (ICC) Show Pieces International Culinary Center (ICC) Show Pieces International Culinary Center (ICC) Show Pieces International Culinary Center (ICC) Show Pieces

At the end of the tour we were lead to an auditorium. Previous tours were already seated and watching a short video about the school. Instead of a live demonstration, we were provided with an assortment of appetizers and pastries, and at the end of the line we could get something from the bar. This open house definitely felt smaller and less “grand” than ICE.

International Culinary Center (ICC) Presentation International Culinary Center (ICC) Presentation International Culinary Center (ICC) Presentation International Culinary Center (ICC) Presentation International Culinary Center (ICC) Presentation International Culinary Center (ICC) Presentation

As the film came to a close, opening remarks were given by none-other than Dorothy Cann Hamilton, the Founder and CEO of the French Culinary Institute, now the International Culinary Center (ICC). It was tremendous to hear her booming and yet soft charismatic voice in person as I have recently come across her Chef’s Story podcast and listen to it every day on the way to and from workHer address to the crowd was personal and impassioned. Her love for the school, cooking and teaching came through as it does for any founder who has found their calling. As she spoke out, her words stood out, stating “Schools are different. They have personalities. Our personality is grounded in authenticity, technique, respect for the kitchen, incredibly professional chefs and teachers…all here for one mission, to help you succeed in your dream.”

International Culinary Center (ICC) Presentation Dorothy Cann Hamilton

An overview of the culinary programs was given by Chef Candy Argondizza, the head of the culinary program while an overview of the pastry, cake and bread programs was given by Chef Jansen Chan, director of Pastry. The overview and level of detail provided was really great. The smaller group size in the auditorium allowed for questions to be easily asked and answered by the staff. The techniques and comprehensive levels that each student must pass through to obtain a diploma are amazing. Both chefs made each program equally exciting. I can’t imagine having to actually make the choice.

Instead of a live demo, a live person and graduate of the program, Dorina Yuen of Oro Bakery and Bar came in to talk about her experiences at the school and post graduation. The post school success story was a great way to validate the program and through Dorina’s story it was great to get a sense of the many facets, twists and turns a career can have. As a former employee in Finance, Dorina found her calling in cooking and enrolled in the school while still working when she started her culinary journey. She’s worked in many kitchens and has found success building her own brand.

International Culinary Center (ICC) Presentation Oro Bakery and Bar

International Culinary Center (ICC) First Curriculum Outline 1984While the food didn’t give me the best overall impression of the skills learned, the tour, small auditorium setting, overview of the curriculum and skills learned along with story from a past student rounded out what an experience at the International Culinary Center might be like. On my way out I noticed that a book was provided to guests, Love What You Do: Building A Career In The Culinary Industry written by Dorothy Cann Hamilton herself. It was an interesting touch, as it’s essentially a workbook on making a decision to enter the world of culinary and deciding whether or not it is for you.

I’m glad I made the trip. There is so much to consider with respect to actually enrolling in a program, continuing on in one off classes and learning through my own endeavors. This is an exciting time for me.

Continue Reading

Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) Open House

Living part-time in New York, I’m lucky enough to be in a culinary center of the world. As such, some of the best culinary schools can be found within a short distance of both my office and apartment. The Institute of Culinary Education is one of them, currently on 23rd street (and moving to a larger location at the end of the year). I’m considering taking classes and as well as the idea of a professional program there and decided to sign up for an open house. I had previously visited at the beginning of the month and met with an admissions counselor and was afforded a tour and a great overview. The Open House seemed like another great way to gain insight into the school, staff, and curriculum.

The school has a rich history in the world of culinary education, especially in New York. As one of the “original” schools, it was started as Peter Kump’s New York Cooking School and grew over time. Upon his passing, the school was purchased by an entrepreneur with a love for cooking, Rick Smilow and has grown into the massive force it is today.

I arrived just before 6pm and headed up to the top floor for the open house. From the minute that the doors opened up, it was showtime. I was actually blown away. I was expecting a brief talk about the programs offered and then a discussion about admission requirements. What I walked into was an event production. After I passed the greeting table I was welcomed to a bar and offered a drink from a selection of beer and wine.

Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) Open House Entry Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) Open House Entry

Just after the bar followed an appetizer selection of meat, cheese, bread, fruit and crackers.

Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) Open House Appetizer Line Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) Open House Appetizers Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) Open House Appetizers

Guests (yes, this is how I felt) were seated in a larger room just off the main entrance at chairs facing, not a stage, but a demo kitchen with mirrors. I was pretty excited at this point and happily enjoyed my crackers, bread and various cheeses and cure meat.

The opening remarks provided for an overview of the school, the programs and allowed for some early Q&A with the guests addressing admissions or chefs. The overview was very informative.

First up was a demo for the dinner entree. We watched the preparation while we were served the finished product, duck, mango salsa and polenta. Not too shabby.

Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) Open House Culinary Lecture and Demo Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) Open House Culinary Lecture and Demo

After the culinary demo, we were the introduced to the pastry demo given by a former sniper turned pastry chef. Pana cotta with some foam and crystalized sugar adornments. Very tasty in deed.

Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) Open House Baking and Pastry Lecture and Demo Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) Open House Baking and Pastry Lecture and Demo As I said before, I was favorably impressed with the school overview. After reflecting on the evening and the event, the “New Yorkness” of the open house made sense. Everything is a hustle in the city and a good show is a requirement. That said, it demonstrates the serious approach to food and learning that ICE has and provides for glimpse of what you will be exposed to should you decide that it’s the school for you.

The school is growing tremendously as is evidenced by moving to a larger location as mentioned above. With 20,000 inquires and 700 students per year, it’s a powerhouse for the New York culinary scene and beyond. I’m glad I attended and appreciate the time spent with me as well as the numerous follow-ups.

Here are pictures from my prior visit with an admissions represenative:

Lab Rooms

Institute of Culinary Education Lab Institute of Culinary Education Lab with Class Institute of Culinary Education Lab with Class

Library and Chocolate ShowpiecesInstitute of Culinary Education Library with Chocolate Project Pieces

Lecture RoomInstitute of Culinary Education Lecture Room

 

Continue Reading

Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Food media has become more prevalent and as such chefs hold an interesting status in society in the US and Globally. The perception of the role has changed to those on the outside and to those who call it their job. Chefs in modern day media are idolized, elevated a million times higher than ever before. Those at the top of their game and recognized by others as figures to emulate, spend their careers perfecting their craft. Jiro Ono is a master of sushi and precision. He is a chef to idolize and is the subject of a biographic film from 2011, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, directed by David Gelb.

Jiro demonstrates that while some of the duties or views of a chef have changed, most have not.

  • The chef is boss.
  • The chef is responsible for everything that gets served.
  • Quality and the experience are of the utmost importance.
  • Excellence takes practice and discipline.
  • No matter how far you have come, you are only just beginning and just learning.

This film provides a glimpse into what is required to become a three-star Michelin rated restaurant which Jiro and his team have achieved at Sukiyabashi in Japan.

A meal at Sukiyabashi can cost about 30,000 Yen (around $300) and is fast, lasting about 15 minutes. Arguably the most expensive meal you’ll ever eat and yet his patrons say it’s worth it. They don’t serve appetizers, only sushi. They’ve mastered that.

According to food writer Masuhiro Yamamoto as stated in the film there are five attributes to a great chef:

  1. First, they take their work seriously and consistently perform at the highest level
  2. Second, they aspire to improve their skills
  3. Third is cleanliness. If the restaurant doesn’t feel clean the food won’t taste good.
  4. The fourth is impatience. They are better leaders than collaborators. They are stubborn and insist on having it their way.
  5. And finally, a great chef is passionate.

Jiro has all of these attributes. He is a perfectionist.

The film was fascinating to watch as I gained insight into this great chef. Each day starts with tasting the ingredients, making adjustments and ensuring everything is perfect for service. If the food is not up to par, it won’t be served. There are no shortcuts. He buys his fish from specialists, experts in the type of fish that they sell. The entire process of creating food is about process and repetition.

Jiro’s mind works on perfection all the time. He recounts that as his career evolved, he would literally make sushi in his dreams and wake up with new ideas. As the title implies, he literally dreamed of sushi. His dreams make him the best. He doesn’t care about money. He wants to make better sushi. He wants to make the best. That’s what he keeps striving for and undoubtedly what keeps him going. For Jiro, when nobody but you know something is not right, that is perfection, pride. being the best.

Jiro says, “In order to make delicious food, you must eat delicious food.” The quality of ingredients is important but you must be able to develop a palate to discren the good from the bad. “Without good taste you can’t make good food”. As he rose to prominence he educated his palate by eating a variety of foods, just as he does now. Could this be an excuse for me to eat out more?!

3 Michlen stars is no small feat.  To paraphrase Masuhiro Yamamoto in the film, it is said that for a restaurant to earn that many stars it is worth it to travel to that country just to eat at the restaurant. Jiro is always seeking perfection and I wonder if he’ll ever feel he attained it. Probably not. What’s harder to think about is that this film is about his sons and sushi and passing the torch as it is about him. The task and difficulty of living up to expectations are enormous.

The lessons observed for greatness can be applied to any profession. As I think about the hours of practice in the kitchen and the hours of learning outside of the kitchen, I can see how I’m still at the beginning of my learning with respect to cooking as well as other areas in life. I’m glad I was able to sit down and watch a biography about such an incredible life and would recommend it to anyone whether starting out with food or even those who are highly advanced knowing they have so much to learn.

 

Continue Reading