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.
My arrival and greeting were a bit different. When I walked in, I entered what appeared to be the admission office section.
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.
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.
The hallways of the school were adorned with showpieces made by the pastry students. They produced some truly impressive work.
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.
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 work. Her 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.”
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.
While 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.