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.

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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


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Learning Process

I live alone having moved out of my parents’ house years ago. My mother is a great cook and yet a limited resource for culinary knowledge, and to some extent a lost opportunity for learning as a result of my youthful naïveté. Maturity and the hindsight that comes with it are great aren’t they? The  cook in me has emerged through a combination of her influence, necessity and frankly reasons not yet known or fully understood. Her limited accessibility, in the form of my visits home or from her to my apartment, serves as a catalyst for my self-designed course of study involving reading, interviews, practice and hands-on instruction. My journey continues eight months in with even more enthusiasm than when it started.

As I become more immersed in the world of cooking I have been exposed to a myriad of perspectives, experiences and stories. It’s amazing to see how food, a fundamental necessity for life touches all of us in so many ways, some subtle, while others more obvious ranging from those who are either happy or resigned to eat countless plates of overcooked pasta, microwaved processed frozen meals, burnt or dry chicken and steak with repetitive monotony (yes this was me) to the master chef, armed with culinary knowledge and experience that allows for the transformations of simple ingredients into something greater than themselves.

For those who do take an interest in food and in particular an interest in cooking, I have observed and read about the many and varied ways people increase their skill through their continual process of learning. I have also observed that some people appear to be born with an innate ability and/or natural inclination to cook. Others are exposed through family and friends as part of their childhood and upbringing, allowing for cooking to become a part their identity over time. Some families pass down recipes and cook as part of tradition. Some people have an awakening” and discover their passion for food later in life whether that be in their twenties, thirties or much later in life. Whether as a result of an awakening, tradition, a desire to follow one’s dreams, out of necessity or need for change,  some even take the step of enrolling in classes or a formal path of education. We all are different and yet still share some intrinsic common thread that makes us similar and drawn to food and cooking. We love to cook, enjoy making people happy and often strive to make each dish better than the last.

I’m curious about the path others have taken to get where they are or where they plan to go. How did you get into food? What are your aspirations? How did you get to where you are and how do plan to get where you are going?

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