New York’s prestigious cooking school places the emphasis on technique
Established in 1975, The Institute of Culinary Education offers career training programs in Culinary Arts, Pastry & Baking Arts and Culinary Management. Peter Kump, the founder of the school, had an innovative vision of culinary education, where the emphasis was placed on technique, and not solely on teaching recipes as was common at the time.
His philosophy has grown into ICE’s current five-point model curriculum, designed for career training in the Culinary Arts and Pastry & Baking Arts. Theory, technique, palate training, speed and teamwork are the five prongs to the school’s fast paced, sophisticated programs, resulting in an intensive, comprehensive, education.
ICE has expanded three times in the last 10 years and now occupies 42,000 square feet on five floors in Manhattan’s Flatiron District. The school’s diploma programs last 9-11 months, shorter in length than the associates’ degree programs typically available in culinary schools around the nation. And as accelerated programs, tuition is relatively lower, about $25,000 versus the $40,000 tuition at most other major city culinary institutes.
A key element in ICE’s programs is the required 210 hour off-site externship. This gives students a chance to hone their skills in the real world, focus on an area of culinary interest (e.g. seafood, Italian or bistro cuisine) and get their “foot in the door” for full-time jobs in some of America’s leading restaurants. According to ICE Career Services Director Maureen Fagin, “In the last two years, the restaurants run by Mario Batalli, Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud, Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Danny Meyer have taken 189 ICE students as externs.” Outside of metro New York, nationally acclaimed restaurants that took ICE externs in 2008 included Charlie Trotter’s (Chicago), Radius (Boston) and Orsen (San Francisco).
Whether it’s because of its New York City location, or a sign of the times, ICE attracts a wide diversity of students with a wide range of aspirations. The age range is 18-60 with about a 50/50 male to female ratio. In the last four years, the mix has included foreign students from 42 countries. According to ICE President Rick Smilow, there is strong interest in entrepreneurship among their students. On applications to ICE, he has noticed a growing number state their career goal is to have their own restaurant, specialty food shop, artisan bakery, wine bar or similar establishment. William Deardurff, a recent applicant, wrote that he eventually wants to “open a fine café with the best coffees, savory and sweet pastries, some breakfast options and lunch.”
ICE’s Pastry & Baking Program was initially developed by award winning pastry chef and author Nick Malgieri. In recent years it has been guided by Program Director Andrea Tutunjian. The newest addition to Tutunjian’s chef-instructor roster is Pastry Chef Nicole Kaplan. Formerly the Executive Pastry Chef at 11 Madison Park and Del Posto, Kaplan is a 1997 graduate of ICE and in 2004 was named one of Pastry Art & Design magazine’s “Ten Best Pastry Chefs in America.”
The school’s Culinary Management Program caters to the students’ entrepreneurial aspirations. While upon graduation they may be years away from opening their own establishment, all management students write a business plan for a hypothetical culinary enterprise. ICE’s course schedules are also arranged to make it easy for students to “double major,” pursuing culinary or pastry programs at the same time as the management program.
As for the content of culinary curricula, most schools would agree that the techniques of classic French cooking and baking are core skills any chef should know. While ICE relies on French cuisine as the necessary basis of a formal culinary education, the school believes that in today’s world, other cuisines must be taught and mastered as well. So as the students progress in their studies, they become acquainted with global foods, flavors and techniques—from Thai and Indian to Italian and Latino—to keep pace with the ever-expanding, ever-curious American appetite. As Anton Vazanellis, a student in the Culinary Arts program, put it, “I wanted a broader education. I didn’t want to study just classic French cooking. I want to be exposed to modern techniques and new styles.”
Another dimension of ICE is its continuing education and recreational programs. This is the genesis of the school that Kump started 34 years ago. Today, the program includes over 1500 “hands-on” cooking, baking and wine classes a year. For career students, these classes serve as optional, no-cost extracurricular electives. The class range is enormous with offerings such as “Louisiana Sea Food Appetizers,” “Rabbit, Italian Style,” “Korean Cooking for Spring,” “Gum Paste Floral Workshop” and “Brazilian Desserts.”
In 2006, ICE established its Center for Advanced Pastry Studies (CAPS @ ICE). Courses in this series typically run three days, are only open to working culinary professionals, and feature some of the world’s leading pastry and baking experts. In recent years, this has included Ciril Hitz (bread), Jean-Pierre Wybauw (chocolate), Stephen Iten (plated desserts), Stephane Glacier (sugar art) and Marco Casol (ice cream and sorbets). More recently, in 2008, ICE developed a Food Media Department. This series of courses includes topics such as Food Journalism, Blogging, Recipe Development, Food Styling and Photography and Cookbook Development.
Clearly, the formula for culinary education at ICE is working. In 2008, ICE won the International Association of Culinary Professionals “Award of Excellence for Vocational Culinary Schools.” Also, in 2008, Saveur magazine listed ICE as “one of the 100 [culinary] things we love.” And in Spring 2009, four ICE alumni were announced as semi-finalists for James Beard Foundation national awards including Outstanding Pastry Chef, Rising Star Chef and Best Chef-Great Lakes Region.
Lastly, while it’s only show business, ICE has had the unique pleasure of hosting several major TV shoots recently including Top Chef, Next Food Network Star, and in early 2009, Celebrity Apprentice. To this Smilow says, “We didn’t build our 12 kitchens for folks like Joan Rivers, Clint Black and Dennis Rodman to make cupcakes, but if Donald Trump wants to send them to ICE for a day, it’s okay with us.”