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Dominique Ansel and a Cronut

Sometimes it pays to be the CEO of The International Culinary Center. Dominique Ansel brought me a cronut!!! He also brought me his favorite pastries, the DKA- Dominique’s Kouign Amann (pronounced koo-ween ah-mahn), tender, flaky, croissiant-like dough with a caramelized crunchy crust, and of course absolutely delicious, and available from Dominique Ansel Bakery.

The DKA- Dominique's Kouign Amann

I will point out that he only brought me one cronut but six Kouign Amann! You can hear more about Dominique Ansel, and his fascinating chef’s journey from a small town in France to his own eponymous bakery, by listening to his episode of Chef’s Story, on Heritage Radio Network.

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Carnegie Hall, April 28, 2013

The International Culinary Center held its graduation ceremony at Carnegie Hall for the very first time on April 28th, 2013. We were honored to have Thomas Keller as our commencement speaker, and sharing the stage and hall with our graduates were our 2012 Outstanding Alumni, and our Deans, faculty, staff, family and friends. It was a day to remember. Truly amazing and inspiring. I’d like to share with you my welcome speech along with some photos of a graduation we won’t soon forget.

Well, graduates, I am as excited as you are today.  Wow, on the stage at Carnegie Hall.  How did we all get here?  I did some serious reflecting on this momentous occasion and I realize that it hasn’t just been our own achievements that got us here.

I am the granddaughter of a lobster fisherman from Nova Scotia and a shepherdess from Slovakia. A second-generation American.  It took those earlier generations to get me to this iconic stage in New York City. I had loving and inspirational parents. I was embraced and supported by my siblings.  And look around me on this stage and see the incredible team of The International Culinary Center. I have had the great fortune of working with the most gifted, talented and accomplished professionals. They have nurtured thousands of alumnae who have made our reputation soar. It is all of them who got me here today.  I stand on their shoulders and thank them from the bottom of my heart. Likewise I am so proud of all of you today.

Most of you have sacrificed, worked hard and most importantly believed in yourself to be here today.  That already is a key to success.  At commencement we are suppose to give advice.  Well, if I can give you a word of advice it is ….never to stop learning and never give up your dreams.  Life is fraught with challenges and setbacks but if you focus, if you believe in yourself and take that step forward even if it is just one step at a time, you can go the distance. You have chosen a noble profession.  To feed and nourish the world is essential.  Our food and wine world is filled with challenge, inspiration, hard work and camaraderie.

Some of our graduates with Dorothy

I recently graduated myself from the OPM program at Harvard Business School and was chosen to give the speech that day. My classmates were from all over the world.  While there, I thought to myself how  serious the cultural clashes are in the world today. But in the halls of education we have an oasis.   We have a sacred place where people come to learn, understand, trust and grow.   In our food community the baseline of trust and understanding is even greater.  I have never seen two chefs from two very diverse cultures be anything but be intrigued by each other.  They look forward to cooking and sharing a meal together.  They toast and share a glass and almost always have true appreciation for each other’s work and culture. Call me naïve, but I do think our lives as chefs and hospitality professionals place us in a unique position.  We are nurturers by trade,  but by feeding the body, we touch the soul… and in our own quiet way are enablers of peace and understanding. We hold a position of trust.   In your busy lives, please don’t forget that.

We are thrilled to hold our ceremony with our Deans, Faculty and Staff.  With your beautiful family and friends. You, like I, owe our success and the fulfillment of our dreams to them.   Remember to hug them and thank them.

In closing I have to tell you that I am a Yankee fan.  And I think for the first time, there is a quote from the famed Yankee catcher, Yogi Berra that actually applies just to us.  He said,” If you ever see a fork in the road, take it!”  I hope you have many, many forks in your road. Thank you.

L: Thomas Keller, R: Dorothy, Dean Jacques Pepin, Thomas Keller, Dean Cesare Casella

Culinary VP Candy Argondizza and Deans Jose Andres, Alan Richman, Alain Sailhac, Jacques Torres, Jacques Pepin, Emily Luchetti, Cesare Casella, Andre Soltner backstage

Some of our wonderful faculty backstage at Carnegie Hall

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Believe or not there is a difference. Years ago we tested our staff and students using an analytical tool called The Predictive Index. The index was uncanny in what personality traits it uncovered. We had our Deans take the test as well. We were looking for a student with the same DNA as Jacques Pepin. Well, we didn’t find a budding Jacques but we did catalogue the personality differences.

Actually the differences are pretty logical. To make a vast generalization, pastry chefs are very precise and analytical while culinary chefs are more reactive and instinctive. Think about it. A pastry chef has to measure and check, if even the pinch of salt is left out of the pastry crust, there is no point of correction once it is in the oven. Likewise, for a culinary chef every day presents a different challenge. Every product from the variable marbling of beef to the sweetness of a tomato takes a palate and adjustment to cooking techniques to compensate.

We find in our student profiles that people in culinary come from backgrounds such as real estate, military, teachers and wall street professionals. Pastry people are architects, interior designers, a former Miss Venezuela and medical workers-including a large proportion of former dentists!

If you are interested in becoming a chef, don’t hesitate….please speak with one of our admissions counselors if you want help in determining which DNA runs through your veins. You don’t have to have one of those a previous professions to attend the ICC. Just bring your passion! And we will help you love what you do.

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Jacques Pépin, José Andres, Dorothy Hamilton

I had a wonderful lunch at ICC last week. Yes, the food at L’Ecole was delicious (especially the pork belly appetizer) but it was the company that made it really special. Two Deans were in the house, Jacques Pépin and José Andres. Jacques was getting ready to do his egg demo for our students with 60 plus egg preparations and José was checking in on his new curriculum and course at the school, Spanish Culinary Arts, which will debut in February.

We talked about perceptions of Jacques and José as teachers. Does one study with Jacques to learn French cuisine or with José for Spanish cuisine? They joked that they were both held hostage by their accents and that their culinary styles are hugely influenced by their native lands. Both fiercely love their national cuisines. Yet both masters had to admit their styles are very much their own, reflecting their own unique personalities, tastes and skills. Pepin is the Zen guru of technique and José is one of the leading practicioners of avante garde cuisine in the world.

Jacques Pépin- Roast Capon with Armagnac-Mushroom Sauce

José Andres Liquid Olives

So, if you study with one of these super-chefs, do you study their native cuisine, or their personal style? Both vehemently insisted that you can’t understand their style without a basic knowledge of their native techniques and taste notes first. More importantly, you can’t even approach either man’s greatness without studying the fundamentals. Thus, for close to 30 years classic culinary arts has been the student’s entree for Jacques. And now our new Spanish course is the welcoming smile of José.

Joining the Spanish Culinary Arts program will not only give you an insight to the culture, history and taste of the native cuisine of Spain but will form the foundation to learn and realize José’s avant garde cuisine. As José explains, you have to understand the tomato seed, you need to taste it in its pure glory, you need to know how to handle it on the most basic and traditional levels and then, and only then, can you aspire and expand to Minibar pyrotechnics! Don’t miss out on José’s course this February. It is only 10 weeks and he is personally shepherding the class to Spain for a packed week of tradition and contemporary culinary adventure.

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Time for America to Go to Entrepreneurship School from the Gallup Blog and written by Executive Director of Gallup Education, Brandon Busteed, is incisive and right on target, and I wanted to share it with my readers.  The International Culinary Center is a home for entrepreneurs! Find out more about us here.

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“Working with The International Culinary Center, Dean Cesare Casella-il maestro di tutti, with his signature pocketful of rosemary-has put together an encyclopedic user’s-guide to the elements, techniques, and, most important, the mouthfeel and flavor of Italian cooking. In doing so, they have elevated the ordinary textbook to an art form. This spectacular vision of all that is Italian and delicious will take its place among the handful of most used books in my collection.”

-Mario Batali, chef, author, entrepreneur

“An exciting and comprehensive look at the Italian kitchen. This book 
makes me want to be a student again!“

-Anne Burrell, 
chef and TV personality

Congratulations to our Dean of Italian Studies, Cesare Casella and the Italian teaching staff on the publication of our new textbook, The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Italian Cuisine. It is a comprehensive resource for all Italian techniques as well as being quite beautiful.

I want to thank our writer, Stephanie Lyness for the lucid prose, Jessica Botta for her technical direction, and our “court photographer” Matthew Septimus for his inimitable and luscious photographs. Stewart, Tabori and Chang…thanks for another great book!

Learn more at The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Italian Cuisine. If you love to cook Italian, you cant live without it!

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