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It’s that NYCE time of year again. This past weekend, May 4th and 5th, we once again hosted with New York Magazine the Fifth Annual New York Culinary Experience. This is a one of kind food fest where you get to do hands on classes with the world’s master chefs. More than half of our attendees are repeat students. And more than 80% come from hundreds if not thousands of miles away. This year we had attendees that flew in from Hawaii and the Philippines!

Jacques Torres & Ron Ben-Israel

David Bouley

Cesare Casella, Andre Soltner & Alain Sailhac, Jean Georges Vongerichten

Michael Lomonaco, Marc Forgione

Morimoto

Dan Barber, Daniel Rose

A very good time was had by all. You can’t believe the camaraderie and spirit. Some very formidable attendees went from their gastronomic adventure here to Bouley restaurant Saturday night for a meal of a decade. Good fun was had by all…as these pictures can attest. Hope we see you next year. And book early, we had a waiting list this year!

April Bloomfield, Matthew Lightner

Michael Psilakis

Christina Tosi

Seamus Mullen

Michael Anthony, Marc Murphy, Paul Liebrandt

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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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I want to thank the International Association of Culinary Professionals for awarding me their  “Entrepreneur/Businessperson of the Year”. I must broadcast from the top of the Transamerica tower (the ceremony took place in San Francisco) that this award is truly to be shared with the staff of The International Culinary Center. I am lucky to stand on the shoulders of 300 educational professionals who cherish our students and alumnae.

I was the lucky one to high five Thomas Keller, chat with Alice Waters and hang out Marcus Samuelsson, Anne Willan and even our alums, Liz Gutman and Jen King, founders of Liddabit Sweets.

What a night! Thank you again IACP.

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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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I read William Deresiewicz’s New York Times article,  “A Matter of Taste”, which challenged the idea of food as art. It made me take a serious think on the subject. Hang on a bit, this will be a longer post than usual but a subject worth exploring. Here’s what Deresiewicz says on the subject:

Food is highly developed as a system of symbols. Proust on the madeleine is art, the madeleine itself is not art.

First, let’s define art. In searching on the internet for a usable definition I thought Ellen Dissanyake’s captured it for me: the expression of the thoughts of the artist are successful when it engages both the maker and the viewer and creates dialogues of wonder. Its subjective and stimulating ends seeks to enlighten and entertain.”

Dan Barber, photo by Susie Cushner

Let’s take a modern day “madeleine” and deconstruct it as art for Mr. Deresiewicz. It’s the lowly parsnip, in the hands of a culinary master and chef, Dan Barber. Dan is the Chef/Owner/Creator of Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Tarrytown, New York. A restaurant that creates a dialogue with the land and a chef that speaks to the seasons.

A parsnip is one of those vegetables that is relegated to the root cellar, a cousin to the turnip and a brethren in the circle of least likely to please winter veggies such as brussel sprouts and cauliflower. So what has Dan done with the parsnip? He’s put it center plate! But not just on a one-dimensional plane in a new recipe. Dan creates dishes that are complex and intensely involved with listening to the land while delivering taste on a celestial level. The parsnip in his hands engages us in a new way and stimulates us to think about the relationship between man, food and our physical surroundings. Its more intense depth of flavor, sweetness and deliciousness surprises us. And the beauty of its presentation not only pleases but shocks us. The story behind it makes us challenge our long held opinions. How did he do this with a parsnip?

Dan started by thinking about what he could serve his customers in February in the deep of winter. He is committed to being local and seasonal. He worked with his farmer, Jack Algiere to continue growing parsnips in the snow filled months. They harvest huge parsnips from the frozen ground and crack away the dirt. These parsnips are supersweet because the freezing temperatures concentrate the sugars, unlike fall harvested vegetables. Their post autumn size allows the parsnip to be reimagined. Dan roasts these parsnips whole. Then the presentation of this root vegetable main course is done with a bit of fanfare. The diner’s attention is riveted as the once lowly parsnip is paraded tableside and sliced as a steak, ready to be a hearty meal in the cold of winter. The parsnip is the center of the plate, the star of the meal. The concept of protein as main course is moot…not even missed.

Parsnip Steak and Beet Ketchup, photo courtesy of Blue Hill at Stone Barns

Does this not engage the diner in a new way? Does it not make her question the human/land connection? Does it not entertain in its deliciousness? Does it not give us a sense of wonder of how large our universe is and how limited we have been in harvesting our foods? Does it not change your relationship with the parsnip? Now a vegetable of preference but only in this new season, this new context. If the parsnip did not have a pleasure with it, an entertainment factor, the concept and recipe could be restricted to science and social issues….but precisely because it pleases in a sensual way, it qualifies on all counts….as a piece of art!

Dan’s work is important. So important that we are working with him on our new Farm to Table culinary program. It is important for our school to graduate not only the best chefs in the country. We also strive to be a breeding ground for culinary artists. Those chefs that engage both the maker and the diner and create dialogues of wonder.”

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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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