Friday, December 18, 2009
In November, The French Culinary Institute released The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Pastry Arts based on The FCI's pastry curriculum, with help from Judith Choate and photographs by Matthew Septimus. Starting with the basics of ingredients, tools, and kitchen first aid, this 500-page tome gives insights, successful techniques, and recipes to help make anyone's baking visions a success. You'll be turning out croissants and nut tarts in no time.
Broken up into nine sessions (tartes, pâte à choux, pâte feuilletée, crèmes et flans, pains et viennoiseries, gâteaux, and petits fours), anyone can work their way through demonstrations that will have you proficient by book's end. And with beautiful pictures to boot, we're feeling mighty inspired just flipping through the pages.
We're proud of the great techniques and expertise our pastry chefs stuffed into this beefy book. We may be partial, but we think this one's a must bake through!
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Read Prestige Magazine's profile on Dorothy, chronicling the path she took on the way to founding one of the most prestigious culinary schools in the world.
Thursday, December 03, 2009
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
On December 1, The FCI hosted a reception honoring this year's Outstanding Alumni. The 2009 award winners are Tyler Kord (Outstanding Culinary Award), Michael Zebrowski (Outstanding Pastry Award), Robert Bleifer (Outstanding Achievement Award), and Dan Rafalin (Outstanding Restaurant Management Award). FCI Founder Dorothy Cann Hamilton, along with Master Chefs Alain Sailhac and André Soltner, Vice President of Student Affairs Christopher Papagni, and Associate Dean of Students Erik Murnighan, presented the winners with awards that were hand-painted by Master Chef Jacques Pépin.
Tyler Kord, Outstanding Culinary Award
Tyler Kord, the owner of No. 7 in Brooklyn, graduated from The FCI in 2002 and stayed on to work as a Sous Chef in the a la carte kitchen for Alain Sailhac and Patrick Farrel. He then went on to work for Jean-Georges Vongerichten at Perry Street, for two years, where he was Sous Chef. Serving contemporary new American cuisine in a casual setting, No. 7 was recently named one of Bon Appetit magazine’s Top Ten Best New Restaurants in America.
Michael Zebrowski, Outstanding Pastry Award
Michael Zebrowski, currently a Chef-Instructor at The FCI, was nominated for and won this award while he was still Executive Pastry Chef at The Westin Governor Morris Hotel. After graduating from The FCI in 1998, Michael worked with both David Bouley and Daniel Boulud before moving to The Pierre Hotel, where he focused on the art of producing high-end desserts for large, extravagant banquet events. He then traveled to France to intern at the three Michelin star-rated restaurant Le Jardin des Sens.
Robert Bleifer, Outstanding Achievement Award
Robert Bleifer is Executive Chef of Culinary Productions at the Food Network. After graduating from The FCI in 1994, Robert went on to work as a line cook at Park Avenue Café before taking a freelance position at the Food Network. He worked his way up to become Executive Chef and now oversees in-house food production, location production, photo shoots, vignettes, and food for more than 75 Food Network events annually.
Dan Rafalin, Outstanding Restaurant Management Award
Dan Rafalin, Principal Partner of AvroKo Restaurant Group, is a 1996 graduate of The FCI with a Master of Arts in Food Management from NYU. Prior to joining AvroKo, Dan was the financial and business analyst for the Clark Wolf Company, a food, restaurant, and hospitality consulting firm based in New York. He now oversees operations of AvroKo’s four NYC restaurants, Public, The Monday Room, Double Crown, and Madam Geneva, and has led them to great success, including a Michelin star for Public and two New York Times stars for Double Crown.
The recipients were grateful for being chosen and all expressed a shared admiration of the school, its instructors, and its students. Congratulations to all the winners!
Thursday, November 19, 2009
As usual, our alumni are right there at the forefront of the industry, taking culinary ideas to innovative new heights and generating plenty of media buzz. Read on for two of the latest success stories from graduates of The French Culinary Institute.
Long Live the Casserole Queens
Channeling Betty Crocker in their kitschy retro aprons, Sandy Pollock (Classic Culinary Arts) and partner Crystal Cook bring a hearty new take on the mobile meal to greater Austin, Texas. Slinging one dish-wonders for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert, Casserole Queens accept orders online for delivery the following week. If you're within their delivery area, consider the sausage, egg, and brie or French toast casseroles for breakfast, Oh Boy Broccoli or Zucchini De-"light" for lunch, and the World's Greatest Pot Pie or Chicken Proscuitto Pasta for dinner. Not counting calories this month? Top it all off with Gooey Apple Butter Cake or Peanut Butter Banana Cream Pie, and ponder how your next meal could possibly compare. Visit the Casserole Queens online, follow them on Twitter, and get the recipe for pot pie as seen on Throwdown with Bobby Flay.
Keep on (Buttermilk) Truckin'
As the name suggests, the newest gourmet food truck to hit Los Angeles uses buttermilk in almost every menu item. Founded by Gigi Pascual (Classic Pastry Arts) and just launched this November, The Buttermilk Truck churns out pancakes, waffles, doughnuts, biscuits, and assorted breakfast pastries for hungry L.A. foodies morning, noon, and night. Specializing in sweet treats like Buttermilk Pancake Bites, Hawaiian Bread Cinnamon French Toast Sticks, Housemade Cake Donuts, and Red Velvet Pancakes, the truck also offers savory options like Buttermilk Biscuit Breakfast Sandwiches, Fried Chicken with Cinnamon Waffles, Southwest Veggie Omelettes, and the Buttermilk Brick: hash browns, two eggs over easy, and a buttermilk biscuit with housemade chorizo gravy. Hungry yet? Visit the Buttermilk Truck online, follow them on Twitter, and read an interview with Gigi.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
While each spoke to different aspects of French cuisine, panelists generally agreed that French cooking excels in transforming and elevating food to new heights, while preserving the integrity of the ingredients themselves. It was also agreed that French cuisine is often misunderstood in America, associated with the fancy, snobbish hospitality that is no longer popular instead of the rustic, regional cooking of France. However, it was noted that many of the fanciest French restaurants are still extremely successful.
After the panel, the celebration commenced with passed hors d’oeuvres of consommé shooters, savory choucroute, oysters, and caviar prepared by FCI culinary students. To drink, guests enjoyed liquid nitrogen-frosted apple margaritas made by VP of Culinary and Pastry Arts Nils Norén, and were encouraged to take Skål shots (with obligatory photograph), a Scandinavian toast of Aquavit inspired by 1960's Swedish actor Max Von Sydow.
Here's to another 25 years!
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
Over three days, more than 40 top chefs and chocolatiers performed demos in two culinary theaters, giving guests a chance to watch the masters prepare sinfully delicious recipes and masterful chocolate creations. Demonstrations included Tina Casaceli, Director of Pasty and Baking Arts at The FCI and Pastry Chef-Owner of Milk & Cookies Bakery, Dean of Pastry Arts Jacques Torres, and Pastry Chef-Instructor Kir Rodriguez, who worked with Classic Pastry Arts students for two months to create the Haunted House of Count Shock O'Lade, a massive 242-pound chocolate house made of dark, milk, and white chocolate.
In addition to their demonstrations, François Payard, Johnny Iuzzini, Karen Demasco, and Jacques Torres were among the chefs offering book signings. Newcomer 2 Chicks with Chocolate, a mother-daughter team, poured free chocolate martinis for guests in the Chocolate Cafe.
Guests also had the opportunity to enjoy the Beauty Pavilion, a showcase of chocolate within the beauty industry and its wide variety of uses, where they could sign up for private Chocolate Massages, Cocoa Bean Nail Polish Manicures, and Cocoa Hair Treatments. There was even a KidZone providing fun, creative, and educational activities related to chocolate for children and their parents.
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
Monday, October 05, 2009
Co-hosted with New York magazine, the event took place at The International Culinary Center, home of The French Culinary Institute. Over two days, each guest took four intimate master cooking classes with the chefs of their choice, including Jean-Georges Vongerichten, David Bouley, Marcus Samuelsson, and all five Deans of The FCI. Between morning and afternoon classes, guests also had the chance to attend Q&A sessions with industry giants such as Dan Barber and Joe Bastianich.
To read more about the event, and to view our image gallery, click here.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Our career fairs are biannual events, designed to connect employers with job hunting students and alumni. In all, a total of 40 restaurants, restaurant groups, and food-related businesses showed up to interview students and alumni for internships and positions in New York City and beyond.
Here are just a few of the employers that joined us yesterday:
Daniel Boulud’s Dinex Group
Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns
Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group
The James Beard Foundation
The Spotted Pig
Four Seasons Hotel
Park Avenue Autumn
The next career fair will be held in March 2010.
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
Taking the grand prize, a collection of gift certificates to NYC's finest restaurants, Ian Frankoski inhaled the mega dog (with matching bun) in less than three minutes, beating out 15 other contestants who chowed down on hot dogs made by students from meat provided by La Frieda Meats and rolls baked by students in the International Bread Competition.
In the condiment contest, Sun Jee Lee's BLT hot dog won over chef judges, including Bradford Thompson, Brad Farmerie, Ed Mcfarland, Kee Ling Tong, Mr.Recipe, Michael Salvatore, Mark Pastore, Anne Burrell, Jim Barondess, Fritz Knipschildt, and the Deans: Master Chefs André Soltner, Alain Sailhac, Jacques Pépin, and Jacques Torres.
Voted overwhelmingly by students and chefs in the drinks competition, Julie Baldwin's Taste of Tropic was named the best beverage to accompany a hot dog.
Each student raised at least $50 in order to compete. This year participants more than doubled last year's efforts, raising a total of $11,368 to provide scholarship funding for current students with demonstrated financial need.
Click here to see pictures of the event.
Thursday, September 03, 2009
Now he can add cookbook author to his impressive resume. Due to release this fall, Kitchen Scraps, a humorous illustrated cookbook is, as the name suggests, a deliciously hilarious work of art, words, and food. Featuring easy-to-follow recipes anyone can make “with minimal amounts of swearing,” Kitchen Scraps is the counter-cookbook, challenging the traditional format with its irreverent illustrations, quirky writing style, and atypically named dishes like Puttanesca Pastitute, Mussels Make the Man, and The Bastard Child of Mr. Croque.
In hot anticipation of the book’s debut, we caught up with the Easy Cook himself for an exclusive interview:
How long did it take you to finish the book, from the developing and testing of recipes, to the writing and illustration?
It's hard to say exactly. I pitched the book to Whitecap Books and got turned down loads of times (because the book is so different from other cookbooks) before they finally agreed to publish it. I guess it was about three and a half years.
The only reason Whitecap agreed to publish it was because I went to The French Culinary Institute in New York City... The awesomeness of the book helped a bit too.
The blog will keep going until the books are all sold and gone...but after that I've got some new ideas for crazy new stuff. What about a book that has the ingredients for recipes build right into the stitching? See, I'm full of incredible ideas!
Do you think you will ever do a second cookbook?
I'll definitely do another book if anyone wants to publish it. I'm working on three very cool pitches at the moment. In a perfect world the next book would be an illustrated cookbook for kids in collaboration with Jamie Oliver.
What are your favorite things to cook and why?
Cooking is constantly changing like my moods, like the seasons, like the underwear. Ideally, I'm cooking seasonally and locally for people I love who like the food. Isn't that what we all want in life?
When you’re working on drawing for a recipe or blog post, do you ever get halfway done, decide you don’t like it, and start over?
Absolutely! I try to do loads of sketches first to sort out the poopoos, but sometimes a good idea whacks you in head later and you just have to drop everything and start again.
One of the best lessons I learned in art school was to draw something that you were really happy with and crumple it up and throw it away. It's a great life lesson that teaches you to always try to improve. There is always an opportunity to make it better next time and try not to get to attached to something because you can always try it again sometime.
That is a great lesson. Sounds like you can also apply it when trying out new things in the kitchen...
Do your recipes evolve over time?
Of course, recipes are always evolving, that's the best part about cooking. It's part of the creative process, taking something, flipping it inside out and looking at it from a new perspective. Never being totally satisfied with something and wanting to make it better is the only way to improve.
One of my chicken recipes evolved so much it began to communicate with me telepathically, but all it said was 'eat me' so that was the end of that.
How do you come up with a recipe?
The creative process is a fickle mistress. Ideas honestly come from all over. The only thing I can recommend is to constantly expose yourself to new ideas and to give them the right amount of time to incubate into great ideas. I came up with a recipe based on an old faxed joke that was on the wall in the tool shed I worked in when I was kid... inspiration is everywhere!
When you started the program at The FCI, did you have a lot of experience cooking?
Almost all my experience was from cooking to pick up girls. For a couple years prior to coming to New York, I was locking down the love of my life who's out of my league, so it was a lot of time in the kitchen perfecting my skills. We stayed madly in love while I was away in New York for six months, so the cooking must have paid off. Plus we moved in together, so my cooking can't be half bad.
How do you feel your FCI education has prepared you for what you’re doing now?
Well, it definitely prepared me to stand in front of a bunch of people and tell them how to cook. I don't think they would believe anything I said if I didn't go to a cooking school in NY.
During class introductions I say I went to The French Culinary Institute in New York City and people always oooh and aaah. After that I could tell them to eat a raw chicken and they'll do it because I said so and I went to a French cooking school in New York. I usually don't get people to eat raw chicken...
What kind of classes do you teach at the Cookbook Co.?
I teach a lot of corporate classes (accountants are terrible cooks), bridal showers (like girls gone wild in the kitchen), and recently some kids classes. This fall I'll be rocking some pretty cool classes based on Kitchen Scraps.
Do you design your own classes?
For public classes we design our own menus but for the private classes we give the client a list of choices. We give them a French, an Italian, and a local menu with three choices for each of the five courses. It's tough organizing those lists when you don't know peoples' skill levels. It can also be tough when they pick five courses that all need to go in the oven...yikes. I'm trying to pitch a 'Hallucinogenic Doses of Potentially Lethal Foods' class but they won't let me.
Would you ever consider working as a chef?
I never got into this world of food to work in a restaurant. With such a broad media landscape, many people are switching careers to get into the food world with no intention of working in a restaurant.
By the way, I love the idea of the Mystery Blue Box. I feel like you could have a dedicated column just for that…
I'm about to bring it back to the site, we just moved and had to cancel the food delivery for a while but a new box is coming any day now.
Wednesday, September 02, 2009
Compliments of the Chef, you can also get the recipe for her go-to chip off the old chocolate block: Chocolate Heaven Cookies.
Friday, August 21, 2009
Celebrity chef, best-selling author, and untamed television personality, Anthony Bourdain is widely known for his Travel Channel series, No Reservations, on which he scours the globe, consuming daring ethnic cuisines and exploring exotic cultures.
Recently, he sat down with Steven Shaw, Director of New Media Studies and founder of eGullet.org, to discuss Food Blogging, a new Food Journalism course offering at The International Culinary Center. Check out the video on the Travel Channel.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Bobby Flay is a critically-acclaimed chef/restaurateur, award-winning cookbook author, and television personality with two shows bearing his namesake. He is Resident Chef on the CBS News Early Show and one of four main Iron Chefs on Iron Chef America. He even has eponymous lines of sauces, rubs, kitchenware, textiles, and grilling accessories. And he did it all after graduating from The FCI's very first class of 1984.
Thursday, August 06, 2009
Recently, The Onion's A.V. Club spent an afternoon in the International Culinary Theater watching a few experiments by Dave Arnold and Nils Norén, who run the Culinary Technology department at The FCI. Ironically, onion ice cream was on the menu.
How does one go about making such an unlikely dessert? First you need to pressure cook the onions to make them sweet instead of sharp by cancelling out the sulfur compounds. Next, combine the onions in a blender with crème anglaise and liquid nitrogen. The result is a deliciously sweet and creamy dessert flavored by just a hint of onion. Check out the video and read the article here.
Want to see what else you can do with liquid nitrogen? Check out Cooking Issues, The FCI's "tech n' stuff" blog and stay up to date with the culinary innovations of Dave and Nils.
Monday, August 03, 2009
Friday, July 31, 2009
But our stellar reputation has always been based upon a single factor: the performance and integrity of our alumni, whose professionalism and success are why many believe ours is the premier culinary school in the world. We're proud of all of our graduates, and we're pleased to highlight some of their recent accomplishments.
Meg Grace, Permanent Brunch
After working in several famous kitchens in Washington, D.C., New Orleans, and New York City, Chef Meg Grace (Classic Culinary Arts ‘99) launched The Redhead, in Manhattan's East Village, with two partners and a day job. But what started as just a cocktail menu has grown into a buzz-worthy collection of Southern-influenced American classics, including fried chicken the infamously tough critic Frank Bruni called one of the best dishes of 2008, and "the best beer nut in America," according to Esquire magazine: bacon peanut brittle.
After just a year, The Redhead is still red hot. But Meg hasn't stopped there. After a long-awaited gestation period, restaurateur Lesly Bernard’s Permanent Brunch has finally opened, with Ms. Grace as Consulting Chef. Also in the East Village, Permanent Brunch, is the city's only all-day brunch-only restaurant, featuring dishes like baked eggs with braised short ribs ragu and duck fat fingerling potatoes; butter-poached shrimp and grits with sweet corn, chanterelles, and tomato; and a bacon bar with five different varieties! Stop by for brunch, day or night, and see it for yourself.
Permanent Brunch, 95 First Avenue (between 5th and 6th Streets)
Eton Chan, Eton dumpling shop
A year after opening the Carroll Gardens dumpling shop Eton, Eton Chan is bringing a second location to the Brooklyn neighborhood. His new space will focus on a variety of bubble teas and Hawaiian shaved ices offered year round, and his crave-worthy dumplings will be available frozen to take home. Pastries and cookies may also grace the menu in the future.
Eton, 372 Sackett Street (near Smith St.), Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
Melissa Muller, Organika
This new, unexpectedly Italian restaurant is now open for business in Greenwich Village. Unlike the name might suggest, Chef Melissa's Organika cuisine is an articulate menu of Italian favorites using local, sustainable, and artisanal products, including locally-cured salamino, coppa, and soppressata; whole wheat lasagna with pesto, béchamel, zucchini, grape tomatoes, and eggplant; and rigatoni with grass-fed beef meatballs. Viva Italia!
Organika, 89 Seventh Avenue South (at Bleecker Street)
Lauren Braun Costello, Notes on Cooking
Notes on Cooking, a new cookbook by Classic Culinary Arts alum Lauren Braun Costello, is now available on Amazon and bookstores everywhere. In very succinct form, Notes on Cooking gives home cooks practical kitchen guidance without all the hyperbole. An easy, amusing read, the book brings confidence in simplicity to beginners still collecting their skills, but draws on more advanced knowledge to coach experienced cooks using recipes as guidelines, rather than gospel. Pick up your copy today.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Kee makes every truffle by hand using "a single electric burner and makeshift chocolate-tempering machine," instead of the expensive enrobing equipment favored by most commercial chocolatiers. And, using artisanal ingredients from around the world, she makes only what she can sell that day, ensuring the highest quality and freshness.
With a taste toward dark chocolate and the savory, Kee's truffle flavors include Balsamic with vinegared pecans, Smoked Salt, and Blended Pepper with four different peppercorns, and sweeter confections like whipped cream-filled Cappuccino, Honey Saffron, and a Lemon Basil-flavored dark and white chocolate truffle.
Similarly innovative varieties of macaroons are also on the menu, and there are plans to offer gelato in the future. Flavors change with the availability of ingredients, and certain flavors remain seasonal, so stop by to sample current offerings.
Kee's Chocolates can be purchased exclusively at her two Manhattan locations:
Kee's Chocolates Soho
80 Thompson St. (between Prince and Broome sts.)
Kee's Chocolates Midtown
452 Fifth Ave. (between 39th and 40th sts.)
Don't miss Hell's Kitchen tonight.
Monday, July 20, 2009
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Although Michael Chiarello won the episode, Chef Nils Norén impressed diners and the judges with his innovative, beautifully executed dishes on Top Chef Masters last night. The first challenge of the night was the Quickfire, where the chefs had to reinterpret a classic junk food item as fine dining. Nils chose fried shrimp, poached it, and garnished the dish with pickled tomatos and steamed corn in a lobster stock. Although his gourmet version was not fried, the judges praised the flavors and presentation.
Lachlan Patterson's pick of hot dogs ended up in a tomato-based stifado, earning him three stars for a tie score with Nils. The winning dish was Michael Chiarello's swordfish meatballs, his gourmet interpretation of fish sticks. Rick Moonen ran out of time and was unable to plate his corn dogs for judging.
In the final Elimination Challenge, each chef had four hours to prepare a mini three-course meal for 100 guests. Nils made a scallop appetizer with smoked potato cream, apple and curry oil; a "main" course of slow-cooked salmon with napa cabbage, chorizo, broccoli puree, and madeira sauce; and chocolate and goat cheese ganache with cara cara orange gel and lapsana cream.
The final score was close, but Michael's three courses took the win. He made shaved Brussels sprouts salad with a citrus vinaigrette and Marcona almonds; prawns with rice flour, chili and garlic oil; and balsamic marinated strawberries with basil gelato and chocolate crème fraiche for dessert.
One final episode remains before the the six finalists compete for the grand prize in the Champions Round.
Want to see what else is cooking with Chef Nils? Check out Cooking Issues, The FCI's food technology blog, and stay up to date with the "Swedish Chef" and resident "food hacker" Dave Arnold.
Friday, July 10, 2009
Visit Cooking Issues for detailed instructions and other techie tidbits.
Thursday, July 09, 2009
Front of House Training expands your education beyond the kitchen, teaching you the essentials of front-of-house operations that will set you apart from the competition.
Offered only in combination with our regular Classic Culinary Arts or Classic Pastry Arts programs, Front of House Training will give you the unique confidence and well-rounded experience employers look for.
A limited number of seats are available in the August 6 class start, so don't miss out. Click here to learn more.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Although menus have not changed, the Momofukus have changed their ways. Now, instead of being discarded, the bones left over from cooking (not the bones left on customers' plates) are being donated to animal shelters throughout New York City.
Read the entire article at The New York Times.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Led by owner Shane Welch, the tour began in the grain room, where students had the opportunity to taste and learn about the various types of roasted barley and wheat used to brew the different types of beers.
After in-depth lessons on the brewing process, and entertaining stories of how the brewery came to be, the tour ended with a group sampling of several Sixpoint brews, including a perfectly-balanced Saison.
Taught by Steven Shaw, James Beard Award-winning food critic and founder of the phenomenally successful website eGullet.org, the eight-week course covered the A to Z of food blogging, from picking the right software and sharpening the blog's focus, to blog promotion and monetization. By the end of the course, each student had their own fully functional food blog.
Diverse in background as well as in focus, the students produced quality blogs that will surely be maintained long after the class has ended. If you love reading about food, check out the student blogs below.
Born and raised in L.A., the cultishly followed Korean taco truck plans to open their first NYC "location" by the end of the summer. Chef Lee Anne Wong (Classic Culinary Arts '01), of Top Chef Season 1 fame, has been named Executive Chef of East Coast Operations and will head the new truck once permits have been secured.
Follow Kogi on Twitter and stay tuned for updates.
Monday, June 01, 2009
Written and practical tests are becoming easier for everyone in class, or at least it feels more relaxed this time around to me. We tackled the puff pastry final on Tuesday by making various things out of inverse pastry dough such as vol au vents, cheese straws and apple galettes. The test marked the last day with my partner Amanda, who presented the chef with an impressive tray of quick vol au vents, palmier and a Pithivier for evaluation.
On Thursday we eagerly began the first cakes unit and made Génoise cake with butter cream frosting and pound cake. My new partner is named Debora Kang. When she’s not baking, she lives in New Jersey with her parents and is a waitress at a Japanese restaurant.
Chef Cynthia is absent for a professional development course she’s taking over the next four Saturdays, leaving Chef Peter in charge. We made a chocolate ganache cake and one of my favorite things to eat in the world—angel food cake, which I devoured at home with strawberries and whipped cream. We also made a dacquoise, which is a thin cake made with nut meringue that we then stacked and layered with coffee flavored butter cream (Deborah’s cake is pictured).
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Pierre Hermé’s flawlessly formed croissants are one of the reasons I enrolled in the Classic Pastry Arts program at The FCI—they are that good! Everything I’ve tried in his Parisian pâtisserie is delicious and gorgeously presented at an almost obscene level of perfection, but it’s his croissants that keep me coming in again and again whenever I’m in Paris. Not only are they unbelievably flaky and delicious, but because the French regulate the cost of staple food items such as croissants (only in France would a pain au chocolat be considered a necessity), they are also affordable compared to the other offerings in his shop. And so, I start each morning in France by popping one of his croissants into the oven and waiting impatiently for it to warm before taking that first bite with large dollops of jam.
As we embarked on making our first croissants in class this week, that’s the vision I nervously held onto. Taste and texture-wise, they were pretty good, but in terms of form I have a long, long way to go (as evidenced in photo). The rolling out of the croissant dough turned out to be the relatively easy part—it’s the shaping part that takes lots of practice. Thankfully, we’ll all have a lot more chances in future classes to master croissant making techniques.
Besides croissants, we also made brioche, fruit cake, pecan Danishes, blueberry muffins, and Kugelhopf. Amanda Beun, my fantastic partner for the unit, made the cutest bumblebees out of marzipan for the sticky meringue beehives we made in the last Viennoiserie class. The unit will return later on in the curriculum, but for two more classes we focused on puff pastry once again and made chocolate mille feuille, banana tarts and dartoise.
Up next: the puff pastry practical and written exams and the beginning of the cakes unit!
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Once reserved for advanced students looking to master sous vide and other low temperature cooking techniques, their high-tech course offerings have expanded to the Recreational Division at The International Culinary Center.
On June 12 from 6:30-9:30pm, the pair will teach High-Tech Cocktails, a three-hour demo and tasting class showcasing some of their latest innovations behind the bar, including an edible martini, and a fizzy "gin and tonic" made without the tonic.
Adding to their growing press, High-Tech Cocktails has already received coverage on a number of NYC and food-related news publications. Most recently, a Village Voice article promoting the class included a few techie tricks of the trade from Dave Arnold himself. Another story on Cocktailians covered several techniques to be taught in class, breaking them down into "reasonable," "semi-reasonable," and "unreasonable" for the home cook to perform.
Whether you're an experienced bartender or a curious home cook, High-Tech Cocktails promises to be an exciting evening. There's still time to register but space is limited, so reserve your seat before it's sold out!
Read more about Dave and Nils' high-tech food experiments on their new "tech 'n stuff" blog, Cooking Issues.
Friday, May 22, 2009
Following the original Top Chef format, each episode will feature two challenges in which four chefs compete against each other to name one winner. In the final four episodes, the six winners will risk elimination each week until the final two remain to fight for the grand prize of $100,000 donation to the charity of their choice.
Watch the interview on Bravo's website to learn more about Chef Nils and Top Chef Masters.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Early in May, Rhonda and students of the Italian Culinary Experience took a trip to the farm at the Center for Discovery in upstate New York. Impressively, the farm is biodynamic, a method of organic farming that treats farms as unified and individual organisms. Emphasis is placed on the balance and interrelationship of the soil, plants, animals, and even the farmer as part of a whole, self-nourishing system. It takes a farm three years to get certified as biodynamic.
Rhonda was first introduced to the farm when Cesare Casella, our Dean of Italian Studies, received an award there. Chef Cesare had been working with the farm by helping them make connections with NYC restaurants, and by training some of their kitchen staff in technique. Rhonda was so impressed with the farm, she vowed to take another trip as a student outing.
A year later, the unofficial "Italian Club" was finally able to make the trip. They toured the farm with the head animal and head vegetable farmers, tasted biodynamically grown vegetables picked straight from the earth, and gathered beautifully colored eggs from Araucana chickens, a breed originating in Chile known as the South American Rumpless.
At the end of the day, the group made dinner for the farmers using the greens, herbs, and eggs they gathered. The menu included bruschetta with sautéed mushrooms, arugula, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese; a frittata with goat cheese, spring onions, and arugula; fresh greens salad with mint and lemon dressing; grilled asparagus; rigatoni with summer squash and scamorza cheese sauce; and a ricotta mousse with fresh fruit.
Click here to view more pictures.
Monday, May 18, 2009
Chef Cynthia announced to the class at the beginning of the Viennoiserie unit that this is when she suggests we all join a gym, and she wasn’t kidding, as I’ve been eating the orange swirl bread, challah and Sally Lunn Buns (pictured) pretty much nonstop. Viennoiserie are baked goods that are created from a yeast-leavened dough that often contains rich ingredients such as eggs, butter, milk, and cream.
We swiftly navigated from puff pastry directly into Viennoiserie, which is related in a way given that several of the recipes, such as croissants and Danishes, use similar techniques of rolling butter into the dough, folding it, and rolling it again to create layers of flakey, buttery pastry in the final baked product.
My new partner for the unit, Amanda Beun, just turned 21 last week and has been working as a cake decorator and bakery manager for Stop & Shop since she was 16. She has plans to open up her own bakery in the next couple of years… I wish that I was half as organized and driven at such a young age as she is, and I can’t wait to see how her education at The FCI is going to sharpen and influence her already considerable talent!