Wednesday, July 28, 2010

King Cod

One of the most fun parts about working at The FCI is having students come to school for the first time, some with more passion than kitchen knowledge, watching them progress through the rigors of the program, and then seeing what they do with their careers. You quickly learn that everyone has a different path to take, and that's where the fun comes in. We've had students become executive chefs at top restaurants, build a cookie empire, make waves in catering, or take their kitchen knowledge and apply it to the camera or pen. And because this business demands passion above all else, that usually means students quickly find what they love and let it drive their path.

In the case of Grant MacNaughton (Classic Culinary Arts, 2008), 33, this means bringing food from the British Isles, where he grew up in Blackpool, England, to the sunny climes of California. Opening a new business is never an easy feat, and when a kitchen is involved it's a grand one. There are a thousand permits and regulations that need to be obtained and followed plus all the usual planning of space and menu, construction, and the list goes on, and on...

When I first spoke to Grant (aka Mac) way back in the spring, here is what he had to say:

Tell me a little about what got you interested in food and cooking?

"My interest stems from two divergent desires. First and foremost is the desire to be full. You could call it gluttony or possibly even a disease, but the thought of food, particularly good food, excites me to the core (usually accompanied by a shudder that is naked to the human eye and a slight dampening behind the ears). So the thought of being able to independently produce serious quantities of fine food has always helped me gravitate towards the kitchen.
The second pull is definitely social. I love to gather friends together around a dining table. But I have a lot of friends who are seriously talented cooks. So, I either needed to increase the amount of alcohol I served or increase the quality of the food I made for them. The later seemed the cheaper option."

Is there anyone who has impacted your food along the way or been a big influence?

"Every time I cook, I am inspired by the thought of the person about to receive the food. My family have never been particularly prolific cooks, yet cooking for them is such a pleasure that I can't deny their influence. Nose-to-tail chefs, such as Fergus Henderson, and British [culinary] pioneers like April Bloomfield would make up my more conventional influences.

What have you been doing since you graduated?

"My wife and I toured the United States for seven months, became parents to our first son, Sam, settled in beautiful Santa Barbara, California, worked for Bouchon for six months (including one night as head chef!), and I'm currently in the middle of opening an authentic British fish and chip shop, which should open it's doors in June. It's been a crazy ride, and it's just about to get crazier!

Now, the chip shop is open and rolling out a delicious menu of British fare, including haggis and mushy peas! You won't want to miss a stop by Mac's Authentic British Fish & Chip Shop the next time you're in Santa Barbara.

Ice Cream Fund-raiser Recap Video

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Inside Scoop: Gulf Coast Ice Cream Fund-Raiser

It was a busy week for the students, chef-instructors, and employees involved in The International Culinary Centers ice cream fund-raiser in response to the oil spill in the Gulf Coast. The weather was hot, making the days perfect for selling ice cream.

Selling ice cream to the employees and students at the school. Katie Myers with two students.

Students supported the event by helping to make the ice cream, manning the stand, and promoting the event in front of the school. Employees pitched in, too (making the art work for the posters, helping out with photography and press, and a lot of elbow grease).

Making ice cream base

Jock Grundy supervises the addition of the salt and bourbon to each batch of ice cream.

The success of the event required many departments putting in extra work and time and coming together. But the idea and execution for the fund-raiser all began with one employee eager to make a difference.

Katie Myers, an admission rep at the school (and Classic Pastry Arts grad), loves ice cream. She's even devoted a blog to her ice cream adventures. So, when she started brainstorming on ways she could help support the efforts to help the areas effected by the BP oil spill, she thought of what skills she had to offer and landed on…you guessed it, ice cream.

Before long, she was scheming up appropriate ice cream flavors for a fund-raiser with fellow admissions rep and pastry guru Jock Grundy. Jock, also, happens to be from New Orleans, so the cause was very personal.

Starting with classic Southern flavors: bourbon and pecans, they came up with the (genius) idea of adding ganache balls to the mix. (Genius because a. who doesn't want a little chocolate ganache in their ice cream? and b. it gave them the perfect play on the oil spill with fudge "tar balls.")

Piping ganache "tar balls" for the ice cream

The next step was to get the idea approved. School execs were already looking for a way for the school community to be able to support the Gulf Coast clean up efforts. This project was perfect. And before long, a date was set and all hands were on deck, helping to get the event planned and running.

Thirty-six gallons of ice cream base, which was spun two quarts at a time, were made. Pecans were toasted and coated in a delicious butter caramel sauce.

And after long hours of prep work that lasted from Saturday, July 10th through the 15th, ice cream was prescooped into environmentally friendly containers, each bearing a sticker adorned with animals from the poster designed by Christine Carbellano. After selling the ice cream to the school community on Thursday, July 15th and Friday, July 16th, the fund-raiser took to the streets. Selling from L'Ecole, Katie, Jock, and a handful of students and employee supporters spent their weekend promoting the cause to shoppers walking by.

The school was able to make more than $3,000 in ice cream sales. The final amount was matched by the school, bringing the total money donated to the National Wildlife Federation almost $7,000.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Dorothy Cann Hamilton talks Ice Cream

Dorothy Cann Hamilton, founder of The FCI, appeared on Fox Business on Monday to talk about the school's recent fund-raiser to help the wildlife and communities affected by the Gulf Coast oil spill. By selling cups and quarts of Bourbon Butter Pecan Ice Cream with Fudge Tar Balls, the students and employees of the school were able to raise $3,000, which was matched by the school for a total of $6,000 to be given to the National Wildlife Federation's Gulf Oil Spill Restoration Fund. Get the recipe below.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Gulf Coast Ice Cream Fund-Raiser. The Recipe

Bourbon Butter Pecan Ice Cream with Fudge Tar Balls
This recipe was created by Katie Myers, one of the admission representatives at The International Culinary Center, for the Gulf Coast fund-raiser. She also happens to be an alum of the pastry program at The FCI.
makes about 1 1/2 quarts
4 Tbsps. unsalted butter
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups milk
1 cup sugar
8 lg. egg yolks
2 Tbsps. bourbon
1 tsp. kosher salt
Candied Pecans (recipe follows)
Fudge Tar Balls (recipe follows)
Place ice and water in a large bowl; set aside.
2. Melt the butter in a large saucepan set over medium-high heat. Add the cream, milk, and 1/2 cup of the sugar, and bring to a boil.
3. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks and the remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a mixing bowl. Whisking constantly, gradually add a few ladles of the hot cream mixture to the yolks.
4. Whisking constantly, add the warmed egg mixture to the remaining cream mixture in the saucepan. Reduce the heat to low, and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until custard coats the back of the spoon and holds a line when a finger is run across the spoon (custard should read about 170°F on a instant-read thermometer).
5. Remove custard from the heat, and pass through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean bowl. Place bowl in ice-water bath, and cool custard completely.
6. Whisk the bourbon and salt into the custard. Place ice cream base into an airtight container. Refrigerate 2 hours.
7. Place custard in the bowl of an ice cream maker, and process according to manufacturer’s instructions.
8. Place ice cream in a large container, and quickly stir in Candied Pecans and Ganache Tar Balls. Place in an airtight container, cover, and freeze overnight before serving.

Candied Pecans
2 Tbsps. unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups pecan halves
1 tsp. kosher salt
1. Melt the butter in a shallow saucepan. Add the sugar gradually, stirring as needed to keep it from cooking unevenly and waiting to add more sugar until previous sugar has mostly melted, to make a dry caramel. Continue cooking until the caramel is the color of light maple syrup (make sure the caramel is not too dark as it will continue to cook off heat).
2. Remove from the heat, and stir in the pecans and salt.
3. Pour onto a baking sheet lined with a Silpat baking mat, and quickly separate the nuts from one another with a spoon. Let cool completely.
4. Roughly chop the cooked nuts, and place in an airtight container. Store in a cool, dry place until ready to use.

Fudge Tar Balls
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate
1 tsp. unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1. Place the chocolate and butter in a large bowl, and set aside.
2. Bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan set over medium-high heat; pour over reserved chocolate and butter. Let stand 1 minute before whisking to combine.
3. Let ganache stand at room temperature until it reaches a pipeable consistency. Place the ganache in a piping bag fit with a small round tip, and pipe dime-sized balls onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Freeze until ready to use.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Ice Cream for a Cause

This weekend: Saturday, July 17th and Sunday, July 18th the students at the school will be selling Bourbon Butter Pecan Ice Cream with Fudge "Tar Balls" at L'Ecole from 12:00 to 4:00 p.m. to the general public to raise funds to donate to the National Wildlife Federation's Gulf Oil Spill Restoration Fund. All proceeds will be donated. Ice cream is $5 a serving.

For students and employees, ice cream can also be purchased between classes in front of the Library on the 3rd floor from 3:00 to 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 15th and Friday, July 16th.

So come one, come all; support an excellent cause and enjoy one of summer's best treats!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Mr. Chocolate

Jacques Torres, Dean of Pastry Arts at The FCI, has spent the past 10 years building a chocolate empire after 25 years of working at some of the best restaurants in Europe and then in the United States. Now, visitors from all over stop in to visit one of his NYC locations (where he sells truffles, chocolate covered Cherrios, chocolate cookies,hot chocolate, and ice cream, among other chocolate-centric treats) to indulge in his creations.

He was recently interview by Christine Dugas for USA Today. Chocolate lovers and entrepreneurs take notes. We've included a fun video from the article below for your viewing pleasure.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Cake Sublime

Near the end of training, just before your final exams and you leave school to go out to practice your skills upon the world, pastry students create a wedding cake. This project represents a culmination of many techniques they have learned throughout their studies. And part of what makes the project so fun is that the lower level class presents a theme for the graduating class to work with.

A fictitious wedding book, filled with information about the bride and groom, the wedding colors, wedding gown, bridesmaids dresses, table decorations, music, etc. is put together by the lower class. The soon-to-be graduating students design and create a cake that draws upon the information they have been given as if they were working with a real client.

The most recent graduating evening Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday class presented their cakes at the end of May. They were given the theme of a summer Napa Valley wedding. The bride's bouquet had orchids, calla lilies, roses, and fiddlehead fern.The colors were gold, orange, purple, and Cabernet.

Once the cakes were finished and ready for presenting, the students from the lower level are invited to view the cakes. They then have the chance to vote as a class on the cake that they think most fits the theme they presented. When I walked around to look at the cakes on parade, it reminded me of something Jacques Pepin said in one of his demos, "You don't need to try to be different or unique. If a group of people were given the same assignment, it would come out differently with each person in the group, even if they tried to do it exactly the same. We are by default unique and individual." And this definitely came out in this project. Cakes varied by style, inspiration, and construction. Many of the cakes drew on the flowers in the bridal bouquet. Some drew only from the colors or added touches to suggest the vineyard location. Viewing the students creativity and what they had learned in just nine months was enthralling.I can't wait to see what the next graduating class has up their chef jacket sleeves.

Music from the video was composed by Aoi Natsume (who is also on the piano in this piece) from the T/TH/S evening level 1 class and was included in the wedding book presented to the level 2 students. She was born and raised in Okinawa, Japan, and initially trained in traditional Okinawan folk arts before heading to London to study Western classical music and jazz. You can find more of her work on or follow her on her blog, where she records her original poems and hiakus.

Spring 2010 presenting students:
Ana Ceron
Sherri Annelle Chevalier
Mei Chin
Elizabeth Cintron
Justine Delaney
Leslie Dowling
Kirstin Ferguson
Stephanie Gallardo
Sze Man Ho
Brian Holland
Erica Kase
Matthew Raska
Marcia Santiago
Karia Senior
Sossa Starshine
Samantha Stephens
Chayanee Swadtayawong
Andrea Vargo
Ashley Zachmann

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

The International Culinary Center goes to Washington

When an invitation to attend an address by First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House came my way, how could I refuse, especially when the event was to launch the Chefs Move to Schools initiative, which teaches children about nutrition and making balanced and healthy food choices?

Tony Garcia with cookbook author/TV host/restaurateur Lidia Bastianich

When Phil Gutensohn (Assistant Director of Career Services & Alumni Affairs) and I showed up for the Share our Strength breakfast at the JW Marriot Washington, D.C., the ballroom was filled to capacity with some 700 chefs from across the country, including celebrity chefs José Andrés, Marcus Samuelsson, and Art Smith. We all gathered to hear White House Chef Sam Kass, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Chef Bill Telepan, and several other prominent chefs working on school nutrition programs discuss their successes.

After breakfast, we headed to the South Lawn where we were given access to peruse the Chef’s garden, which was then followed by Michelle Obama’s address, where she spoke about child nutrition statistics across the country, how The White House would lead the program, and how us culinary professionals could make a difference. More than 700 chef’s shoulder to shoulder dressed in whites braced the ninety-five degree heat to hear the address. Other notable attendees included Daniel Boulud, Rachael Ray, Tom Colicchio, Cat Cora, and Lidia Bastianich.

We all left The White House with a big task at hand, one that would change the way children in America eat: to create a healthier, better educated youth population. And with the support of none other than the White House, I believe we can and will make a difference.

Tony Garcia, Director of Business Development at The International Culinary Center, is active in several culinary community initiatives. As a board member of the American Institute of Wine and Food (AIWF), Tony chairs the New York Days of Taste program, which teaches children about the importance of fresh food by helping them understand locally grown ingredients and teaching them basic nutrition principles.