Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Best Olympics Ever? One Revolved Around Cookies


Imagine this: A room filled with 11 different types of cookies, a panel of feisty celebrity judges, and a band of students hoping for gold. Cue: The International Culinary Center’s first annual Cookie Olympics. And things got a little kookie at this cookie competition. Let me explain.
A Selection of Olympic Cookies
The national anthem was supposed to kick off the events, but a mishap in sound department resulted in “O Canada!” blasting from the speakers. No one seemed to notice until a young kid behind me asked the very astute question: Why is Canada’s anthem playing?

Alan Richman, the sometimes salty critic and one of the guest judges, teased, “Can we grade the sound?”

The event was then proceeded with the lighting of the torch—or the blowtorch in this culinary sporting—err…eating—event. The torch carrier made a loop around the darkened room, and came full circle to emblaze three Sterno burners (the ones used for chafing dishes at catered functions).  Let the games begin.

The judges were poised to judge each of the 11 cookies (each from a different country) on flavor, texture, difficulty of technique, presentation and ease of eating. The first-prize winner would be treated to a free dinner at the school’s restaurant, L’Ecole, and have their recipe and cookie featured on the restaurant’s menu.
Contestants and Judges

When the singing and pyrotechnics were finished, the eating began. Tasked to test their taste buds was the row of famed judges:

Kierin Baldwin, executive pastry chef at The Dutch
Dan Kluger, executive chef at ABC Kitchen
Johnny Iuzzini, JamesBeard award winner, “Outstanding Pastry Chef”
Alan Richman, dean of food journalism at The International Culinary Center
Christina Tosi, Founder/owner of Momofuku Milk Bar

The judges ate cookies from Canada, China, Bangladesh, Japan, Mexico, Ukraine, Russia, India, America, Jamaica, and France. Milk and champagne fueled them through this massive sugar rush.

“Punch up the flavors,” and “Add a little more salt,” were Chef Baldwin’s repeat comments every time she tasted a cookie.

The judges loved the savory cookie entries like India’s Chana Masala shortbread, which was made with chickpea flour and topped with a ginger and sundried tomato jam. It made me wince, but the judges loved the spicy topping.

One of the crowd favorites was America’s Fred Flintstone cookie, which was a glorified chocolate chip cookie with a Cocoa Pebbles brittle baked in. Chef Iuzzini noted that if the student coated the cereal with a caramel, and let it dry before mixing it into the cookie batter, the brittle would’ve maintained its crunch rather than becoming soggy and chewy. (I still would’ve eaten a dozen of these in one sitting.)

Bojena Lotina cutting her Dulcetto Baz cookies
The ultimate winner was Russia’s Dulcetto Baz cookie, which was kind of an enigma if you didn’t have a recipe in front of you. Bojena Lotina, an International Culinary Center culinary student, took home both the gold and the “Fan Favorite” award.

“It makes no sense to me, but I love it,” was Richman’s first reaction to this dense dulce de leche cookie, which was studded with shortbread bits.

The second and third prize winners were the Indian Chana Masala cookie and the Jamaican spice cookie, respectively.

The event had a palatable amount of kitsch, and the students were genuinely excited to bake their original cookie recipes to a crew of talented bakers. It was safe to say that everyone left the event with a sugar high and a few good tips for perfecting a great cookie:

1. Using nuts? Toast them to extract more flavor. –Johnny Iuzzini
2. Add salt to make the flavors pop. – Kierin Balwin
3. Need more structure in a cookie? Add more flour. –Johnny Iuzzini
4. Your cookie name should match the cookie’s flavors. Making a cherry and green tea cookie? Both elements should be prominent in the cookie. –Dan Kluger


Monday, July 29, 2013

Webinar: Choosing the Culinary Career That's Right For You, Part 1


As part of our commitment to 21st-century culinary education, the International Culinary Center recently hosted Part 1 of a new two-part webinar series, "Choosing the Culinary Career That's Right For You." To learn more about our career programs, visit http://bit.ly/1gAVKyz.

Presented by Lauren Weisenthal, the International Culinary Center’s Director of Career Services & Alumni Affairs, Part 1 explored culinary career options from restaurant chef to test kitchen manager to nutrition specialist.

Watch the video below and learn about day-to-day life, finding the right personality fit, the first steps on each career path, and stories of successful alumni from The International Culinary Center



Subscribe to our YouTube page for our entire webinar series, videos from inside our classrooms, expert tips and more!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Grad Lands His Dream Job Working for José Andrés



Carlos Castera admits that he used to go to José Andrés’ restaurant, Jaleo, and dream about being in the kitchen. Back then he was working as a union representative, but in his free time he’d be at home replicating the meals he’d eat at restaurants.

And if Carlos didn’t end up at The International Culinary Center as a Spanish Culinary Arts student, he may have had a lot of “what if” thoughts stuck in his head right now:

What if I never won that scholarship to attend the Spanish Culinary Arts program?

What if I never got to meet Chef José during my classes?

What if I never got the chance to go to the school’s career fair and meet with Jose Andres’ team and apply for the sous-chef training program?

What if I never went to Spain and trailed Chef José to his favorite restaurants and farms?

Luckily, Carlos had the opportunity to go to school, practice classic tapas dishes, and travel around Spain to learn the origin of the cuisine. And now he can say he is part of the management team at Jaleo—his dream job.

He scored a three-month training program within Chef José’s ThinkFood Group, which sets Carlos up for a sous-chef position once he completes the program next month.

“I’m living the dream. I can say I’m management,” he admits. “The other day I went to grab ice, and I ran into José who asked how I was doing and wanted to check in on me. Then, in the middle of the restaurant, he gave me a hug.”

Carlos describes his culinary adventure as a big puzzle. The culinary principles and techniques he learned in class have been put to use over 100 times in the restaurant; and when he plates a piece of jamón he refers back to his trip to Spain.


“In Spain, I learned about the products I now work with. A lot of people just see jamón, but I see the whole process,” says Carlos. “It’s a big puzzle and now I’m putting it together.”



Interesting in studying a specific cuisine? Study with us in Italy, Spain, or France!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Webinar: Winning Wine Lists


As part of our effort to provide a 21st-century culinary education, the International Culinary Center recently hosted a new webinar called "Winning Wine Lists: Pour Your Way to Profits."

This webinar covered the part of the menu that typically accounts for 40% of restaurant sales: the wine and beverage list. Scott Carney, MS, the International Culinary Center’s Dean of Wine Studies, taught attendees how to select, purchase, and sell wines that maximize profitability.

Watch the recorded webinar below and learn how to select and price wines to maximize sales. You’ll even get tips on formatting your menu so that your wine list acts as an optimal marketing tool.
 


Don't forget to sign up for the next two webinars in our series:

Planning The Culinary Career That's Right For You, Part 1
July 23rd, 2013 at 3pm eastern
Planning The Culinary Career That's Right For You, Part 2
Thursday, August 1st, 2013 at 3pm eastern
https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/669315550
 

Monday, July 08, 2013

What It's Like to Study Food in Italy


So I should’ve rethought my culinary experience. I loved spending six months as a  Classic Culinary Arts student, but after talking to Carl Vahl about his experience in the Italian Culinary Experience, I have to say I’m a little jealous.
ALMA, The International School of Italian Cuisine

Carl is a career changer and in 2010 he decided to leave his law career behind, take a leap of faith, and follow his dreams of becoming a chef. An Italian one at that. So he applied to The International Culinary Center’s Italian Culinary Experience and a few months later he was learning Italian and the principles of Italian cuisine in the New York campus, all in preparation for his voyage to Colorno, Italy.  That’s where he started the La Scuola Internazionale di Cucina Italiana, or Alma, a palace outfitted with a cooking institution. And that’s where my deep-seeded jealousy begins.

He pointed me to his blog where he detailed pretty much every moment of his trip abroad. Cue hunger pangs. I spent a few hours reading about weekly visits from Michelin-starred chefs who made beautiful meals by transforming simple ingredients into something so delicious your palate could hardly recognize it.

He got to talk to executive chefs like Mauro Elli chef of Ristorante Il Cantuccio who shops his own produce and grows the rest in his own garden. Talk about fresh. And then to top it off, he takes everyone of his 24 guests’ orders and personally suggests which wine would pair well. Then he heads to the kitchen to make the meal. Talk about an impressive chef.

Chef Bruno Ruffini, chef-instructor for English-speaking students at Alma, led the class in daily instructions. Some days, the Italian class would be in charge of family meal and it wouldn’t be uncommon for Carl to have to turn out a meal for 250 heads. He remembers one particular meal where he cleaned 60-plus bass in three hours. But days like this were juxtaposed with field trips to castles such as Al Cavallino Bianco in Emilia-Romagna where he had the chance to dine among the beautiful vistas and explore the castle’s cellar where they aged DOP salumi.
Castle Al Cavallino Bianco
Salumi aging
He finished his education by interning at Alla Lanterna, a family owned, exclusively seafood restaurant on the Adriatic Coast where he learned how to clean every type of seafood found in the Adriatic.

Studying in Italy meant that every minute was a learning experience—inside and out of the classroom. Carl took full advantage of this mentality and spent weekends traveling to nearby regions like Tuscany.

“The combination of the culinary instruction, language, history, wine, and all the field trips was really a perfect way to learn fine Italian cuisine. Italy has 20 food regions, many more sub-regions, and micro climates where the food is very diverse but always amazing because of the ingredients and the passion put into food. At Alma we got a taste of all regions and many amazing products,” says Carl.

Carl is now the executive chef at Della Notte, a classic American/Italian restaurant in Baltimore, Maryland.