Last month marked a pair of very special celebrations. The Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) celebrated the opening of its new location at Brookfield Place in Lower Manhattan and its 40th Anniversary.
The historic move marks the school’s 40th anniversary and follows record-high career student enrollment. It also is the largest culinary education facility built in a major American city in more than a decade.
Some of the Metro New York area’s top culinary talent was on hand to showcase the school’s spectacular new cooking suites. The iconic chocolatier Michael Laiskonis was in his chocolate lab creating bonbons and truffles.
Chefs Sam Kadko, Lorrie Reynoso and Scott Bridi prepared and served Brooklyn cured pastrami, and Magret Duck breast. Chef Julian Plyter of Melt Bakery teamed with chefs Faith Drobbin and Jenny McCoy on mini ice cream sandwiches. The True World culinary team brought hand-cut whole tuna and assorted sushi. For many guests the highlight was Chefs Cheryl and Ted Siegels’ mojito ceviche and baby back ribs.
The new 74,000-s.f. facility is considerably larger than ICE’s former 45,000-s.f. Flatiron facility. The new center features a culinary technology lab, indoor hydroponic farm, a dedicated student lounge and Chocolate Lab featuring “bean-to-bar” education.
“With a 20-year lease and millions invested in building this exceptional culinary school, ICE is positioned to be one of the world’s leading culinary education centers for decades to come,” said Rick Smilow, ICE president and CEO. “This year marks my 20th as ICE’s president and the third expansion since the school’s inception, and I am proud to open this outstanding new facility and mark another chapter in ICE’s history.”
EYE spotted a number of top chefs including Daniel Boulud who were on hand to congratulate Smilow (above left) and his team.
The move coincides with the school’s 40th anniversary and Mr. Smilow’s 20th year as owner. The late Peter Kump started the school in 1975 with five students in his cramped Upper West Side apartment, then moved it to a walkup on East 92nd Street and finally to 50,000 square feet at Two Trees’ 50 West 23rd Street shortly before his death in 1995. Smilow, an entrepreneur looking to buy a business, stepped in at the right moment. “I knew I was ‘on trend.’ The culinary revolution had already started,” he said. However, it had not even begun to reach the fever pitch it has today.
“I was in consumer marketing and I assumed there was more potential in recreational classes,” he said, recalling that Peter Kump’s school just happened to have a career program. Now, however, the model has flipped. “It’s worth paying more for vocational than for hobby,” he explained.
There are currently 750 career students enrolled at ICE. “Last year was our best year ever in the old school; we have momentum,” he said. The new space will be able to accommodate 1,000 career students. There are about 25,000 people a year who take recreational classes, which counts those who take only one class. That number is projected to expand to 30,000.
ICE has embraced the very latest technology. Career students receive iPads, equipped with textbooks, lesson plans, recipes and easy access to curriculum-relevant content.
ICE’s new school, which includes 12 teaching kitchens and six lecture halls, offers various features that will enrich students’ daily educational experiences and support programmatically diverse course offerings. All culinary teaching kitchens are equipped with gas, induction and French top burners, representing the full range of preferred cooking methods across the globe. Likewise, all pastry teaching kitchens are equipped with high-volume professional equipment, including steam confection deck ovens, proofers, large-scale mixers and more.
ICE has also long been known for hosting special events. With full waterfront views, ICE’s spacious demonstration kitchen, adjacent mixology center and reception space make ICE an ideal choice for influential culinary organizations and corporate entertaining. Google and Apple executives, producers from “Top Chef” and “The Apprentice,” and even former mayor Bloomberg have met, entertained or taped segments in ICE’s event space.