Arts and Culture
A Humane Education: The Culinary Arts
The Institute of Culinary Education in NYC is more than just a culinary degree
Text by Elisa Crye | Photos by Christina Ng
Knowledge may indeed offer power, but a Culinary Arts education extends beyond that. As 16th century Philosopher Francis Bacon stated, “Men should not seek knowledge for pleasure, contention, superiority, profit or fame, but to benefit the use of life.” This methodology still serves as a practical approach to our society’s way of thinking, an idea well demonstrated in the career of a chef.
Since the advent of the Food Network, we have witnessed the rise of the celebrity chef. As such, the world of a chef has become glamorized as a lifestyle comprised of red carpets and Michelin meals. What is forgotten, however, is the fact the life of a chef can be exhausting. 16-hour workdays are not uncommon, alongside knife cuts, burns, and other unpredictable predicaments.
In the face of all of this, the Culinary Arts attract a diverse roster of people, from young students directly out of high school to professionals of all ages seeking a career change. Ultimately, a culinary career is a labor of love and those with a certain curiosity, tenacity, and discipline find success in the field.
In New York City, you’ll find many of these aspiring chefs at the Institute of Culinary Education, located in Manhattan’s Battery Park neighborhood. Endearingly nicknamed “ICE” by its students, the school’s roots can be traced to a gentleman named Peter Kump.
Mr. Kump was a New York culinary icon who, along with Julia Child, founded the prestigious James Beard Foundation. ICE was originally founded as the Peter Kump New York Cooking School in 1975, but was renamed in 2001 by successor Rick Smilow. Even after undergoing a name change, Kump’s legacy continues to resonate in the school’s hallways. ICE’s students have the privilege of having culinary legends walk through their campus almost daily.
Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud, and Gavin Kaysen are just a few renowned chefs who have recently paid the campus a visit. “Being surrounded by such like-minded, driven, and creative people is what really lured me to ICE,” shares student Jessica Demakos. “the ICE network is very fostering and dedicated to helping us fulfill our career goals.”
Among ICE’s respected network of administrators, alumni, and teachers is Chef Instructor Lorrie Reynoso who has been teaching Culinary Arts for over 30 years. A native of Manila, Chef Lorrie comes from a long line of celebrated chefs. “My mother was from a province in the Philippines known for having great cooks,” tells Chef Lorrie. Her family’s eponymous culinary school, The Reynoso Culinary Arts Studio, is quite prestigious in the Philippine culinary world. It first opened in Malate in 1963 and has since relocated to Pasig City.
Chef Lorrie’s own education integrates both liberal arts and culinary studies. In addition to a Grande Diplome from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, Chef Lorrie also has degrees in History and Art from Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts. Her extensive education has afforded her the opportunity to teach abroad at ICE’s sister campus in St. Petersburg, Russia and travel around the world alongside the industry’s best. “A formal education, to me, is important,” says Chef Lorrie.
On a Monday afternoon in Kitchen 7, students in bleached white chef coats gather and acquaint themselves to their prep tables, the work desk of a chef. “Rice,” Chef Lorrie announces, “…is the most consumed grain in the world.” A food such as rice, which seems very simple to prepare, is actually quite technical. “At culinary school, we also teach the science,” explains Chef Lorrie. The students in Kitchen 7 get a thorough explanation of rice and its historical significance in food culture, followed by a demonstration of how to cook risotto.
Chef Lorrie’s background in history and art allows for a fusion of knowledge, skill, and artistic flair in her teaching and the enthusiasm expressed by her students is telling.“Chef Lorrie is full of energy,” says Michael DiBartolo, a student whose aspiration is to open an Italian delicatessen. “She teaches us the why,” says Christopher Kent, a former engineering student turned chef.
Chef Lorrie’s class structure serves as a reminder that the Culinary Arts are a blend of art and science. Her personality, on the other hand, vividly demonstrates that the career is a self-giving one. Chef Lorrie embodies hospitality; she carries an innate inclination to provide comfort, be it in the form of offering a cup of coffee, a chair to sit in, or even a snack. Her spirit of generosity is an admirable trait well nurtured both in and out of the kitchen at ICE. “Creating an emotional experience,” explains Chef Lorrie, “takes away all the aches and pains of standing up.”
Unlike any other art form, the study of Culinary Arts has the ability to involve each of the five senses. At ICE, culinary students hone their skills in multiple subjects such as art, history, geography, science, and even agriculture while learning the fundamentals of cooking. As the students develop physical techniques, they also grow mentally. Cooking instills a moral compass with a readiness and willingness to serve others, be it colleagues, guests, or strangers. The humanity of food is still one of our world’s greatest assets, and this is profoundly demonstrated in the value of a culinary arts education.