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Meet the Culinary Entrepreneurs

ICE lineup of Meet the Culinary Entrepreneurs - 2012-2013 guestsMeet The Culinary Entrepreneurs is an exclusive lecture series featuring some of America's top food business experts. The sessions—held throughout the year at ICE—introduce students and the public to the world’s leading restaurateurs, specialty food retailers, caterers and other culinary business proprietors who have established highly regarded national and international brands. The ongoing series was designed to complement ICE’s Culinary Management diploma program, which trains students with career goals of owning or operating a restaurant or other food business.

An ICE management instructor moderates each of the 90-minute discussions, which focus on the wisdom and candid experiences of the culinary entrepreneur. Whether you’re a student or already active in the food industry, this is your chance to get in-person advice from some of the industry’s most influential leaders. No matter your career goals, these experts’ wealth of knowledge is sure to leave you better equipped to manage or launch your own culinary ventures.

In its seventh year running, the Meet the Culinary Entrepreneurs lecture series features high profile speakers from the restaurant, catering, specialty food, beverage and retail world. This is an opportunity to hear how some of nation’s leading culinary entrepreneurs grew their fledging companies into highly successful businesses.

These lectures are free for current ICE students, $15 for alumni and $40 for general public. 

2016 Guest Speakers:


Alexander Smalls

Executive Chef and Restaurateur: The Cecil, Minton's (New York, NY)

Harlem is one of New York’s most dynamic and culturally rich neighborhoods. In recent years, Harlem has become a platform for trends in food, dining, music and entertainment. Award-winning opera singer-turn-restaurateur Alexander Smalls is considered to be a major catalyst for this recent renaissance.

After much success in the world of music and opera (winning both Tony and Grammy Awards for his role as Jake in “Porgy and Bess,”) Alexander Smalls followed his passion for food and opened Café Beulah in the Flatiron District in 1994. Taking inspiration from his childhood in South Carolina, Smalls focused on “low-country” southern cooking. Although Café Beulah closed in 1997, Smalls realized he was onto something with these simple, southern dishes. In 2013 he took his love for soul food uptown to Harlem and opened The Cecil, where his chefs serve “southern revival” and “Afro-Asian” cuisine. In the same year, Smalls renovated and revived one of the most legendary and historical jazz clubs, Minton’s Playhouse. The new Minton’s is a formal supper club featuring live music and a sophisticated prix fixe menu.

Alexander Smalls’ influence has stretched beyond the borders of Harlem; Zagat named him as one of the “19 NYC Restaurant Power Players You Need to Know” in 2014. The Cecil was named Esquire’s “Best New Restaurant in America” in 2014.

Smalls is author of Grace the Table, his acclaimed memoir and cookbook. He is also an integral part of non-profit organizations such as Harlem Jazz Enterprises and Careers through Culinary Arts Programs (CCAP.)

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Sylvia & Steve Pryzant

Four Story Hill Farm (Honesdale, PA)
Thursday, August 4, 11am-12pm

Stephen and Sylvia Pryzant had dreams of owning farmland in the United States. After living in Israel, they packed up and moved to New York in 1979. A in 1987, they finally bought their first sliver of land in Pennsylvania to make their dreams of farming a reality.

Stephen gained knowledge of farming and a love for livestock by working on a community farm in Israel called a kibbutz. From that experience, he learned that dairy farming was too expensive for a first-timers’ venture, so the husband and wife team chose to start raising veal at Four Story Hill Farm. After hard work spent on restoring their barn, it still could not stand up to the deadly Blizzard of ’93 and the ice storms of ’94. The barn collapsed and the Pryzants lost many of their livestock.

After the devastating loss of the barn and the calves, the Pryzants decided to rebuild Four Story Hill Farm and start fresh. Sylvia studied the ins and outs of raising the unique, milk-fed poulardes from Burgundy, France. She was determined to provide this special type of poultry for chefs in the U.S. seeking this rare kind of poultry. Sylvia picked up the phone and called chefs from all around the country, hoping to make a name for Four Story Hill Farm and their unique, milk-fed poultry.

Chefs Tom Colicchio and Daniel Boulud were the first to jump on board, and still loyal clients to this day. Many others soon caught on such as Thomas Keller of The French Laundry and Per Se, Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park, Charlie Trotter, Mario Batali and many more. Today, although still considered a small operation, Four Story Hill Farm sets the standard for high-quality poultry and apple-fed suckling pigs. 

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Rob Kaufelt of Murray's Cheese comes to speak to students at ICE - Meet the Culinary EntrepreneursRob Kaufelt

Proprietor, Murray's Cheese (New York, NY)
Monday, September 26, 1:30-3pm

After receiving his BA in government from Cornell University, Rob joined the family supermarket business in New Jersey, where, as President, he managed the company's rapid growth in the 1980s. He left to pursue a career in specialty foods with his purchase of New York's oldest cheese shop, Murray's, in Greenwich Village.

A frequent writer and educator on cheese and specialty foods, Rob was profiled in The New Yorker and authored The Murray's Cheese Handbook (Random House, 2006). In 2008 Murray's Cheese partnered with Kroger, the country's largest traditional supermarket chain. Together, they have opened more than 175 Murray's branded cheese departments within Kroger's highest volume stores nationwide, and are continuing to open more on the way.

He splits his time between Greenwich Village and an eighteenth century farm in Stockton, New Jersey with his wife, Nina Planck, the country's leading expert on farmer's markets and real food, and their three small children.

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Ruairi Curtin

Managing Partner, The Bua Hospitality Group: Wilfie & Nell, The Wren, The Penrose, Bua, Sweet Afton, The Bonnie (New York, NY)
Monday, November 7, 10:30am-12pm

Irish native Ruairi Curtin was on the path to the corporate world with his degrees in both International Marketing and Languages in Dublin and Madrid. Following the completion of his degree, he started work in the New York office for The Business Consultancy Division of the Irish government. At age 23, Mr. Curtin became the youngest Vice President in the history of the company. Despite his success in the field of International Business, Mr. Curtin left in 2006 to devote his time and energy to the start of his hospitality group, The Bua Hospitality Group.

The Bua Group has grown from just one small location in the East Village, to a portfolio of six highly-recognized boutique bars throughout Manhattan and Queens. From the start, the philosophy and goal was simple: to elevate New York City’s bar experience and to celebrate the art of the cocktail.

The group has mastered the delicate balance between consistency, quality and high volume, serving in excess of half a million customers per year. The six establishments have received extensive press coverage and accolades from prestigious publications such as The New York Times, New York Magazine, The Wall Street Journal and The New Yorker. The Bonnie was recently named one of “The Most Beautiful Bars in NYC' by Thrillist and Wilfie & Nell was named “Best Irish Pub in NYC” by Zagat in 2010.

To register for this event, contact customer service at 212-847-0770 or


Past 2016 Speakers

Michael Schlow

Chef/Owner (Boston, MA)
Thursday, January 21, 1-2:30pm

With restaurants spanning the country, Michael Schlow is one of the most influential and respected chef/restaurateurs in America today. His ability to capture a variety of global cuisines and techniques has led to appearances on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon”, Bravo’s “Top Chef Masters”, “The Today Show”, “Good Morning America”, “The Rachel Ray Show”, “CBS This Morning”, “Nightline”, and Food Network. He’s been the recipient of many awards including being named Best Chef in the Northeast by the James Beard Foundation, Best Chef in the Country by Sante Magazine, as well as the Culinary Award of Excellence given out by Robert Mondavi to only 6 recipients a year.

Schlow has spent his life cultivating his craft, learning the restaurant business the old-fashioned way, from the bottom up. Starting as a dishwasher at age 14, Schlow has excelled at every position in the industry. He worked his way up through some of the best restaurants in the world, and now as owner and concept creator, has shown the ability to continually produce restaurants that are critical, as well as financial successes.

His restaurants have been recognized as some of the best in the world by Esquire, Food & Wine, Condé Nast Traveler, and Gourmet.

He is the author of It’s About Time: Great Recipes for Everyday Life (Steerforth) and is regularly requested to appear and speak about the restaurant and hospitality industry.  

Jared Rouben

Brewmaster, Moody Tongue Brewing Company (Pilsen, Chicago, IL)
Monday, February 22, 1-2:30pm

Jared Rouben is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, the Culinary Institute of America in New York and the Siebel Diploma course in Chicago, where he is now a faculty member. After culinary school, Rouben worked as a cook at the Michelin Star Martini House in Napa and as Expeditor at the three Michelin Star Thomas Keller’s Per Se in New York City.

Jared moved to Chicago to begin his brewing career as a member of the Rock Bottom brewing team and shortly thereafter joined Goose Island Clybourn in 2009. In January of 2010, Jared was promoted to Pub Brewmaster, where he created Goose Island’s Chef Collaboration Series and Farmers Market Series while focusing on experimental brewing.

Jared has spent the past several years brewing, pairing, and collaborating with a number of the most celebrated culinary minds in Chicago. His passion for both beer and food is infectious.

John Besh

August, Besh Steak, Lüke, Johnny Sanchez and more (New Orleans, LA)
Monday, March 7, 10-11:30am

Southern Louisiana native chef, restaurateur and author, John Besh, is one of America’s most respected modern culinary icons. With his critically-acclaimed restaurants in New Orleans such as August and Besh Steak, Chef Besh has mastered the marriage between the finesse of French cuisine and the fun flavors of the Big Easy. Besh has expanded to cities such as San Antonio and Baltimore, adding Italian, German and Mexican concepts to his bullpen along the way.

His talent has resulted in numerous awards and accolades: Food & Wine named him one of the “Top 10 Best New Chefs in America.” He also won the James Beard Award for Best Chef of the Southeast in 2006. Besh’s beloved restaurant, August, has held positions on Gayot’s Top 40 Restaurants and Wine Enthusiast’s Top 100 Restaurants. In the world of T.V., Besh has his own television show on Spike TV, Hungry Investors.

Chef Besh’s impact on the community extends far beyond restaurants: As a U.S. Marine, Besh has partnered with emergency reconstruction specialists to create high quality ready-to-eat meals for those in need. Following Hurricane Katrina, Chef Besh was one of the first chefs to re-open a restaurant, and thereafter invested heavily to help his native city. Today, he has his own non-profit organization, The John Besh Foundation, which works to preserve that culinary heritage of the Gulf Coast region via scholarships and microloans.

Besh shares his recipes and experiences in his four cookbooks: My New Orleans, My Family Table, Cooking from the Heart, and Besh Big Easy.

Mark Pastore and Pat LaFrieda come to ICE to be special guests in ICE's Meet the Culinary Entrepreneurs lecture seriesPat LaFrieda & Mark Pastore

CEO & Presidnet, Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors (New York, NY)
Thursday, April 28, 10:30-12pm

Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors is one the best known meat purveyors serving the East Coast of America. Starting as a butcher shop in Brooklyn in 1922, Anthony LaFrieda and his five sons owned and operated the business. In 1950, a New York City meat workers’ strike was a blessing in disguise for the LaFrieda family business; during the strike, restaurants had a difficult time receiving deliveries, so the shop stepped in and started servicing restaurants directly.

Since the 1920’s the company has been handed down from generation to generation. Now, with the company in the hands of Pat LaFrieda Jr. (CEO,) and his cousin, Mark Pastore (President), the business continues to grow under the family name with over 600 customers. 

Pat and Mark are famous for custom cutting and portioning all varieties of beef, lamb, pork, poultry and game. They are also the minds behind 50 different signature and custom meat blends for burger temples such as Shake Shack, The Spotted Pig and Blue Smoke. This includes what many consider NYC’s best burger, the “Black Label Burger” at Minetta Tavern.

The company’s reputation grew to the point that the shop’s street in the West Village was renamed “Pat LaFrieda Lane” in 2003. In 2012, Pat and Mark were the stars of the Food Network show, "Meat Men." In the fall of 2014, Pat’s first book Meat: Everything You Need to Know was published. The book is a veritable meat encyclopedia from which home cooks can learn Pat’s best meat tips, recipes, stories and more.


Brian Smith comes to ICE for the Meet the Culinary Entrepreneurs series.Brian Smith and Jackie Cuscuna

Owners, Ample Hills Creamery (Brooklyn, NY)
Thursday, May 5, 10-11:30am

Husband and wife team, Brian Smith and Jackie Cuscuna opened Ample Hills Creamery in Brooklyn in 2011, where they hand-make ice cream the "old-fashioned way." Brian, being a science-fiction screenwriter without any culinary or entrepreneurial experience, knew this venture was a risky one. However, Ample Hills was an instant success; after only four days of being open, they had to close shop for a week just to catch up with the high demand. To Brian and Jackie, ingredients are just as important as methodology. They use hormone-free milk, cream from grass-fed cows and organic cane sugar. The creamery is registered as a certified dairy plant, which permits them to pasteurize their own milk. This allows for an unparalleled level of added flavor and intensity with varieties like pretzel-infused and marshmallow-infused flavors. Ample Hills is just as much a bakery as it is a dairy destination; they make their mix-ins and toppings in house and from scratch. In 2014, they published their first cookbook, expanded to a larger space Gowanus and added their first Manhattan shop inside the Gotham West Market. The creamery now delivers and ships nationwide. 

Anthony Rudolf

Founder, Journee (New York, NY)
Thursday, May 19, 10-11:30am

By the age of 15, Rudolf was confident that he did not belong in a typical classroom. He aspired to become a chef, which led him to pursue two degrees from The Culinary Institute of America—an associate’s degree in culinary arts and a bachelor’s degree in professional studies. While in school, he shifted his focus away from the culinary arts and toward hospitality. From 2002 to 2006, Rudolf worked his way up the ladder to become the service director for the flagship restaurant of Chef Jean-Georges. In June 2006, he joined Chef Thomas Keller at the world-renowned Per Se. There, he led the team as maitre d’, then general manager, and ultimately became the director of operations responsible for all New York properties including Per Se and two Bouchon Bakeries. During his tenure with Chefs Keller and Vongerichten, both restaurants achieved four-star reviews fromThe New York Times along with three-star Michelin awards year after year. During Rudolf’s time at Per Se, the service team was voted Best Service by the Zagat guide book seven years in a row and received a James Beard award for Outstanding Service in 2011.

After 20 years in the industry, Anthony realized that his true mission was not to serve consumers, but to nurture and guide people in the industry along their path of living their dreams. Rudolf left the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group to found Journee, a community that empowers and educates restaurant professionals. Rudolf is determined to raise the standards of the profession. “Journee is not only my way of validating the career I’ve been dedicated to for over 20 years, it is also a much needed source of empowerment for other ambitious restaurant professionals. It is my way of showing people that they can follow their passions to find success, and, most importantly, they can do so on their own terms.”

In addition to being the founder and CEO of Journee, Rudolf is the co-founder of The Welcome Conference: a first-of-its-kind hospitality conference that brings together leaders to inspire, share, and connect. He is also an ambassador of The Culinary Institute of America.

Eamon Rockey is a guest speaker at ICE culinary school and General Manager of Betony restaurant in NYC.Eamon Rockey

General Manager, Betony (New York, NY)
Thursday, July 14, 10am-11:30am

In late spring 2013, Eamon Rockey reunited with his former Eleven Madison Park colleague, chef Bryce Shuman, to open Betony, a Modern American restaurant in Midtown. At Betony, Eamon is the General Manager and oversees all aspects of the restaurant’s service, and critically acclaimed cocktail program.

Betony received three stars in The New York Times and was named Esquire’s “Restaurant of the Year” in 2013.

Prior to Betony, Rockey held service and beverage program positions at some of New York City’s most highly regarded restaurants. In 2007, he joined the service team at Eleven Madison Park. During his time at the restaurant, he learned a tremendous amount about wine, mixology and service, working positions from bartender to captain.

After three years at Eleven Madison Park, he left to open Compose in TriBeCa in late 2010. As general manager at Compose, Eamon created the service and beverage programs and hired and trained the staff. Compose re-opened as Atera in spring 2012 with chef Matthew Lightner at the kitchen’s helm and went on to earn two Michelin stars.

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