Find your cullinary voice

The Chocolate Lab

Nation’s First Education-Focused Bean-to-Bar Facility

When ICE was designing a premiere center for culinary innovation at Brookfield Place, it became clear that recent innovations in chocolate production demanded a groundbreaking new center for confectionery research. Over the past 10 years, the number of bean-to-bar operations in the United States has grown exponentially. Yet no American culinary school has invested in a chocolate lab where pastry students and seasoned professionals can experience the full cycle of bean-to-bar production…until now.

Since opening in summer 2015, ICE’s Chocolate Lab has welcomed leading chocolatiers, up-and-coming chocolate producers and amateur confectionery enthusiasts. Overseen by ICE Creative Director Michael Laiskonis, the lab has already provided unprecedented opportunities for experimentation, research and development. Classes in the lab have also been integrated into the hands-on curriculum for all ICE Pastry & Baking Arts students, and Chef Laiskonis regularly offers two-day bean-to-bar workshops for experienced pastry professionals.

“I once read an article where a chocolatier stated, ‘The most important step in making chocolate is every step.’ With the development of this center of research and development, I’m excited to show pastry chefs who aren’t chocolate makers how quantitative aspects of the process—roasting time and temperature, milling particle size, etc.—can effect the end flavor, and to explore the best applications of every type of chocolate.” – Michael Laiskonis, ICE Creative Director

ICE’s partners in this groundbreaking venture are Cacao Cucina and Tomric Systems. Cacao Cucina is the only American company that specializes in the production of small-batch, artisanal chocolate equipment. Born of engineer John Vessa and candy consultant Kim Vessa’s more than 70 years of combined confectionery experience, today, Cacao Cucina outfits the research and development labs for leading candy and flavor companies. Tomric Systems is the leading manufacturer and distributor of professional grade moulds and equipment for artisanal chocolate production. With more than 3,000 mould designs—from flat bars to filled bonbons and pralines—their headquarters in Buffalo, New York produces more tools for creative design and customization than any other American manufacturer of professional grade, durable polycarbonate moulds.

For culinary students—who rarely experience the production of the base ingredients they use on a daily basis—access to bean-to-bar equipment is a window into a whole new world of professional opportunities. Moreover, the immediate access to this small batch research and development facility offers students a first-hand education in the importance of ingredient sourcing, refining and selection. Alongside ICE’s hydroponic garden and Culinary Technology Lab, the introduction of the Chocolate Lab at ICE marks the evolution of new, artisanal curriculum offerings that align with the leading trends in today’s culinary industry.

For research, partnership and event opportunities at ICE's Chocolate Lab, please contact Stephanie Fraiman at