culinary students working the line

Health On the Line

Life as a Culinary Management Student

The food industry is not for the faint-hearted — long days, heavy lifting and endless tasks are pillars of your average hospitality position. Never did I feel that more than when I was working as a line cook at an upscale, all-day restaurant in the West Village. During those days, it wasn’t uncommon for me to leave work at 2:00 or 3:00am, without a trace of stamina to think about what I would feed myself, let alone to take a shower when I got home (though I did, half asleep).

healthy foods like pears and grapes
Photo by Joanie Simon

Without healthy habits in place, my body began to break down. After three years as a line cook, I realized I had taken all I possibly could from the position — and it had taken a lot from me. It was time to move on and to put my body first. So I did. I made it my mission to use food to heal my body. I began by learning everything I could about food therapy, and soon after began a Master’s program in Nutrition and Integrative Health. But that wasn’t enough — I wanted to help others on their journey towards a more vibrant, energized and healthful life.

But how?

Natalie Zises Hospitality is in my blood: My family owned and ran Grossinger’s, a popular Catskill hotel in the sixties (on which Kellerman’s in Dirty Dancing is based!). Though Grossinger’s unfortunately no longer exists, in its heyday, families would flock there each summer and holiday season to enjoy eating, relaxation in our spa, and recreational activities.

But a healthy place, it was not. My dad used to joke that the main activity there was eating, eating and more eating. It became my dream to open a modern-day Grossinger’s, only this one would have an emphasis on health and healing. I envisioned a retreat center with incredible, nourishing food, wellness education and impeccable hospitality.

The only problem: I knew next-to-nothing about running a business. Enter ICE’s Restaurant & Culinary Management program. I began looking online for an academic program that teaches the fundamentals of the business side of this industry, and when I came across ICE’s Restaurant & Culinary Management program, I felt it was the perfect fit for my career goals. The first week of class we fleshed out our concepts and menus.

You may think that creating a menu is all about the food, but really it ties back to things like the organization of your space, inventory, staffing and overall concept. What’s your storage space like for dry goods and refrigeration? Do you want to be seasonal, local or cater to a specific dietary preference such as vegan or gluten-free? Where is your location and what are people looking for in that specific area?

Examining the demographic and psychographics of the neighborhood is vital and zooming out on the whole picture in order to inform your menu is crucial in the overall success of your business. Because our instructor has opened dozens of clubs, restaurants and bars, he is able to help us with these important perspectives and point out potential issues we may be overlooking. Plus, hearing the incredibly diverse ideas of my fellow classmates helped keep me inspired and creative on my own—another huge benefit that comes with studying in a program alongside other future entrepreneurs. I’m excited to continue on this journey with ICE.

Ready to embark on your culinary career path? Learn more about ICE’s career programs. 

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