Meet the International Culinary Center alum.
”I’m not an office person. Being in an environment where I wasn’t behind a desk every day was important to me.”
Hometown: New York
Current City: New York
Graduation year: 2009
One food/beverage you can’t live without? gummy bears
Describe your culinary POV in three words: always add bacon
Best meal of all time? While reporting on a story about the kitchen at the French Laundry, I hung around through service and got to eat dishes cooks sent my way—far and away the best meal of my life.
What would your last meal consist of? A S.M.O.G. pie from John’s on Bleecker. That’s sausage, mushrooms, onions, garlic for the uninitiated. Okay, and maybe a truffle custard from The French Laundry as an amuse bouche.
How would you describe yourself when you first started at the International Culinary Center?
I came in loving food, but not having much of a background in it. The reason I ended up going to the International Culinary Center is because a friend of mine from college is an amazing cook, and during one summer we spent together in New York she would go into a grocery store, get whatever was fresh, go home, and make a meal out of it. That floored me, as at that point I could only cook from recipes. So I knew I wanted to go to some culinary school, but I didn’t think I wanted to be a line cook. Of course I got sucked into it all and ended up on the line at Gramercy Tavern, which was a critical part of my culinary development.
What were you doing before attending the International Culinary Center?
I was working at an educational nonprofit, but I thought that if I were really passionate about education, I should’ve been a teacher, which I didn’t want to do. I was looking for something that I was more passionate about, that made me excited. And I’m not an office person. Being in an environment where I wasn’t behind a desk every day was important to me.
Deciding factor in choosing the International Culinary Center?
The program was efficient and fast. It was also the prestige of the founder, and the amazing cooks who demoed in the theater. I went to tons and tons of presentations. The International Culinary Center gives you a lot of access, a lot of connections, andCareer Services can hook you up with people who hire for internships almost anywhere.
How did your peers contribute to your learning experience in the classroom?
I loved the diversity of my particular class. Many people were making career changes, others were right out of high school. It was pretty humbling to see what people were willing to do to have this experience.
What was the most valuable lesson you learned?
Be organized and neat all the time. Clean up after yourself. Don’t flail around, and don’t panic. A good lesson for all parts of life!
What did the International Culinary Center experience teach you about life?
The biggest takeaway for me was that cooks, all of them, from prep cooks to executive chefs, are tirelessly dedicated and crazy hard workers. Thankfully, most of them love what they do, but the amount of time and energy it takes to keep a restaurant on the top of its game is greater than many people imagine. I think about that whenever I go out to eat now.
Did your chef-instructors influence your career path in any way?
Just having them there with loads of experience made an impact. They give you the basics, so you can walk into a kitchen and know what’s going on, but also pushed me to work in restaurants.They know that even if they show you how to mince an onion perfectly, it’s only when you’re slogging as a prep cook and given 17 million pounds of onions to mince that you can truly hone your knife skills.
Would you say your International Culinary Center education worked out?
I couldn’t have asked for a better career path. I feel really lucky. And the International Culinary Center was a direct link to that.
Sophie Brickman graduated from the International Culinary Center (ICC), founded as The French Culinary Institute (FCI). In 2020, ICE and ICC came together on one strong and dynamic national platform at ICE's campuses in New York City and Los Angeles. ICC’s culinary education legacy lives on at ICE, where you can explore your own future in food.