ICE Alum Amanda Lee Brings A Winning Dish to Campus

The Culinary Arts grad, who won the United States of Umami Culinary Competition in 2019, hosted a demo for students this summer.

Amanda Lee is an ICE alum (Culinary Arts ‘20) who won the United States of Umami Culinary Competition in 2019. She was chosen out of a contest of eight students at ICE, and was then sent to the national competition to compete against six other schools. During Chef Amanda’s time at ICE, she completed an externship at Marea, a Michelin-starred Italian seafood restaurant located on Central Park South. She also partook in an international traineeship in Thailand at the Marriott Resort in Phuket in early 2020. On June 2, Amanda visited us at ICE for a demo and a discussion about her life and career during and post-graduation. She imparted valuable insight to students, who asked her questions and advice for their future pursuits.

“Make your dish sing.”

In her demo, Chef Amanda created a rendition of the dish she created for the United States of Umami Culinary Competition, Korean-style sum, which is a lettuce wrap with duck. The dish stems from her Korean and Chinese nationalities, mixing flavors from each. The theme of the dish focused on umami and balancing flavors, with umami — savoriness — being one of the five basic tastes. Chef Amanda highlights umami as a significant part of the dish, but emphasizes the necessity to balance all flavors to create a cohesive, elevated dish. She states: “In order to make your dish sing, it has to be sweet, salty, savory, umami, bitter, sour.” She reflects on the competition as being a very pressured experience, where she had her dish practiced on a minute-by-minute schedule.

“Culinary school was honestly the best decision I ever made.”

Chef Amanda further calls attention to the fact that you do not have to go into the kitchen from culinary school, and it was actually not her intention of becoming an executive chef or working in the kitchen. She is currently working in kitchens to build her knowledge, with an ultimate goal of working in media or production. Chef Amanda agrees that culinary school is a great place to start your career regardless of your end goal, stating, “Culinary school was honestly the best decision I ever made.” She feels confident in what she learned and that she can apply it to her future career, even if it’s not in the kitchen.

“It’ll be fun, it’ll be hard, it’ll be rewarding.”

Chef Amanda closes her demo with describing her experiences in various kitchens and restaurants. She emphasizes how students must apply their knowledge from learning basic skills in class. Though a student may feel nervous about working in their first kitchen, she advises them to be calm and confident, and they’ll be fine, knowing it’s up to them to apply what they know to their job. Additionally, she points out that each kitchen will teach something that can’t be learned anywhere else, with even minor techniques that can be applied forever. She says, “It’ll be fun, it’ll be hard, it’ll be rewarding,” and that though some people may not choose to go to culinary school, nothing will prepare you for a kitchen like a school will.

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