International Flavor at ICE: A Q & A with ICE’s International Students

ICE is proud to have students from over 40 countries, adding a unique international character to our classroom kitchens. New York City truly is the culinary capital of America so it’s no surprise that so many people from around the world choose to come here to pursue their dream of going to culinary school.

Last month DICED discovered that one current afternoon Culinary Arts class has four international students in a class of 16: Renato Marquez from Brazil, Mauricio Useche from Venezuela, Marcela Henao from Colombia and Alexander Dumitrescu from Romania. We asked Mauricio Useche Torres and Marecla Henao about their experience living in New York City and how it had added to their culinary learning experience.

How would you describe living in New York City?

Marcela Henao: Living in NYC is an amazing experience — including the buildings, museums, cultural activities and of course restaurants. The city is very different from my hometown back in Colombia, particularly the landscapes full of mountains, nature and coffee trees. Pereira, where I come from is part of the coffee growing area and is an intermediate sized city

Mauricio Useche Torres: Living in New York is a great experience. It's very exciting because the city is unpredictable and there's so much to do — great music, art, food, shows and sports. It's all going on here and it's very energizing. My hometown is Caracas, the capital of Venezuela. Caracas can be hectic and impassive. It won’t wait for you; it's no city for the calm or faint-hearted. I would say in that way it’s similar to New York. However, New York is more pleasurable for its inhabitants. It has more open spaces, parks and recreational places and I think it was designed with pedestrians in mind, so you can really enjoy yourself walking around. It is also more culturally diverse.

What do you enjoy the most about being in New York?

MH: What I enjoy the most is walking in Manhattan. I choose different streets every time that I go walking, even if I’m going to the same places. I always find restaurants, stores and locations that I’ve never heard about.

MUT: It's so eclectic and restless. I like the people and how everyone seems to be different. This city allows you to be very independent. I like the way it has become home for so many peoples from around the world. I love the cultural diversity and all you can learn from that. I also like that it is a city with leadership — this is where everything is going on. Simply put, it's fun.

How has the process of adapting to life in NYC been for you?

MH: The process is not difficult, and the school is keeping me busy so the time goes fast.

MUT: It's been really easy. I had visited a number of times before moving here and I've always liked it. I also have friends from back home living here as well. So, it's been really easy. You always hear about how hard New York is, and without doubt, it can be tough sometimes, but it has been very friendly to me!

What do you think of the variety of cuisines in NYC – Any favorites? Least favorites?

MUT: They are infinite! Anything that you would want to try is right here. When it comes to ethnic cuisines, I will eat anything. There are so many talented chefs with great and innovative ideas, not only for food, but also for restaurant concepts!  

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