Chef Eric Rowse teaches ICE students in class

ICE LA’s Newest Lead Chef Loves Minecraft

Chef Eric Rowse started teaching at ICE after years of working in professional kitchens and hasn’t looked back

Chef Eric Rowse teaches ICE students in class.

Chef Eric Rowse recently sat down to answer questions about his journey in the hospitality industry as part of the Ask the Chef Instagram series. As it turns out, his culinary experience speaks for itself.

He’s worked as an executive chef and chef de cuisine at multiple restaurants since 2016 and has an ever-growing list of innovative pop-up and brick-and-mortar restaurant ideas. He’s also an avid gamer.

Luckily, his son also loves Minecraft — so much so that Chef Rowse bought a Minecraft-themed cookbook for them to cook out of together.

Though being a dad and recently being promoted to the Institute of Culinary Education Los Angeles' Lead Chef of Culinary Arts means he has limited time to play lately, he still finds himself turning to Minecraft to both relax and channel his creativity.

“I love the creative takes on in-game ideas turned into dishes," hey says. "Minecraft is something that I love to play and since I love to cook, I’ve always thought about and brainstormed ‘what if I was going to do a pop-up based around the game?’ Seeing it then in a cookbook gave me a lot of ideas that I never considered but also reinforced that some of my own ideas were amazing. So, Mojang — watch out.”

Though he's always loved to cook, Chef Rowse didn't plan on being a chef from the beginning.

“I decided to become a chef very early on, probably about sophomore year of high school," he says. "I always flip-flopped between going to MIT for robotics or going to law school. I decided I didn’t want to go through the effort of taking the SATs because I thought ‘that’s a lot of work’ and then I go into an industry that ended up being probably more work than I ever expected in my life but, no regrets whatsoever.”

Once he graduated from high school, the Southern California native left home and went to the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. From there, he went to cook in Orlando, Florida at Walt Disney World through the Disney College Program, which he remembers as "some of the most fun experiences" he's ever had. He credits the time at Disney with shaping his philosophy on customer service to this day.

After more years spent helming multiple restaurants in leadership positions, Chef Rowse started as a Chef-Instructor at ICE in 2021 while the COVID-19 pandemic was still ravaging the hospitality industry. Working in an educational setting gave him the stability and consistent hours that many restaurants couldn't offer at the time. It also gave him something he wasn't expecting — a love for teaching.

“My favorite thing about being an instructor is watching that ‘a-ha’ moment for students," Chef Rowse says. "Students that didn’t know what path they wanted to take or weren’t sure how things were going to be when they first started — I love seeing that moment where things start to click and they start to grow and figure out where their culinary voice lies.”

He found a home in the Culinary Arts program at ICE, where he's taught every hands-on course in the curriculum. His favorite lessons to teach are the courses that work with pork, which is his favorite ingredient to cook. He also loves teaching the restaurant simulation course, where students "work the line" like they would at a busy restaurant while a Chef-Instructor expedites and gives them specific food orders to fulfill.

Anyone roaming the halls of ICE LA will likely hear Chef Rowse's commanding voice reading off orders coming from a classroom, always met to resounding cries of "yes, chef!" He loves it.

"Our restaurant simulation plating is kind of my touchstone back to my time in the industry," he says. "It lets me flex a little bit as well as have a little bit of fun watching the students come out of their shells.”

How far you go in the industry is one hundred percent determined by how much heart you have, how much you pay attention, how much you practice and your own self-dedication.

Chef Rowse has now also branched out to teaching courses in the Culinary Arts and Food Operations Online diploma program as well. He believes that anyone can be successful in the culinary industry, regardless of prior experience.

"Our student body is very diverse, from those with a few years to multiple years of professional experience to those who have no experience as a home cook," he says."How far you go in the industry is one hundred percent determined by how much heart you have, how much you pay attention, how much you practice and your own self-dedication.”

He thinks working in an educational kitchen is a huge boon to aspiring culinary professionals.

"The beauty of school is you can make mistakes to learn and grow from without the consequence of someone getting sick or spending their money on something they felt they shouldn’t have had to pay for."

Chef Rowse's passion and care is what earned him a promotion to Lead Chef of Culinary Arts in 2023. He gives much of the credit to the people who helped him along the way — all of his former students.

“It’s the time I spent with you all growing as an instructor, those that saw me when I first started to those who recently saw me, all of you helped get me into the position I am now."

Say congratulations to Chef Rowse when you see him next and ask about his incredibly cool menu ideas. He's here to guide every student on the path to finding their culinary voice and is so excited to grow alongside them.

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