Meet Chef Jamie Blatt
The culinarian joins ICE New York to share his industry expertise with the next generation of chefs.
Chef Jamie’s love for cooking began from the observation and admiration of his mother in the kitchen, and later, the chefs he worked alongside as a dishwasher during high school. Chef Jamie continued to work in the city that raised him, New York, where he served as Executive Chef at Pitchoune and Bar Six, and Culinary Director at Mercado Little Spain.
We caught up with the chef to learn more about his journey.
What inspired you to be a chef?
I thought I might pursue carpentry because I liked working with my hands and creating something from nothing with just an idea, some tools and materials. But after high school I was in the restaurant business for a few years, starting out as a dishwasher and moving up to prep cook and eventually line cook. When I joined a Sheraton Hotel, I got my first-hand look at real chefs and how a professional kitchen worked. These chefs were making elaborate display pieces for buffets, things like duck galantines, pâté en croute, charcuterie platters, carved fruit platters, whole poached salmon and ice carvings. They were making veal stock from scratch, braising lamb shanks, grilling venison and stuffing game birds for roasting. I was just fascinated with it all. I knew then that I was going to go all-in on the craft. I stayed working there for a few years, learning as much as I could, and after five years in the business, I was accepted to the Culinary Institute of America.
Was food a focal point for you at home?
My parents were both working when I was a kid, so dinner was usually hastily prepared. My mother was a good cook, but she didn’t spend hours in the kitchen. A simple roast or meatloaf or baked ham were staples growing up. I have a very strong memory of summertime meals of grilled London broil, sliced and served with buttered toasted bread and a simple salad. We did have a small garden in the yard with peppers, tomatoes and some berries and mint — easy and simple but satisfying flavors. The important part for my parents was the family around the table. Even if it was a simple meal, we would all eat together every night. Spending that time with my parents, my brother and my two sisters is still a memory I cherish.
How has the city itself influenced your cooking or your relationship with cooking?
The biggest benefit of living in NYC is absolutely the diversity. We know we are fortunate to be able to get great quality products easily, but it’s the people you meet and the history of the cultures and influence of the foods they bring that make it a great place for a cook. Some of the greatest meals I’ve eaten haven’t been plates destined for the dining room, but rather the family meals we shared with the team in the kitchen. I’ve been able to eat and share with cooks from Mexico, Ecuador, Peru, Italy, Spain, France, North Africa, China, Japan, Nepal, Tibet as well as America and many other places. All cooks bring their indigenous flavors, styles, ingredients and experiences to the family meal, and that’s where we all come together as cooks and understand each other better as people by sharing a meal.
After graduating from culinary school, where did you get your start?
After school I worked in the Delaware Valley for a few years, diving into American regional cooking. There is a great history and ingredients in the Mid-Atlantic region that provide a versatile palette for a cook. The corn and tomatoes of summer give way to the squashes and root vegetables of fall and winter. Grilling gives way to braising as the weather starts to chill. I love the changing of the seasons and the renewal and opportunity each season brings to the offerings and ideas.
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Is the industry as you expected?
The industry is exactly as I expected — chaotic, fun, hot, creative, satisfying, demanding and rewarding. It’s a proving ground and, if you have something to prove to yourself, it’s a great forum to do it in.
Were you in love with cooking right off the bat?
Once I was bitten, I went all-in realizing that cooking leads to discovery, not only of food but as it relates to science, art, history, techniques, process, formula, passion and ultimately, giving. When you cook for someone, you are giving a piece of your soul and saying, “I want this to make you happy; I care about you.” The ingredients, tools and techniques hopefully allow you to say it profoundly and eloquently.
Were there any particular mentors or influences during your development as a chef?
Mostly it’s the cooks you don’t hear about who inspire and influence me...the thousands of men and women who are working in their kitchens every day, honing their craft, experimenting with subtle technique changes, or recipe adjustments or ingredient combinations. These are the things that we all think about as cooks when we lay our heads down at night. So when I wake up, I’m eager to get back at it and keep moving forward. If I had to name some well-known chefs that have influenced me, I’d have to say Thomas Keller, Charlie Trotter, Marco Pierre White — people I always looked up to when I was younger for their steadfast determination to push themselves to achieve a higher level of execution than the day before. And legendary chefs will always have my ear: Julia Child, Paul Bocuse, Roger Vergé, Alain Ducasse and Alice Waters are in my Hall of Fame for sure, but there are many more.
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What brought you to ICE?
It’s simple. What brought me to ICE is the opportunity to give back. To hopefully help shape cooks and their careers and to have a positive impact on tomorrow’s chefs. I can still hear the voices, remember the direction and appreciate the mentoring of the instructors at CIA when I was a student. To be able to provide that to a young culinarian is an honor and something that I take seriously and am thankful for.