Meet Chef Emilie Berner
Chef-Instructor in ICE’s Online Plant-Based Culinary Arts program
Chef Emilie Berner, Chef-Instructor and designer of ICE's Online Plant-Based Culinary Arts & Food Operations program, comes to ICE with over a decade of experience combining nutrition and wellness with community education.
Not everyone can say they knew exactly what they wanted to do when they finished school, but that’s not the case for Chef Emilie Berner.
“I went to the Natural Gourmet Institute and graduated in 2012, and I distinctly remember when I graduated, I thought ‘I want to come back and teach at this school one day’…Ten years later, here I am. So kind of a full circle moment for me,” she says.
When the Natural Gourmet Institute closed in 2019, ICE licensed the curriculum and brought it — and many of NGI's Chef-Instructors — over to ICE New York to continue the legacy of cooking for wellness as the ICE Health-Supportive Culinary Arts program, now Plant-Based Culinary Arts. Since then the school has expanded the program to our Los Angeles campus, and now to an online offering, available to students across the country, with Chef Emilie at its helm.
Years before starting culinary school, Chef Emilie was already planting the seed of what would become a career dedicated to the space where food meets community with an internship at San Francisco’s La Cocina. There, she helped low-income food entrepreneurs formalize and grow their businesses.
Not long after, Chef Emilie found herself as an assistant teacher at the UN Pre-School in Paris and her professional journey as a teacher began.
After returning from Paris, Chef Emilie began her formal culinary training at NGI, which gave her the skill set to start working in restaurants. She worked at New York’s famed Mas Farmhouse, which helped pioneer farm-to-table and organic fine dining, and Ellary’s Greens, a vegan restaurant where she held the title of Executive Pastry Chef. These skills also came in handy in her role as Chef at the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies, where she prepped service for upwards of 1,000 people.
After accruing a solid foundation in professional cooking, Chef Emilie pivoted to her true passion: providing food education and wellness in her community.
With that focus, Chef Emilie went on to positions such as teaching young children at New York’s The Edible Schoolyard Project and Sylvia Center, and coordinating summer camps and farm and restaurant field trips for kids through Haven’s Kitchen. Chef Emilie also spent time as Culinary Director and Community Manager at Further Foods, reaching hundreds of community members with her recipes, articles and posts. Not long after, Chef Emilie found herself working closely with an icon of Ayurvedic cooking, Divya Alter, as Lead Cook and Instructor at Bhagavat Life (now ‘Divya’s Kitchen’) as a cook and instructor for the ANACT program (Ayurvedic Nutrition And Culinary Training).
It was with this wealth of experience and a finely-honed sense of purpose that Chef Emilie took on a role she would hold for more than half a decade, as the Chef and Coordinator of New York Presbyterian, Hudson Valley Hospital’s teaching kitchen.
This role saw Chef Emilie bring her expertise and passion for community wellness right into the hands of those who need it most. With programming such as ‘heart healthy’ cooking, which Chef Emilie says she was in a position where she was "literally lowering people's blood pressure and cholesterol."
"They would go to the doctor and say that they were the healthiest they had been in years because they learned about cooking and nutrition," Chef Emilie says. "That's the power that a chef can have on communities.”
More on Nutrition: What’s Good to Eat? with Chef Celine Beitchman
Chef Emilie also wrote the lessons and curriculum for the teaching kitchen's Integrative Therapies for Cancer Patients program. The program led cancer patients and their caretakers through lessons on using food, cooking techniques and lifestyle changes to mitigate the side effects of cancers and cancer treatment. She also taught classes, hosted networking events to create community partnerships and ran the hospital’s organic farm and farmer’s market.
When COVID began and students were no longer able to learn at the teaching kitchen in person, Chef Emilie realized she could have an even greater impact by taking the classes online, reaching hundreds of people in their homes rather than just the dozen who could fit in her kitchen classroom.
It was around this time that Chef Emilie’s manifestation of that dream to go back and teach the NGI program came to fruition, when she happened upon a position for an adjunct Chef-Instructor for the Health-Supportive Culinary Arts program at ICE’s LA campus. She applied immediately, and her curiosity about what it’d be like to work for ICE inspired her to reach out to one of her professors from her time at NYU’s Food Studies program: Steve Zagor, who happened to also be the former Dean of ICE’s Restaurant & Culinary Management program.
When Professor Zagor had “nothing but wonderful things to say,’’ all that was left was for Chef Emilie to see for herself. It didn’t take long for both ICE and Chef Emilie to realize they were a perfect fit.
"As soon as I came to see it for myself, I really, immediately, felt like I was home…the community here, the people here, I was like ‘I want to work here,” she says.
In just a matter of months, that’s exactly what she was doing.
Though initially hired to be an on-campus Chef-Instructor, it was clear from the beginning that Chef Emilie would eventually develop the newly-launched Online Plant-Based Culinary Arts & Food Operations program for ICE.
Looking toward the future of the program inspires Chef Emilie to reflect on her past experiences.
"One of the reasons I wanted to work here and teach here was because I felt so grateful to my culinary training and my teachers for setting me down the path that they did, and [helping me] realize the impact that culinary training can have on the world," she says. "It was really powerful for me…and when you put it online, you create culinary training that's accessible. You don't have to live in LA or New York, you know, you can do it from your home. You can learn these skills and they will change your life.”
Work with Chef Emilie: ICE's Online Plant-Based Culinary Arts & Food Operations program