Meet Richard Kennedy, ICE New York’s Lead Chef-Instructor of Pastry & Baking Arts
An insatiable curiosity to learn — and the drive to take chances — carried him through two continents, three countries and four states to land his newest role as Lead Chef-Instructor of Pastry & Baking Arts at ICE’s New York City campus.
Growing up in Brooklyn, Chef Richard Kennedy (aka “Chef Richie”) stumbled into his future career at 16 years old when he saw a “help wanted” sign in the window of his local bakery.
“I would go over to the bakers and say ‘What are you making?,’ ‘How does this work?,’ ‘Why does it puff up like that?,’ and half the time I would get yelled at to get back to cleaning pans,” Chef Richie says, recalling his time at the legendary Cuccio’s Bakery.
Chef Richie persisted and was eventually promoted to bench mate and assistant baker. That job was all it took for him to know the culinary field was his future.
From there, Chef Richie enrolled at New York City College of Technology to pursue a degree in Hospitality Management. It was a professor there who encouraged him to attend an information session about an opportunity to go abroad for a stage role in the kitchens of Bavaria.
“I was like ‘hmmm, summer in Brooklyn? Or Summer in Bavaria?’,” Chef Richie says.
Spoiler alert — he chose Bavaria, a decision that set the stage for the next five years of his life. After being “humbled” by how much he had to learn in the kitchen, Chef Richie returned stateside for a job in the pastry kitchen of renowned New York City restaurant Windows on the World, but knew he wanted to get back to Europe to continue training. After working to save enough money, Chef did just that.
An impassioned letter to legendary Chef Georges Blanc landed Chef Richie a job at Blanc’s eponymous restaurant in Vonnas, France — the oldest Michelin-starred restaurant in the world (having received its first star in 1929). Chef Richie spent the next year splitting his time between the pastry team and the savory kitchen and “learning a heck of a lot” before moving on to the equally impressive kitchen of Chef Bernard Loiseau at La Côte d’Or (now called Le Relais Bernard Loiseau) in Saulieu, France. Chef Richie was in the kitchen the day the restaurant received its third Michelin star.
Chef Richie’s final role in France was in Mougins, on the pastry team at Roger Vergé’s Le Moulin du Mougins. Vergé was a founding father of Nouvelle Cuisine and internationally recognized as one of the greatest chefs of all time (other chefs who trained there include Daniel Boulud, Alain Ducasse and David Bouley).
After returning to the US, Chef Richie spent time in New York institutions including The Mark Hotel (under multiple James Beard Award-winner Chef Phillipe Boulot) and the Central Park Boathouse before realizing he was ready to apply his passion for food to the world of culinary education. It wasn't long after starting his first teaching job at the New York Restaurant School that Chef Richie knew this was his calling.
“I realized I really, really loved education," he says. "It's a wonderful feeling just to be part of someone's formative education…Whatever experience I have, I genuinely do want to share.”
This passion for education took him to Arizona, Iowa and South Carolina before landing the role of Lead Chef-Instructor of Pastry & Baking Arts at ICE New York.
When asked what he was most excited about when it came to working at ICE, Chef Richie didn’t hesitate.
“Being [a] part of the super team they got here. Everywhere I look, there's someone from New York City culinary or baking and pastry history that I just keep bumping into," he says. "I don’t know that the students fully get who they’re in the presence of, but we have some real headliner names here and I’m very humbled and awestruck to be on a team alongside these folks.”
As a Lead Chef-Instructor, Chef Richie has an investment in the success of students both in the kitchen and in their long-term careers.
“[In my kitchen], we focus on the good, we focus on the accomplishments,” he says. “Negativity is so easy to focus on…everybody makes mistakes. I just remind them that professionals are going to pick themselves up and dust themselves off.”
This personal philosophy mirrors Chef Richie's take on ICE as a whole.
“What sets us apart from other culinary schools? The quality of our teachers, the fact that we really want to take strides to get you fit into the right job at the time of your graduation, so that you can persist in the industry,” he says. “You know, it's all things I would want to chat about, it's what would have been important to me when I was at that age.”
Yes, Chef. Welcome to the ICE team.