Sharing the Slice: Finding Balance
On Sunday, March 24, 2019, the International Culinary Center hosted a jam-packed day of discussions and networking for pastry professionals at the second Pastry Plus Conference. Pastry Plus provides a unique opportunity to connect the innovative minds of pastry professionals to meet and discuss the changing landscape of the industry. As a community, pastry chefs, sous chefs, line cooks, bakers and pastry business owners address the evolving workplace, learn about industry innovations and expand the sphere of the modern pastry chef.
The theme of this year’s conference, Sharing the Slice, focused on how the industry must consider the way in which we connect and share information. Cooking has always been a shared experience. As Emily Luchetti—Chief Pastry Officer of Big Night Restaurant Group & ICC Dean of Pastry—shared in her conference address, pastries and desserts are innately created to be shared at the end of a meal. The morning forum, presented by our partner Callebaut®, brought to light how chefs share ideas and communicate in today’s changing landscape of modern technology. The panel discussion moderated by Mitchell Davis, Chief Strategy Officer of The James Beard Foundation, featured Zoe Kanan (Head Baker of Simon & The Whale and The Studio), Rose Levy Beranbaum (Cookbook Author) and Ron Ben-Israel (Owner of Ron Ben-Israel Cakes). Everything from the future of cookbooks to the risks and rewards of increased connection through social media were discussed.
Pastry Plus also provides an opportunity for current ICC students to volunteer for the day’s events—sit in on panels, individual classes and meet their future colleagues in the industry. Current ICC Professional Pastry Arts student, Samantha Daily was one of 15 volunteers that attended the conference. Samantha began the day greeting guests; little did she know VIP guests and speakers would also be entering with attendees. She shared that this was her “first indication of just how much this conference drew professionals from the pastry industry together.” From industry legends like Elizabeth Falkner and Claudia Flemming, to rising pastry talents like Zoe Kanan and Eunji Lee, Samantha remarked that “everyone was treated equally”. “Everyone walked in the same door, had the same breakfast, and attended the same conference,” said Samantha. We asked Samantha to share some of her biggest takeaways from the panel and opening forum to hear from the next generation of pastry professionals. Read below to hear about her experience at Pastry Plus!
SOCIAL MEDIA PROMOTES THE SHARING OF IDEAS
Rose Levy Beranbaum, author of The Cake Bible, spoke about how cookbooks once sparked a change in the industry by pushing people to share what they know. Before cookbooks were widely popularized, chefs guarded their techniques and recipes as secrets. Cookbooks built the foundation of communication among professionals and home cooks alike.
Today, social media and the internet have completely changed the landscape. For better or worse, chefs are almost expected to share what they know. The positive is that often by sharing their ideas through posts on their social channels, they allow budding chefs to grow through their knowledge and connect with other colleagues around the world.
Ron Ben-Israel shared the story of how he met Rose years ago. At the time, there was no direct message on social media to contact someone you admired. Instead, Ron wrote to the publisher of Rose’s cookbook with words of admiration for her work. The letter made its way to Rose and she ended up meeting with Ron because he took the time to write to her. Nowadays, Ron commented that this has changed within the industry because of social media, and it’s not always positive. Instead of decorum and professionalism, people often message him on Instagram asking for his recipes. As someone who values teaching others, he would be willing to share helpful tips, but there is an air of expectation with this communication that does not promote growth in the industry. What is his suggestion to rising chefs? Strive to build relationships with chefs and learn from them in a different setting.
GIVING CREDIT IS IMPORTANT
The panelists all agreed—giving credit where credit is due is essential to protecting other chef’s brands, hard work and promoting your own reputation. Many chefs post their creations and share their recipes, but it can be off putting when many people, other chefs included, use their ideas without recognizing who they took inspiration from. Innovation is something we strive for in our industry, so to discover a new way of doing something just to have it stolen by another can be disheartening. Giving credit shows integrity and respect, and in turn, builds your reputation within the tight-knit pastry community.
ON THE TOPIC OF FOLLOWING OTHERS…
In Emily Luchetti’s opening speech, she shared that “you won’t find your own style by following what everyone else is doing.” This speaks volumes about what is happening on social media today. It is too easy to see what others are doing and repeat their post. So, how can you be innovative without simply following what is trendy? Ron and Rose agreed with panelist Zoe Kanan when she spoke of trusting her instincts to follow those you admire. Use social media and cookbooks as a source of inspiration, but listen to “the mixing bowl in your mind” to create your own style and become who you’re meant to be as a pastry chef.
TRENDS VS. INNOVATION
Trends only last so long. Maybe a week, or a month, but they are fleeting and soon replaced by the next trend. Innovation is progression and evolution. It is something we should be striving for as a pastry community. Innovation is what will further the industry as a whole, ensuring that classic and modern pastry techniques are carried into the future. Innovation lasts—trends change.
About Samantha Daily
Samantha Daily is a current student in the Professional Pastry Program here at ICC! She grew up cooking and baking with her mom and sister and has always had a passion for it. She was in school studying equine science and management when she got the amazing opportunity to compete on MasterChef season 9, going on to place 4th in the competition and was blessed with an amazing scholarship from Gordon Ramsay. While in school, she is getting the most out of her experience by attending almost all of the demonstrations & events and working part time at fellow ICC alumna Christina Tosi’s Milk Bar.
This blog post was originally published by the International Culinary Center (ICC), founded as The French Culinary Institute (FCI). In 2020, ICE and ICC came together on one strong and dynamic national platform at ICE's campuses in New York City and Los Angeles. Explore your pastry education where the legacy lives on.