From Students to Successful Entrepreneurs
Suppose you want to be in the food business – where to start? You can watch all episodes of Restaurant Impossible or Kitchen Nightmares. You can set up a pop-up lemonade stand in front of your home and hope it gets discovered by the New York Times. You can even jump into a part-time job at your favorite bistro and hope it leads to great opportunities. But for those with more serious ambitions, a great entry point is the School of Culinary Management at ICE.
Joining an energized class of like-minded individuals can help you gain knowledge and confidence, while refining your career plans. Just two years ago, I said goodbye to a group of graduates that were not only idealistic and energized, but helpful in motivating each other toward success. Today, many have already launched captivating food businesses.
Jim Nawn came to the class as a previous franchisee of Panera Bread. He was never one to work on the hands-on level or day-to-day tasks of a restaurant. Instead, he utilized his interests and the resources he was exposed to at ICE to open Agricola, a farm to table restaurant in Princeton, NJ.
It wasn’t an easy task working with an old building in a small town, but Jim relied on some of his ICE teachers as consultants and even employed a classmate as a manager. Today, his restaurant has received an excellent review from the New York Times and continues to be regularly featured in the local press.
On the sweet side of things, Christina Ha, from the same Culinary Management class, has become one of NYC's hottest macaron makers. In fact, she—together with her now husband—is one of the first local innovators to bring the now-omnipresent Parisian trend to NYC.
A Columbia University journalism grad, Christina started selling her macarons at festivals and street markets. As her growing sales aligned with the knowledge she gained at ICE, the couple made the jump to open the acclaimed Macaron Parlor on St Marks Place. Today, business is thriving and they are close to signing a lease for a second location.
Two other students in the same class couldn’t wait for graduation to open a business. Previous to their time at ICE, Lauren Feder had a career in marketing and sales for a major national media company and Jason Soloway worked in philanthropy for a large foundation. While still enrolled in the program, they met two local bar owners and the foursome decided to open Mother's Ruin, a hip bar with great food on Spring Street.
In the first two years, the business has proved very successful, and Jason—along with his two bar partners—is in construction on the soon to open "Wallflower", a bar with small French plates on West 12th Street. He also reports that he is always looking for new opportunities and credits his time at ICE with providing much of his basic knowledge and confidence.
A fifth noteworthy student from the same Culinary Management class is Mark Sy. Originally from Hong Kong, Mark wanted to open a restaurant based on his familiarity with Asian cuisine but make it healthy and fast. Mark used many of the contacts that he made at ICE to make this restaurant a reality. Notably, ICE instructors helped him with his menu and service flow, as well as basic business plan development. The result is Vien, a noodle bar to open tomorrow, Sept 10th, in the West Village.
Viên is a quick service restaurant that serves healthy and delicious Southeast Asian food. Sustainably designed to resemble a modern Southeast Asian kitchen, the food-focused on noodle salads and rice bowls that feature antibiotic-free and pasture-raised meats, as well as other wholesome ingredients. We look forward to the opening and to celebrating Mark's success in the months (and years) to come!
These five students, classmates turned entrepreneurs, are just a handful of the successful graduates who have passed through our classrooms. Their individual ambitions and encouragement of their other classmates are an excellent model for all our students—fostering an exceptional network for Culinary Management classes to come.