New Pasadena Culinary Academy Marks First Class Graduation

Published : Friday, October 26, 2018 | 5:46 AM

A recently opened culinary arts school in Pasadena marked the send-off of its first class by sharing a taste of the curriculum with the media on Thursday night.

The Institute of Culinary Education has been producing chefs and bakers for more than four decades in New York, but only opened its second school at the site of the former Le Cordon Bleu culinary school in Pasadena last March.

Its first crop of students have completed their coursework and are embarking on their externships at high-end restaurants throughout the area, President and Chief Executive Officer Rick Smilow said.

“We’ve always wanted to expand and take advantage of both the expertise we had amassed and the strength of the brand back East, and the Los Angeles area was always top of the list,” he said.

“The confluence of the culinary community that’s already here. The diversity, the energy, the size, and in terms of locations, when the opportunity to lease some of what was the Le Cordon Bleu space came along, that made it much, much easier,” Smilow said. “I’ve been out here a lot over the last year or two and it’s a fantastic city.”

Now that the baking and broiling is in full swing, the school is opened its doors to the media on Thursday to taste a bite-size sample of the student experience.

Guests tried their hand at churning and flavoring butter, shaping and scoring bread, infusing cocktails using a “smoking gun,” and crafting pasta from scratch with Chef-Instructor Mette Williams, former Executive Chef at the Culina Modern Italian in the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles and winner of Food Network’s “Chef Wanted with Anne Burrell.”

ICE offers three different degree programs, Smilow said. They include culinary arts, pastry and baking arts and restaurant and culinary management.

Programs range from six to 13 months in duration, according to the school.

“One of the purposeful and unique things we do is we schedule the classes so that the timing so that somebody could essentially double major,” Smilow said. Some student take Culinary Arts classes on mornings five days a week, as well as management courses three days a week in the afternoons.

The inaugural session went well, he said.

“Now that it’s October, the very first classes have gone off on their externships,” he said.

The students are now working in “very high-profile restaurants with talented chefs,” Smilow said. They include Spago, Major Domo, Jon & Vinny’s, Redbird, WP24, The Hearth and Hound and many others.

“In most cases, the people are being hired,” Smilow said. “They’re being paid their first few months to serve as the externship. And then, the expectation is they’ll stay on.”

Smilow said ICE’s new West Coast campus will be growing in the months and years to come.

Future plans include a hotel management program, recreations classes, and a program revolving around a health-oriented curriculum, “which would be very, very on-trend,” he said.

More information is available online at