New York 101: Taxis to Toques

Published on: July 16, 2012

Filled Under: New York, North America, United States

Views: 1024

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School crossing
Photograph By: Michael Henry
Orange concentrate
Photograph By: Michael Henry
Too many cooks in the kitchen
Photograph By: Michael Henry
Professor Jacques Pépin performs
Photograph By: Michael Henry
Jacques Pépin - the hand is quicker than the eye
Photograph By: Michael Henry
Cooks hit the books
Photograph By: Michael Henry
L'arome de pain
Photograph By: Michael Henry
Let them bake cake
Photograph By: Michael Henry
The French Connection
Photograph By: Michael Henry
School supplies
Photograph By: Michael Henry
Amuse-bouche - big taste in a small bite
Photograph By: Michael Henry
Tableau vivant de Soho
Photograph By: Michael Henry

as previously published on

Every time I go to New York, the city teaches me something. When I made my inaugural foray to Manhattan in 1980, I shrugged off the driver’s surprised look as I clambered into the taxi. It was only after we were underway and I looked around that I realized that all the other passengers were sitting in the back seats.

A more recent sojourn to Gotham took me to school—literally. The International Culinary Center is an incubator and launch pad for up-and-coming gastronomic wizards. Its students are disciples of some of the world’s most accomplished chefs, including Jacques Pépin, Jacques Torres, Andre Soltner and Alain Sailhac. The Center’s restaurant, L’Ecole, is a showcase for the school’s emerging talent, offering haute cuisine extraordinaire at very palatable prices.

With the same naivety that put me in the front seat of that taxi thirty-two years ago, I arrived at the Center thinking a chef was just someone in the kitchen, cooking in a funny hat. As I toured the stainless steel-clad classrooms, noshed at L’ Ecole and watched Jacques Pépin’s masterful demonstration of “the basics”, I came to understand that a chef is, in fact, a very complex persona. A chef is a metallurgist who can pick the perfect pan, an artist who can transform a tomato skin into a rosebud, a surgeon who can debone and truss a chicken in five minutes flat, and a pragmatist who understands when it is expedient to microwave that not-quite-dried thyme. Most of all, I learned that a chef is the captain and commander of the culinary ship; the director who orchestrates a supporting cast of kitchen and wait staff to deliver the consummate epicurean performance.

I left the International Culinary Center with a new found appreciation for the cook in the kitchen with the funny hat.  I was sitting in the back seat of the taxi this time.


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One Comment on New York 101: Taxis to Toques

  1. Patsy Flora says:

    We enjoy your urbane and edgy reviews. So many of your locations are ones we have not considered before but will going forward. Keep on scouting the unusual…

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