The Institute of Culinary Education (ICE): Partnering with Action Against Hunger to Put the Freeze on Hunger

A Conversation with ICE’s Rick Smilow on Fighting Hunger through the Culinary Arts

By Melissa Furlong, ACF Communications Intern

Anybody who devours programs on the Food Network with as much relish as I do can appreciate my excitement as the elevator doors opened onto the multi-floored, 42,000 square foot facility of the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) in New York City. I was invited there to speak with ICE President, Mr. Rick Smilow, who serves on Action Against Hunger’s Advisory Council and generously supports the organization every year.

As a professional in the food arts field , Mr. Smilow stressed the importance of including hunger relief work in his and the school's philanthropic portfolio. It was under his leadership that ICE began its relationship with Action Against Hunger. Since 2000, the Institute of Culinary Education has served as the “Culinary Coordinator” offering planning and organizational support, and providing a course at Action Against Hunger’s signature fundraising event, the annual Benefit Gala. ICE has also supported ACF’s Restaurants Against Hunger Campaign

“Action Against Hunger actually saves lives”

Mr. Smilow spoke enthusiastically about ICE’s support for non-profits that include Action Against Hunger, City Harvest, Careers Through Culinary Arts Programs (C-CAP), and the Jewish Opportunities Program—not to mention the pro bono cooking classes offered to groups including at-risk high school students, women in temporary housing, and, retiring NYC fireman. When describing these various programs, Smilow leaned forward on the table with bright eyes smiling and hands waving expressively. He spoke with the rapid tenor of someone deeply committed to a worthy cause.

Of the many various organizations that Smilow supports, he believes Action Against Hunger is one of the most vital. “They’re all important and do good works, but Action Against Hunger is actually saving lives. How many organizations can say that?” Smilow is impressed by ACF’s operations and the way it is run. So impressed, that after five years as an active supporter he formally joined ACF’s Advisory Council in 2005

A Culinary Crossroads: Success & Expansion in Midtown

When Mr. Smilow took over at ICE in 1995, his previous culinary experience was at a less gastronomic level. This includes product management at Nabisco, and, creation of a line of mass-market pet snacks (the name of which he blushingly declined to mention). A marketing executive and entrepreneur by trade, Mr. Smilow took an interest in education and jumped at the chance to head the famous culinary school founded by Peter Kump: “I was in right place at the right time.” One of the oldest and most prestigious culinary schools in the country, the institute has grown exponentially under Smilow’s leadership. After steadily expanding its program offerings and outgrowing its former facility, ICE moved to its current location on 23rd Street in and is now distinguished as New York’s largest and most active culinary education center. The number of graduates trained each year in the professional program has more than tripled, from 200 to roughly 70. Diplomas are offered in three areas – Culinary Arts, Pastry and Baking Arts, and Culinary Management. The Institutes’ niche is adult career changers, age 21 to 35.

ICE also runs America’s largest recreational cooking program, which has grown from 10,000 to over 25,000 students per year Lastly, the school has a highly successful and popular private cooking party program which attracts companies and firms for team-building, and client entertaining and couples for milestione celebrations.The school’s expansive facility in the Flat Iron District is architecturally interesting, occupying five stories of pale pine floors, state of the art equipment, and bustling with students decked out in those iconic white coats and tall hats. Students have the opportunity to take part in externship programs at some of the best restaurants in America and frequently volunteer their skills to non-profit events (including ACF).

Fighting Hunger through the Culinary Arts

When we were ushered up the mural-lined stairs to one of the twelve modern kitchens for a photo opportunity, my head swam with visions of delectable morsels carefully crafted in the classes held there seven days and five nights a week. At the same time, I couldn’t forget the staggering number of people who suffer from malnutrition; recent estimates have put that number up over 920 million. Mr. Smilow’s efforts to connect his business in the culinary arts with organizations helping the hungry—both domestically and abroad—should be applauded.

For your long-standing, generous support of Action Against Hunger and our life-saving programs, we thank you, Mr. Smilow!

Melissa Furlong is a communications intern with Action Against Hunger. All this talk of food makes her miss the vegan grub back at the University of California, Santa Cruz.