International externships at ICE

Four ICE Classmates On Their International Externships

What it's like working in kitchens across Europe

ICE President Rick Smilow (center) and Chef-Instructor Stephen Chavez (left) with the ICE externs

Four classmates in the ICE Los Angeles Health-Supportive Culinary Arts program landed externships in four lauded kitchens around the globe.*

In many of ICE’s programs, after on-campus training ends, an industry externship is planned. These externships are completed around the United States, most frequently near our campuses in New York and Los Angeles. Externships overseas are much less common due to state regulations, particularly in New York. So, during a late 2021 visit to our ICE Los Angeles campus, I was pleased to learn that four students in the same Health-Supportive Culinary Arts class were heading off to international externships — with three of the four restaurants having a Michelin star!

The backgrounds of these four women students and the stories of how they found and chose their externships is both interesting and inspiring.

Pursue your culinary dreams at ICE.

Robin Erler

One-Michelin-Starred Cookies Cream, Berlin

Robin has a BBA in International Marketing from Baruch University, and has been a branding and non-profit marketing executive. As a student of ICE’s Health-Supportive Culinary Arts program, “I was immediately captivated by the story of Cookies Cream,” Robin says about planning her externship.

Robin Erler
Robin Erler

“[Cookies Cream first opened in 2007], when there were no recipes or rules for a vegetarian fine dining restaurant in Berlin. They collaborated with farmers, using old knowledge of ingredients with modern techniques. I was attracted to the team’s energy, the joy they find in what they do and the way they talk about it. Even from across the world, I knew these were my people,” she says.

This enthusiasm was reinforced by the restaurant’s Chef, Stephan Hentsschel. Prior to going to Germany, Robin asked Chef Stephan if she should learn, read or watch anything in particular. He gave the most freeing response: “Forget what you know and come with an open mind and heart.”

She did just that. And now one of Robin’s goals is to “collaborate with farmers, chefs and artists that have reverence for the earth, and believe that every interaction contains within it the possibility of deep connection.”

Olga Purlington

One-Michelin-Starred Cail Bruich, Glasgow, Scotland

Olga, a Michigan native and Michigan State University graduate, spent many years in the automotive industry, working for General Motors and Mercedes-Benz financial services. Notably, while working in the car world, she also made the time to train as a vegan raw food instructor.

Olga Purlington
Olga Purlington

Just as Robin had never been to Germany, Olga had never been to Scotland. “I had visited 74 countries and lived and studied in three,” Olga says. “I had never been to Scotland but heard wonderful stories about the history, nature, culture and people there. Learning [the] local food (organic in most cases) and experiencing new culture seemed like a perfect way for me to fulfill my externship.

Looking ahead, one of Olga’s long-term goals is to have a culinary consulting career, focusing on Health-Supportive Culinary Arts.

Catherine Rivadeneyra Bello

One-Michelin-Starred Dill, Reykjavik, Iceland

Catherine looked into many options in Europe. “When I decided to change my career from the social media world, one goal was to stage at Michelin-starred restaurants,” she says. “That led me to contact different restaurants in Europe and other countries.”

Catherine Rivadeneyra at Dill
Catherine Rivadeneyra (center-left) at Dill

One of them was Dill in Iceland, a country she fell in love with when she visited in 2021.

“One of the reasons I liked Dill was because of Chef Gunnar Karl Gíslason's ethos. He maintains the uniqueness of his dishes and flavors to his native land. I also like how he respects all the raw materials that come into the kitchen — they use everything, and everything is treated with the attention it deserves, which is extraordinary. My experience with Dill since I started reaching out to them was always positive. The sous chef David Málek was always helpful; his humanity helped me come here!”

Catherine’s short-term plan is to go to Northern England and work at L’Enclume for Chef Simon Rogan. Longer term, she would like to open her own restaurant, but knows that a broad and dedicated path of further training is needed before doing so.

“For me, it is important to set my target to determine the steps I need to take to get where I want to be,” she says.

Katherine Cuzma

Leo, Bogotá, Colombia

Katherine has a BS in Biochemistry from Northern Arizona University and has worked in the floral and restaurant businesses in Hawaii. When it came time for her ICE externship, she applied for a position at Leo because she was inspired by Chef Leonar Espinoza, recognized as one of the best women chefs in Latin America.

"I was very curious about her process of bringing local, indigenously venerable crops to the beautifully orchestrated fine dining experience," she says.

Katherine Cuzma
Katherine Cuzma

Katherine's goals are still in formation, but for sure, she is passionate about the health, social and cultural benefits of healthy food, and the negative impact that she feels industrialization and “big agriculture” have on those goals.

“Food is an outlet in which we have the capacity to heal our world in almost every sense, economically, environmentally and physically,” Katherine says. “It is a goal of mine to be a steward of world health, and that starts and ends with food.”

International Housing

One may wonder: Where does one live during a foreign externship? Olga is in a short-term rental apartment. Likewise, Catherine found a short-term rental apartment in Reykjavik, 10 minutes walking distance to the restaurant. Though Robin had never been to Germany, she found an Airbnb near Cookies Cream in Berlin.

Culinary School Takeaways

After finishing their on-campus time at ICE, we asked the students for thoughts on the school and the Health-Supportive Culinary Arts program.

“It’s hard to say if I learned more about myself or cooking at ICE,” Robin says. “What I can say is, every day, my classmates and I were invited to show up as our whole selves and take responsibility for the choices, values and actions that shape our lives. My Chef-Instructors helped me gain an understanding of how to prepare health-supportive cuisine, and, importantly, they showed me that every decision we make moves us toward or away from health.”

Catherine spoke highly of her Chef-Instructors, too. “I met amazing people who became friends and taught me a lot,” she says. “Chef Nichole taught me to be organized, clean and strong in the kitchen. Chef Missy taught me how to be gentle with myself and always treat people equally. Chef Stephen cared for each of us and taught me that you can always be kind and loving to others in this career no matter the pressure. Chef Cyril taught me how to be creative and believe in myself, which for me is essential.”

Iceland, Scotland, Colombia and Germany — one never knows where an ICE education will take you! These alumni are definitely on the way to finding their culinary voices. We wish them well and can’t wait to see what the future brings!

*These students are all a part of the Health-Supportive Culinary Arts program at The Institute of Culinary Education’s Los Angeles campus, which operates under the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education law in California. The equivalent agency in New York State is much less receptive to international externships.

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