Ice sculpting may not be a requirement in order to become a chef, but Patrick Stewart, assistant professor of culinary arts and hospitality, strongly believes it has a purpose in his profession.
Nevertheless, Stewart recognizes that it's a unique skill few people have knowledge of. “You're not going to walk into a bar and say `I'm an ice carver,' and someone else says they are too,” he said. “It's not going to happen.”
Creating art from giant blocks of ice was a natural skill for Stewart to develop, who enjoyed sculpting in high school. When he learned ice sculpting was a part of the culinary world, Stewart was all in. He's been able to convey his passion at ECC during the ice carving classes that have students stepping out of the Culinary Arts Center in Building I and into the elements.
“Every wedding, every holiday, and even Mother's Day should have an ice carving,” he recommends. “It's going to make an impact as people are going to touch that carving. They'll remember it more than the food.”
Stewart is just as passionate inside the classroom as he teaches future generations of chefs. He does so with a great deal of patience and encouragement.
“It's like coaching a football team. You give 20 people a recipe and you'll get 20 different results,” he said.
His approach consistently earns respect from his students during their time at ECC and beyond. Stewart said that's what teaching is all about-getting it right in a laboratory setting by allowing students to learn from their successes and failures.
“If you don't burn it here and you don't know what it's like, you're going to burn it on the job and that's not good,” he said.
We caught up with Stewart and asked questions about himself and his work at ECC. Here are his answers.
What is your greatest accomplishment since you've been here?
Watching our students get great jobs and move up the ranks into some of the best kitchens.
What would you do if you were ECC president for a day?
Have a “Student Appreciation Day” with a big open party for the students in the ECC Cafeteria and Jobe Lounge. There will be amazing food for one day and night, and would be totally free for students.
If there was a movie about your life, who would you want to play you?
Robin Williams (RIP) or Steve Martin.
What's on your “bucket list?”
To visit Fairbanks Alaska and participate in the Multi Block Classic competition of the BP World Ice Art Championships.
What's one fact we should know about you?
I'll give you three: I have two antique cars, I love food, and I have an Identical twin brother.
Sometimes, I invite my brother and his wife to one of our events at Spartan Terrace, I'll put him in my chef's coat and send him into to kitchen to see if anyone can tell the difference. It's always a big hit!
What's something about your job that others should know?
I'm very proud to work and teach at this fine school. I couldn't have done it without the guidance of one of the best teaching mentors, Chef Jill Turro.
What would be your “theme song?”
“Oh Marie” by Louis Prima from the film “Big Night.” I love that song!
What was your first job out of school?
My first job out of culinary school was at the Metropolitan Club of Chicago as a sous chef on the 66th and 67th floor of the Sears (now Willis) Tower-as it was and should be called.
What quote best describes your philosophy?
“There is always a way to do it better … find it!” - Thomas A. Edison.
I asked a student whose recipe didn't come out, “Did Thomas Edison invent the light bulb on the first try?” I then told that student that cooking is a process and to be patient. It doesn't happen overnight.
As a chef, what is your favorite thing to make at home?
Reservations! After a long day or week at school, I want to go out and enjoy, experience and silently critique someone else's cuisine.
Complete this sentence: “I enjoy working at ECC because…”
I have the best job in the world, giving back all the knowledge I have been given from both my family and all the chefs I have worked for in my career.