Sunday, May 27, 2012

Tips for Externship-Searching Success!



It's the most talked-about topic of prospective and current CIA students alike. 

Today, I am going to talk a little about how to prepare for this undertaking that each Culinary Institute student must go through in order to obtain their degree. For prospective students, it will give them the opportunity to see what they should be thinking about before they reach campus. For current students that are currently searching for their externship sites, I will give you some resources and tips on how to ensure success. 

So what's the purpose of externship?
Most students go into extern thinking "Wait, WHAT? I have to work somewhere smack dab in the middle of my schooling for 18 weeks? How does that make any sense?"

Trust me though, the CIA is right.

Besides providing students the opportunity to hone their skills in a real-life professional kitchen, bakeshop, hotel, or catering facility, gives one the opportunity to see if they really do have passion for the industry, and allows students to earn valuable career contacts and resume boosting experience

Some things you should know before you start:
- Each student receives 21 weeks in which to complete their externship. 18 weeks are required, but they have anywhere within that 21 weeks to start and end their time at their site.

All Externship sites are CIA-approved. You can't do your 18 weeks just anywhere.

Each Spring, Summer, Winter, & Fall, the CIA hosts a huge career fair, where approved externship sites come looking for students. It gives them the chance to make a good impression without stepping off campus!

Have no fear. You are not alone when planning your journey into extern-land. We have a fully-staffed Career Services center, with drop-in counselors that can help you with your every need.

I'm going to break down the search process for you step by step.

*Prospective students, you can only go as far as making a wish-list and becoming familiar with sites in/around the area in which you want to extern. Once you get to campus, you'll be miles ahead of everyone else!

1. Make an Externship Wish List.
Where would you be comfortable living? Is housing manditory or are you willing to find an apartment? What type of establishment do you want to work in? Do you want it to be corporate or privately owned? How will you get to work? Just remember, don't limit yourself. Externship is not a binding contract, and it goes by quickly. If you've always wanted to go to California, extern is the time to do it!

2. Do your research.
This step is very important. Make sure your site is approved (see step 3), read restaurant reviews, check out Chef Bios, look at their menu, become very familiar with the company. This will help you out later on.

3.  Check out the E-Documents website.
If you are using campus internet, this site gives you all of the available approved externship sites and lets you search them by name or geographic location. My favorite part about E Documents is that it lets you read essays and surveys on each site that were written by students who completed their externship there. This is probably the most valuable and honest information you will get about the establishment, so BE SURE to check it out.

4. Spruce up your resume, and design a cover letter. 
You will send these to all of your prospective sites. The cover letter can have a generic second and third paragraph, detailing your strengths and experience, but the first paragraph can be changed according to the site you are applying to. I think that I sent out at least twenty cover letters during my search, and each one had a different first paragraph that described what I liked about that particular establishment. Have everything proofread by someone you trust!

5. Cross your fingers and hit Send. 
When you are ready to send out your resume and cover letter, do it either by mail or e-mail. Believe me, the majority of Chefs are ok with an e-mail, and will actually respond faster this way. Be sure to send them a small snippet of an e-mail letting them know your externship dates, and directing them to the resume and cover letter that you have attached to the e-mail. Give them correct phone #, e-mail address, dates and times that you are available if they want to contact you.

6. Career Fair, yes please!
If there is a career fair at school, for sure you should go. Even if it is to get more experience interviewing or improve your social skills with employers. It never hurts; plus you might walk away with a potential externship offer!

7. Be patient!
If you haven't heard from the Chef within a week of sending the e-mail, call the site and politely ask to speak with them. The life of a Chef is very busy, and chances are they did not mean to ignore your e-mail, it's probably just on their list of to-do's.

8. Stage.
If a Chef asks you to set up a time to stage (or work for a day at the restaurant), take the opportunity. Be sure to show up on time and dressed professionally. Be prepared to ask questions about salary, housing, meals, transportation, ect. In the end, work hard and pay attention. If you do not like the stage, I promise that you will not like spending 18 weeks externing there.

9. Lather, rinse, and repeat :)
...until you have a site! Trust me, it is frustrating and time-consuming, but if you put the work into it, you will have a great outcome. In the end, NEVER settle for less than the site you feel comfortable working in for 18 weeks. You want to have a meaningful experience that will increase your skills!


I hope that this breakdown helped just a little. In the future I will be sharing my externship story with you all so you can see how the process worked for me! Also, feel free to comment with your questions!

Stay hungry and curious,

Blayre :)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Big Changes to the CIA Bachelors Program!

Things are always changing here at the Culinary,

and the most recent changes have begun to take shape for future CIA Bachelors students!

Faculty and Administration has held many info sessions with current bachelors students to find out what they think would be positive changes and additions to the program as it is now. In my opinion, they have really listened, and students that plan on staying here to obtain their bachelors degree are in for a treat, and many options.

As a current bachelors student, I was in the first group of people that was allowed the complete freedom of choosing which classes I wanted to take, and when I wanted to take them. Students prior to myself were confined to a pre-set schedule. My experience allowed me to pick and choose the classes that best suited me, including more specialized electives. I was also able to take my Food, Wine & Agriculture trip abroad (read my post about this experience here).

During this time, the CIA Administration has been "cooking up" some new experiences that will enhance the current program. For example, what if students want to specialize their degree? What about more work-study or study abroad options? And with this new program, won't more students be interested, therefore requiring more housing?

Check, check, and check. They figured it all out :)

Along with the options I mentioned above, future Bachelors students will have the opportunity to focus their degree in a chosen course of study, as well as spend time in California reinforcing that choice. This gives them experience both mentally and physically, which heightens their learning experience.

The first chosen course of study that students can choose from is one in Advanced Wines and Beverages. Students can already take classes focused in Advanced Wines, Spirits & Mixology, and Beer. This degree will also allow students to take advanced Front of the House training, and travel to California for either their Junior or Senior year to take hands-on classes and work with some of the biggest names in the Wine and Beverage Industry.

The second chosen course of study focuses on Farm to Table cuisine. With the huge health craze and America's desire for healthier and sourced produce, this style of cooking and eating has become the next big thing in our industry. Students with an interest in Farm to Table cuisine will be able to obtain more hours in the kitchen as well as the classroom regarding this subject. They too will be able to visit California for a semester, working with Culinary Director Larry Forgione, other star chefs, and CIA faculty via live demonstrations, video feeds, and hands-on classes. They will also be demonstrating their skills in periodic "concert nights", where the community can witness what they have learned.

So, now that these fascinating new programs are about to be implemented, where will be housing all of the interested students?

The Townhouses, that's where!
After polling the student body, the Administration received a response suggesting that more "communal-stye" housing be created. With that, they immediately set to work in designing the new townhouses, the first of which is slated to open on June 6th. These coed dorms will house eight people to an "apartment", with a communal kitchen, living area, and bathroom, and then split them up for rooming purposes. Students are allowed to choose their house-mates, and there is already a stir going on around campus; students are excited for these changes!

As you can see, some super changes are being made here at the CIA. Maybe you can book a tour soon to see them for yourself!

Stay hungry and curious,

Blayre :)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The James Beard Awards 2012

It certainly was a star-studded night indeed...

and I got to be a part of it!

  Editor-in-chief Giulianna Galiano (right) and me outside of the red carpet

As a writer of La Papillote, I was invited to attend the 2012 James Beard Awards, which took place on Mat 7th at Lincoln Center in New York City.

The James Beard Awards take place each year to honor the top performers in three broad categories spanning the hospitality industry. The Book,  Design and Graphics, Journalism, and Broadcast Media Awards took place prior to this night, when the Restaurant and Chef Awards took place.

I was one of the privileged few to posses a Press Pass, which allowed me behind the scenes, along the red carpet, in the Press Room, into the ceremony and into the post-ceremony awards banquet. Phew, that's a lot of behind-the-scenes access!

Once I picked up my pass, I headed strait to the red carpet, where each of the nominees had a moment in the spotlight to get their pictures taken. I felt just like a member of the paparazzi as photographers and film crew members shouted to gain the attention of the nominees. The guest list that night was quite impressive, ranging from some of the rising-star chefs of today (NathanMyhrvold, Michael Anthony, Chris Hastings, Daniel Humm) and some industry greats (DanielBoulud, Wolfgang Puck, Thomas Keller, Grant Achatz, Charlie Trotter).

After snapping some pics, I headed inside to explore the three lobby levels outside of the Lincoln Center amphitheater. Chefs, mixologists, and sponsors were setting up their booths, running here and there prepping, pouring, adjusting and perfecting their products for that night’s festivities. Some of these chefs had been previously nominated or recipients of James Beard Awards. This year, they were there to present some of their finest dishes.  They shared the spotlight with big-name companies such as San Pellegrino and Acqua Panna, Campari, Urban Spoon, and All-Clad, who also had booths set up with samples of their products.

Alton Brown onstage
When I finished exploring, I swung by the press room for some James Beard-inspired drinks and a little caviar, and then took my seat in the balcony section of the theatre. The show was hosted by quirky and creative Food Network personality, Alton Brown. He was quite amusing and kept the entire program lively and humorous. 

The awards show itself was a mix of presentations, awards, video clips, and even a scene from a play inspired by James Beard himself. Awards were given out based on region. The “Best Chef” awards honored the most outstanding in areas such as the Mid Atlantic, Northeast, Pacific, Southwest, and other regions spanning the 50 states. Then there were the awards for Wine and Spirits, Pastry Chef, Restaurateur, Lifetime Achievement, and Humanitarian. There was also an American Classic section, which honored hometown restaurants that have been local favorites for many years. For a complete list of categories and winners, please click here.

Once the show was over, it was time for some food, fun, and celebrity schmoozing! Each booth that had prepared food was instructed to present something inspired by a James Beard recipe. Some of my favorites were things like craw fish-grilled cheese, crab meat reuben with caviar, New England-style clam chowder with cheesy foccacia, and “almond-joy” cake with chocolate ganache.
Chef Goldman and I

I have to say, besides the food, being in a room surrounded by a sea of famous Chefs, restaurateurs, and TV personalities was overwhelming and amazing. It was a little surreal bumping into Whitehouse Chef Sam Kaas, or witnessing a conversation between Chopped personalities Ted Allen and Marc Murphy. One of the highlights of my night was having a conversation with CIA Greystone graduate Duff Goldman (from the popular Food Network show Ace of Cakes)!

     We Got To Meet Chopped Host Ted Allen!

I was fortunate to have such a unique and special night behind the scenes at the James Beard Awards. Luckily, if you are a perspective CIA student, or a current one at that, you're in for some good news. All CIA students are given the opportunity to volunteer at the Awards each year, as well as purchase a ticket so that they too can enjoy the night's festivities. Stay tuned for next year, because if you attend, you are in for a real treat!

Stay hungry and curious,

Blayre :)

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Wine Master Doug Frost Visits the CIA

At the Culinary, we take our wine seriously.

As a student at the CIA, you are given the opportunity to become quite the expert on wine and spirits.
All students receive a three-week intensive wines course in the Associates Degree, which covers the growing, making, bottling, and selling of wine.For those who want a more in-depth look on the subject, the school offers an Advanced Wines class in the Bachelors program, as well as several other beverage classes including Beverage Management, Spirits & Mixology, and Brewed (the culture and brewing of beer).
The knowledge that we receive in these categories allows us to go out and conquer the beverage world! Many students graduate and move on with the intention of being specialists in Beverage Management, and end up selling wine, designing wine lists, and working with some of the top people in their field!
The students in the Wines and Advanced Wines classes got the opportunity to meet one of these industry greats on Wednesday, May 2nd.

Doug Frost is one of three people in the World to receive both a Master Sommelier and Master of Wine titles.

So, what exactly does that mean?
To break it down, those who choose to devote their lives to wine usually choose one of two organizations in which they will become certified through various examinations. The first is the Court of Master Sommeliers, which requires four levels of rigorous testing and tasting in order to become a Master Sommelier. The other route is the Institute of Masters of Wine, where you must first take the IMW’s Study Program (which is aimed at professionals in the wine industry), and then pass an extremely difficult examination.

Either route will produce an individual with an immense amount of knowledge about wine…so you can imagine how much knowledge and experience Mr. Frost has swimming around in that head of his!

Greek Wine is what brought him to the CIA on this particular day, and this is one of his many specialties. A room full of eager CIA students rushed around setting up eight glasses, and pouring various white and red wines that Mr. Frost had brought with him for us to taste and analyze.

After the wine was poured and everyone was seated, he encouraged us to taste and analyze the wines at our own pace, recording which ones we liked better and why, while he gave us a history lesson on Greek wine.

The entire lecture was high energy and chock full of interesting information on Greek grapes (some with too many letters for me to write in this post!), growing methods (did you know that they grow grapes literally on the ground in some areas of Greece?), and wine and food pairings.

All in all, the presence of Doug Frost was, at first, a scary thing, due to his titles and extensive knowledge. However, once he started teaching, every student in the room was put at ease…this guy is really awesome!


For more information about CIA’s wine classes for enthusiasts, click here.

If you are a prospective student and want to know about our wine education at the Culinary, click here.

stay hungry and curious,

Blayre :)