By Ellen Fort, Culinary Arts Major in St. Helena, CA
Choosing a culinary school was easy for me, as there was really only one choice: The Culinary Institute of America. I wanted a degree that held weight in the culinary community, and to be part of the amazing network of successful chefs, restaurateurs and other industry leaders that the CIA had helped to create over the years. So after making that first easy decision I was faced with a slightly harder choice: which campus should I choose? Each location boasted incredible opportunities, skilled chef-instructors, great local dining scenes...but which was right for me?
My decision was made when I drove my red Ford Focus rental car up the driveway at the Greystone campus. Not only had I spent the past hour and a half driving through idyllic vineyards and mountain vistas to arrive there, I was awestruck by the great stone building in front of me. Greystone's history is long and rich, an integral part of Napa Valley's past as a winemaking region and I knew that I wanted to be part of it. All over campus fruit trees bloomed, flowers lined the walkways and students in toques waded through rows of terraced herbs, snipping fresh product for their classes.
As I toured the campus I learned more about the smaller learning environment, access to great chefs, the opportunities to learn about wine firsthand and what it was like to be part of the close-knit Napa community. Many students worked in wineries cooking for events or pouring wine in tasting rooms, which is an incredible way to learn more about the business and craft of making wines (not to mention getting paid for it). Greystone is also a venue for many amazing CIA-sponsored conferences and events, such as Worlds of Flavor and Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives. These events offer students the opportunity to work with famous chefs from all over the world, as they improve their skills as culinary students. Local industry stars are passionate about the Napa community, and can often be found giving lectures or demos on different techniques and issues on campus. Additionally, a strategic location in an agricultural area with a year-round growing season gives students great opportunities to learn more about sustainable farming practices and produce. During the student garden is able to supply the campus with a multitude of fresh produce and herbs.
And education aside, Greystone's campus is only an hour away from San Francisco's vibrant food scene, as well as a quick drive to the beach or the mountains.
Truly California delivers on the promise that it is the "Land of Food and Wine." My time here has been marked with one-of-a-kind experiences with well-respected chefs, wine-makers and my classmates, who have become my network for life. CIA Greystone was the right choice for my entrance into the world of food and wine, and I know I will find myself drawn back here many times in the years ahead.