Sunday, June 30, 2013

new kid on the block

By Student Blogger Leah.

Hey there! I wanted to sneak in an introduction before my next post that will be a collaboration between myself and the talented folks of the Publishing Department presenting my recent travels in China with Chef Cheng for my Food, Wine, and Agriculture (FWA) trip with CIA as part of the bachelor’s program. My job was to take photos and snap a bit of video to capture the wonders of China, and their job is to make my raw material into something cohesive. So, keep your eyes peeled because China is pretty stinkin’ inspiring and I can’t wait to share a bit of her wonder with you.

I’m always a bit awkward when it comes to introductions because I just want to skip right to the comfortable phase of sitting together with something cold to drink or tasty to eat, sharing stories and laughing. In my opinion, introductions and relationships are most fun in person but blogs can offer a unique and very 21st-century opportunity for community. I encourage you to post questions in the comments or suggest areas of CIA that you want to know more about and I’ll see what I can do.

So if we were together right now, I’d shake your hand, look you square in the eye, tell you my name is Leah and make sure I got your name right, and then these are a few of my words that might follow…

At CIA: 8th tern BPS student, Culinary Arts Management (Culinary Arts AOS, 2012)

Post graduation plans: cook

Food I drool over: pulled pork sandwich

Music to cook by: Dave Matthews Band station on Pandora or country radio

Memorable CIA Chefs: Chef Higgins, Chef Phillips, Chef Cheng, Chef McCue, Chef Roe, Chef Velie, Chef Barry, Chef Remolina

When I grow up, I want to be like: Gail Hobbs-Paige (farmer/cheese maker), Chris Capell (BBQ guru), Joel Salatin (farmer/author), Kristen Wiig (comedian/actress), Jason Story (chef/owner/charcuterie guru), Melissa Kelly (James Beard Winner Best Chef Northeast 2013), Wendell Barry (author/philospher/farmer), Alice Waters (chef/educator)

If I’m not cooking: eating, talking, reading, playing outside, watching movies, making lists

Foodie books: The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz, The Savoy Cocktail Book, On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee, Breads from the La Brea Bakery by Nancy Silverton, Moosewood Restaurant Classics

Blogs that I’m lovin’ on: Ideas in Food, King Arthur Flour Baking blog, Eater D.C., 1000 Awesome Things, 101 Cookbooks, The Quenelle, Dinner: A Love Story

Externed at: The Inn at Little Washington

Snack time: smoked almonds, apples/bananas/oranges, yogurt, bread with butter, pickles, an avocado on anything, cookies, a salad, ice cream, you get where I’m going with this...

Rad Restaurants (in my opinion): The Spotted Pig, Woody’s Ice Cream, Shake Shack, Federal Doughnut, Prune, McSorley’s, Ciro’s Pizza, Touch of Naples Pizzeria

To-Do Restaurants: Toki Underground, GBD Fried Chicken and Doughnuts, Good Stuff Eatery, Little Serow, Bar-Mini, PDT, Momofuku Ssam bar

Go-to Ice Cream flavor: cookies and cream

Guilty food pleasure: grocery store sushi

Most influential CIA class: Cuisines of the Americas with Chef Phillips (Associate’s), History of Asia with Dr. Deirdre Murphy (Bachelor’s)

Reason I chose CIA: the view

Inspired by: seasonal produce, a great beer, a good story, hugs, and my family

Friday, June 28, 2013

Basic and Classical Cakes at the CIA

By student blogger Morgan Phillips

I have been excited to take a cake class at the CIA since probably about six months before I even became an officially enrolled student. Bakeshop 5 - where all the cake magic happens - is the first bakeshop window you come to when taking an admissions tour, and they stack the gorgeous, fondant covered wedding cakes in the window just to tantalize everyone who passes.  In case you're just tuning in to this blog, you might be interested to know that I have a slight obsession with cake. Bakeshop 5 has been calling my name ever since I took my first tour at the CIA back in August 2012. Needless to say, I had this class very built up in my head.

Now the class is called Basic and Classical cakes, so no, we did not get to make those gorgeous, fondant covered wedding cakes in the window. This class is more like an extension of the baking fundamentals we learned in our first semester, with a focus on sponges, buttercreams, and specialty cakes throughout history. Now I love cake and I also happen to be a bit of a dork. Basic and Classical Cakes is where cake meets history and it was right up my alley. It is taught by Chef Schorner, who is credited with bringing crème brûleé to the United States and making it popular...yeah. Much more about him later!

On day one we learned what a Pithivier was and baked one right up:

Note: Those gorgeous gumpaste flowers were made by the post-externship cakes class...who also make the window wedding cakes.

A Pithivier is the original "King's Cake" and it is actually from France. They used to hide a little sword  inside of it for boys or a small chain necklace for girls and whoever found the prize was the 'king' or 'queen' for the day. Might sound reminiscent to you of the Kings Cake traditionally eaten in New Orleans during Mardi Gras, but instead of purple, yellow, and green frosting, this King's cake is puff pastry dough filled with almond frangipane (almond filling + pastry cream). It's delicious!

After that one we got a little more familiar:

Traditional carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, topped with walnuts and handmade marzipan carrots.

Fruit tarts with a cookie crust, frangipane filling, and individually designed patterns. On this day the class made five different types of tarts: caramel walnut, chocolate caramel with macadamia nuts, plum, apricot and apple.

Black Forest Cake- chocolate sponge filled with chocolate buttercream, brandied cherries and garnished with whipped cream, cherries and chocolate shavings. Did you know that the actual Black Forrest is a dense cherry forest on the border of Germany and France?

My classmate Katie with her Black Forrest Cake

Mocha layer cake- chocolate sponge filled with espresso buttercream, garnished with espresso flavored chocolate candies.

A traditional Charlotte Russe cake next to the Charlotte Modern. The Charlotte Modern is a ring of Jaconde Sponge (the patterned part) filled with Bavarian mousse, and more vanilla sponge, finished with strawberry and passion fruit flavored glazes. The traditional Charlotte Russe cake (surrounded by ladyfingers) was created by a famous french chef named Careme for a Russian princess named Charlotte. Careme - among other things - is largely recognized for popularizing the tradition of the wedding cake itself.

This class is a very good representation of what the baking and pastry program at the CIA is all about. Everyone sees the fancy cakes in the window and wants to immediately learn how to make them. What I find even more valuable than that is learning the basic skills we learned in this class, and things like where cake came from and what it meant to that culture. When I came on my first tour, we stood outside of Bakeshop 5 and our guide told us something that makes much more sense to me now: "Baking is a lot like jazz music. You have to learn all of the rules of note-reading and melody-hearing so you can break them all later, and make something even better." We learn about where our craft comes from so that we can take it to a whole new level later. Basic and Classical cakes is our first baking class after fundamentals and it sets the stage for the rest of our last semester here before externship. My high hopes were definitely met!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The CIA -- Different From Most Colleges and Universities

By CIA Student Blogger Amy Zarichnak

The Culinary Institute of America is not set up like other colleges and universities.  We do have semesters, but within those semesters are “blocks,” which are three week increments that classes can be split up into.  Not all of them are, but this is the measure of time that we refer to here.  As a new student, you will not immediately experience the block system, but it is the pulse that beats underneath the structure of the college.

For instance, as a new student, you will take a 15 week Culinary Fundamentals class.  Within that 15 week period, you will have two six-week periods that classes will be split up into.  You will take a 6 week Food Safety class, as well as culinary math.  Then you will take Gastronomy and nutrition the second six weeks. 

Then you go into a 3-week meat class that segues into a 3-week fish class.  During that six-week period, you will also take a management class and a writing class.  The management class is a six week class, but the writing class goes longer.  After the meat and fish classes, you go into a production kitchen.  “Production kitchen” means that you are cooking to feed other students in the school.  We don’t have a cafeteria like regular colleges.  We have “production kitchens,” which are classes, and you have homework and quizzes and a final.  But in those production kitchens, you will cook food for the student population and serve it to them.  That's how the students eat here -- it is all made by students for students.

It’s hectic.  It’s stressful.  It’s a lot of work.  But it is also very satisfying, and the sense of accomplishment is huge.  When you do something wrong, you don’t forget it, which aids in the learning process.  But when you do something right, your heart soars.  There is a mixture of doubt and self-confidence during this time that I wouldn’t trade for the world.  The fact is, that self-doubt makes you dig deep and work hard, and that confidence gained after you’ve accomplished something you weren’t sure you could carries you through those doubtful times.  The thing to remember is that this is a learning environment.  Ultimately, there is no right or wrong.  There’s only learning.  As long as you’re learning, you’re moving forward, becoming a stronger performer, and moving towards your goal of becoming a chef.

There is an externship requirement here, as well.  At the end of your second semester, you will leave school for four months and go to the externship of your choosing.  The choices are vast and impressive.  We have multiple career fairs at the school where some of the best restaurants in the world set up a booth to recruit YOU.  It is truly amazing.  Eleven Madison Park from NYC, Public from Chicago, and Jose Andres’ restaurant group are some amazing restaurants that are regularly represented at the career fairs.  You can go to Disney.  The sky is the limit at the Culinary Institute of America.  These restaurants are interested in the students here because they know what students are taught here.  CIA students are in demand in the culinary industry.  This school opens so many doors for its students.

I’m a Penn State graduate, with a bachelor’s degree in communications ('93).  I actually started my college career at the University of Pittsburgh, and also did a semester abroad at the University of Manchester.   I am so impressed by the Culinary Institute of America.  Because I have been to many schools, I am qualified to say that I have NEVER seen a school assist its students in the ways that the CIA does.  Chef instructors are so invested in their students and will do anything to help them succeed.  There are so many programs here to help students.  The tutoring center.  The writing center.  Psychological counseling is free.  There are some amazing clubs.  There are cooking competitions and events.  We have the most amazing guest speakers.  Paul Bocuse.  Thomas Keller.  Grant Achatz. The list goes on.

Come join us.  I know so many people here who absolutely love this school.  I am one of them!  

Friday, June 21, 2013

Art and Design Class at the Culinary Institute of America

By student blogger Morgan Phillips

The way the AOS Baking and Pastry curriculum is set up at the CIA, students spend the first six weeks of their second semester out of the bakeshop. For the first three weeks we're over on the culinary side of things in cafe savory. In that class we still got our hands on food, but we use much different techniques. The next move was to Art and Design and for three whole weeks, we hung up our toques, aprons and side towels completely and headed into the art studio.

Art and Design teaches us how to balance an artistic vision for a dessert with the practical limitations of design. Through different assigned projects, we studied the fundamentals of design: balance, color, line, texture, shape, space and form. Everyday when we would get to class, the front board (or as Professor Ostwald fondly refers to it, the 'refrigerator') would look something like this:

Day 1: Radiant image project
We would have a short lecture on what we were doing that day, and then he'd cut us loose to work. It was a really hands on class and we learned by doing, which definitely appealed to everyone. Also, note the perfect handwriting and how organized that front board is - This professor knew who he was dealing with. It's the little things that make our baker hearts go pitter patter! Here are a few examples of the projects that were assigned and my classmates' work:

Radiant Image
 This project was supposed to show movement and convey some sort of optical illusion using only lines.

Contrast Study: Tessellation

Airbrush logo 
 This was everyone's favorite project. We designed our own logo (most people used their initials and an object that represented them) and made a card stock stencil from it. We then mixed our own colors and used the airbrush to create prints. In the Baking and Pastry field we use the airbrush to add color to cakes, gumpaste flowers and fondant. Everyone was excited to be working in a medium that was somewhat familiar and very applicable to what we would learning later in the program.

Carlie, manning the airbrush

"Our refrigerator" after a very successful day

Impressionist sculpture
 Our lecture this day was a little art history lesson on art movements. The challenge was to create a clay sculpture that conveyed characteristics of a specific movement like art deco, cubist or post-modernist.

Chocolate casting of a handmade silicon mold
Another favorite: we molded a stamp out of oil based clay and then poured silicon around it to create a chocolate or sugar mold. The next day we made actual chocolate castings using our molds.

Final project: Create a themed dessert menu
The last project assigned in the class is to create a themed dessert menu featuring four desserts our of construction paper and rubber cement. The concept was key here, and the menu pictured above had a 'cakes and cocktails' theme with each drink paired with an individual dessert.

I'm torn on my feelings of being out of the bakeshop for six whole weeks. I really enjoyed both Cafe Savory and Art and Design, and I think I can speak for the majority of my class when I say they did too. I think both classes apply directly to the baking and pastry concentration and serve an integral part in rounding out our education. BUT my knife roll has been quite lonely hanging on the back of my chair for three weeks and I have been itching to get some flour back on my hands. I don't have an alternative suggestion of how to fit both of these classes into our schedule without spending some time away from the kitchen, so I feel like I can't complain. Instead, I'm just happy to be back in the kitchen this week with the start of Basic and Classical Cakes. More on that to come!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

If You Give A Baker A Recipe...

By CIA student blogger Morgan

...They will probably need a scale. They will probably measure out everything carefully to the gram into separate containers with a label and line them all up in the order they will be added. Even if that recipe is for chicken stock  and does not require any of this -at least that's how it went for my class in Cafe Savory.

There are definitely two distinct personalities when it comes to bakers and culinarians. In varying degrees and of course I can't speak for everyone, but when I first came to the CIA and met my baking class there was a lot of this:

          "Wait, you start a new page of notes when you have to scratch something out too?"
          "You can't get off the treadmill until all the numbers are even, either?"
          "The professor's messy handwriting is driving me insane."

It's why we're good and it's why we're crazy, but there's definitely something meticulous about  bakers. So you can imagine my lack of surprise when my class was given a chicken stock ratio on the second day of Cafe Savory and the scales came out. I myself spent lunch that day figuring out how many ounces of each ingredient I'd need for mirepoix that was 2 parts onion, 1 part celery and 1 part carrot. Silly bakers. Chef Skibitcky chopped away and made little (um, slightly uneven) piles of vegetables on his cutting board, shrugged and said ,"So, about that much," as we stared, wide eyed, and yearned for our precise bakeshop formulas.

Cafe Savory is the three week long Culinary Fundamentals class that all Baking and Pastry students at the CIA must take. It's a crash course on everything you need to know about the savory side of our profession and you produce everything from a perfectly clear consommé to a shallow poached salmon. The class is four hours a day, and we take it at the same time as College Writing and Intro to Management. In such a short period of time, it's hard to go very far in depth with exotic techniques and ingredients. For the most part we made comfort foods and items that you would see on a cafe menu.

We worked in teams of four and five to prepare a different menu each day. Chef would do demos as we went along or in class the day before. In the picture above is one of our first complete meals: pasta in a Parmesan cream sauce, candied red beets, rice pilaf, mushroom risotto and a perfectly hard boiled egg.

We called this our 'Hudson Valley' Salad. It was cherry tomatoes, blanched walnuts, blood orange segments and fuji apples over a bed of fresh microgreens and herbs. Oh, and that's Coach goat cheese peeking out from under those greens and it is basically the most delicious goat cheese I've ever had. Turns out the Coach family is not only talented when it comes to designing handbags.

Here's the same salad alongside sauteed chicken breast with a demi glace, rosemary garlic mashed potatoes and homemade German spaetzel. 

Overall, I think my class really enjoyed Cafe Savory. It was most definitely an exercise in letting go and trusting our instincts - which sometimes worked and sometimes not so much! By the end of the three weeks we were only using paper cups to measure and had all but mastered the art of "eye-balling". And even if we were all as giddy as kids on Christmas morning when breakfast day rolled around and we got to act like bakers again, it was nice to be challenged in a new way and get a small taste of cooking on the line. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Culinary Institute of America: Different from Regular Colleges

By CIA Student Blogger Amy Zarichnak

Deciding to go to culinary school, for me, produced a big question mark.  How would I be taught?  What were classes like?  What kind of homework do you do in culinary school?

I found out when I got here that the Culinary Institute of America is unlike any other school I’ve ever gone to.  I’m qualified to say that, as I graduated from Penn State in 1993 with a degree in communications (no need to do the math – I’m 41!).  I also attended the University of Pittsburgh for two-and-a-half years, and did a semester abroad at the University of Manchester in Manchester, England.  So, even with being well-traveled and well-educated, I was still so pleasantly surprised at how much the CIA offers its students.

First of all, we had 2 days of orientation at the beginning of our program here at the CIA.  That was utterly amazing.  They show you every aspect of the school and how it works.  You have little mini-seminars on everything from safety to proper uniform.  For me, it felt a little like spoon-feeding.  After all, I had been out in the work world for over 20 years and supporting myself.  I’m pretty sure I can wear a uniform correctly.

But the hand-holding was more than that.  I quickly realized that it wasn’t about spoon-feeding to the students, but that it came from a deeper place from the core of the school.  This school has heart, and depth, and the faculty and administration literally cares about every student who walks through the hallways here.  We are given every tool we need to succeed.  I have not yet encountered one chef  or professor here who doesn’t care about the students personally.  I can’t tell you how many chefs tell me that this is their ideal job, here at the CIA.  Chefs are happy to work here.  Students are happy to be learning here.  And the students are happy here. 

It’s culinary utopia!

I haven’t attended any other school that brings its alumni back constantly to speak at graduations, give presentations, or to honor their accomplishments.  Since I have been here, I have stood in the same room with Thomas Keller (twice!), Grant Achatz, Daniel Boulud, Paul Bocuse, Jerome Bocuse, and Jean-Georges Vongerichten.  There have been many others who have been brought back to speak at graduations, too, who you might run into as you walk down a hallway or out to your vehicle.  What other school do you know of that brings back some of their most successful alumni in an attempt to motivate students and lead by example? 

The other thing that I’ve found amazing about this school is the career fairs.  You don’t even have to step foot off campus to get in front of some of the best restaurants in the world.  Eleven Madison Park has been at both career fairs that have been on campus since I started.  Number five on the the World’s Fifty Best Restaurants list, they were the first restaurant in the United States on the list.  This is a big deal.  Prospective employees will flock to them.  But they come here to recruit.  THEY take the time to come HERE. 

The CIA is a major player in the food industry. Getting an education  here opens doors.  It is run a little like the military, and like the military, it’s effective.  Everything that you think you know about cooking will be challenged.  I have even had experiences here that have made me question who I am and strive to be better.  The CIA is not only giving me an education, but it’s also helping me with character – even at age 41.  

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Why the Culinary Institute of America?

By CIA Student Blogger Morgan

Hello to all of the CIA blog readers! I am new on the scene and figured that I would start my journey with you by explaining first how I came to be a baking and pastry student here at the Culinary Institute of America, and how I have never once looked back.

I am a "non-traditional" college student. Meaning that I am 23 and I have a previous Bachelor's Degree in Business Management. To some it may seem like going to culinary school now is a big change of direction in my life or a result of my boredom with the business world. In reality, culinary school has always been my Plan A. I went to a different college beforehand because that was what made sense for me to do first, but I pined for the pastry world and always knew I belonged there. I worked in cafes and bakeries over my summer breaks and decorated cakes on a cheap turntable in my dorm room. I even spent an entire year writing my senior thesis on chocolate and the fair trade cocoa industry. To be honest, I felt way more "non-traditional" in business school than I have ever felt at the CIA. The number one reason I came here is because I fit here.

(Side note: this picture is not an accurate depiction of the gender representation in your average B&P class. We're just too good for boys.)
This is my class of bakers who started at the CIA in January 2013. These girls are my kindred spirits and my sisters of the trade. Together, we come from three different countries, at least eight states, and span seven years of ages. That's a lot of walks of life, but we all have one important thing in common- FOOD. Particularly, sweet food. They understood and accepted me faster than any teammates I've had before. Having a time in your life when you can be completely submerged and surrounded by your industry (and competition!) is irreplaceable to me.

I'm guessing that you would find the same camaraderie and sense of belonging at most culinary schools if you're a chef at heart, so then, what sets the CIA apart from others from a logistical standpoint? For me, it was the networking opportunities and reputation of the school. I decided that if I was going to make the financial commitment to go to culinary school, I was going to write my check to a school that gave me the resources to do things like:

Shake Thomas Keller's hand.

Attend a career fair this jammed packed with companies I would like to work for, and who would love to hire a CIA grad.

Connect with local alumni and create extra-curricular workshops like the one my class did making this bunny cake with Derek Corsino

And of course, being in close proximity to this view from the Walk on the Hudson, doesn't hurt either!

What I came to quickly realize in my culinary school search was that they all come with a price tag. But if I learned one thing in college the first go-round, it was that eventually, even college ends. And unless you're like me and plan on high-tailing it right back into another higher learning institution, you have to get a job at some point. At the CIA I know that I will receive a top notch education, but best of all my future employers know that I will receive a top notch education. That kind of stamp of approval is priceless - especially in the food industry.

Those are just some of the many reasons why I chose to come to the CIA, and I find more to justify my decision every day. To follow me on my culinary journey be sure to check back at the blog often!