Saturday, August 31, 2013

Hostess with the Mostess

by student blogger Leah
photo credit: Tommy

Ask Tommy if sleeping on my couch with a single sheet and no air conditioning on a summer night makes me the hostess with the mostess, I am guessing he will say that it does not.

Ask Lyndsey if eating toast with the option of six different kinds of jam makes me the hostess with the mostess, I am guessing she will say that it does.

So the verdict is out whether I am the hostess with the mostess, but like with most informal titles---I honestly don’t care.

My friends who I grew up with came to visit last week and reminded me of all the reasons why I love this industry and this school as I shared some of my favorite places and took them to most of the important spots that I encounter on a daily basis. CIA attracts a lot of visitors and tourists on a daily basis but there is something particularly special about those people who love the students and put up with our crazy schedules in order to keep us in their lives.

Cooks have all sorts of negative reputations and connotations that go along with this profession. It’s not a fact, but I read recently that if you are willing to put up with the strange demands of this industry and of cooks, no one will ever love you harder. Especially if you come visit one of us at the CIA. I hope Lyndsey and Tommy would agree.

1st Stop: Roth hall tour

My tour of Roth Hall includes an absent minded stroll through the basement where I took Garde Manger, Meats, and Fish class. I’ll explain what each class was like if my guests are interested, otherwise we just chat while we amble through the underbelly of CIA. The upstairs kitchens are toured and explained because each kitchen offers a clear view of what the students are doing so that there are visual cues to match my oral descriptions. Farq Hall is admired before we make our grand exit onto Anton Plaza, which happens to be one of my favorite views on campus. It’s stunning.

2nd Stop: Kitchen Classrooms
If you’ve played your cards right then there is a chef that you particularly admire who also has a reasonable amount of fondness in return and will let you gawk at their students in the kitchen while they work. This is important because kitchens have a certain amount of energy that can only be experienced firsthand. If the chef is really top notch then they’ll answer all your guests’ questions and maybe even ask a few in return. As students, we have grown somewhat immune to the power of the toque. Visitors are often not immune to these mysterious powers and sometimes they totally dig the opportunity to speak with a chef. I can’t really blame them, chefs can be cool people or at the very least they are interesting to interact with when you can get them to stand still.

3rd Stop: Drink/eat at one of the campus restaurants

Luckily, there is no shortage of public eating options here at CIA. Caterina (restaurant or Al Forno), American Bounty (restaurant or lounge), Bocuse, or Apple Pie Bakery. If the student really loves you then they might just take you to Courtside Café, our fast-casual student dining option. Tommy and Lyndsey had the pleasure of partaking in Courtside because I could use my meal swipes there, so we didn’t have to shell out additional money for dinner. The menu consists of salads, burgers, chicken sandwiches, and a few specials. We drank hard ciders while we noshed on grilled chicken sandwiches with fig jam, cheese and salads. Courtside offers the kind of atmosphere where you can let your hair down and show off your guests to envying students, so we laughed too loud and shamelessly told embarrassing stories. We were the stars of the dining room.

4th Stop: Meet the family
This isn’t a physical place to visit, but rather a gentle reminder as you travel around campus. Be sure that your guests are constantly fawned over like the heroes that they are for loving you. Introduce them to your friends, the instructor getting a coffee, those students you met at a club meeting that one time, your professors, the dishwashers, staff members whose names you can’t remember, and anyone else willing to shake their hand. Hopefully, you have more graces than I do and you will be able to spark an interesting conversation that builds a bridge between your life and this food world with these two people. Or if you are like me, you will just introduce each person and stare at them both expectantly. I couldn’t stop apologizing for being so awkward, but I’ve mentioned before that I’m no good at introductions and I wasn’t kidding.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Bocuse Experience

by student blogger Kristin

Although there are many perks to being a CIA student, having award winning restaurants on campus is definitely one of them!

A few weeks ago, my family came up to Hyde Park to visit. It was my mother’s birthday and in order to celebrate we planned activities in the area that my mom would enjoy. We started the day eating lunch at the Hyde Park brewery up the road and then traveled across the street to tour the great FDR estate. My family and I always enjoy exploring places around this area, but I wanted to make this day extra special.

Coming from a household where I am the only foodie, I know that my family does not get to experience fine dining as often or as intensely as I do. I really wanted a way to wow my family while being able to show them a glimpse of the world I have entered into. There was only one answer: dinner at the new Bocuse restaurant on campus. After all, my family has been up to Hyde Park many times to visit, but we still had not been to a CIA restaurant.

We walked into Bocuse and were seated in the middle of the dining room, with a perfect view of the whole restaurant. My family and I took some time to take it all in: the large landscape window into the beautifully shining kitchen, the grand modern chandeliers protruding from the ceiling, the sleek chairs and tables occupied by other guests, and the larger than life wine cellar doubling as a wall for the restaurant.  Even the lamps are decorative, which are shaped as toques with the restaurant’s name sake, Chef Paul Bocuse, standing on top. The restaurant focuses on classic French food made in the eyes of modern techniques which could not be more apparent with the décor of the dining room.

 As we took in the splendor, our waiter introduced himself. One great aspect about CIA restaurants on campus is that everyone working in the restaurant is a student, including those preparing the meal. Although I had previously explained this to my family, it was great to see them interact with this student and ask him about his college life.

After being introduced, our waiter offered us a wine menu. We accepted graciously since we were celebrating a great occasion. Instead of the traditional 50 pound wine menu that can be found at other restaurants, a tablet was brought to our table. The wine list for the new Bocuse restaurant is conveniently compiled onto a tablet, giving the guest more attainable information about the wine. Each wine selection was listed with its producer, vintage, country, and most importantly, tasting notes to help pair the different selections with the meal. My mom and I were thrilled! Finally an interactive wines menu that could help us chose what to get in order to complement our meal.

The beverages and food were all ordered and the meal had officially begun. I have to admit I was becoming a little nervous at this point. I did not know how my family would react to fancy French food made with modern techniques. We are a “pizza every Friday” kind of family. As my nerves peaked, our amuse-bouche arrived. A delicate spoon held a cream puff filled with cheese foam lying on a bed of dehydrated basil powder and a fresh tomato gelee. As my family cautiously approached the tiny package of deliciousness in front of them, I watched each expression go from curiosity to amazement. They were sold. Many exclamations of “how did they do this?” and “I’ve never tasted anything so delicious!” were shared by smiling faces. Even though the meal was not even close to over, I could not have been happier to officially welcome my family to the world of a foodie.

The meal went on, now with my family ready and willing to try the possibilities that fine dining was going to bring to them.  We shared Mussel-Saffron Cream Soup, Warm Butter Poached Lobster, Seared Foie Gras and the night’s special escargot as an appetizer. The food was delicious of course and the presentation breath taking. My younger brother, who ordered and consumed Foie Gras for the first time in his life, was speechless except to say “Wow!”.  The enjoyment only continued when the Chicken Fricasee, Roasted Rack of Lamb, Pan- Seared Scallops, and Pan-Roasted Tenderloin of Beef hit the table.  We all enjoyed a bit of each dish and prepared ourselves for what I would like to consider the main event, dessert.

Being a baking and pastry student and a studying scientist, I was really eager to show my family the options on the dessert menu. We looked over the menu and of course decided to order the hand cranked, table-side, liquid nitrogen ice cream. We were served small desserts at the table including Cannele de Bordeaux, Green Tea Pound Cake with Blueberry Compote, Strawberry Soup, and fresh mint marshamallows while our waiter wheeled over the ice cream equipment. Using a hand cranked kitchen aid mixer, he mixed the anglaise ice cream base while pouring in steaming liquid nitrogen. In seconds what had just been a simple sweet sauce was instantly transformed into ice cream! It was the smoothest ice cream any of us had ever had, and it is something that we will never forget.

The monumental evening ended with a short tour of the kitchen in which all of the modern equipment was explained. I was even able to introduce my family to the chef teaching the class that had done such a great job preparing the meal. Although I could not say it to them then (they were cleaning), I want to say Thank you to the classes that helped make this night such a success!


My mom’s birthday dinner had turned out better than I could ever imagine. My whole family was extremely impressed and most important of all, my mom enjoyed herself. When I look back on this day, I will always remember that eating at Bocuse had helped me show my family the excitement and allure of the career and life I have chosen.

Pursuing Excellence

by student blogger Leah

It’s after midnight and I’m sitting her alone in Farquharson Hall. Well, I’m not totally alone because there is a gentleman vacuuming about 40 feet away from me who is probably wondering what I’m doing here. Should I tell him that I’m harmless and mostly sane? Or is that like telling someone that you’re smart, and then they instantly believe that you aren’t because you felt the need to tell them. I’ll let him be.

I just left the library where the president of my college gave a State of the Institute address. He started talking at 9:15 p.m. and just finished right after midnight. I have never given a near three hour presentation in my life and I sort of hope that I never do. So first, kudos to him.

For several months, I’ve been wanting to express my thoughts about being a piece in the massive machine that I call the Culinary Institute of America to somebody on some sort of grand platform. I am too ambitious to believe that my words shouldn’t be shared on grand platforms, even if they shouldn’t be. I think this is the grandest platform I’ve ever been on, and I don’t take my opportunity to share words with the internet under the CIA logo lightly. Just when I wasn’t looking for those words, they came to me tonight while I sat before Dr. Ryan. Isn’t that how the world works out? Just when you stop looking, you find exactly what you wanted.

Photos, videos, graphs, and charts documented the plans for CIA’s future. Photos included our smiling students from the Singapore campus spending time in the gardens of our California campus, or a video of the opening ceremony for our new restaurant in San Antonio. Dr. Ryan discussed the positive effects of the new Academic Delivery System for the Associate’s degree students as he interpreted several graphs. Finally, he listened as students expressed concerns over expansion, meal plans, and rising tuition. There were very uplifting and exciting moments coupled with painful admission that things aren’t right here.

The danger with pursuing excellence is that when you make mistakes or encounter flaws, they seem far more damaging because you every single fiber in your being is pushing for success. For example, when there is a gap in meal times and a student is hungry, it feels like the end of the world because we’re at a culinary school and for this kind of money, being hungry is simply unacceptable. The administration will never argue that you should go hungry, and the fact that they filled the two back rows of the auditorium tonight is testament to that. They are on our side. So we must work with them to find a solution because there are issues.

I chose the word “piece” for my role and “machine” for the role of CIA because that is an accurate representation of the relationship between students and the institute. I couldn’t bring myself to make a food pun about being an ingredient in a recipe because I’m not feelin’ quite that corny (maybe another day), but it is the same relationship. Machines are made of pieces and the pieces are essential to the machine’s function. Furthermore, as a piece in the machine I have this craving to know that my function matters.

Some people don’t like being pieces, or a part of something bigger than themselves, because they want to be the main event. And for those who fall into that category, stay out of kitchens and stay off this campus because you won’t like either. The CIA and professional kitchens share a sense of community that means tempering the bitterness of mistakes with the sweetness of shared success.

I could never make anyone understand all the corners and textures of my experience with CIA because that would be like trying to make someone understand why I love my sisters. Chances are, the heart of our relationship lies in the little moments that we didn’t even consciously recognize as being bonding points. I fell in love with CIA over a perfect plate of scrambled eggs and home fries for breakfast, or the resolve I felt from not walking away from a terrible situation, or the routine handshake from my mentor, or the shared joke from my managerial accounting class. Those are the memories we have to make for ourselves, and the ones that I cherish so dearly.

It’s an address like this that validates my place in this institution and recognizes my desire to be privy to the big picture. This school does not exist without students and the administration knows that, so they want us to be participate in discerning solutions to the problems here.

The Culinary Institute of America is a massive machine and I’m only a small piece. It is not perfect here but I still want to be part of this place because I don’t want to be standing alone when I meet success.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Day in the Life of a Pastry Student

by student blogger Morgan

I am currently at the tail end of my first year here at the CIA and about to head off on externship. For baking and pastry students, this means that I am automatically a PM schedule student and class time for the most part is between 2pm and 8:30pm. They like to keep you on your toes around here when it comes to changing up your schedule. Even though it seems like mine is pretty stable, I think it seems like every three weeks I have to get a whole new routine down. So you can get an idea of what it's like to be a settled-in student at the CIA, here's an example of what my average day looks like:

7:45am- My alarm goes off and (much to my roommate's dismay) I'll probably hit snooze at least once before actually hauling it out of bed.

8:00- The advantage of having to wear whites everywhere you go is being able to get ready in 5 seconds. Sure, I could don some business casual wear to Farq for breakfast, orrrr I could throw on whites, remove any early morning decision making, and still feel like I"m wearing pajamas. Tough call. By 8:15 I'm either sitting down to breakfast with some of my classmates, or headed into the gym for an early morning workout. I'm not going to pretend that the latter of those two happens super often, it really just depends what the rest of my schedule for the day looks like. As a PM student though I do like working out before class [if I'm going to] just because I'm usually drained by the time 9 pm rolls around.

9:00- After enjoying the best meal of the day and getting sufficiently caffeinated I'll come back to my room for a little bit before work. During this time I like to get any work done I have for this blog or my cake blog that I keep and just get ready for the day in general. I'm a lifeguard on campus, which means I basically get paid to read poolside 90% of the time. There are a fair amount of people who swim, but not during the week in the mornings when I have most of my shifts. This is pretty much my morning view:

10:00 - 1:00pm- I'm at the pool "working". Even when the pool is busy I still love this job. I like getting to meet the chefs and administrators who come in to swim, plus I swam competitively for nearly 17 years so I just feel comfortable at a pool. I definitely recommend this job to any prospective student with a certification! If no one is in the water I can read, study and do homework. Currently I'm reading Cooked by Michael Pollan and it's a great read on the history and cultures of cooking.

1:00-1:30- I rush home from work right at 1 to change back into whites and head up to class. I might try and grab a quick lunch at the high production kitchen, K16, or I'll just eat quickly in my room.

1:30-8:30- During this time you'll find me in the upstairs hallway of the Marriot Education Center (minus the blocks when I was taking Cafe Savory and Art and Design). Right now I'm in Bakeshop 6, which is where all of bread you'll eat on campus (including in the restaurants!) is baked. There's a morning class called Advanced Bread Baking that I"ll take when I return from extern and then mine which is Hearth Breads and Rolls.

We get an hour break for dinner around 5:30 or 6 in every class. Depending on which class and when you get out decides what I get to eat for dinner. If we get out closer to 5:30 I can go to one of the more specialized kitchens like Cuisines of Asia or the Mediterranean (Meds). If it's closer to six then I'm basically limited to the A La Carte kitchen or K16. All of our meals are cooked by culinary students in various stages of the program and we can eat either in Farquharson Hall (the big dining room in our main building, Roth Hall) or a smaller dining room by our kitchens downstairs inside of Roth.

8:30-10:30- This is the time I set aside for doing homework, applying for externships, scholarships, perusing school news etc. I used to have a lot of piping and other homework when I was in fundamentals, but not so much anymore. Now it's just a lot more studying and preparation for class than actual assignments.

9:15-10:15- On Tuesdays I go to a Yoga class at the rec center that I absolutely love. I'm not huge into yoga, so this one is perfect for me. The Tuesday class is just stretching out and a little Pilates. On Thursdays they have a more advanced class if you're a pro!

[taken from]

10:30-12- I relax - kick up my feet and watch Friends re-runs on Nick at Nite or spend some mindless time on Pinterest. Or both.

And there you have it, a day in the life of a pastry student. When you break it down into a routine it doesn't sound too exciting, but I promise that between 2:00-8:30, magic happens and it usually involves chocolate.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Day 2 of New Student Orientation

by student blogger Leah

As a institute that embraces innovation, the CIA is constantly changing. I like to believe that I’m an easy-going person and I surprise myself at school when I become frustrated over the relocation of a kitchen that serves meals. I grit my teeth at an office that does administrative work in a new building now and I need their signature, or any number of changes that are constantly evolving here at CIA.

Somehow, I feel less frustration at a diner who forgot to mention a severe garlic allergy and now their entire meal needs to be re-cooked…that sort of change I adjust to quickly. I can’t explain these things but I desperately wish that I could.

So one of the major changes that CIA has undergone while I have been here in three years is the complete reorganization of the AOS classes. We could argue which program is better or cooler or smarter. But the reality is, things have changed.

I know very little about the new AOS program, other than its intentions were to create a more balanced, well-rounded schedule for students that allowed material to be delivered over an extended period of time (not exactly sure what that time is…sorry) rather than the 3 week classes that were part of the old system. There are also new classes that were added to the curriculum that are focused on wellness, and I am so down with that. As cooks, we are tempted to invest all our energy in work or food. But I believe that our potential could skyrocket if we are well-oiled machines because we are only as good as the sum of our parts. With our bodies, minds, spirits, and brains taken care of--- we could be unstoppable. Some might even say, we could change the world.

There is a new orientation schedule that lasts about a week and on the second day, there is a new tradition that I witnessed on Tuesday as the creepy girl with the camera: the Toque-ing Ceremony. I am so happy I was there. Here’s what went down…

Chef Velie, Dean
• Your image=our image
-Respect the CIA name and wear it with pride

• “A cuisinier is judged worthy to wear La Toque Blanche only through his perfect workmanship.” –George Auguste Escoffier

History of CIA
started in 1946 to offer job training for returning WWII veterans
• Frances Roth
-Founder, contributions, history
• CIA was a project supported by FDR
• 50,000 graduates worldwide, the family is big
• We recognize military service
-students have military pins to indicate their branch of the service

History of the Uniform
• Explanation and significance of the uniform
- Double breasted jacket, side towels, aprons, toques
• Paul Bocuse
- Contributions, relevance, legacy
• Auguste Escoffier
- Contributions, relevance, legacy

Uniform Specifics
• Black shoes, nonslip, supportive, 1 inch back on your shoes
• Checked pants, hemmed, well fitting
• No key chains
• CIA issue 4 way apron
• Everything pressed and clean
• Leave toque, side towel, apron in the kitchen when you leave the kitchen
• Double breasted CIA issue jacket—one fold at wrists
-Protect your arms
-maintains your clean, professional image
• Neckerchief
• Toque sitting squarely on head
• Hair should never be touching your collar

Student’s Free Response: Reason for Coming to CIA
• love food
• the name
• learn more here than working in kitchen

• Students stand and place their toques on their heads
• Exit the ceremony and shake hands with the deans

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Individual Production Pastries at the CIA

by student blogger Morgan

This is one of those classes that is the reason why you want to go to pastry school. Sure, I loved Art and Design and Classical Cakes, but those classes are meant to teach you the foundations. The entire time you're enjoying it, but you're wanting to run with it. You're wanting to be creative; make decisions; sprinkle piles of luster dust over everything in sight. Individual Production Pastries (IPP) is the first time we get to post all the pictures that look like nothing you could ever teach yourself at home and hear all the ooohh's and ahhhh's from our family and friends. We got to garnish, build, flavor and perfect - and boy is it a transition.

As a class you make nearly 1200 pastries in one 6.5 hour day. You're on your feet the whole time, there's very little lecture, and everything is super intricate. For the first time, no one holds your hand. No one reminds you that something is burning in the oven. You're in a team of four and most of the decisions and responsibility is up to you. IPP is definitely the hardest class in our semester, but it was also my entire class' favorite. Get ready for some serious photographic yumminess.

IPP is taught by Chef Fritz, who is one of those chefs who you just automatically respect and admire. She manages to keep a strict environment in the classroom without having to yell or overbear, and I've never heard of any student not enjoying her class. Each day when we came in, we'd be assigned a dessert in teams of four and then spend all of class in production mode. At the end of the day we'd set up a display of everyone's desserts to practice our presentation skills and setting up dessert buffets.

For two weeks straight we made at least five different desserts every day as a class, plus learned and practiced chocolate work for garnishes. We did units on layered cakes, pate a choux products, verrines, petite fours and petite gateaux to name a few. IPP is busy, busy, but it is so much fun and you learn so much. Among other things, I learned that I am more or less incapable of speaking French without a really cheesy Pepe le Pew accent...

During the last week of this class you work together in your team of four to create a dessert buffet of four different items for presentation to the Deans, other chefs and students who will be taking this class shortly. It was one of the most challenging projects that I've ever been assigned, but my class really pulled together for it and created some awesome products. If you're interested in learning more about the individual desserts, head over to my separate blog Morgan Phillips Cakes where I go into a little more detail.

Although it may not appear to be a good picture at first glance, this next one is probably my favorite photo ever taken of my class all together. If I had to capture what you can expect to get from the CIA in one picture, this is it:

Sometimes (okay, a lot of times...) we may put the fun in dysFUNction, but we have come so far together. This process turns you into a family no matter what. Your class is your main competition, your future industry compadres, your best friends and next door neighbors all rolled into one. And I wouldn't change mine for anything!

During IPP is when Baking and Pastry students also take their 2nd term practical which is a serious skills test that must be passed before you can represent the CIA on your externship. Stay tuned for a recap of my experience soon!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Love at First Sight

Hello there!

My name is Kristin and I’m a current bachelor’s student in the coolest major I could ever dream of: Culinary Science. I have been at the Culinary Institute of America for over two years now, and completed my associate’s degree in Baking and Pastry Arts. I debated what to make this first post about, but decided it’s always good to start with the basics. This is the story of how I found myself in love with the Culinary Institute of America.
After finishing high school, I did what every graduate is “supposed” to do. I headed to the most prestigious college I could get my hands on in hopes of becoming the next big name in American business. This was the road that I was supposed to take, but my heart was not in it. I did not want to be just a business woman but wanted to do something artistic with my hands. After all, I always thought that if I am going to have my career for the rest of my life I might as well enjoy it. I tried to convince myself that I could earn a degree in business and then fight my way into the Culinary World, after all how hard could it be?
Needless to say, this plan failed. I was only 2 semesters through college when I realized that I was approaching the whole thing backwards and I was already looking for a way out. It was then that a suggestion from my high school art teacher came into mind. She had told me that with my love of art, my strength in math and science, and my natural curiosity in food, I should look into the Culinary Institute of America.
As I did my research, I found that the CIA had a little bit of everything I wanted. Of course it had the necessities that every parent wants to find at a good college: dorms, campus safety, etc. But the CIA was so much more. This college that revolved around food also had a student recreational center (where I later found, joined, and now captain the women’s volleyball team), student clubs and activities, and lecture series given by some of the world’s most renowned chefs. I was already falling in love with this school but tried not to get my hopes up too high for CIA had one more test to pass: the campus visit.
Being only two hours away, my mom and I were able to visit campus the next day. I stepped foot onto Anton Plaza covered in a light dusting of newly fallen snow and looked up into the grandiose face of Roth Hall. I had finally found my school. After seeing the rest of campus on tour, I was sold and immediately applied for the baking and pastry program.
Now, more than two years later, I am pursuing my Bachelor’s Degree as a member of the Culinary Institute’s very first Culinary Science major. I am still greatly involved with many clubs and activities on campus and live everyday feeling lucky to be here.
So, as the newest CIA student blogger I hope to bring you this:
-          An insight on all things that make the CIA the world’s premier culinary college and not just some ‘cooking school’
-          True happenings on campus
-          What it means to be a student (and a student athlete) at a school that is all about food
-          I hope to portray to you what it means to be a student at the CIA to a student who has learned (through hard work and some failures I admit) to do it all and get the most that CIA can give you.
Hope you enjoy!

Monday, August 19, 2013

zoom zoom zumba

By Student Blogger Leah

As a woman in the 21st century, I felt a responsibility to take part in this cardio meets booty shakin’ ritual. I don’t entirely know why, and don’t read into this desire as something feminist or sexist or genderist or anything –ist. It was just a desire simply rooted in figuring out what all the hype was about.

Zumba has been a buzzword in gyms and fitness clubs all across the country in the last couple years. I’m not quite sure when the craze started, nor do I frankly care. The history is unimportant to me at this point because I am consistently curious about what the masses find interesting, and zumba happened to catch my eye as a trend to investigate. I also happen to love dancing, so it was a natural attraction.

The student recreation center on campus offers a zumba class among so many other fitness classes that are held both in the afternoon and at night in order to accommodate the varying schedules. These classes are totally free for students. By free, I really mean it is included in your tuition. When I found out that my friend Matt was teaching a zumba class tonight, I had to go because a.) I’m a big fan of Matt’s and b.) It’s free.

I didn’t snap any photos, although I had my camera with me in the event that it might be appropriate. It was not appropriate because it was very personal. The dance studio was packed with leggings and sports bras, while we danced our hearts out. I know that I looked like a fool because I was watching myself in the mirror, but I didn’t have time or energy to care about what anyone else was doing which is a statement intended to give you courage to try out zumba. People aren't going to waste time watching you or judging you because they are too busy trying to keep track of their feet and arms.

The music was just the right amount of loud and the beat was the perfect tempo for jumping around and sweating through your shirt. If all trends are this much fun then I have a lot of investigating to do in the name of fun.

Guest Speaker: Sandor Katz

by student blogger Leah

photo credit:

It’s not often that I wish I had a mustache, but when I encounter one like this…I am reduced to pure jealousy.

As a kid, Sandor Katz loved those tangy pickles that were famous in his Jewish NYC neighborhood: Kosher Dills. When he moved to Tennessee, he started growing his own vegetables in a garden and overlooked one small detail….when the cabbage was ready to be picked, all of it would be ready to be picked. For those of us who have only ever produced 10 lbs of tomatoes or carrots or cabbage or whatever produce in an entire season from a small kitchen garden, this may not seem like such a bad thing. It would be hard to be sad at the stunningly fresh 10 lbs of cabbage he had, but he didn’t have 10 lbs. If I remember correctly from his lecture, he had over 30 lbs. And that’s simply too much to be happy about eating alone before it all rots. So he made sauerkraut.

That first batch of sauerkraut started a long, beautiful journey with fermented foods. He is now a published author with his latest book, The Art of Fermentation, occupying a permanent spot on my coffee table. Sandor Katz speaks his mind about subjects and topics that are important to him and run the gamut from sourdough starters to the importance of living in a community in rural Tennessee. Some people disagree with him and he has been called a rabble rouser, but there is something insightful, inspirational, and respectful about his demeanor that should not be dismissed.

Soy sauce, beer, bread, wine, and yogurt are all examples of fermented foods that we encounter on a daily basis and they offer an expansion into a whole new realm of health and flavor possibilities that are not accessible to fresh foods. There are health and wellness benefits from certain fermented foods and also an opportunity to participate in traditions as old as time. Some people credit increased immune function and digestive health to the mystical powers of fermented foods.

Fermentation also plays a rich role in history and tells an important story for many people. Ancient Egyptians and Romans demonstrate the use of fermentation for beverages (mead, wine, or beer) and the significance of those ferments is evident in their use during ceremonies. Pieces of pottery from thousands of years ago exhibit their role as fermentation vessels.

In addition to addressing the history of fermentation, Katz also addressed the safety of fermented foods that is a top concern in our hyper-hygienic climate. People fear the fact that fermentation can make you sick and create toxins. That is entirely true. BUT, in all of recorded Food Borne Illness in America there has NEVER been a case of illness from fermented vegetables. How bout them apples?

So what brings this fine gentleman to our neck of the woods? Well, every once in a while the CIA hosts different speakers as part of the Dooley Lecture Series held in our Danny Kaye theater. There doesn’t seem to be a strong pattern for who gets the pleasure of addressing a room full of white chef jacket-clad students but one thing is always the same. The speaker is always interesting and has something important to say, Sandor Katz was no exception.

photo credit: my basic cell phone

Fermentation is a magical process that transforms humble foods. It takes patience and practice, but the important part is to start experimenting. I could not be more thankful to that initial abundance of cabbage, because out of that abundance a fermented food guru was born.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

CIA Career Fair Insider Edition

By Student Blogger Leah

Few things feel are as sweet as the comfort of a job when you are unemployed and feeling uncertain. Or when you are pre-extern and need a site. Jobs provide a sense of security and fulfillment when we are able to contribute to a company knowing that our work matters.

It is clear that CIA understands the symbiotic relationship of the desire for a job from their students’ perspective, as well as the desire for employees from the employers’ perspective in the hospitality industry. As a student, I need a job and as an employer, you need an employee—its really beautiful sometimes the way the universe aligns.

So both students and employers come together to create a space where matches can be made and all the magic happens under the guise of a simple name: CIA Career Fair. It happens each season and is another one of those CIA gems that I love telling you about.

I remember one of the chefs at a career fair in the past asked me what the best meal was that I had recently eaten. I really loved that question because it was insightful into what I deem memorable and exciting, but it was also very personal. I appreciated the opportunity to share the memory of a special meal with him.

So for this summer’s career fair, I gathered insight and wisdom from employers to share with you…

The good news
• “We understand that you are nervous and in some cases this is a student’s first interview, so we are pretty forgiving when it comes to the interview.”
• “We don’t really pay a tremendous amount of attention to your resume.”
• “We are just as interested in finding employees as your are in finding a job. This is an important investment of our time and we believe that it’s worth our time and travel expenses to come here...don't get me started on what the executive chef said when I told him that I was leaving and taking his lead line cook to come to CIA and recruit! The airfare, hotel rooms, meals, etc...but it's all worth it.”

You got it right!
• “We really enjoy telling students about our company, so we love it when they ask us questions about our philosophy or history, and are also able to demonstrate some research they have already done about us.”
• “There was one young lady who handed me a neat stack of papers. She pulled it out of a professional looking leather case and a paper clip held together a business card, cover letter, and resume. I was so impressed. Look at how beautiful that is!” (as he points at her resume packet that stuck out from all the rest)
• “We have a really high opinion of the graduates here.”
• “Some of the students we have encountered today are so professional---their dress, handshake, eye contact, etc. They’ve got it.”
• “It is incredibly important for us seasonal employers (ski resorts, beach hotels, etc.) to understand when a student is looking for a job or an extern. So when they know their dates of availability right off the bat, it is very helpful and clearly establishes the basic fact of whether we can offer them a job and whether they would even be available, and then we can go from there.”

Areas to polish
• “Look professional. Iron your shirt, wear your best jacket, I cannot stress this enough. First impressions are important and we need to see that you care.”
• “Some students will be so focused on securing a particular spot that they will make a beeline for an employer and buzz right past the rest of us. Keep your options open even if you think you already know where you want to go, there are a lot of really great companies here and this is a valuable chance to make connections.”
• “Just relax. Even if you already have an extern site or a job lined up, it can be really beneficial to just talk to employers so that you aren’t so nervous and can practice your interviewing skills.”

General pearls of wisdom
• “Looking back on my career, one of the best things that happened was when I got fired. The company’s true colors came out in the process of letting me go and I came to realize that this job really wasn’t the right fit for me. It’s important to listen to your gut and stick to your guns.”
• “Don’t debate with your boss. Just listen. And stick with a job for at least 1-1 ½ years in order to gain credibility with them.”
• “Know what you’re looking for when you are searching for a job. Understand the lifestyle you want to lead, where you want to live, what you want to learn, what kinds of resources you want to be available…think about living at the beach, a ski resort, a large city vs. a small town, and if fine dining is important to you…Just figure out what you want and then make sure you find a place that will satisfy your desires.”
• “When you come to a career fair, I don’t mean to sound crass but you’re selling yourself. Your resume is a very personal piece of paper, don’t just give it out to anybody. Get all your ducks in a row and be at your best.”

Visit the CIA's website for more information about the Career Services Office.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Chopstick Test

by student blogger Leah

On my way to lunch, I walked past my old Cuisines of Asia kitchen where it happened to be one of my most memorable days of that class. It is important to Chef Cheng that everyone knows how to properly use chopsticks before leaving her class, so everyone must demonstrate their chopsticking prowess by passing her Chopstick Test.

The test is simple really. A small quantity of varied items must be transferred from one plate to another with chopsticks. You are also timed and will receive chidings from Chef if you are not within her designated window of time. I have not deciphered the magic of her discipline yet but it firmly corrects you and gives you hope. She induces a sense of guilt for not doing it right the first time but also demands that you understand your mistake. What you are left with is this insatiable desire to do it right henceforth and never disappoint her again. There is also an unspoken, mutual understanding that she believes you can do it right, and so you must. It’s magic, I tell ya.