Monday, September 30, 2013

Year 1: Pastry School

by student blogger Morgan

I'm sitting in the kitchen of the house I'm staying in during my externship enjoying a big beautiful homemade bowl of chili and a hunk of buttermilk cornbread - loving life, in case that wasn't clear. Things are going great so far and it has gotten me thinking back on my first year of pastry school, and how I can't believe that in one short year from this moment I'll have graduated. One of the hardest things for me to grasp as a prospective student (and during orientation) was what my schedule was going to look like and what my classes were going to look like. I thought we could take a brief trip down memory lane and recap my first year at the CIA to break our complicated schedule down in a clear way.

**This is my pastry prospective, but if you're planning on doing the culinary side, your schedule will be the same, just insert culinary wherever it says pastry**

First Semester: (15 weeks)
  • Baking and Pastry Techniques (15 weeks)
  • Baking Ingredients and Equipment Tech (10 weeks)
  • Freshman Seminar (12 weeks) 
  • Food Safety (6 weeks)
  • Culinary Math (6 weeks)
  • Nutrition (6 weeks)
  • Intro to Gastronomy (6 weeks)

Baking and Pastry Techniques, fondly referred to as "fundies" (for fundamentals), lasts your entire first semester and is two days a week from 2:00pm-8:30pm. In this class I met my wonderful classmates for the first time, took my first skills tests and set the tone for the rest of my year. Fundies is meant to be the basic level, but we worked our behinds off making our basic level perfect. There was a lot of reading, a lot of studying and a lot of demonstration/note taking. We worked as partners through each of the mixing methods, baking principals and decorating techniques of pastry before finishing the class with three weeks of production rotations. Rotations were definitely the toughest part of the class and the first time in the program where the pace was cranked up and my class functioned like a little bakery. At the end of the day our tables were filled with sweets:

On the other two days of my week (That's right, no usual class on Monday during your first semester. Only the occasional Special Projects Day or make up Friday holiday) I was in my academic courses. One was product knowledge class once a week which is called Baking Ingredients and Equipment Tech (BIET= Buy-it) for pastry students. It lasted almost my entire semester and it was one of my favorite classes. There was also a lot of reading and studying involved but that was the general first semester theme. I learned so much about distinguishing ingredients and the science behind baking in BIET. Plus almost every day we got a tray filled with things to taste or got to do a fun experiment.

Freshman seminar lasted almost the entire semester and was just an intro lecture class to the CIA and what kind of opportunities you have available to you as a student. The structure of the class varies depending on which instructor you have but they are all only once a week. My next four classes were split up into pairs and I took two the first half of my semester and two the second. These are the classes that you may be able to transfer credit for and place out of if you've done a culinary program in high school or taken college classes before. First up was Food Safety and Math, followed by Gastronomy and Nutrition. All four are two days a week, in the morning. My gastronomy class was hands down one of the most interesting college classes I have ever taken and I think that was mostly because my professor, Maureen Costura, completely rocked. Look forward to that one! For more pictures of the food from first semester, check out my other blog here.

Second Semester: 5 Three-week classes (15 weeks) + 2 academic
  • Cafe Savory (3 weeks)
  • Art and Design (3 weeks)
  • Basic and Classical Cakes (3 weeks)
  • Individual Production Pastries (3 weeks)
  • Hearth Breads and Rolls (3 weeks)
  • College Writing (12 weeks)
  • Intro to Business Management (6 weeks)
Second semester was a lot easier to wrap my head around and get into a routine. For the most part, my classes were Monday through Friday 2:00pm-8:30pm. For the first six weeks you'll have two extra classes two days a week, Writing and Mangement. These two functioned similarly schedule-wise to my academic classes from first semester. One class was Tuesday/Wednesday and the other was Thursday/Friday in the morning, then I went to my long class after lunch at 2. It sounds like a really long day, but I really got used to it quickly. 

The production classes of second semester were where I really started to learn and expand my depth as a chef. In cafe savory we got to look in to the other side of the kitchen and practice knife cuts, soups and stocks, and basic comfort foods. 

Next we moved into the studio for Art and Design and went a little airbrush crazy...we worked on projects like designing our own logos, hand making silicon molds for chocolate and creating a feature dessert menu.

And then came the long-awaited return to the bakeshop for Basic and Classical cakes with Chef Schorner. We strapped back on our aprons and worked in partners again baking and decorating our way through cakes that have stood the test of time like the Black Forrest cake and a Charlotte Russe. You think you can't enjoy a class more than cakes class, but then you go to IPP (Individual Production Pastries) and make these:

IPP was my favorite class for many reasons, but most of all because I learned the most technique in that class. It was so fast paced and jam packed with complicated desserts that tasted SO good. We worked in teams of four and had units on five types of individual French pastry: layered cakes, petite gateaux, petite fours, verrines, tarts and pate a choux. The class ended with a two-day dessert buffet project in which every team was assigned four desserts to mass produce and present like so:

We also took our second term practical during IPP that took up the last three days of the course. Being on the other side of it now, the practical is a lot more stressful in the moment than it really needs to be because everyone gets so worked up. It is timed -which causes the most stress- but other than that it is nothing you haven't done before and nothing that you can't pass if you do your best. My best advice is to stay calm, plan a LOT in advance, and trust your instincts.

Breads was our last stop before my class all moved out and went our separate ways for externship. Compared to IPP, this class is relaxing and an easy-going pace. I had never baked bread commercially before so it was a complete learning experience for me and a tasty one at that. I can't complain about a class that provided me with a warm-out-of-the-oven homemade danish to eat every single day...

And that's a wrap on year one! Time flies when you're having a blast, and pastry school really can't get any better in my opinion. More details to come on my externship experience very soon!

Avventure Italiane! (Italian Adventures)

by blogger Kristin

For the past two semester at The Culinary Institute of America I have been taking Italian as my language requirement and I have been loving every second of it. I have learned about Italian language, culture, and most importantly food. My professor, Professoressa Piemontese, is a native Italian and could not be a better instructor. Her passion and love for her country inspire and excite her students to gain as much knowledge about Italy as possible. The only thing Professoressa couldn’t do was fly us all out to Italy. She did not let this stop her teaching style however, and found mini Italian field trips we could take as a class in the area.

I have been living in the Poughkeepsie and Hyde Park area for 3 years now and never thought of it as a place rich in Italian culture. It turns out, however, I must have been looking in the wrong places all these years, or simply was not paying attention. For our Italian 2 class, we were able to get together as a class and take two “field trips” with Professoressa. The first took us to a genuine Italian center deep in the scenic woods of hyde park. The second adventure brought us to a family owned sandwich shop in Poughkeepsie. Both experiences were eye-opening, totally unexpected, and authentically Italian.

Our first trip was to Mariapolis Luminosa Italian Religious Center in the heart of Hyde Park. The center is set way back in the woods and is a bit of a hike to find. However, once we safely arrived, the drive was well worth it. The grounds are pristine and the feeling of being removed from the hustle and bustle of society was very relaxing. When we arrived, Professoressa had just returned from a nature walk on one of the center’s walking paths and proceeded to show us the main building. This building was beautifully new with one wall of glass windows that allowed the sun the shine freely into the main seating area.

Photo courtesy of:

We continued into the commercial kitchen, large enough to feed the guests that could fit into their main seating rooms. It was interesting to see a kitchen large enough to make food in that volume. As we got a tour of the kitchen, we also got a review of Italian vocabulary. Professoressa explained to us the words and pronunciations of each tool in the kitchen. It was very helpful to be able to see the item and hear its name all at once.

After we were done with the main tour, we met some of the people who work and stay at the center. They warmly welcomed us and spoke to us only in Italian, something that none of us expected. Although we have been studying Italian for the past five months or so, it is a totally different experience when you are out in the real world and someone starts speaking it to you. Admittedly, we all froze up and could not respond to anything in Italian for a while. Once we all stepped out of our comfort zone (and with A LOT of help from Professoressa) we all began to speak to the women from Italy. There is no better practice to learning a language than speaking it to native speakers, no matter how intimidating it may be. We all left the grounds feeling accomplished and more Italian.

A few weeks later, the class decided to meet up for another Italian experience. This time, we were headed to what we lovingly call Rossi’s, a small family owned sandwich shop in Poughkeepsie. As is obvious from the name, Rossi and Son's specializes in authentic Italian cuisine. Although I had been to Rossi’s once before this field trip, it was not until visiting the shop with Professoressa that I realized how authentic it is.

Picture courtesy of
The building is on a corner of a residential road in Poughkeepsie, and if it weren’t for the signs and the tables outside, you may never know it was a sandwich shop. The first thing you notice upon walking in is the long glass case filled with homemade cheeses and cured meats. At the end of this counter, all the way in the back of the store, is the ordering counter, where you have endless options of delicious sandwiches and sides. Throughout the rest of the shop are snacks and drinks that are all authentic of Italy.

As we were waiting in line and taking in all the splendor of the shop, Professoressa was explaining the process of making all the cheese and meat. She also explained to us how the same products would be made in her part of Italy. As each of us approached the ordering counter, she helped us place the orders for our sandwiches in Italian. At first, I thought that this would be a crazy idea. The people that were working behind the counter at Rossi’s were not too much older than me and I thought there was no way that they would speak fluent Italian. However, I was very wrong and very impressed. This family must have grown up speaking Italian,.

Photo courtesy of

We all enjoyed our goods on the patio outside the restaurant and reviewed some vocabulary terms from class. The food was beyond delicious and it was very obviously fresh. I have already been back twice since this visit! The day was beautiful and we all enjoyed the opportunity to learn in a different environment.

I think it is so important when learning about a culture to experience it firsthand. Having a chance to experience these bits of Italian culture while at The Culinary Institute of America was totally unexpected but rewarding. I will never forget these Italian adventures we took together and am very grateful for the innovative teaching style of Professoressa Piemontese.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

What's Cooler Than Being Cool?

by student blogger Kristin

Super Chilled Water Experiment  

All throughout this semester, I have not had Culinary Science lab classes on Thursdays. This means every Thursday afternoon I am off and free to do whatever I want. What do I do with this free time you may ask? Well, more science of course!
Today my partner Jovany and I conducted an extracurricular experiment on super chilling both water and soda. We have both seen videos and done research on the topic but wanted to make it happen ourselves. Basically, super chilling is the phenomenon of bringing water below freezing temperatures without turning to ice. When a bottle of liquid is left unopened in the freezer for a long time undisturbed, the substance will remain liquid. Take it out of the freezer and add any type of nucleation site, however, and the liquid will turn to ice.

********CAUTION: SCIENCE AHEAD********
Water’s ability to form ice is directly related to the concept of hydrogen bonding. This is the bond shared between two molecules of water at any given time. When water molecules are moving faster, the molecules are able to slip past each other and remain in the liquid phase. When temperatures drop, water molecules begin to move more slowly. The lack of speed allows each water molecule to bond with potentially four other water molecules in a rigid crystalline structure. This structure of water is more commonly known as ice.

Photo courtesy of

Water molecules will not form crystals solely based on low temperatures however. The formation of the crystalline structure is dependent upon the existence of a nucleation site. The nucleation site could be anything from a small impurity in the container to a gas bubble suspended in the water. As slower moving water molecules interact with this site, they begin to form ice crystals. These crystals get in the way of and bond with other water molecules and the phase change from liquid to solid has begun. The water molecules arrange themselves in a crystalline pattern forming a solid that is actually less dense than liquid water.

Think of this phenomenon as an oyster and pearl. When undisturbed, an oyster will go on living its life without producing pearls. Add a grain of sand to the pearl, however, and everything changes. The sand agitates the oyster which then begins forming a barrier around the foreign object. This barrier grows larger over time until the pearl is formed. The seemingly small impurity of a grain of sand is responsible for the total formation of the pearl.
When a liquid is contained within its original bottle, there are no nucleation sites for the ice crystals to start forming. The plastic of the bottle is too smooth and without being agitated, the slowing water molecules will have a hard time crystallizing. Therefore when everything falls into place, water can dip below its freezing point without turning into ice. Once you take this water out of the freezer and agitate it, the water molecules will not be able to avoid each other and will almost instantly form into ice crystals. This property of water can be manipulated many ways to help depict the concept of super chilling. 

This process is easier said than done, however; A concept that my partner and I experienced on this first attempt for our super chilling liquid experiment.
Prep: Water and Soda into Freezer
In order to properly conduct this experiment, it is first necessary to allow the liquid to sit in the freezer for a few hours. This gives the liquid time to reach below freezing temperatures. My partner placed five bottles of both water and soda into the freezer in the morning about 2 or 3 hours before we intended on conducting the experiment that afternoon.

Experiment # 1: Pouring Water
One way to present the idea of super chilling is to pour super chilled water into a glass. As the water molecules hit the bottom of the glass, they will start aligning themselves in the crystalline structure and instantly turn to ice. The water will actually continue to stack higher on itself, leaving you with a tower of instant ice. When done correctly, this is a mind blowing visual.

Since this was our first time running this experiment, we did not achieve quite the same ground breaking results. However, we did see some change in our water! As we poured the water out into a beaker, the water hitting the container remained liquid but the liquid inside the bottle became icy and slushy. Every time we tried to replicate the experiment we got this same result. After discussing the unforeseen result with my partner, we decided that the speed at which I was pouring was too fast, creating turbulence within the bottle and therefore ice crystals.

Next time, we decided we will try pouring slower and onto some sort of nucleation site such as an already formed ice crystal.

Experiment #2: Smashing Water
Another more reliable way to show the properties of super chilled water is by simply taking an unopened bottle out of the freezer and instantly hitting it against a hard surface. Because the water molecules cannot escape each other, they will form hydrogen bonds with one another and instantly start forming ice crystals. This is my personal favorite because you can watch the ice “crawl” from one end of the bottle to the other! It is also a very cool party trick!

Because pouring out the water was not quite working, this was our next step. My partner and I took out a bottle of water from the freezer and as he recorded it, I smashed the bottle down on the table. Within seconds, we could see ice forming from the top of the bottle quickly growing down towards the bottom. Shortly, the bottle was filled with ice and we had run our first successful super chilling water experiment!

While we are working on getting better footage and results in the future, here is the video of this first bit of success!

Experiment #3: Pouring Soda
While we were designing the experiment for super chilled water, Jovany found a video on super chilling soda. The experiments were all pretty much the same as the water, but the color difference created a really cool visual. We were especially interested in the effect the carbon dioxide dissolved in the soda solution would have on the experiment. So, we of course decided to try it!

We had high hopes for this experiment but the results were not too far off from that of pouring water. As we poured the liquid out of the bottle, the agitation from pouring and the additional turbulence caused by the carbon dioxide caused the soda to become slushy. The liquid hitting the bottom of the beaker experienced a bit more change than the water however. As the soda hit the bottom of the glass, it changed to slush and formed a slushy raft on top of the soda.

After somewhat failing at this experiment, we did some more research and discovered some more reliable ways to conduct the super chilling experiment with soda. I am excited to see the outcomes of these future experiments!

Experiment #4: Smashing Soda
Although this experiment was conducted the same way as the smashing water, the results were much different. Instead of forming a single block of ice like the water bottle did, the soda formed small ice pieces that caused the bottle to look like a slushy. The Carbon Dioxide bubbles coming out of solution helped to form ice crystals in the soda but also could have formed barriers to keep these bits of ice crystals from reacting with one another. The good news is that it still looked awesome and science still happened!

Now that my partner and I have some better ideas on how to properly manipulate super chilled water, we are working on perfecting this experiment to get the correct results. I will keep you posted on any of our findings!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


by student blogger Leah

I had a desperate, gripping sensation while I walked around campus today. Its akin to the feeling you get when you are with someone who makes you happy in a way that is simultaneously hopeful and tragic because their current presence makes you feel invincible but the possibility of their absence makes your heart hurt in a way that manifests itself as physical pain.

Do you know that feeling? I hope that everyone gets a chance to experience it at least once because it somehow manages to occupy both ends of a spectrum and feels slightly superhuman until it feels exhausting.

CIA's campus makes me feel that way because I'm graduating in just under 4 months and I will no longer haunt these grounds. I will no longer have access to the library with its squeaky leather couches and comforting fireplace in the winter. I will no longer be able to sample chocolate banana tarts, chocolate creme brulee, and blueberry pie all in one week night dinner (I said I was feeling desperate today). I will no longer have access to a collection of food masterminds who are maybe a bit difficult to deal with at times but invaluable when it comes to food questions--I'm looking at you, chefs. I will no longer casually run into my friends at dinner or in the hallway or in the grocery store. I will no longer swipe a card for a meal and interact with a human being who is sharing my path of culinary education. I will no longer talk to people at parties about wine lists, James Beard awards, or that one time in Cuisines of Asia...

This day and these moments are all that I'm really sure of and all that I really have, so I know that I have to appreciate them and not worry about the future. What I'm aiming for is to strike a balance between being aware of the fleeting nature of my time here at CIA while also appreciating every corner of my current situation. Its not easy and today, I am overwhelmed at the thought of leaving but I will keep trying to marry awareness and appreciation.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

local restaurant by CIA grad

by student blogger Leah

My friend and classmate encouraged me to have a cocktail at the restaurant where she was working over the weekend during the awkward in-between time on Sunday before dinner starts but brunch had ended, about 4 p.m. For those looking for an intimate, quiet dinner—this is your golden hour to strike at restaurants that are open for that time frame.

They have no idea that I’m writing about them on this blog and they were not trying to please me in order to get good publicity, they are just genuinely good at what they’re doing and I think people should know about it.

There are a host of restaurants in the Hudson Valley that are home to CIA grads and I couldn’t be more thankful that two of our grads are working together at Crave Restaurant in Poughkeepsie about 10 minutes from CIA.

The Honeydew Chili cocktail was balanced and flavorful alternating gracefully between spicy, smoky, and sweet. The shrimp dumplings with seaweed and edamame salad were flavorful and held their own next to the tequila in my cocktail. I also enjoyed a pork belly appetizer served with kimchi, watermelon, sesame seeds, and cilantro. It was obvious that the food was carefully thought out and flawlessly executed. Seasoning was on point. The variation of textures added interest. Pork belly could be pulled apart with a fork. It was just awesome.

Each CIA graduate has the opportunity to create a good representation of the CIA brand as it is associated with their own names or to leave people with the impression that CIA is just a pretty face and nothing more. The AOS degree program intends to educate you on all the moving parts of a restaurant, because dining out is an experience and food is not the only consideration. The first impression made upon entering a restaurant is just as important as the impression maintained throughout the meal and the impression that a guest takes with them as they walk out the door. Service, menu, food, lighting, music, décor, and staff training are only a few of the components that must be managed in order to give the impression that is intended.

Catherine and Ed obviously paid attention in class or maybe they're just naturally talented. I'm not concerned with the specifics at this point because what they are doing at Crave, makes me proud to one day call myself a CIA grad.

in the classroom with CIA's leaders

by student blogger Leah

My Leadership & Ethics Class is taught by the legendary Dr. J who forms an undeniable connection with students based on his relatability. He wears a colorful homemade string necklace crafted by his daughter that will make an occasional appearance if he’s not wearing a tie and he is the first teacher I have ever had who danced in front of the class.

We start each class by scribbling quotes related to leadership or ethics on the white board and discussing their meaning to us. It is difficult to bring a new idea or quote to class because so many of the principles are the same: do good, be yourself, don’t give up, and work honestly. However, every class someone manages to bring something personal to the discussion and that is always meaningful to listen to as a classmate shares a struggle, family story, or personal belief. I wish every person in the world could take part in at least one discussion like this because it gives you a tremendous amount of hope for our future. We're all in this together. There have been some real gems revealed over the course of this semester. Here’s a few:

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.” –T.S. Elliot

“I am a citizen of the world and my religion is to do good.” –Thomas Paine

“Do what you feel in your heart to be right-for you’ll be criticized anyway.” –Eleanor Roosevelt

“There is no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit.” –Ronal Reagan

“Be so good they can’t ignore you.” –Steve Martin

“Everything you see exists together in a delicate balance. As a king, you need to understand that balance…” –Mufasa, Lion King

“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” –Ernest Hemingway

“I wish I could shut up, but I can’t and I won’t.” –Desmond Tutu

“The greatness of truly great people lies in their appreciation of the ordinary.” –Daisaku Ikeda

“Damaged people are dangerous because they know that they can survive.” –JHIS (Just Heard It Somewhere)

“Rumor is—you only get one go-round.” –Dad

“Talk is cheap.” –Keith Richards

"There are bad ways to win and good ways to lose. What's interesting and troubling is that it's not always clear which is which. A flipped coin doesn't always land heads or tails. Sometimes it may never land at all..."
-Grimsly, Pokemon

Monday, September 16, 2013

Repetition => Skill => Variation => Innovation

by student blogger B.B. Huff

Last week, my class began a three-week block of Banquets and Catering with Chef-Instructor Paul Irving. After six weeks of fabricating meat and fish with limited cooking, I was hungry to get back in the Teaching Kitchen (aka The TK) and fire up the French top.

My first week of production had its ups and downs. Some dishes I nailed (buttermilk biscuits) and some flopped onto the buffet line (too thick Clam Chowder). But hey, I am a student, if I'm going to flop let it be in The TK versus in a Michelin-starred restaurant. The key is to learn from both the mistakes and the wins.

With that in mind, and with encouragement from Chef Paul, my class ends each production day with our Fresh Five: a list of five "aha!", "ureka!" learning points. To make the list, the point must apply to the day's menu, but also have a broader application to navigating the kitchen.

As I prepare for my second week in the kitchen, I am meditating on a Fresh Five from Chef Paul.

"With repetition comes skill, with skill comes variation and with variation comes innovation."

To further illustrate this theory, Chef Paul shared how he uses soup station techniques to create innovation at a sauce station and vice versa. For example, how sauce finishing techniques can elevate a soup and how high-volume techniques frequently used in soup cookery can be leveraged in making sauces. These innovations are only possible through years of repetition and skill building.

So, this week, I will resist the itch to innovate, resist the itch to alter and just focus on skill. The rest will come in time.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Day in the Life of a Culinary Science Student

by student blogger Kristin

"The only difference between magic and science is understanding."
- Chef Jonathan Zearfoss

I love all the questions I have been getting about the new culinary science program! Please keep them coming! I figured as long as there is interest in the program I should go through what I considered to be a typical day. That way, I may be able to answer some lingering questions about the program. So, I thought, what better day to write about than a typical Friday.

8:30am - Up and At ’em!

Almost every morning, I wake up around 8:30 to start my day. I get ready and head up to Apple Pie Bakery Café, the café run by the baking and pastry students on campus. I sit, drink my coffee and eat breakfast while enjoying the casual beauty of Apple Pie. Every time I eat there I am reminded of the first time I visited the CIA campus. My mom and I stopped here to get some hot chocolate and apple turnovers. So delicious!

I also use this time to finish any work or studying I may have hanging over my head from the night before. I’ll be honest with you, when you are a Culinary Science student, there is always work to be done. The world is always changing; there is always new research and studies to catch up on. And I figure there is no better way to stay connected than over a fresh cup of coffee!

10:30am - Classe Italiano

Being in the Culinary Science degree does not mean that you only take science courses and are unable to explore other courses at the Culinary Institute. In fact, we are required to take a range of liberal arts courses throughout the Bachelor’s degree. Not only does that make us well rounded individuals, but it also gives us the opportunity to partake in some of the other interesting courses the CIA has to offer. For this semester, I chose to take Italian 2 as one of my other courses.

On Wednesday and Friday mornings, I have Italian 2 from 10:30am-12:05pm. Through both Italian 1 and 2, I have learned much about Italian vocabulary, verb conjugation, and culture. My class and I are currently studying a chapter based around food. Though most of these words are familiar to culinary school students, it is very interesting to see the differences between American and Italian definitions of food. For example, did you know that “biscotti” is the Italian word for “cookies” and does not define the twice-baked cookie that we have come to know in America? It’s very cool to see how a language such as Italian has transformed in America over the years.

12:30pm - Meal Time

After Italian, I am free until my Culinary Science courses. Because class starts at 2:00pm, I usually use this time to conduct meetings, print out any paperwork for the day, study, and most importantly, relax and eat lunch.
At this time of day, lunch is available from the high volume production kitchen, coined “K-16” by the students. The students in this kitchen learn how to produce great food on a large enough scale to feed large crowds of people in one meal period. Their customers, of course, are students. No pressure right? Although I have waited multiple times for my meal in a line at “K-16”, I still give those culinary students credit for doing what they do. I could not deal with the pressure of a high-production student-serving kitchen and produce the meals they do.

1:30pm – Science Time!

At around 1:30pm I head over to the truly exciting part of my day, my culinary science courses. The new culinary science lab is on the bottom floor of our Colavita building, which holds Caterina d’Medici Italian restaurant. Our domain consists of four main rooms: the lecture room, the sensory evaluation room, the kitchen, and the laboratory (I will go in to good detail about each, don’t worry).

Most days start in the lecture room, a pretty standard classroom where we go over our lecture topics and PowerPoint for the day. These lectures can be pertaining to anything from how to conduct scientific research to a recipe’s ingredient functionality. One of the greatest parts of these lectures (and the program in general) is the dual teaching style. At any given time during class, there is always a chef and a scientist present. This means that for lecture, Chef will speak about the history, practical uses, and expected taste of a product while a Doctor of Science goes in depth into the chemical make-up and physical properties of that same product. The knowledge we have access to is quite mind blowing.

3:30pm To the lab!

After we are done reviewing the lecture material, it is time for the fun stuff: the lab. Each day in class yields a new experiment that is conducted by the students in class. Every time we are told to get started, I cannot help but feel like a 6th grade student playing with science for the first time. Our labs pertain to what we have just discussed in lecture and are conducted both in the kitchen and in the laboratory.

Being the first class through the program, our kitchen is still brand new and beautifully shiny (and we work hard at the end of every day to keep it this way). It consists of 6 large stainless steel workstations equipped with state-of-the-art mini CVAP’s, a refrigerator and cabinet for tools. This cabinet contains only a small percentage of the fun science toys that are contained within this kitchen. Each station holds induction burners, immersion circulators and lexans, isi canisters, pH meters, thermocouples, scales, and other scientific tools. The rest of the kitchen only gets better, bearing a combination of old favorites and new technology. We have a large 2 compartment Rationale oven, blast freezer, CVAP oven, bread oven, plancha, stove tops, vacuum sealer and more. Needless to say, I am in love with this kitchen.

PM_20130827CulSciZear__0078.jpgHowever, stepping into the lab for the first time changed my life. I know that sounds dramatic but this was the moment that made it all real for me. Not only was I still at the school that I had fallen in love with but now I am earning a degree in Culinary Science. How lucky could I get? Walking in, the first thing you are welcomed by is the glistening sparkle of hundreds of new pieces of glassware including beakers, graduated cylinders, Erlenmeyer flasks, etc. Then the large pieces of equipment come in to view, each with a name I am still admittedly trying to learn how to pronounce. There are counter tops for conducting research with cabinets below (each clearly marked and labeled with their contents) and shelving units above, holding the rest of the tools. This laboratory makes you feel like you have just stepped into a mad scientist’s basement from a science fiction movie. You don’t even have to be a science fan to recognize how awesome this room is.

There are 9 students in my class including myself, consisting of 4 former culinary students and 5 former baking and pastry students. I am commonly asked how I feel about being a baker in this “culinary” science program. My response to that question is always along the lines of this. The word “culinary” in our title does not denote that we only study culinary applications. “Culinary” in this sense is used the same way that the CIA is called a “culinary” school. It encompasses both culinary and baking techniques, recipes, and knowledge. Basically if it has to do with cooking, baking, food and science, we are studying it.

That is not to say that if you did not study one or the other in your associate’s program you will be left in the dark, however. Each group contains one former culinary and one former baking and pastry student. This means that while you are conducting your experiment, you can also be learning a bit about the other food discipline from the associate’s program. There are always new chances to learn!

Each team conducts the lab assigned with their lab partner. These experiments can consist of anything from heat transfer techniques, consumer behavior, ingredient functionality, recipe testing, and more. In order to keep track of all the science that happens throughout the day, we have all received an official lab journal. In this journal we keep notes on every detail of our experiments, even our mistakes. We have all been told from a young age that we should learn from our mistakes. However, when you’re in the kitchen, some chefs allot you less time to learn your lesson. In our science kitchen, however, mistakes are studied and in some situations even encouraged. Scientific learning would be nowhere today without those original curious minds who tried to figure out how to fix their mistakes.

7:00pm That’s a Wrap!

At the end of every lab, we spend a bit of time cleaning the kitchen completely and efficiently. We all work as a team to scrub down every inch of the kitchen that was used that day in order to keep it as shiny and beautiful as our first day. We then gather around and discuss the results of the experiment that we conducted. This is my personal favorite part of the day because it combines the theory that we learned in lecture with the physical happenings of the lab we have performed. It is an amazing feeling to learn something on paper and be able to bring it into reality in the kitchen with a full understanding of the scientific workings of the system.

Each day has ended with a team cheer of “Science!” and we depart until the next class. I leave the kitchen every day with my head hurting (I admit) but full of new knowledge and asking myself how I became so lucky. Like I mentioned in my first blog, I was told all my life that I would not be able to bring my love of Art and Science together. That there was no career that could possibly encompass the two and that the route of business would my only choice. I sit here now in the computer lab of the premier Culinary Institute in the country, doing what I love and enjoying every second of it.

For all of you interested out there, I hope this was helpful. If you have any questions, please comment!

Monday, September 9, 2013

smell that?

by student blogger Leah

Apple Pie Café on campus serves truffle parmesan fries that are according to my cousin, “the best fries I think I’ve ever had. I just can’t get enough.” It’s not even the perfect cheese or the expensive truffle that made her love these fries because both flavors are very light. The potatoes are cooked perfectly. It’s simple, really. Fluffy, creamy insides and beautiful golden brown exterior.

photo credit: Tom and Jolie

What I remember about sharing these fries with her last week is the distinct smell that accompanied them as they arrived at the table. As the fries were set on the table and I took a breath in, I was back on extern.

photo credit: Argus Guide

At the Inn at Little Washington, when a guest ordered the tasting menu or was a VIP, we would send them truffled popcorn that would fill the entire kitchen with the smell of truffle oil. The experience was almost jarring because smell has this transformative impact where you can recall a memory so strongly that it feels like a collision between the past and your current reality. I have experienced this sensation before with perfume or flowers, but I am still in awe at how powerful smell is.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Poughkeepsie's Italian Festival

by student blogger Leah

When the road that I was driving on today was blocked by a moon bounce, I obviously pulled over on the next street so that I could investigate the occasion. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any cash on me and my belly was full. So I just took pictures while listening to the music and watching people dance.

These pictures do a pretty poor job of conveying how comfortable and joyful the atmosphere was, and I apologize that I couldn't see what I was taking pictures of on my phone because the sun was so bright. Today was one of those beautiful, early fall days where the Hudson Valley really comes into her own.

The food smelled incredible and everyone looked happy. There were raw oysters, sausage and peppers, pizza, pasta, fried dough, and plenty of red wine. There were carnival games and lots of long tables set up where people were gathering to share food. This annual festival celebrates Italian heritage with games and food because well—why not?

On Finding and Securing an Externship

By student blogger Morgan

If you're a prospective or accepted student, chances are you've heard a little bit about this externship thing, but you have a lot of questions on how it works. I'm currently "on externship" as they say, having finished up my last class of my first year in the pastry AOS program last Friday. Because the externship period is a slightly mysterious and highly talked about part of the program, I thought I'd share my experience and explain a bit about how it works.

One question everyone asked me right off the bat in January was, "So, have you thought about where you want to go for your externship?" My immediate reaction was, "Um, no I don't even know where I'm eating lunch today." It was overwhelming when I first got here how many people were already talking about externship and applying for jobs. It seemed like while I was unpacking my room and getting myself ready for day one of class, everyone else was searching on e-recruiting (our online jobs database) and writing cover letters. The atmosphere here is hyper competitive because of the prestige of the school and the quality of the education you're getting - which is mostly a great thing. But looking back now, the externship process is not as stressful as it sometimes felt and it turned out well for everyone in my class. It is something you need to make a priority while you have the free time in fundamentals classes, but it's not something you need to lose sleep over.

My advice for when you first arrive on campus is to enjoy your first week on campus. Start to consider a few things about what you're looking for in an externship, but absolutely don't cross anything off right away. Spend your time making friends, preparing for class and getting settled into the new environment. Trust me, you'll have plenty of time for stressing out later. Now this whole externship thing can be like a foreign language to a prospective student, so let's start at the beginning:

Externship [ek-sturn-ship]: (n) A required period of supervised practice away from one's affiliated institution: The CIA student peeled thousands of potatoes while on externship.

Some facts:
  • The externship period falls between your first and second years at the CIA, no matter which AOS program you're in. It has to be 18 consecutive weeks at the same spot.
  • The CIA provides you with a (huge) list of approved sites for extern via an online database that you'll have access to once you are on campus.
  • Most of the sites are paid! Depending on where, you're looking at making $8-14 an hour while on extern. Some of them even provide housing and other cool benefits like park tickets (Disney) or lift passes (ski resorts).
  • A lot of students really do find their externships at career fairs. In my first year at the CIA I  was on campus for three out of the four annual fairs! They are huge, helpful, and full of free stuff.
  • The career service staff could not be more awesome. Your class gets a personal career counselor who will bend over backwards to help you land your dream externship. They're like half angels, half therapists. The best part is, I can still email mine for questions or support even though I'm no longer on campus. 
  • Staging (prounounced stahhhging) is like a try-out or interview. You're on-site at a restaurant working for free for the night, as you would if you did your externship there. This is a great way for both sides to see if it is a fit! After externship (or after you've signed on to another location) students stage just for the experience as well. 

My experience:
I'll be doing my pastry externship with the Inn at Little Washington in Washington, VA (45 minutes-ish south of DC). You may remember that another student blogger Leah coincidentally also did her culinary externship there.

It's a little restaurant in an even smaller town but has a big reputation. The chef/founder is Patrick O'Connell who is known for being among the first farm to table chefs on the East Coast and for having an over the top fancy style. Rumor has it, there's a $5,000 chandelier inside of their chicken coop...must be nice.

Getting an externship is more or less the same process as getting a job. The career center is always there to help you write a stellar resume and cover letter, but at the end of the day it's up to you to land the job. I applied to the Inn via email and actually had to send a follow up before I heard anything back. From there, I had to do a try out and stage with their pastry chef for a day before I was finally offered the job.

In the meantime, I had applied to at least five other sites, plus been to a career fair and talked with multiple sites there. One of the most difficult parts of my externship-finding process was juggling the timing between accepting/declining an offer and waiting to hear from a place I wanted to go to more. It's nerve wracking because I didn't want to say no to a sure thing only to be rejected from a top choice. At the end of the day, I think it's just important to have faith in yourself that you'll definitely end up somewhere, and aim for your top choices while it's early. The externship period is only five-months long, but if you have a specific experience in mind that you're looking for - don't settle! I'd also recommend to stage at as many places as you're able to. What really made the decision easy for me was getting to meet the people I'd be working with and seeing how passionate and welcoming they were. I officially start at the Inn this coming Thursday so stay tuned for more on how the experience away from campus is going!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

An Inspiration to Culinary Science

by blogger Kristin

One thing I did not expect from The Culinary Institute of America was all the connections it gives you as a student. I remember going through the associate program in awe as professional chefs and TV personalities alike were constantly on campus giving lectures and conducting meet and greets. While I still never take these opportunities for granted, I thought being a bachelor's student meant that I would be over my star struck excitement when meeting an industry VIP. I learned on Thursday, August 29th that I was wrong.

Though I have learned to conduct myself in a professional manner while meeting profoundly popular chefs, I had trouble hiding my excitement this past Thursday. While I have learned that you never know whom you will meet in the halls of the CIA, I never considered we might have the same connections for the Culinary Science Program. I was proved wrong when none other than Winston Shelton gave an exclusive lecture to those of us in the Culinary Science Program. For those of you who have not heard of his work, here is some background:

-          Winston Shelton is a talented engineer and inventor accredited with many influential developments both in and out of the world of food
-          He worked with GE before leaving to start his own company
-          Shelton worked closely with Colonel Sanders (yes the Colonel of KFC) to develop the Collectramatic® Fryer. This revolutionized the way convenience restaurants worked and is responsible for the KFC chicken we have come to know and love today.
-          In the 1980’s, he developed Controlled Vapor Technology (or CVap®), the ground breaking cooking technology that uses both air heat and water vapor to create the perfect conditions for cooking and holding food items.
-          Winston continues in his 90’s to invent new technologies and to be an inspiration to science minds everywhere.
-          With the introduction of the Culinary Science Program at The Culinary Institute of America, Winston Shelton graciously donated unique CVap® ovens to the newly refurbished kitchen lab.
-          Information from, Winston Industries Home Page
(photograph courtesy of )

Basically, Winston Shelton is a food intellectual whom all of us in the Culinary Science program look up to. His inventions and technology have made our degree possible and have opened up new doors and possibilities for development in the world of food science.

Now, knowing all of this information, you could imagine my excitement at the chance to speak to the genius that has inspired so much of culinary science. We sat down in the same classroom we sit in everyday but got a once in a lifetime lecture.

Winston Shelton began by giving us a short personal history. He explained his past schooling, his relationship with the colonel and how he figured out the key to successful food holding. Amazingly, Winston was able to figure out this great feat in food technology by consulting automatic dryer engineers. They understood the difference between the dry bulb and wet bulb temperature of clothes, a concept that had not yet been applied to food.

********CAUTION: SCIENCE AHEAD********
So what are dry and wet bulb temperatures anyways? During cooking, a food item is influenced by two different temperatures. The first temperature, the dry bulb, is the actual temperature of the oven. This is the temperature that is actually set when turning the dial on the oven. Though the oven is set to this temperature, the food inside it will actually never reach it. This is due to the wet bulb temperature. As food is heated, the water in the system evaporates, cooling the surface of the food and creating a temporary barrier between the food and the heat source.

The best way to portray this concept is through the example of a pool on a hot day. Imagine it is the hottest day of July and you are lounging by the pool. The heat you feel from the sunrays beating down on you represent dry heat. You then decide to take a dip in the pool to cool off with your shirt on. When you get out of the water and sit in the sun, you feel much cooler although the temperature has not changed. The t-shirt you have on is evaporating water in the sunlight, therefore cooling you down and representing the wet bulb temperature.

Once Winston realized how to manipulate these two aspects of food, the rest was history. The Collectramatic® Fryer was invented and put into KFC restaurants, Controlled Vapor Technology was discovered, and the world of food was forever changed. Because of Winston Shelton’s innovative thinking and understanding of technology, food can now be cooked by manipulating both dry and wet bulb temperatures, keeping food moist and tender. Though there is still much opportunity for research with the use of this technology on certain foods, I think it is safe to say that Winston Shelton has changed the way we will look at food forever.
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(logo courtesy of )

Needless to say, it was a privilege and an honor to have this esteemed guest visit our Culinary Science program. I will never forget this experience and hope to work with brilliant minds such as Winston’s in my bright future.