Monday, December 22, 2014

The Future is Beer

Brooklyn Brewery Partnership: The Future is Beer
by Nico Dellenback, Bachelor’s in Culinary Arts Management, excerpted from La Papillote

Beer sales have been increasing since the early 1980s. In 1984, Steve Hindy was taking the first steps in creating what is now The Brooklyn Brewery. His goal was this: “To bring good beer back to New York City.” At first, there were few resources available, so the original Brooklyn Lager was brewed in Utica, NY. In 1994, Brooklyn Brewery hired Garret Oliver to oversee production. Chef Waldy Malouf, Senior Director of CIA Food and Beverage Operations, says “Oliver is one of the best and best known brewmasters in the world.” Brooklyn Brewery, in partnership with the CIA, will be opening a small brewery on campus, available to the public in the summer of 2015. President Tim Ryan has been planning on bringing a brewery to campus for many years now. This program represents the forward thinking mentality of our school, and sets graduates yet another level above the rest.

All over the country food and beer is growing. It is on its way to becoming a regional staple. Since 2011, there has been a 200% increase in restaurant brewers in New York State. Malouf says it’s because, “American taste in food grew: there is dark beer, fruit beer, Lambic, pilsner, chocolate stout, and all other different types. With interest in food increasing, people wanted to know how beer was made, in combination with the local food movement, it started to grow.” Regional food and local beer have begun to be paired in new ways. An example would be the combination of a microbrewery and restaurant, which, in many ways, is the most accurate expression of a region’s food culture or terroir. CIA graduates are encouraged to join the best restaurants and push themselves to the edge of culinary innovation, which could be a reason why, “The CIA, currently, has about 1,400 graduates involved in microbreweries across the country.” Here at school, each year there are at least two special beer and food pairings dinners. Malouf says the dinners, “instantly sell out, immediately, faster than most of the wine dinners.”

Beer growth can be partially contributed to the positive effects it has on the region and vice versa. New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo says, “By enabling this internationally renowned educational institution to combine forces with one of New York’s most iconic breweries, we will be able to further strengthen the mid-Hudson Valley’s tourism industry to new heights by training the brewers of tomorrow.” It will bring more tourism to the Hudson Valley which will help local communities. As a way to encourage breweries to stay local, in coming years, 90% or more of the hops used must be from NYS by 2024. This will help maintain the Hudson Valley’s regional identity.

The partnership between the CIA and The Brooklyn Brewery will help each student in their career. The program will only be available to bachelor’s students, but each student will be able to taste, watch, and learn about the process. Garret Oliver will be using our brewery as a “pilot brewery.” When a class is not using it, Oliver will experiment, demo for students, and do product testing. When the program is in session, there will be four beers available on tap. The Egg, within the new StudentCommons, will be the perfect way to enjoy a wide variety of made-to-order food, an espresso bar, and, of course, the products of the brewing students. Malouf says, “A lager and pilsner should always be available, but the others will be more experimental. There may be one or two times where it’s not so great, but that’s the idea. It’s a school. This opportunity to experiment and learn by doing is something they truly cannot find anywhere else.” The beer produced in the brewery will be also available in each of the school’s public restaurants. This will teach students about the necessity and benefits of having a beer program in a restaurant. Malouf says, “Beer is no longer an afterthought.” Having a beer program can make your restaurant more profitable, and supporting local breweries can help the economy. Chef Malouf says, “Any high-end restaurant today—Per Se, Jean George, Aureole, high-end bistros, or steakhouses—they all need to have a beer program.” Graduates will be able to sue this knowledge in any aspect of the food service that they go into.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

10 of the Most Important Things I've Learned (Out of the Many)

Hello Readers, from me to you, I hope you enjoy a look inside the Culinary World!
-Timothy Fisher 

To try to choose ten out of the hundreds of incredibly important things I have learned at the CIA is by no means an easy task.  Every day is a whirlwind of information and almost everything that any Chef says has the potential to be incredibly useful, and for that matter, many of the things I have heard from my fellow students have turned out to be very important tricks, techniques, and ways of thought. I have done my best for you, my readers, however and the following list is what I have decided are some of the most important lessons I have learned during my time here.

 If you are or were a student here (culinary or baking), please feel free to leave a comment and let me know if theres anything you think should make a list like this!

#10 ~ Making Stock (Properly)

Stock is something that most people know as coming out of a box with one of those flip-top plastic lids.  While box stock may be quite convenient, having house-made stock is something that is easy to make, utilizes a large amount of product you would usually throw out, and just tastes better than the box!  All it takes is bones (If making a meat stock) and a fair amount of produce, mainly what is called mirepoix which is made up of carrots, celery, and onions.  But that can be any part of those vegetables including the bottoms and tops of the celery and carrots which are usually thrown away. Lastly a sachet (little bag) of parsley stems, peppercorns, bay leaf, and any other herbs you may want.  Add all of this to cold water, heat it up and allow it to simmer low and slow while lightly skimming any impurities from the top and well, you have stock.  Simple right? You would be amazed at how much of a difference making your own stock can have on your dishes.

#9 ~ Properly "Temping" Meats and the Concept of Carryover Cooking

When you want something as delicious and succulent as a pork loin or rack of lamb to taste absolutely perfect, you have to cook it to exactly the right internal temperature.  Now, when you have been cooking for a long time, you can operate mainly off of time, smell, and touch.  But when you are learning it is important to utilize a thermometer to properly cook your meats and to know that everything has been cooked to a safe internal temperature.  But you cant be afraid to pull your pork loin at an internal temperature of 135 degrees fahrenheit when we all know that the proper internal temperature of pork is 140 degrees.  It will carry-over cook up to 140 degrees before it starts cooling down.  This concept can be applied to so much more than just meats as well, but its something that we don't always think about!
Over-cooking porchetta would be a crime....

#8 ~ The Importance of Acid

Everyone knows how important eggs, milk, butter, salt, and pepper are in an everyday kitchen.  But acid, especially in the form of lemon juice is constantly overlooked or just plain forgotten. It isn't something you are supposed to taste outright, but it has the ability to make flavors pop out and tie dishes together, quite often actually, I find a couple drops of lemon juice (or sometimes vinegar) is the "thing thats missing" when we're tasting out almost-finished dishes.

#7 ~ Respect Your Dishwasher

At the CIA, up until the restaurant classes, we are required to wash all our own dishes that we use while cooking throughout the day.  This is something that truly makes you appreciate all the work that the dishwashers in our restaurants and various establishments do.  After almost two years of doing the dishes with your class by hand (no, we don't use the dish machine) you always use one pan instead of three if you can and its odd, almost nothing comes to the dish pit burned and caked on by the end.
Also, it builds character.

#6 ~ With Enough Butter, Anything is Possible

This is my play on the classic Julia Child quote, because it is incredibly true. Honestly, this entire list could be her quotes because she was right in everything she said. For example, "The only time to eat diet food is when you are waiting for the steak to cook!" But back to business, even when cooking on the healthier side of things, a little butter with water on your vegetable right before serving them, or adding a pat of butter to your sauce right at the end can work wonders.  Just make sure you don't burn it though... Everyone loves a good brown butter sauce, but burnt butter sauce.. I'd stay away from that.
This speaks for itself

#5 ~ Utilizing Everything to be Creative

This is huge! Don't let yourself get locked into recipes and formulas.  Trust your instinct and knowledge that you gain the more you cook.  Utilizing basic concepts and ratios can help you create incredible dishes from the most random of ingredients, as long as you are willing to try and fail and try again.  There is so much you can do with everything in a kitchen, literally speaking, the ceiling is the limit!
And when in doubt, follow your nose. It wont lead you wrong!

#4 ~ When to add Salt (and how Much)

This is a big one.  Salt can be added throughout the cooking process but there are always multiple factors you have to think about when adding salt.  Will you be heavily reducing whatever it is you are seasoning, is it a vegetable like mushrooms or bok choy that contains a large amount of moisture that will be released by the salt?  Has salt already been added, or will this be finished with something high in salt content?  Salt is everywhere in our food because it is an incredibly important asset in both boosting flavor and tying flavors together, we just need to keep an eye on how much altogether is in the completed dish.
I guess you could call this a set for a "seasoned" Chess player

#3 ~ Taste Everything, all the Time, the Whole Time

Correlating with number four and quite possibly one of the most important pieces of advice I can now give to anyone is this. Not just tasting the finished product, but tasting throughout the cooking process, because this will let you know what you need to do.  You can catch something if it is going wrong, but completely fixing a mistake once it is made, that is a much harder task to accomplish if it is even possible at all.   Even when I give tours, I tell people all the time that the secret to only ever serving good food is tasting all the time because if you know it tastes bad, you wont serve it!
At least I hope not...

#2 ~ Leave the Ego at the Door

Now this one is a little more specific, and I am saying this from a personal perspective: Ego is not necessary in a kitchen.  It is very easy for that ego to become inflated and also for it to be popped and brought down many notches.  Either way, you cant take what gets said or done in a kitchen personally.  It is a very heated environment, its a tough place to be in all the time, emotions and tempers flare easily, overall, it is a very personal industry because we are all putting our hearts into everything we do, every single day, just to have it judged and critiqued by the consumers, let alone those around us while we create all of it.  But once the burners are turned off, the line is wiped down, and the door is swinging shut behind you, the people you work with should be your friends and mentors because of everything you do with them. Trust is necessary, confidence is necessary, they go hand in hand.  But be careful because confidence very easily can be turned to arrogance which feeds the ego negatively, and this leads to trust faltering.
Just leave it at the door.

#1 ~ "Yes Chef"

These are quite possibly, if not definitely the two most important words I have learned at the CIA.  Not because you should be a robot or just say yes to everyone all the time, but because it is a sign of respect.  The culinary industry is a hierarchy and one that operates from a very specific and well-known structure of respect.  The most important thing one can do upon entering a new kitchen is have respect for the people already there, especially those at a higher level.  Especially at the CIA because well, even when you think you're right or know better. Just say "Yes Chef" because more often than not, they know better than you.
Theres a reason we're the students and they're the Chefs.
This man was my fundamentals Chef, Chef Speckamp, and he was the one who showed me how important being able to say "Yes Chef" is and that leaving the ego behind will get you far. I cant thank him enough.

Friday, October 24, 2014

The 411 on the Applied Food Studies Major

by Deja Burrows, Associate in Culinary Arts, from La Papillote

The new AppliedFood Studies major has been the talk of the campus since its announcement. Students in all parts of the associate program have been considering it for their future. Unfortunately, though it is a popular topic, not many people actually know what the program is all about and what students would be best suited for it. I recently spoke to Dr. Maureen Costura, one of the faculty members putting the program together, in order to gain some insight.

This new major is spread over a three-semester period, just slightly shorter than both the other Culinary Management and Culinary Science programs. In order to complete the program students must complete 120 credits in total, making it a relatively intense program. Students may have up to six classes in a semester. Instead of looking at what you can do with food, this new major will look at what food can tell you. The classes will incorporate more social sciences and humanities and it geared toward the intellectually curious chef. It was designed so that those with previous college experience can easily transfer credits that are applicable to the curriculum. The degree’s main focuses include different academic approaches to food, past food and food ways, as well as the relationship between politics, environments, societies, and food. Dr. Costura implied that students will be looking at food as more than just something to eat.

There will be five elective classes for the students to choose from, which will correspond with their mandatory bachelor's classes. Electives include Ecology of Food, Anthropology of Food, History of Food, Food Systems, and Food Policy.

Each class will look at a different aspect of food’s influences. In Ecology of Food, students will evaluate the way in which food effects and is affected be the environment, Anthropology of Food will present the food ways of ancient societies. Here students will seek to understand their way of life through food. History of Food will allow students to study ancient culinary text and to produce food from ancient recipes as authentically as possible. One example of this would be baking bread in an outdoor over. The food system class will look at the movement of foods as well as the ever rising food waste issues. Lastly, the Food Policies class will look at food from a political and economic standpoint. Each of these classes promise to include both practical and theory portions in which the students participation will give them a well-balanced learning experience.

Like most bachelor's programs, the Applied Food Studies major will end with a project, equivalent to a senior thesis. The projects for the next few years are already lined up. In the first project, students will build and maintain a garden on campus. This is to help them understand food systems as well as the influence of the growing process of food. Another project being planned is the replication of a historic, sustainable, Amazonian soil, which has yet to be recreated. Dr. Costura is very excited about all of the future projects and she feels they will be of benefit to more than just the students participating.

Students with interest outside of the kitchen may be attracted to this program due to its unique nature. It is intended for the intellectual students who see food for more than just its culinary purposes. It is intended to inspire and educate those who want to change food policy or be culinary educators. Humanitarians, those interested in the welfare of the public, and students who like to help resolve the global food issues should all look into this program.

Dr. Costura is very excited about the project and believes it is very timely. Currently fresh water supplies are depleting, the world’s population is growing and many go beyond what we have resources for, and the lack of sustainable food sources in third world countries are each problems which needs to be resolved. In the Applied Food Studies program, students will study issues such as these , evaluating possible solutions along the way.

The new program is intended to launch is January. If you want to make a change, learn from the past, and influence more than just the kitchen, ask yourself, “Are you ready for Applied Food Studies?”

Monday, October 20, 2014

Food Day!

by Deja Burrows, AOS Culinary, as appearing in La Papillote

More than four years ago, the Center for Science in the Public Interest decided to host an event known as Food Day. It has been celebrated every year for the last four years with a general focus on sustainable, affordable, and healthy food. This year at The Culinary Institute of America the Slow Foods Club invites you to become a part of the festivities.

Last year Food Day was celebrated from coast to coast with more than 4,700 events, including farmers markets, cook-offs, and debates. Communities, churches, and colleges all came together to promote “real food’ which the Food Day board defines as fresh, non-processed goods. The Food Day board includes influential members such as John Maleri, the associate director of Earth Day, and Alice Waters, the founder of the Slow Food movement. The goal is to change Americans diets and to teach them about the health benefits of natural foods, both as remedies and preventative measures. They want to raise support for sustainable organic farming and for it to be looked at as a way to reduce hunger.

Every year Food Day has a specific focus, with this year’s being “food justice.” Food justice refers to the wages and working conditions of those within the food supply chain. That includes workers in farming, transportation, packaging, cooking, and selling of foods. Those that work within these areas do not receive fair wages or desirable working conditions. It is our job to bring this issue to light and to push for improvement. After all, they are providing the food we consume every day. The Food Day board is working along with the Food Chain Workers Alliance, which represents over 280,000 workers to bring justice and equality to them. A second but equally important aspect of this year’s theme is to enlighten the public on the way in which media companies overly promote processed “junk food” to children. This year’s events will target entire families and seek to educate them about the difference between “real food” and “junk food.” In a press release, Lilia Smelkova, the Director of National Food Day describes this year’s food day saying, “At thousands of Food Day events, in the news, and on social media we want to connect the dots between the food on people’s plates and their health, the environment and the lives of the people who produce it.

In the Hyde Park area there will be several Food Day events on the 24th of October. Our neighboring college, Marist, plans to celebrate with events of their own. As CIA students we are also being asked to come out and help with the Hyde Park community garden to do our part. The garden is located at St. James Episcopal Church, not too far from campus. The Culinary Institute of America has a plot there; the food grown is donated to the community’s food pantry.

With the Farm-to-Table movement flourishing and food costs rising, why not support organic sustainable food growers or learn to sow and reap your own produce? The food supply chain workers need you, the community needs you, and in return you need food. So Culinary Students, get in on the action on October 24th for nationwide Food Day!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Student #000000

Being a student at The Culinary Institute of America you will physically work harder than you would at, dare I say, 'normal colleges'. No we don't get to experience spring break or extended holidays. But being a CIA student means that you become part of a new community. 

Being in the kitchen you will have good days and bad days. Recently a friend was having one of those bad days. K-16, the breakfast shift and the last task before you leave for externship, can be daunting. They were way behind at prep and were in the weeds come service. Asking him later on, “What happened? Did chef lose it?”

What he said summed up life on the line.

“Chef was pissed. But everyone had each other’s back. You know, for the first time in a long time you didn’t just feel like student # 000000.”

The people you tremble next to when presenting practical dishes to chef, are the same people who will wipe your brow and maybe help you avoid a burn or two.
Curiosity got the best of me, asking 'Given the chance would you make the same choice? Choose the CIA, choose to be a chef?' After a resounding yes I got to thinking, it almost seemed as if everyone I had spoken to had never contemplated a different life. So would we all make the same choice? 

What choice?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Bigger Message From a Trip to Italy- Food Crosses all Boundaries

Hello Readers, from me to you, I hope you enjoy a look inside the Culinary World!
-Timothy Fisher 

This is my attempt to compress the trip of a lifetime into several paragraphs.  I could go on for pages and pages, but for the purpose of this blog I will try to keep it to the point best I can.  I will be posting another article soon a day by day breakdown of the trip to give an idea of what the trip itself was like from more of an itinerary point of view.

The Global Cuisines & Cultures trip is something most bachelor's students look forward to.  I know I was looking forward to this trip since I found out about it during orientation back in October 2011, almost three years ago.  I decided right then and there that I wanted to go to Italy. Well, I made it happen and this three week trip became something more than just my first trip out of the country.  I made some of the best friends I have come to know through my time here at the CIA, and had the best cappuccino of my life. (Cappuccinos and Espresso have been ruined for me forever. Nothing can compare here in America. Not even that pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks.  Nothing fills the void.)

Just a little background, our Chef Instructor for the trip was Joe De Paola, and our guide/translator was Raffella.  Both were fantastic and dedicated their time and efforts to helping create and foster an incredible environment for our trip which we maintained throughout the course of our time in Italy.

While in Italy, language was a constant factor in all of our lives, which is odd because it is something I have always taken for granted.  A lot of the times the purveyors and chefs and producers we visited did not speak English and for the most part none of us spoke any Italian, or if any at all, it was quite limited.  So getting used to hearing something I didn't understand more than I did combined with having to get used to the whole concept of translation was rather difficult.  It was a challenge however that defined the trip and listening to everyone around me speak in Italian became much more of a pleasure than a chore.  To be perfectly honest, we were also very lucky as a group to have a wonderful guide and translator, Raffella, who was amazing at her job and also very patient with all of us and our wide-eyed wonder.  Whenever we found ourselves wandering the streets of the three cities we stayed in (Genova, Torino, and Bologna) it became a sense of pride for myself and others when we were able to successfully get around and build up the confidence in ourselves to not let the language barrier become something that would stop us from doing everything we wished to do. And there was quite a lot to do.

Most readers would think, "Wow you got to go to Italy and eat so much food and drink a lot of wine, that must have been an incredible vacation!"  Well it was incredible, but let me tell you, this trip was no vacation.  Now I'm not saying that it was bad, absolutely not. But what I am saying is that this trip was a completely educational experience that was honestly like a marathon.  Being out and about on average from 10-14 hours a day, day in and day out is tough.  Add in the travel to and from our locations that could be anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours.... It got tough. Don't forget having to be professional, respectable, and get along with the same 20 people every single day, a lot of the time in confined areas.  It was much more physically and mentally taxing than any of us prepared for.

But being able to wake up and go for a guided tour of the coastal town of Camogli, then participate in a demo of sardine cleaning and salting, followed by a four course meal with several bottles of wine, then an hour bus ride up the mountains to take a walk up and down hills through an incredible vineyard, hop back on the bus for a 30 minute ride to a wine shop where we took part in a standing wine tasting of five different wines produced from the grapes we had just walked among and tasted in the vineyard, then an hour bus ride back to the hotel where we all got changed to go our separate ways for dinner, drinks, and our evening wanderings. That's impressive.  And that was only one day. All of our days were as intense and jam-packed as this, but it was what made this experience what it was.  I'll never forget how tired I was at the basil farm and pesto producer in Genova, but at the same time how excited I was to eat (probably at the amazement of Chef De Paola and some of my friends) five plates of gnocchi with pesto, three plates of raviolo with pesto, and probably 20 crackers with all three types of pesto at once.  Oh, and this was two hours before the five course dinner we were about to have.

The way I looked at it, nothing could get in my way of experiencing as much of everything as I possibly could.  That included as much consumption of edible products as possible. It included as much of everything as possible!

It seemed so simple at first. Go to Italy, eat some food, drink some wine, see some amazing sites, and maybe relax in the sun. But the perspective of hindsight is 20/20 and let me tell you, it was so much more than that.

There are very few times in your life (to be honest you are lucky if you have even one) where you experience as much.... New and similar experiences all at once in such a short period of time. Now what I mean by that is not quite so easy to explain but for you, I will try!

The life of a culinary professional is one full of trial, hardship, reward, blood, sweat, tears, and passion. Before this trip I often spoke of what I loved most about being in this industry is that all of us speak the same language in a sense, we all share a common passion which allows us as a select group to communicate more than just information when we talk, cook, bake, and drink with each other. After these three weeks in Italy, it has confirmed a thought I had never even had until now as I sit here writing this. It's not just at home, in America, in that little bubble of the world that what I am speaking of is true.

It is everywhere.

Because you see, food is an experience, something that crosses all boundaries, it creates bridges across cultural and language gaps, it brings people together who have never met and will probably never meet again, it gives all involved something much more intense than a souvenir to take home. It becomes a memory of all of that, all the emotion is bundled into something you never truly forget--a treasure to hold on to that no one could ever put a price on.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

So What Can You do Around Here?

Hello Readers, from me to you, I hope you enjoy a look inside the Culinary World!
-Timothy Fisher 

As a Tour Guide at the CIA and now as a Blogger as well, I often get asked by both perspective and newly accepted or starting students, “What is there to do around campus??”
Well, that’s an absolutely phenomenal question and to be perfectly honest, there is actually an incredible amount to do in the area surrounding our Hyde Park campus!*  Recently, in the past several years the entire Hudson Valley has exploded in the sense of Tourism.  New and amazing restaurants are starting to appear everywhere and there is an abundance of other sites to see and explore in the area.

To start, I want to mention a couple of what I would call standard attractions, quite simply places that operate throughout all or most of the year despite the changes in weather.  I like to make the distinction because we have students coming from all over the country and world, and I come from California, where almost everything stays open year-round.  This whole concept of seeing signs say “Thanks for the great season, see you in the spring” really confused me when I first arrived in New York.  Now, everything I talk about in this article and the following are all within 45 minutes by car.  Not all of them are accessible by public transportation, but everyone knows someone with a car, so when there’s a will, there is always a way!  Especially if it involves food. At least that’s how it works with me.

Right in the surrounding area of Hyde Park and Poughkeepsie –

Millhouse Brewing Company (3.8 Miles from Campus)
Newly opened and only closed on Tuesdays, Millhouse is one of the new favorites for a large number of CIA students.  This might be because of the amazing beer or perhaps the perfectly mixed (or shaken) cocktails served up at the bar or your table.  Maybe its the simple yet delicious food including hand-crafted sausages made in-house.  Quite possibly, its the buffalo-style popcorn that cured my craving for wings and was so good that I didn't notice the main course had arrived until it was pointed out to me.  Who knew popcorn at a brewery would be so good?  Either way, this is a must-stop spot on multiple occasions for great food and good times with your friends! (And the executive chef is a CIA grad!)

The HydePark Brewing Company (1.8 Miles from Campus)
Here you can find delicious food and house-brewed beers ranging from the Big Easy Blonde to the Mary P’s Porter, and everything in between.  For me personally, I utilized this location for my Intro to Management class project back in my time in the Associate’s Program and every time I have been there I have enjoyed the classic Americana food and those I go with tell me the beer is delicious.

Right down the street is the Home of Franklin D Roosevelt (2.8 Miles from Campus)
"All that is within me cries out to go back to my home on the Hudson River" FDR
This is a great experience if you are at all interested in the history of our nation and even if you aren’t…. It’s still definitely worth a visit.  You can take a short afternoon trip to see his home, visit the museum, and browse through the library that he left behind for future generations to see.

A little ways farther down the road is TheVanderbilt Mansion and Grounds
(4.4 miles from Campus)
This is a beautiful experience.  If you are interested in the history of the area you can take a tour of the mansion itself, but I am personally more enthused with the sprawling grounds that are attached to the mansion.  Good for up to several hours of just wandering you can walk all the way down to the river and then just traverse down several paths through the woods and along the banks of the river.  Throughout almost all months of the year this is a great outdoors area to do something more active (I know most of my recommendations are food related so I have to give you an idea of how to start to work it off).

If you keep heading north up Route 9 you’ll eventually find yourself in the quaint little town of Rhinebeck, NY.  Here is where some of the greatest eats are all within about a mile of each other.  Its great to just walk around after parking the car and decide by sight what you want to do and enjoy.  But I’ll point out a couple of my favorites just to give you somewhere to start!

The Rhinebeck Farmer’s Market (13.4 Miles from Campus)
Here is something pretty special, this is a farmers market that, while only open on Sundays, is open year round, featuring completely seasonal products so you can always find something different every time you have the chance to check it out.  When I was in AOS, my friends and I would often go to the Market on a Sunday, all chip in and buy some different products all from the local area and come back to good ol’ Hudson Hall and make family meal.  It was always an experience and completely different every time.  As you can imagine, when it comes to dinner with a whole bunch of culinary students how can it go wrong??

MarketStreet Restaurant (Also conveniently 13.4 Miles from Campus)
Here is one of my favorite restaurants in the Hudson Valley.  If you enjoy Italian food, or even just great food in general, this is a place to visit. Over and over and over.  I had the pleasure of spending six months working for the owner of this restaurant who is also the chef of the AM Caterina class (our Italian restaurant on campus).  I recently just spent an evening enjoying dinner at Market Street and it is something I keep thinking about... and it’s a source of endless building hunger in my life!

Indulge Rhinebeck- Gelato and Café (Again… 13.4 Miles from Campus!)
One way to end your time in Rhinebeck on a sweet note is to visit Indulge Rhinebeck.  This is a small little gelato shop and café in the heart of Rhinebeck but its worth the time to take a look for.  Operated by our front-of-house professor at the Apple Pie Café, I know how great the product is because I’ve had the wonderful opportunity of coming in and helping make the gelato one afternoon with my friend Athena.  The flavors change just about daily and there’s always something you’ve never tried before.  My favorite was the rosemary gelato, you can’t go wrong with the hazelnut, and I must say, the pink peppercorn was quite interesting!

So whether you are going to be a student, a student already, or maybe even just coming to visit the CIA and stumbled upon this page, I hope you get a chance to visit some, if not all of these incredible places! 


*These sites and opinions are those of the writer (Timothy Fisher) alone and the Culinary Institute of America does not endorse nor is it responsible for any of the content included or mentioned here

Monday, September 29, 2014

Breaking the Mold: Non-Traditional Culinary Careers

by Deja Burrows, AOS Culinary, from La Papillote

As students at The Culinary Institute of America, we are being prepared for the rigors of the kitchen; learning to make 20 gallons of stock at a time, to plate 500 desserts within 30 minutes, and bearing the cuts, burns, and bruises in the heat of it all. But what if we never make it to the kitchen? What if our life’s dreams are not to be an executive chef? What if we would prefer food writing, food styling, or research and design? Non-traditional careers for chefs are becoming increasingly popular. It is a way to combine more then one passion and allow your culinary expertise to be displayed in a different light.
In Irena Chalmers’ book, Food Jobs, she looks at several non-traditional career paths for chefs such as food blogging, recipe testers, and futurists. Blogging is a fairly new practice of posting articles, pictures, and opinions onto the internet via social media sites or personal blogs. Culinary blog posts can be anything from a photographed step-by-step tutorial for anything from homemade pie to a review of the best French restaurant in London. Large online companies such as Gourmet Connection and Fabulous Food actually pay culinary experts to write for their websites. Smaller food bloggers can see advertisement spots on their websites to create revenue. Sasha Foppiano is a CIA alumnus who now supports herself by blogging. Her food blog explores a different country’s cuisine every week.

Back in the 80s, recipes were not commonly tested before being published. It took several failed recipes for recipe tasters to come on stream. A recipe tester is someone who receives the recipe from its developer and tries it out. Their job is to make sure that the recipe not only makes the product it promises, but does not include any potentially harmful ingredients or combinations of ingredients. Those in the Culinary Science program here at the CIA would be eligible to work in the food testing field because recipes are like scientific formulas.

A third career that Chalmers describes in her book is known as a futurist. They research former trends and cycles while trying to predict new ones for the future. Futurists also do field research in culinary establishments and publish their own theories of where they think the food world is headed. This kind of theorist is essential in our preparation for the future and in helping agriculturists, businessmen, and chefs alike keep ahead of the curve. Food bloggers, recipe testers, and futurists all need an observant eye, creative mind, and broad knowledge base of a culinary expert. These fields all need chefs.

I know many of you readers are now thinking, “Do these non-traditional careers differ too much from the traditional ones?” “Will chefs still get to express their passion for food?” “How will their culinary knowledge and skills be put to use?”

Most non-traditional culinary careers aren’t as far off as you would think. Firstly, they all include food. Most careers such as recipe developing and cheese-making include direct handling of ingredients and manipulating them in the similar ways that you would in a traditional culinary setting. Also, most of the non-traditional careers allow for the creativity and artistry that chefs usually display. This is highlighted in both food styling and food writing. Additionally, contest judges and product developers would need to utilize the same knowledge and skill base as a chef. They must have the ability to recognize flavors and build complex foods. In comparison, non-traditional jobs include more of the key characteristics of traditional culinary jobs.

It is unfortunate that many chefs who chose non-traditional paths are not recognized or held as highly as traditional chefs. This lack of recognition though is not a reason to avoid these types of careers, but instead to educate those around you about them and the knowledge and skills that they require. Chefs are known for the signature dishes they create, the restaurants they manage, and the concepts they introduce to the field. The reason those in non-traditional careers are not recognized is because they do not necessarily have a chance to do these things.

In his well-known book, The Making of a Chef, Author Michael Ruhlman discusses his experience as a student at the CIA. He was considered a writer more than a cook and had to work that much harder to prove himself as more than just a writer.Finally Ruhlman was given approval as a chef by his fundamentals instructor, but not until the end of his schooling. This perception of Ruhlman shows that food writing, along with other non traditional culinary careers, is not held as highly as culinary careers.

Non-traditional food jobs are all around us. The people in those careers influence the ingredients we buy, recipes we use, and food we see daily. Cooking is a passion. Don’t allow your fears of leaving the conventional kitchen environment hinder you from pursuing your passion. Break the mold!  

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Restaurant and Production Desserts

Welcome to Restaurant and Production Desserts class at the CIA, otherwise known as the class where everyone you know suddenly becomes amateur food photographers, but who can blame them when they have material like this to work with: 

The class is led by Chef Todd Knaster and it is a welcomed change of pace after the baking and pastry students spend six weeks in the fast paced and challenging environment of Apple Pie Bakery and Cafe. Students work in teams of four to create a different plated dessert to serve in our dining hall each day from start to finish. Lecture topics include the ins and outs of plating composition, how to make ice creams and sorbets with perfect texture, and what a balanced restaurant dessert menu looks like. Students learn how to quenelle, swoop, brush and run a pastry line professionally, all the while planning out their own work schedule.

It is the last stop in the bakeshops for the baking and pastry students, who then split in half and head off to the actual restaurants on campus. This class is meant to fully prepare them for the high stress of working on a pastry line in one of our two fine dining restaurants, Bocuse or American Bounty. It culminates in a dessert project where students work with a partner to create a one of a kind plated dessert, and serve it out of the bakeshop in the style of a restaurant. From chocolate and peanut butter to goat cheese and lavender, my class came up with some of the most creative desserts I've ever seen. I know I say it here all the time, but the further you get in the program, the cooler it is to look back and see how far you've come. My class constantly blows me away with their talent!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Serving at the Apple Pie Bakery and Cafe

By student blogger Morgan

Baking and pastry students at the CIA have two service classes to participate in before graduation, the first being four days in a simulated 'fine dining' restaurant that only serves students and the second working in the front of house for Apple Pie Bakery and Cafe. Students are sifted into front of house roles based on what positions they held in the back of house (if you were working on the savory line, you can expect to be expediting the savory food; overnight breads, packaging up bread orders; pastry, filling orders for your delicious pastries, etc.). It is a team of eight students working behind the counter in two shifts, and any remaining class members work in the dining room waiting on real, paying customers. 

The students are in charge of taking and filling orders, clearing plates, refilling drinks and answering any of your pressing questions from the menu to our curriculum. You'll notice a student 'manager' roaming around in business casual who is responsible for the flow of customers through the cafe and making sure the entire dining room is up to par. Learning the patient art of waiting on guests is a class in Apple Pie just like working in the back of house. Every day we had an end of day meeting and went over every single comment card that the guests left, to listen to feedback (both positive and negative) and learn from it.

The second part of our Apple Pie front of house class consisted of daily lectures with Professor Sessarego who is the faculty member responsible for all the goings on in the front of the cafe. The curriculum is all having to do with what we sell in Apple Pie, and geared towards making the students into even better service staff for the guests. We learned about coffee, tea, beer and wine as well as common complaints in the service industry and how to best avoid them.

We were able to taste every single variety of coffee and tea that we sell in the cafe and learn about what makes each of them unique. The cafe sells coffee from a New York based company called Counter Culture, and our tea is sourced from Harney and Sons.

 Another memorable experience in the cafe that I just have to note, was the time I was stopped by a family visiting all the way from London because they recognized me from this blog. The daughter is a 15-year-old baking and pastry hopeful who reads this blog as well as my separate website (Morgan Phillips Cakes) and I was so completely touched that they sought me out! I hope you enjoyed your visit to the school and had a wonderful lunch at the cafe! Come back and visit us soon, this time as a student! :-)  

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The "Payoff" Moment

Hello Readers, from me to you, I hope you enjoy a look inside the Culinary World!
-Timothy Fisher 

Throughout the entirety of the associate program at The Culinary Institute, whether you are a Culinary or a Baking & Pastry student, to put it quite simply, you learn a hell of a lot in just 21 months.  Spending hours upon hours in the kitchens and bakeshops honing your skills and techniques is just the precursor to the rest of our lives.  I could list it all out, but that would take hours and hours to write, let alone read.  Once you reach the bachelor's program (If you decide to continue with it), you do find that you spend the majority of your time in classrooms, attending lectures, taking notes, studying... For bachelor's students who aren't planning on doing a concentration or in the Culinary Science program, there is only one culinary class: Advance Cooking or Advanced Baking.

As the name suggests, both classes are on an advanced level and definitely expect a pre-requisite of knowledge that you have gained throughout the associate program. I didn't take the Advanced Baking course, so I can't speak much more on that topic. But on Advanced Culinary... let's just say I learned a lot more than what you would think. Now, this particular post is not to just list off what we did in the class, it is about so much more than that, but first...

A little background
Advanced Cooking is a 10 day class, with one class a week.  Each week our topic was different. We worked in teams of three or four that changed every two weeks. About half of the classes were mystery baskets, so we would walk in with only a concept of the dish requirements and no knowledge of what product we would be given.  In the class itself, we would have about two hours to conceptualize, create, taste, perfect, plate, and serve the dish. Each team would have a time to present and we would all sit down to eat a tasting portion and give constructive criticism to the team.  Afterwards, our Chef would take the team aside and give them his personal review of their dish and production as a whole.

This class was incredible.  It was one of the first times I had ever been given creative control to utilize all of the knowledge I had acquired from my time in the associate program and turn it into something, anything. While in the associate program we learn and memorize and produce (remember, repetition IS the key to learning). The goal is to build a rock-solid foundation that we as culinarians can use to be effective wherever we go in this industry. Advanced Culinary allowed me and my team(s) to take all that and do whatever we want with it.  

To put it in perspective, think about when you first start to drive a car.  It seems so daunting because you have to consciously think about everything you do; check your rearview mirror, check your side mirrors, look at your speedometer, check the limit lines, quickly survey the traffic around you, check your rearview mirror again...  We've all been there, but after awhile it becomes second nature to glance at your mirrors, you begin to see the speedometer out of the corner of your eye, and it all becomes part of an overall motion.  
Cooking is exactly the same principle.  

At first we have to constantly think and check the best way to thicken something (do I use a roux, or a slurry?); we have to look up the recipes for sauces and bases like a Hollandaise, Béchamel, or Zabaione; we have to focus intently to prepare uniform knife cuts... As time goes on all of these things become second nature and cooking goes from a strict order and formula to a fluid movement, a continuous motion that is in all honesty, a separate state of mind.

It was in this class that I had this realization of everything that I had been putting in, the hours and hours of sitting in the dormitory kitchen doing my knife cuts, the endless memorization of recipes and formulas and ratios, the repetition of skills... It all coalesced into a "Payoff" moment.  It was like getting hit by a brick wall. I was making pasta for a ravioli that would be the main component of my team's dish one of the last days of Advanced Culinary in the hottest kitchen I have ever worked in with time ticking down.  To be honest, I almost started to tear up because we go through a lot at CIA to be able to maintain the utmost standard that is expected of any CIA graduate.  To know that it was all starting to payoff, well, there really isn't anything that feels the same.

Whether you stay on for the bachelor's program or head out into the industry after your associate graduation, you will have your own "Payoff" moment when you realize everything you have done.

Just like me, you'll probably smile in the midst of some task, sweating in the heat of production, standing in the walk-in looking around for something to put in your special that day, or moving a fork a smidge to the left on table 64 right before service begins and think 

"You know, it was all worth it".

A special thanks to Chef Robert Mullooly for providing a class that became something I will never forget
"A lot of people don't understand what we do; all the love and passion we put into every bite... But that doesn't mean we can't take critique from any person, even the ones who don't get it -It's always worth listening too."
~Chef Mullooly