Wednesday, March 26, 2014

All Aboard!

By Student Blogger Stephanie Kirkland..

On a recent train ride back to the Hudson Valley, I began to wonder how often I had ridden the hour and a half journey to and from New York City in the time I have been at college; a location that is so near to the metropolis as it is. I don’t have an exact number by any means, but I can say that I know Penn Station like the back of my kitchen-scarred, left hand.
For the most part, students come from all over the country, and the world as a matter of fact, to attend classes at The Culinary Institute of America. To be able to go to the city as often as you’d like and to be exposed to all of the different food and culture that the rest of the country doesn’t get to experience on a regular basis is a remarkable opportunity that I can say I have taken advantage of.
I even took the train for the first time to attend the career discovery program, a couple day course that gave me an introduction into the foodservice and hospitality industry. At the time, the program was available to sophomore and junior students in high school who believed they have an interest in cooking and making food a career. By the end of the program, I had not only connected with a variety of high school students with my same interests, but was forever exposed to what could be available to me if I chose to attend. I remember with every meal I ate in the dining hall, solidification of my further education was laid to rest, most memorable being venison and a sweet potato puree for lunch and that was probably five years ago.  
The train, complete with its sights and smells, is the vessel in which I travel home, to visit friends, to make connections, and the perfect way to travel all around. I have time to actually think in relative silence. And it is my most preferred place to write, next to the comfort of my bed. I find that my emotions and thoughts are so clear and precise, and that I am able to capture those as best as I can through words as the train continues to pass through smaller and smaller towns and flashing yellow railroad crossings. And I never have a bad thought, I am never discouraged, and I am always uplifted by the end of whatever journey I find myself on.

Living My Culinary Dream

by Emilio Cerra, AOS Culinary, from La Papillote
In high school, if you told me that in three years I would be attending The Culinary Institute of America, I wouldn’t have even understood what that was. I had never heard of the school prior to doing research on culinary schools.

I was born in Mexico but grew up in Spartanburg, a medium-size town in upstate South Carolina. Spartanburg is by no means considered progressive or forward-thinking when it comes to its restaurant scene. I didn’t have any family or friends who worked in the foodservice industry prior to working in restaurants myself. However, at the same time, my family (both nuclear and extended) has always been very much captivated by food, cooking, and eating. Basically all of our family events would center around a meal. Even immediately after eating to total capacity, we found ourselves still sitting at the table, discussing what or where we wanted to eat next. We were, essentially, “foodies.” I probably spent more time reading cookbooks and other books related to food or chefs than anything else. After a short one-year stint studying Computer Science at Clemson University, I realized how miserable I was. Clemson is not only an excellent school, but also has a beautiful campus. I was having fun socially there, but I just had zero ambitions for the future, and I found my programming classes to be a drag. So, after consulting with my parents, I began to pursue the idea of a culinary career. I was only interested in working at the highest levels of cuisine, and eventually desired to open my own restaurant.

In order to do that, I needed to get a solid education in the fundamentals of the culinary arts. I immediately knew that the local community college was not going to cut it, and after further research, I was pretty sure that the CIA was the right choice. I knew that they had over forty learning kitchens, as well as three award-winning restaurants, and also knew that the chef-instructors were all very experienced. The four month externship requirement meant real-world experience, too. It all looked fantastic on paper, but I still had some doubts, so I visited Johnson and Wales University in Charlotte, NC. About twenty-five minutes into the tour, I could tell that it just was not quite the caliber of the CIA. I also didn’t appreciate the fact that JWU would place you somewhere on externship, giving you very little choice on what kind of food/experience you would have. This continued to assure me that CIA was the right choice, and I continued with the application process. I had an immense amount of help from Jacqui Pressinger from the Admissions Office here, which was yet another thumbs up for the CIA. Finally, I toured the school a few weeks before I was supposed to start, and I was more than blown away. Not only is the campus beautiful, but the kitchens and other facilities looked incredible. I no longer was at all worried about what the correct choice was, I knew I was headed to the CIA, and that is something that has been reinforced one hundred times over since I have been here.

I have now been here a little over a month, and I have been continuously, pleasantly surprised by how incredible this school really is. I have never met a group of more focused students who are also just as interested in their classmates’ success. Although the course load is heavy, and the truly difficult parts have not yet begun, the chefs and instructors are always here to see you succeed. They want you to reach your highest potential. I have had students literally take me exactly where I needed to go when I asked for directions. One time even a student got up from a table at Farq, plate full of hot food, to show me where K-3 was when I had absolutely no idea how to get there. The amount of activities the school has set up for the students outside of their typical classes is also astonishing. The other night after Fundamentals class I went to see a demo by the Butcher and the Beast Society on how to make smoked foie gras mousse that included a tasting of the mousse as well as a TĂȘte de Cochon roulade tasting. I mean, come on! You don’t find this at any other culinary school. The library has every possible book related to food I could ever imagine. I have literally gotten goosebumps from the food I have tasted here, as well as the different “moments” I have had. And it’s only been one month! I could not be prouder to be part of a student body that will go on to change and lead this industry.

It feels amazing to finally be focused intently on my singular goal here at the CIA. I get more and more excited about my upcoming classes and the techniques and skills I will eventually learn, especially when I hear students who have been here longer than me discussing it. I am ready to continue to take “pride in the traditions of excellence” and get the most out of my education here at the CIA. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

What's New? : March Block

By student blogger Morgan

Things change quickly around here and I've been meaning to start a series on this blog to reflect that for a while now. Once a block (three weeks in real world time, one class in CIA time) I'm going to do a post on the happenings and news of the CIA campus. At any given moment, there are tons of exciting things happening around here and the plan is to do the best I can to keep you updated with my block-ly post. So, what's new on campus this March?

  1. The Hudson River looks like this:

....still. But we've had a warm week so hopefully winter is finally behind us!

2. We had a Chowdah cook-off two weeks ago, complete with a oyster shuck-off and eating contest

Fourteen student teams competed for the school's best chowder. Students visited each tent to sample the chowder and voted for their favorite. Winners were announced in a variety of categories including people's choice, best theme and overall best.

3. A new building just opened on campus named the Marriott Pavilion and it is b-e-a-utiful. When I first started as a student at the CIA, this building was a giant hole in the ground. It's been fun to see the process from start to finish!

The main hall has a mural of food related word-art and plaster versions of our favorite ingredients and tools.

The main purpose of the building is an auditorium for assemblies, speakers and graduations in this two story auditorium that is now the biggest on campus. 

4. Ferran Adria was invited to come for the opening of the Marriott Pavilion and speak about the projects going on at El Bulli Foundation, the food research park he has created in the wake of El Bulli's closing.

5. We have another construction project on campus at the student rec center. The whole thing is scheduled to open Spring 2015, but parts will be open as they're finished, like new weights, cardio and dance rooms. New this week- there's a wall up!

I believe this will eventually be the entrance to the new building that will house- in addition to all of the regular gym things and the pool- a brewery and a fresh foods market/cafe. Exciting things ahead for this building!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Saving the Planet Experiment- Weeks #5 and #6

by student blogger Kristin

Welcome back to my “Saving the Planet” Experiment! I know I skipped a week again but as the plants grow taller they are also growing at a slower rate which means not a lot of blogging material. That being said, however, I had an epiphany this past weekend.

I was hanging out with a friend who just so happens to be in my Ecology of Food class and is conducting this same experiment. During a pause in the conversation of the evening he asked me “Hey, how are your plants doing?” I went on to explain some of the failures and successes that I had experienced with the corn so far. I told him of the quick first growth, the devastating root rot, and the progress of my two remaining corn stalks. I, of course, returned the question to him and quickly learned of some upsetting transplanting issues with beets but promising future endeavors with carrots. We shared stories and debated growing strategies for a good twenty minutes when my friend made me realized something. “It’s like having a pet isn’t it?”

It was then that I realized why this whole project has been so important to me. This was more than a grade. I have “adopted” a growing, living being that is now completely my responsibility. The conversation with my friend inspired me to do whatever it takes to make this corn successful and to start growing more house plants whenever this winter finally subsides.

With all that being in mind, I do have some progress to report from Weeks #5 and #6 of my Blue Jade Corn’s growing season. It is as follows:

Week #5: Further Discoloration of Remaining Plants
Growing Period from 2/27-3/5
At the beginning of week #5, the two original plants are dead. Just like my prediction from the last post, these have been completely taken by root rot. While it was a sad day, I had to move my attention over to the other two plants quickly in order to try and save them.

The two remaining plants looked healthy but troubled. Their leaves were quickly turning a bright shade of yellow but new shoots continued to grow out of their stalks. This confused me but I decided not to fully panic yet. Instead, I did a bit more research.

What I found was that all corn can handle a lot of sun and water and actually thrives in an environment where these two things are surplus. So, according to this advice, I bumped up the plants water supply and got my corn a grow lamp. Now when the sun goes down, I move my corn under the grow lamp to try and mimic a few extra hours of sun. After the first few days under these conditions, my corn seemed to be responding well and I saw new leaves developing.

Week #6: There is hope!
Growing Period from 3/6-3/12
At the beginning of this week, I realized that I had been looking at the growth and so called “decay” of my corn all wrong. Growing up around the country area my whole life, I have of course been through and around corn fields. In fact, I drove through multiple everyday on my commute to high school for four years. Anyways…

What I realized was that on every corn plant I have ever seen, the stalk seems to be protected by seemingly dead or rough corn leaves. I always just assumed that it was to do with what season I was viewing the corn. For example, if I was in a corn maze during the fall maybe the plant was starting to show signs the upcoming winter. But it was this week that I realized that maybe these leaves are sacrificial and are a normal part of a healthy corn’s natural life cycle. This may sound ridiculous and I have found no research to support it but I am hopeful and with this new found theory, I kept watching my corn.

The good news so far is that my remaining corn is really thriving. Over the course of week #6, they have grown taller and stronger with new leaves appearing rapidly. Unfortunately, the bottom leaves have completely turned brown and shriveled back to the stalk. This browning has not seemed to affect the overall health of the plant, however. For now, the increased light and water have seemed to help!

I am getting more and more hopeful for the future of these two plants!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

On Campus Job Opportunities

By student blogger Stephanie Kirkland

I've been racking up campus jobs. I wish I could be the typical, apathetic student  wake up around noon, go to class for a few hours, go to lunch, go home, hangout  I WISH I could do that without feeling antsy or like I was wasting the day. And as much as I miss my bed throughout the day, I busy myself so I don't dwell on all the relaxation I could be participating in.

My first campus job was in the library, as a clerk. It was basically, the most prized job in my eyes because of the fact it was a quiet place that I could get all of my homework done – because I got paid to do it didn’t hurt either. 

I had my sights set on writing for the school newspaper too. Writing one article every three weeks didn’t seem like such a big deal at the time. But then again, maybe I just wanted to be involved in whatever I could and hone some talent that I saw in myself. I ended up being able to grow with the publication, and eventually held a position as Editor-in-Chief for a year. Acting as a student leader within such a position was an opportunity in which I don’t think I could have experienced anywhere else. It is also something I know will benefit me throughout my entire career, and adequately represents who I am, what I can achieve, and the extent of my passion and dedication.

I believe my shift was 9 a.m. - noon at the library in the beginning before I left on my extern and switched to 5 p.m. - 8 when I returned and my class schedule was different then it had been. I was able to make my work schedule around my classes and most times I’d pick up extra shifts just because. I also began working in the Publishing department of the CIA after extern too. Because of my interests in food media and publishing, I had been referred to the ladies in publishing, and was given opportunities that I could not have received on campus in the same capacity as they have been able to offer me. 

What I find so intriguing about the department is that they single-handedly run a show that incorporates book design, recipe testing, photo studio, styling, editorial and conversion work with five women at the helm, with us student workers and externs readily willing to complete a multitude of tasks on tight deadlines. 

With my gained knowledge of skills acquired in the library, through the school newspaper and publishing department, I was able to surround myself and continue to learn about all kinds of things I would have been unaware of otherwise. 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Confectionery Arts Class at the CIA

by student blogger Morgan

I have been looking forward to this class ever since I first pressed my nose up against the cake-adorned windows of Bakeshop 5 during my tour as a prospective student. The glitz and glamour that is the showpiece side of our industry is no doubt what so many chef hopefuls come to the CIA to learn. Endless Food Network TV shows highlighting all of the creative uses of sugar and chocolate have done so much to inform the casual observer of what pastry chefs do every day and inspire kids to enter into this industry. Confectionery arts is a big part of pastry and although we didn't actually make anything edible in this class, we sure did make a lot of pretty-ness out of edible materials. So without any further ado, allow me to share with you the literal 'eye candy' that comes out of Bakeshop 5 at the CIA:

Sugar and chocolate showpieces from our very first four days of class.

We were assigned a Valentine's Day themed piece but had full creative license over how to arrange and color the chocolate.

Gumpaste flower spray made entirely out of sugar.

One of our final projects was designing and decorating a three tiered cake in buttercream using any of the mediums we had learned in the class. They are delivered down to Farqueson Hall to sit on the stage during the graduation banquet every three weeks. 

The cakes from my class all lined up.

Our second final project was creating one of those dummy cakes that sit in the bakeshop window lookin' pretty. The designs are assigned and the cakes are built in teams of two over two classes.

And then they, too are sent down to sit center stage at a graduation banquet. The CIA instagrammed (@theculinaryinstituteofamerica) this awesome photo of the finished cakes that students are working on above:

Confectionery Arts is an awesome class and the perfect first stop at the CIA after externship. Not only did we get to experiment with decorating mediums that I might never have had the opportunity to elsewhere, but we got to apply design principals to real life cakes and carry the whole process out. Cake decorating is one of my first and strongest pastry loves and this class was everything I wanted it to be!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Guess Where? Round 4

by student blogger Kristin

I am very excited to see that some of you are still enjoying these “Where am I?” blogs and have even started guessing at my location! To my great joy, a few of you were able to pin point the location of these peppers to the front of Roth Hall. In fact, in front of our magnificent flagship building there are many planters containing fruits and vegetables that accentuate the buildings natural beauty. All of the planters are scattered over the beautiful Anton Plaza, a large open area located in from of Roth Hall. Come the spring and early summer months, I love sitting on the marble benches on Anton and enjoying the warm rays of the sun, the gentle noises of the fountain, and of course, the beautiful views of the scenery.

This week’s CIA themed picture brings us back inside one of the buildings on campus (I would tell you which but that would give it away). The theme of this week’s intriguing picture is:


No meal is quite complete without the perfect beverage by its side. We all know this is true and there is no bigger supporter of this theory than the CIA. In fact, the CIA believes this so strongly that different beverage education courses are worked all throughout the curriculum, whether it be the associate degree or your bachelor's.

Going through the associate degree in both Culinary Arts and Baking and Pastry Arts, students are required to take a wines course. This three week class encompasses wine varieties and regions from all over the world! Learning such a large portion of another culture is an amazing experience (conducting different tastings isn’t half bad either!). For the Culinary Arts students, this overall knowledge of wines is put to the test when they perform as the Front of House serving staff in one of the many restaurants on campus.

The beverage world really opens up to students within the Bachelor's Program. There are multiple courses involving beverage knowledge, history, management, and even costing. Throughout my Bachelor's Degree, I have been involved in three of these courses: Advanced Wines; Spirits and Mixology; and Brewed: History, Culture and Production of Beer. Having these courses throughout the Bachelor's program is not only a fun way to fulfill an elective requirement. These courses teach students how to plan beverage menus that will complement certain foods and budgets. This information is priceless for anyone intending on opening up a restaurant.

I thought this picture of a wine cellar was a perfect representation of the beverage culture here at The Culinary Institute of America. As can be well represented by the picture, students are taught not only about the highest quality beverages but also about a wide range of styles. Looking at the background of this picture makes it easier to appreciate just how many wine variations CIA students are required to know!

If you know where this classic styled wine cellar is located, please leave your guess below!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

My San Francisco Chronicle's

by student blogger Stephanie Kirkland

Beef Bourguignon. Photos by: Craig Lee
Food Styling by: Stephanie Kirkland
If you have read my other post, you already know that it took me a while to be able to hand in my first article to the team at LaPapillote. I had no idea what kind of response I would get, or if they would even consider that it get published in the next issue. I also had no idea that I wanted to be a food writer at the time, but I needed some kind of outlet that I wasn’t managing to get from my family and friends who I felt so far away from in the beginning. La Papillote catapulted me into a world I didn’t know existed, or thought I was going to be any part of.

My next step in my food media based chain of events was when I got a job in the library. I was surrounded by the largest collection of food related books in the country, and helped people search for, and find those books on anything from iced tea to veganism.  

Salmon Tartar 
Before I knew it, I was quickly approaching extern. I went about checking the database for possible locations, and with the possibilities being of 2,000 options, decided to narrow down the search and select publication options instead. Extern ended up being at The San Francisco Chronicle’s Food & Wine Section’s test kitchen which is now defunct. The section itself has been co-mingled with the other subsections in the paper, and has been made into one single section. You may wonder then, ‘well what do you do now? Don’t many other students continue their jobs after school with their prized extern site?”  Well, right now I’m not worried.  The big downturns that are currently happening in the print media world were being felt two years ago when I was on extern. I already had the feeling that they wouldn’t be hiring anyone from the outside, already being the tight knit group they were. As an extern, I could feel the tension all over. The office space that I split my time in between working in the kitchen was obviously made for more staff writers, editors, and interns – but I did get my own desk/cubicle so who’s really complaining? But anyway, I had already predicted there would be a slim chance of my return upon my graduation from the bachelor's program, which isn’t to say that I am not still in touch with many of the people I worked with, or they would think twice about doing anything they could to help me out come time to find a j-o-b.

Halibut Filet with Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes
Overall, it was an eye opening, exhilarating, and an experience that confirmed all of my hopes of what would eventually turn out to being my career one day. I dabbled plenty in recipe testing, food styling, and photography. I was able to pick place settings and props that I thought would be best suited for the camera. In that aspect, my creativity roamed freely. I was able to assist in all aspects of the publication process – I hunted down ingredients, grocery shopped, prepped and cooked, styled, and assisted in food photo shoots, and of course I tasted. And all of my senses were at work at the same time. A little perfectionist side of me came out as I tweaked and prodded at certain pieces of vegetable or protein a little more to the left or right so that the camera would get this perfect view of a dish. My eye was keenly aware as to all of the possible angles that the camera could be trying to catch. The photo studio that was located in the same building as the test kitchen smelled, on any given day, like beef bourguignon or roasted vegetables. Unlike at some other food styling sites, which create ads for those you see in magazines, we didn’t use any additives in trying to create a pretty picture. It was all real food, real colors, and real steam. I may have used water or broth to liquefy a sauce more, but it was nothing that would have compromised flavor, or proved to be inedible after the shoot. And hearing the sounds of the clicks from the camera solidified my work as art.

Because my job description was so broad during my extern, and because of the amount I have been able to take advantage of since my time at the CIA, even though my extern site is closed since, I feel as though I’m still headed in the right direction. A lot of my other peers have gone down the opposite direction and on through their education, kept in contact with their employer through extern, returning their after graduation – and now have very successful careers in the same restaurant they basically started in.

3 Chile Sirloin Chili
I returned to school after extern refreshed, excited to see friends daily, and ready to take on the second half of my AOS degree. Along the way, I was promoted to Editor-in-Chief of the school newspaper, which I had contributed to before and through extern. I also remained in the Conrad H. Hilton Library building, however instead of retrieving and putting away books on food, I assisted in actually bringing a cookbook to life in our school’s publishing department where I currently spend off hours in between classes today. I assist in formatting recipes, choosing props for photo shoots, and taste countless recipes before they are finalized to go to print. I know, it sounds really rough. And for the majority of the time, it is a good time but that doesn’t mean there are any less serious conversations about texture, seasoning, and technique about any number of ingredients that make their way into a single dish.

It is still unclear to me which road I will choose to go after first in this world of food media. Though I want to write primarily, I am also open to doing more food styling and recipe development. I am lucky in that all of these basically go hand-in-hand. Hopefully I will move forward, taking the steps I believe that will catapult me even further into a different, and beautiful world of food.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Saving the Planet Experiment- Week #3 and #4

by student blogger Kristin

Growing Weeks from 2/7-2/26

Hello there! For any of you following this project, you may have noticed that I skipped a week in posting any information or progress. I regret to inform you all that this is because I have run into some troubles with the plants. I will try to fully explain the slight heart break I have been going through.
(You can check out Week 1 and Week 2 progress posts to learn more about this experiment.)

Week #3
If you can look at the very tips of the leaves on this
plant you can see that the edges have begun to
brown and split.
At the beginning of week #3, I experienced my first obstacle. The two corn stalks that had been sprouted using the traditional method (in dirt) had started to brown on the edges of their leaves. I watched this cautiously and hoped that maybe the leaves would turn a deep purple just as the sprouts had done. However, the next day, the brown on the leaves had crept further towards the stalk and I knew something was wrong. I tried to solve the problem with more sun and more water, but the problem still continued.

 At this point, I felt a bit lost. I did not know how to save these two plants. What was even more confusing was that their paper towel counterparts were still growing taller every day and displayed a bright hue of green. Then, the culprit made itself apparent. On the last day of week #3, small patches of white mold emerged to the surface of the soil. My plants were experiencing root rot.

What is root rot?
Root rot is a type of mold that develops due to poor drainage. Plants that are either overwatered or planted in a vessel without proper drainage will be waterlogged and can become affected by this mold. The water makes it impossible for the roots to get the air that they need and the plant begins to die from the roots up.

So, before I could continue with my saving the planet experiment, it was time to conduct the “Save the Plant” experiment first.

Week #4
Unfortunately for me and my corn, there is no fool proof way to save a plant from root rot. In fact, when root rot develops to proper stages it can actually infect other plants and the dirt it is contained in. My only option was to try to move these plants and remove whatever roots were already affected.

I took the new container for my plants and cut holes in the bottom to make sure of proper drainage. I also got new dirt to completely start over. After doing some research, I found that some soil is actually too heavy to get proper air and water flow for certain roots. This time, the soil I’m using is known to help with moisture control. I carefully lifted each plant out of the contaminated soil, brushed off all the dirt, and removed any roots that looked dead. I plated them carefully in the new dirt, gave them water and prayed that this would work.

It is now the end of week #4 and time for the bad news. The two original plants are almost completely dead. Their stalks are still green and show signs of making an effort to come back but the leaves are completely browned. I think I have to officially call it on these two.

But, now time for the good news. Because the two plants that were sprouted in paper towels were a few days behind the progress of the other plants, they seem to be unaffected by the root rot. They are still showing some signs of wilting but after tweaking some sunlight and watering habits they are still healthy and growing well. These two now are my only chance so wish them luck! Hopefully I will not have more bad news for next week’s post!