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 globaltableadventure.com 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 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

What's New on Campus?: August 2014

By student blogger Morgan

It's definitely time for another campus update! So much changed over the summer break that I hardly recognized the place when we got back. In a [very] shortened summation, here's what went on around here in August:

1.) The garden is a growin'

We have multiple gardens on campus including an herb garden on the piazza of our Italian restaurant, Caterina De' Medici, a brand new "beverage garden" in the Marriott plaza, plus many edible plants and flowers sprinkled throughout campus. The garden that springs up right by St. Andrew's circle, though, is by far my favorite.

Here they grow a number of different greens, tomatoes, squash, herbs, eggplant and even corn. The entire thing is boarded by these humongous sunflowers that I look forward to all year long!

2.) Res Life Events

Res life is back in full swing now that all the students are back on campus following summer break. The different halls trade off hosting fun events for students to attend on campus and win all kinds of crazy prizes. Most recently they had a 'Minute to Win It' challenge in which students had the opportunity to complete fun challenges in under a minute to win a $10 gift card of their choice.

3.) New Bachelor program: Applied Food Studies

There's a new bachelor's program in town! It's a shorter time commitment than the other Bachelor programs offered by the CIA and it has an emphasis on food's history through society and culture. Such interesting stuff, my gastronomy class here was my absolute favorite of the academic classes and this sounds to be along the same lines. Make sure you check it out!

4.) Epic ice bucket challenges for ALS

It might be the heat and extreme humidity we've been hit with late this summer, but the students and staff at the CIA are fully embracing the ALS ice bucket challenge phenomenon. Follow the link below to see our President accept a challenge from Thomas Keller, and two of the favorite culinary chefs get creamed by some of their students:


I saved the best for last, ya'll! Guess what's opened after break? The most beautiful new workout facilities of any culinary school anywhere. I absolutely guarantee it! As I've mentioned before, our Rec center has been undergoing a gigantic change all year. The final phase is slated to open in 2015 and will include such awesomeness as a brewery sponsored by Brooklyn Brewery and a food court. You'll have to be the ones to tell me how ridiculously cool that is, but for now....

A new front entrance!

A gorgeous cardio room with TV's on Every. Single. Machine. What. It's also the only exercise room on the planet where you'll find the majority of people are working out whilst watching food tv. #Irony?

A state of the art weight room with all the latest and greatest equipment. Plus an all purpose room for fitness classes, a class room for orientation and intramural sports meetings, our pool, basketball courts, racketball courts and BRAND NEW TENNIS COURTS in a new spot on campus by the lodges. So many new exciting fitness things...do you think they're trying to tell us something??

Monday, September 1, 2014

Apple Pie Bakery and Cafe

By student blogger Morgan 

A class that takes up two blocks (six weeks total) and covers both the front and back of houses in the cafe, Apple Pie is the equivalent of "Restaurant Row" for the baking and pastry students at the CIA. It is the chance to work in a contained real-world situation and get to see all of the different parts of a working bakery. For the first three weeks of the class, students are assigned to a position in the back of the house in three different categories: savory, pastry or breads. Job assignments are usually a collaboration between Chef Ballay, the group leader and the students' preference. In the savory kitchen, pastry students work with two MIT's (managers in training) to prep and create the full cafe menu available for lunch from 11:00 am -5:00 pm. They are in class from 5:00 am until about 3:00 pm working hard to learn (sometimes) completely new skill sets from what they've just spent the passed two years practicing. They have one of the longest days and the busiest jobs...I so much respect for the savory line!

There is a team of 5-7 students depending on your class size who hold down and even more non-traditional schedule while in Apple Pie- the overnight bread bakers. Working in stations such as artisan breads, bagels, brioche and lamination, these students are in class from 11:30 pm until all the bread is done for the next day (usually around 7 or 8 am). They bake delicious New York style bagels, ciabatta, foccacia, baguettes, sourdough loaves and a variety of donuts, muffins and other baked goods all from scratch before most people even open their eyes in the morning. They make the bake shop smell heavenly and they look good doing it! 

And the third installment of back of house Apple Pie is the pastry team. The majority of a class of pastry students ends up here, usually 7-10 depending on the size of a class. They are broken up further into positions such as pastry show case, team macaron, glazing and finishing and retail items. Together, they work from 5:00 am until 3:00 pm to stock the bakery with all of the sweet items each day as well as stock the back with mise en place for future desserts, orders and classes. Whether a pastry team member is whipping up the fourth batch of macarons for the day or wearing a trash bag over their whites and stirring a gigantic pot of bubbling jam, this is the team you've probably pressed your noses against the windows and watched on a tour. An example of some items created by the pastry team are raspberry pistachio pops, chocolate dipped cupcakes, mini cheesecakes, mini black forest cakes, eclairs, eight different flavors of French macarons, dessert jars and large entremet cakes.

This is what the pastry case looks like on a daily basis at Apple Pie by 9:00 am. By closing time this plus a back up refrigerator will be nearly sold out!

A frequently used and unique garnish for the desserts at Apple Pie is the gooseberry. It is a small, cherry-tomato sized berry that grows in beautiful paper thin leaves. It tastes even more unique than it looks- like a cross between a tomato, watermelon and an orange and it offers a gorgeous and adornment to our desserts.

 Students remain in their assigned jobs for the full three weeks of this block, practicing and perfecting targeted skills. Because Apple Pie is a real, live working bakery, students also have the responsibility of taking inventory for their stations, learning about ordering and maintaining minimum stocks. On any given day the cafe serves thousands of people and we have to keep constant track of every item and ingredient to make sure our products remain on the shelves to sell. After three weeks making all of the products behind the scenes, students transition to the front of the house and get to experience the other side of business. Stay tuned to hear all about front of house Apple Pie next week!