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.