Friday, November 20, 2015

Kitchen vs. Combat

It’s sweltering hot, you’re sweating profusely from head to toe, and everyone’s shouting orders all over the place; where are you? You could be in contact with enemy forces while conducting an operation that just went kinetic, or you could be inside a kitchen’s dinner service during the big rush. Although relatively minor, the similarities between the two are sometimes very real. Now don’t get me wrong, I am by no means suggesting that being a line cook in a kitchen is the same as being in combat. However, they can relate.

First, the mindset is a major aspect, in that there is a lot of planning and preparing for every mission/service. Being mentally prepared to take on any obstacle that strays from the original plan is extremely important; like an oven range or burner going down mid-service, to losing all radio communication with support elements shortly after your working dog indicates a response on explosive material. Being technically proficient to overcome those obstacles is essential to mission success. Just like in the kitchen, your skills, techniques, and the tools you’re expected to be proficient with are what carry out the mission on the battlefield, but it’s the commander and the head chef that are calling all the shots. There has to be a relationship between you and your leadership, a mutual understanding of capabilities while at the same time maintenance of order and discipline. Every graduate of The Culinary Institute of America can attest to the necessity of chain of command in the kitchen. Georges Auguste Escoffier is mentioned in just about every class here and he invented the concept of the brigade system in the culinary world. Every station has its own special task to assist in the execution of a dish; but all report to a “higher up.” When an order for a medium rare steak with sautéed hericot vert beans, topped with fried onion straws walks in, the chef calls it out, and all stations execute. Grill station is grilling protein while fry is dropping straws and sauté is firing vegetables, all while communicating what’s going on. I was a Military Working Dog Handler in the Air Force and my job was (putting it lightly) to find things that go boom. On operations where a person of interest needed to be captured all “stations” did their part. “The ticket walked in” and the location was raided. I searched for explosive making materials, while interrogators questioned captures, and the rest secured the area to ensure our safety while carrying out our tasks. The whole time the commander, just like the chef, maintained control and guidance over what was going on. Any combat veteran would find it easy to relate the kitchen and the battlefield.
On the other hand, the two can be very different animals entirely. When a mistake is made on the battlefield you could get someone killed, and that someone could be you. I’m not talking about serve safe violations either. It’s not the same as the improper handling of poultry products and having a Salmonella situation on your hands. You can stop serving that dish for the night. It could be a point man (the first person to enter a room being raided) missing the booby trap on the back door of a room that’s about to be breached. Now an entire team is out of the fight, and the entire mission has just changed. When things like this happened, those little obstacles mentioned earlier, you can’t just stop serving that dish or close the restaurant for the night; The fight goes on. There’s no tapping out or quitting when it gets too stressful. You have to keeping fighting until you’re safe from the enemy or there’s no more enemy to fight (if you know what I mean).

 Another major difference would be the overall life stress. I know many chefs in the industry would argue that the culinary industry does take a toll on your life with long hours and not being able to be home in time to tuck your kids into bed or give your wife a kiss while she’s still awake. While you’re deployed there’s no going home at all and worse, you often can’t even go to the wooden shack on the base you’ve started to call home. You’re often sleeping on the ground for several days with the only mental comfort of hoping one of your buddies doesn’t fall asleep right before something really bad happens.

Coming into the CIA I knew very little about the professional kitchen and what went on inside it. But now after working in one and attending class here I have learned to appreciate the similarities and differences between the kitchen and combat.

Staff Sergeant Adam Belward
Military Working Dog Handler
United Stated Air Force (separated)

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Easy Jacket Cleanup

by Matthew Stocker, Associate Degree in Culinary Arts, excerpted from La Papillote

There is one feeling in the kitchen that never goes away, even when you have had a great day. This feeling can influence your quality of work, and even how others perceive you. This is the feeling of being dirty. We have all been there. An hour into class when you get red sauce on your jacket, or someone next to you is whisking a little too hard and splatters you with hollandaise. The Culinary Institute proudly shows off their students, expecting them to be clean and confident. The only problem is, sometimes, confidence goes hand and hand with how our jackets are kept. If you have hit the brick wall when it comes to cleaning, and you just cannot get that one stain off, hopefully, you will learn a few tricks of the trade here.

1. Here is what the students say: Bleach, bleach, and maybe a little more bleach. Before we came to the CIA, bleach worked on all of the day-to-day stains. After washing my jackets here, I have noticed that bleach will remove some of the lighter stains, but barely helps on the deeper stains. One tactic to keep in your head is that forms of pre-soaking, or even letting bleach sit on the stained spots for ten minutes before washing, help a lot. Pre-soaking is usually for 24 hours, having your coat in a container submerged in a bleach and water mixture. If we look at bleach on a molecular level, we understand that the bleach breaks the chemical bonds of the stain, which is why soaking is a leading choice for tough stains. Both pre-washing methods have seemed to be more effective than just putting bleach in the washer. Please note that when you do use these methods YOU STILL NEED TO add bleach to the washer for maximum results.

2. Not all stains are the same, which means they cannot all be treated the same. Protein stains can be big trouble if you do not know what to do. Common thought tells us to wash all of our whites in hot water because they cannot bleed. For protein stains, hot water can cook the stain into the fibers of the jacket. Hot water denatures the protein, taking the water out of it, making it difficult to dilute. Most stain fighters have the enzyme to help fight proteins, so you can use the common bleach or other stain removers. Just remember to use cold or warm water instead of hot water. Protein stains, among other stains, are hard to get out once set in, so a bleach pen is good to have in your pocket to lighten the stain quickly before the stain sets.

3. Regular maintenance is protocol to keep your jacket in tip-top shape. Avoid bleach if you do not have to use it. A good day in the kitchen means you will not have any bad stains, and the lesser stains can be removed with a simple product like Oxi-Clean® Bleach. However, these products will wear your jacket down, and, if you use too much, can leave holes in the jacket. Many chefs will give you the simple answer to getting stains out: just do not get stained. If you only have to heavily clean your jacket once every two weeks, opposed to using bleach every other day, you will notice that your jacket will last longer and be more cooperative when stained.

4. Being a student, I have my own ritual for taking out the worst stains. From grease splatters to red sauce, this works every time. I have SuperTrump™ from Ecolab®. It is used in dishwashers to clean kitchen equipment, and in my case, uniforms. I put a coffee mug of it in a five-gallon bucket filled from halfway to three-quarters full, depending on how concentrated I want the chemical. I soak my jacket in the mixture for 24 hours. After soaking, I put my jacket and the chemical water mixture in the washer with a little bleach and a Tide® pack. I have never had a problem with this method. This method is pricey because the chemical can go for $60 a gallon, but it is relative to how effective I find it. This is not to say that a mixture you can make for five dollars is not more effective, and I implore you to find the cheapest and most effective way to clean a jacket.

Next time you clean your jacket, think of what kind of stain it is, and then what the best way to clean the stain is. If you decide to use your own mixture of chemicals, please remember to never mix ammonia and bleach, and to not get any chemicals on your skin. Be safe, and experiment your mixtures on other white clothing before you use a lot of it on a valuable chef’s jackets.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Thomas Keller Interview

Thomas Keller Imparts Wisdom onto CIA Students
Renowned Chef & Board of Trustee Member

by Sarah Lubitz, Associate Degree in Culinary Arts, from La Papillote 

On October 7th, I had the honor of interviewing Chef Thomas Keller while he was on campus for a board of directors meeting here at CIA. Chef Keller is a chef that often needs little introduction because he work tends to speak for itself. But, it certainly does not hurt to go over his list of accomplishments. Thomas Keller has created many legendary restaurants. He started with his flagship, The French Laundry, in Yountville, California in 1994. Bouchon followed in 1998, and Bouchon Bakery opened a few years later. In February 2004, Keller opened Per Se in New York City. Ad Hoc opened in 2006, the most casual of all of his restaurants.

For most of here at The Culinary, we look to Thomas Keller as a source of inspiration. His career is one that serves as an example of determination, passion, and innovation. When I realized that I had the chance to interview Thomas Keller, I realized that I needed to ask questions that would be beneficial to not only me, but beneficial to all of the students at CIA. My encounter with Chef Keller was one that I will treasure for the rest of my life. He was kind and insightful, and his calm voice and his laughter made me feel less nervous than I felt. (I was a bundle of nerves!) After the interview, he stayed afterwards to get a picture with me and with other students. I still cannot believe that day happened.

Once I had interview Thomas Keller, I discussed my interview with Chef McCue. He casually suggested that I ask some chefs here at The Culinary the same questions that I asked Chef Keller. Curious to see the results of this, I sought out some chef instructors. Those interviews will be featured in the next issue of La Papillote! The following is my interview with Thomas Keller:

Q: What made you decide to partner with CIA?
A: It wasn’t a decision, it was an invitation from Tim Ryan, who holds a position I have a high regard and high respect for, and he’s a very good friend. I think that his vision and determination in regards to the school has been exemplary and forward-thinking, and I was just happy and honored to be invited to be a part of that and, in a small way, contribute my opinion and my expertise in any way that would benefit the school.

Q: What is the most important thing that you have learned that you can pass onto students?
A: That’s a good question, and it’s been asked before, and I always come back to basically the same two words. Patience, first of all—being patient with your career and your education, being in the moment, and not thinking about where you want to be tomorrow. Because, if you think about where you want to be tomorrow today, you’re not going to get there because you need to be thinking about today and what you’re doing today. And, the most important part of that is having patience with yourself, having patience with those around you, having patience with your career so that you are able to learn, so you experience and gain knowledge in the moment so you can actually appreciate your career. Some of the best times of my career were times when I was a young cook cooking on the line. I always wanted to be the sous chef, and then the chef. If you’re always thinking about that, and not necessarily waking up and going, “Wow, I’m in a really good spot right now. I should just really enjoy this moment. Because in a year, or two years, or three years, I want to be that sous chef.” So, be patient. The second word is persistent. I think persistence is really important, and I didn’t live the patient part of it, I learned that. But, I did live the persistence part of that. You can never let anyone tell you that you cannot do something. If you fail, get up and do it again, find a different way, open a different door. Don’t give up on yourself, don’t let anybody diminish your determination, and maintain that commitment to your career, to your life, to your vision.

Q: What advice do you have for dealing with the high stress of this business?
A: You know, it’s something that—I may be strange, or peculiar, or unique—I don’t find [it] stressful. I’ve always said that what we do is—we’re athletes, I’ve said that for decades. I’m still part of this sports franchise, but now I run this sport franchise as opposed to being a player in this sports franchise.

You grow, you’re the rookie, and then you move into being all of these different players, and then you become the franchise player, the guy who everyone looks to. And, then, you can only be that for such a period of time because it’s a physical activity, you can’t be that for your entire life. You better be planning for that next phase of your life. But, it’s just that; it’s a sports franchise. When you look at sports, or if you want to look at the military, the most extraordinary things happen in those situations when? When the pressure is the highest. You see the most extraordinary plays, you see a soldier doing an extraordinary heroic thing at the time when that stress or that pressure is the most intense. I think we live in that kind of environment and, when we’re on the line, and service has begun, those four or five hours, that’s your moment, that’s your game, and, you’ve got to be on it. You have to be able to deal with that kind of pressure and that kind of stress. When it’s the most intense is when you have to pull yourself out and say, “Okay, I’m going to make this play, I’m going to be the hero. I’m going to do it.” I think that’s important, to have that kind of innate desire and determination to realize when those moments are the highest pressure that you can perform at the highest level, and know you can do it, and without knowing how you’re going to do it. You just know that you’re going to do it. You’re going to respond in the way that you need to respond in that moment.

Q: When you have the time and you are at home, what is your favorite thing to cook for your family?

A: Either chicken or steak. Roasted chicken is always my go-to thing. I love it because there are so many different flavors and textures in a roasted chicken, and there are so many different parts. It reminds me of so many wonderful times in my life. Or, just a really good steak on the grill. So those are my go-to things. Simple food, simple salad, simple vegetables.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Creating Change in a Hungry World

Second International Conference on Global Food Security

by Kevin Markey, Associate Degree in Culinary Arts, excerpted from La Papillote

I love food, and without assumption I think it is safe to say that all of us here at the CIA, love food. We love cooking it, we love eating it, and we probably hate how much we love to waste away hours on Instagram just looking at it...I love to eat a lot. I feel hungry every few hours. But am I really hungry? Am I…starving?

Yes, this is an article about hunger. And, yes, you could just stop reading now because that would be the easy thing to do. You could also throw away that day-old bread or milk just-past-the-expiration-date, because those are the easy things to do. But what I am here to learn more about is not only how that extra food at night's end can be re-utilized, but how food professionals can feed more people in the first place.

World hunger is a very complex issue and the number one argument that I am met with here at school is: “Why is it my problem?” A lot of students came here to learn how to cook great food, but what happens in the food runs out? What happens when there are not only no more heirloom tomatoes or Bluefin Tuna, but no more corn or soy or rice? The greatest of chefs will profess that they are only as good as their ingredients. But could the day come when there are no more quality ingredients to be had because instead of sustainability we chose profit? Think about it: menu selection influence the global market, and how the world spends its money is the driving force for change.

One of the events that eventually led to my decision to come here to the CIA happened way back in 2006. I was in Namibia, a country in southwestern Africa. Every day I would go to the school to teach English to mostly orphan students, between the ages of eight and eighteen. All in the same class, all learning the same level of English (2nd-3rd grade equivalency). They could have been out working, most had night jobs, even the eight-year-olds. But instead they were spending precious time learning something that would help them achieve higher results in the future. The light-bulb moment for me, however, came at lunch time. I watched as women took a 5-pound bag of powder and dropped it into a five-gallon pot of water and made a soupy, pasty, off-yellow muck. While apparently very high in nutritious value, it tasted of kerosene and mud. This was the one meal that most of these children were going to eat that day, every day. They came to school so they could be fed.

This is the point in the article that I bombard you with stats about lack of crop diversity and hunger in undeveloped countries versus developed ones. But not only are those numbers scary, they are just numbers with no connection. There are only two numbers that I think really matter: 7,300,000,000 and 9,000,000,000. The first is how many mouths there are to feed in the world right now. And the second is how many there will be in 2050. This is the number one issue that food experts are concerned about. The planet’s resources are already wearing thin, what will a food shortage look like with nine billion people on Earth? This isn’t a local issue, it isn’t an American issue, and it isn’t a government issue or anybody else’s problem. This will be a global event. Every person in the world will have something to say if the food runs out. And they won’t be saying it quietly either.

So in the spirit of making change possible, come October 11-14, 2015, I will be attending the Second International Conference on Global Food Security at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. As a delegate representing the CIA, I will aim to present the challenges that the culinary field will aspire to face and overcome in the future. This four-day conference will host some of the world’s leading experts on food security as well as industry professionals who agree that changes to the current system are a necessity.

My intent in attending this conference is to learn from, as well as collaborate with, the people that have made it their life mission to save lives. I will go to seminars and speeches and listen to many ideas about how we as food industry professionals can change the world. This is the reason I came here to the CIA; to make a difference, to do something that will impact as many people around the world as possible. Remain optimistic folks, we can make a difference, and we can create change. We just have to be willing to accept those chances in ourselves.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Networking Done Right!!

Three Simple Steps to Expand Your Networking Skills

Growing up, I was always given advice on how to be successful. I heard phrases such as “Study Hard,” “Stay Focused,” and “Plan Ahead” on a weekly basis. It wasn’t until I got a little bit older and went to college that a new catchphrase was added to the list: “Always be networking.” Though this sounded as simple as all the other advice, I quickly realized that it was also the vaguest. I mean, what was really considered networking? I always shook hands with people I met and gave them my name. I always engaged in conversations with those who were interested in listening. Now that I was older, was talking simply considered networking?

I set out to find the answers to networking the best way I knew how, through trial and error. Of course, you can collect tips and tricks from career services and professionals who have gone before you, but nothing is going to replace what you learn through personal experience. The good news for all of you, is that I get to share my personal experience and maybe jump you forward a few steps! In this edition, I go through what I find to be the three most important things of networking and how I worked to make them my own.

This rule may sound super simple but I find it is actually the most important and the one that people forget about most frequently. The first thing you have to do to be successful at networking is to put yourself out there! After all, how are you going to meet people if you are locked in your room all day?

There are many ways to get yourself out there, especially being a student at the CIA! Here are some of the best ways I learned to get out there:
-          Read your e-mails!  I know that being a student you constantly get bombarded with generic emails that are full of “useless” information about what is going on around campus. However, if you give some of these e-mails the time of day, you may find an event that you are interested in attending. Always keep your eyes open for events that you can attend.
-          Watch where you’re walking! Just as you are bombarded with e-mails, the walls of CIA are usually covered with flyers and posters of upcoming events. Take a bit of time in between classes to look at the weekly happenings on campus.
-          Get Involved! I found that the easiest way to get myself out there was to get involved in different clubs and activities on campus. All the different groups at CIA host events that usually feature an important person from the industry. Getting involved in a club or activity that interests you will almost immediately put you in an environment to meet people.
-          Look around you! Just because you are a full time student that does not mean that you can only network at CIA! The Hudson Valley is rich with restaurants, breweries, vineyards and many other food opportunities. Take some time to research events that are happening off campus in the area around school. If you can’t find events in the Hudson Valley (which I never personally experienced), New York City is always just an hour away by train. Just saying…
-          Set the wheels in motion! Now that you have done all the research and have an understanding of what is happening around you, attend ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING you can. You never know which event will change your life!

OK, so you have attended an event and put yourself out there by introducing yourself to the guest speaker who just happens to be the head chef of your dream restaurant. Now what? Well, I am happy to let you in on a little secret: CIA has already given you all the tools and techniques that you need in this situation. Yes, I mean all of those professionalism lessons you’ve sat through and all of those pamphlets from Career Services that are sitting on your desk hold most of the answers. Now it’s time to put these to practice and make them your own. All you need is to make sure you are using them correctly.

These techniques can be broken down into two categories: Personality and Physical Evidence.


While a lot of stress is placed on your professional documents (which I will get into later), I have found that they are not as important as a first impression. Some of the first things that a professional will look for is attitude, etiquette, personality and confidence which can all be gauged within the first five minutes of a conversation. While everyone is of course different and it is important to be yourself, there are some things that are important for EVERYONE to think about while talking to a possible contact:
-          Make Eye Contact- OK, how many times have you heard this from someone and think to yourself “yeah, yeah everyone knows that.” Though everyone may know it, a lot of people do not actually do it. Many employers will check to see that you make eye contact while they are talking to you. This not only shows confidence in yourself, but also shows interest in what the other person is telling you.
-          Smile/ Be Welcoming- In many cases, people can judge bits about your character before you are even close enough to shake their hand. Smiling is one of these things. In fact, many times I have been told that I was given a position because I was among the only people who smiled within the first ten seconds of an interview. Being friendly and welcoming is a very powerful thing and may be that edge over others.
-          Shake Hands- OK this I know you’ve learned at CIA. No limp fish, no killing the other person’s hand, etc. A nice friendly handshake can open the door to a life changing conversation.
-          Know When to Talk and When to Listen- Believe it or not, one of the most important skills to have as a conversationalist is to know when to talk and when to stop. Though it is of course to talk yourself up a bit to industry professionals, it is also important to show them that you are ready and willing to listen to what they have to teach you. When engaged in conversation, allow the other person to share as well.
-          Wait your turn!- This lesson goes back to our kindergarten days but NEVER interrupt someone who is speaking, whether it be a professional or another student talking to them. While it is necessary sometimes to be a bit forceful to get time to talk, that never excuses being rude. This is the hospitality industry after all, and being rude is never good.

Physical Evidence:

By this of course I mean the professional documentation that is essential to networking. While your personality during your conversation is bound to leave a lasting impression, you want this new contact to really remember you. What better way to remind them of who you are than giving them a physical document that they can always refer back to later. After all, you have to assume that these people may meet a handful of “you’s” a week and you need a way to stand out. Here are some good examples of things to keep on you during networking opportunities:
-          Updated Resumes- Make sure you are always updating your resume so you can be ready to distribute it at any time. If you’re having trouble creating a resume, Career Services is a good place to start.
-         Cover Letter- When you know you will be meeting with someone from a specific restaurant or company that you want to work at, you may think about bringing a cover letter with you in addition to a resume. A cover letter can show the company that you have put time and thought into working for them specifically.
-         Business Cards- Whether you keep them in your wallet or in your pocket, you should ALWAYS have a business card on you. Lucky for you, CIA will help you out with this. Students can order cards that contain the CIA symbol and basic contact information on them in order to promote networking. If you want to jazz it up more, you can always look for outside resources to make your cards.

3.       STAY IN TOUCH!

So now that you have made it through the conversation and your new contact is about to be on their way, what more can you do? Here are some important ways to stay in touch:

-          Get a Card- At the end of your conversation, it is OK to ask for their contact information if you haven’t already received it. They may give you their card, their e-mail address, or possibly just tell you that they will contact you (the nice way of saying they would rather not divulge that information). Whatever the result is always remember to ask nicely!
-          E-mail/ Thank You- If you do receive their contact information, don’t be afraid to send them a quick thank you for their time. Make sure to use specifics so that they remember who you are/ where you met such as “we spoke after the lecture you gave at the CIA this past Thursday” or something to that effect.
-          Until Next Time- In the upcoming months after you have met your new contact, keep your eyes open for other events featuring them as a speaker. It never hurts to go and have a second conversation, even if it is just to remind them of who you are!

Hope this was helpful and maybe saved you guys some of the trial and error portion of what usually goes along with networking!!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Work Hard, Play Hard- Welcome to Federal Hill

Hello everyone and happy Thursday! I have been thinking of the direction I would like to move this blog in for the last few days and think I have made an interesting decision. As promised, I of course want to give some insight into what the working world is like and what to expect. However, I would like to focus some attention in this blog to one of the most important lessons I learned throughout my first year in the real world: IT IS NOT ALL ABOUT WORK! While it is important to give 110% at work, I also believe it is essential to experience all that life has to give you. Especially being a culinary professional, there is so much to learn from going out and experiencing food around the country and, if you’re lucky enough, around the world! In order to properly show you, every other blog I post will be about an interesting life experience I’ve had outside of work. I am very excited to share these stories with you and I hope they inspire you to use your free time to get out there and see the world!

Because this is the first installment of “Work Hard Play Hard,” I thought it would be appropriate to start with what I feel is the right first step for taking on the world. Whenever I am introduced to a new area, my first instinct is to go out and explore my surroundings. How else are you going to know what is around you and worth seeing? So, when I first moved down to Baltimore, Maryland to complete my internship at McCormick and Company, exploring is exactly what I did. The first weekend that I was free, I grabbed some things, packed my bag and set out to see what Baltimore had in store for me.

My first apartment in Baltimore was in an area called Federal Hill, a young, vibrant area that has a rich history and many interesting sites to see. The area spreads from its namesake monument park facing the popular inner harbor to just beyond the famous Cross Street Market on South Charles Street. Within these two markers, Federal Hill hosts plenty of attractions including the Maryland Science Center, the American Visionary Art Museum, countless shops and boutiques among many other things.

Though everything about this area sounded great, what I really hoped to gain from my adventures was of course an understanding of the food culture of my new living area. I walked down the street from my apartment and towards the center of town where all the action was. When I turned the corner my view immediately opened up to a bustling street lined on both sides with restaurants, bars, coffee shops, ice cream parlors and stores. As I continued to travel down the street, I realized that each place I passed was completely unique from the last. Not only was the number of businesses astounding but the wide array of cuisines was impressive. I couldn’t wait to dive in and get started!

Because it was late morning and turning out to be a beautiful summer day, I decided finding iced coffee should be my first mission of the day. I was still taking in the splendor of it all when I stumbled upon an A-frame sign on the sidewalk reading “Iced Coffee- Any Size, Any Flavor $1”. Being a recent college graduate, I could not resist coffee at such a low price.  I thought to myself, “What’s the worst that could happen?” as I opened the door to The Light Street Café.

 I walked into The Light Street Café and was pleasantly surprised at what I found. The small store front opened up to a diner-like operation where visitors had the choice between sitting down and ordering take-out. The dining area contained simple tables and chairs that matched the overall quaint atmosphere while the walls sported vintage views of Baltimore. Beyond the dining room, the back half of the restaurant resembled what felt like a deli with an ordering counter, free standing drink coolers, and an open kitchen. The very friendly staff took my order and in no time, I had a homemade muffin and my iced coffee and I was on my way!

As I stepped into the summer sun and made my way down the street, I came upon a building that seemed to be pretty popular among “the locals” walking around me. As I approached the building, the large red writing on the building became apparent spelling out the words Cross Street Market. I had heard about this market before but had never had the opportunity to visit. I was finally there and therefore, I had to make this stop number two for the day!

When I opened the doors, I was immediately hit with the entrancing smells of everything from seafood to sweets (which was a surprisingly welcome combination) and in an instant I was hungry. As my eyes adjusted from the sun, I could see where all of these tantalizing smells were coming from. I was looking down a long row of food vendors, including (but nowhere close to limited to!) fruit/vegetable stands, chocolate counters, and fish markets. What makes this market even more unique than its diversity, however, is suggested by its name: the Cross Street Market spans the width of a full block in Federal Hill. This gives the building plenty of room to house a ton of cool food vendors. I walked admiringly through the remainder of the market’s booths, bought a banana for my travels and continued on my way.

For the remainder of the afternoon, I traveled around the streets of Federal Hill admiring and, in some instances, visiting local restaurants and businesses, all the while making my way to the famous Federal Hill Park. As I sat on a bench overlooking the inner harbor, I reflected on my day. I could not believe that I had already learned so much just from one afternoon of exploring! I now knew that Baltimore had a very rich and diverse food culture for me to explore and I had only seen a small portion of it! I had a list of places I wanted to visit and in the months following, I made it a point to do just that. I look forward to telling you more about my adventures in later editions and sharing with you what I learned about the food world! 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Greystone Versus Hyde Park

"One person's craziness is another person's reality." –Tim Burton

What is considered normal versus abnormal comes up almost everyday, especially in the food industry.  Foods such as chicken feet, haggis, spam, grubs, blood sausage, or ant may seem normal to some people or cultures, yet completely revolting and bizarre to other.  Who is to say what is normal and what is weird, then?

To us CIA students at the Greystone campus in California, our open teaching kitchen may seem “weird” to Hyde Park students.  Our 800-square-foot library is probably deemed “bizarre” by most of the bachelor's students.  Our humble campus of about three-hundred students may seem like a mere drop of water in a lake when compared to Hyde Park’s boasting enrollment of about two-thousand students.  Though, to us at the Greystone campus, all these “abnormalities” are normal, everyday factors. 

The three Hyde Park bachelor's degree student groups we currently have at the Greystone campus – Advanced Baking & Pastry, Farm-to-Table, and Wine Studies – were definitely pushed out of their comfort zone when they first arrived.  Their idea of normal was completely flipped when they came Greystone.

When asked what the biggest differences were, almost every bachelor's student laughed and answered first with the weather.  Staff involvement, a more laidback or homier atmosphere, and more personable people were other popular answers as well. 

Many of the students noted that at the Greystone campus, “the staff is more involved… hands on with learning… and it is a lot easier to get information here,” versus the Hyde Park campus, where the students said it can be hard to find the right faculty member that one is looking for.

California’s laidback atmosphere and great weather seem to be stereotypes that are actually true for once.  When asked to elaborate on the more relaxed feel of Greystone versus Hyde Park, bachelor's student Paul Valenti, simply replied, “California, dude.”  Another bachelor's student said, “When we first came here, we thought we’d be yelled at.”  

The CIA at Greystone, is a day and night difference compared to the weather in Hyde Park. “It’ll be twenty degrees [Fahrenheit] while you’re walking to class with three feet of snow,” said bachelor's student Arni Cabatingan.  The average for Greystone during the winter is in the mid-fifties and the coldest it will get is about 40 degrees Fahrenheit. 

However, with a great weather there is a price to pay, literally.  The downfall of Greystone every student agreed on was the cost of living.  Here in the Napa Valley, the cost of living is especially high.  Although, one perk of being a CIA student in the Napa Valley that saves money is name dropping.  "You can go into a restaurant, winery, or bar, say you're from the CIA, and they'll treat you well.  That doesn't happen in New York," mentioned one bachelor's student.

With their semester spent at Greystone almost over, the bachelor's students are sure to view the California campus much differently now than they did when they first arrived.  Like almost everything in life, what may have once shocked us becomes the everyday norm.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

skillet cookies and sabers

Forty minutes ago, defeat sat on my chest as I tried to close my eyes and will myself to sleep. I even felt too sorry for tears because I’ve already cried once today, and that felt like more than enough.

So, I decided to flick through facebook in that absent minded way that allows me glimpses into my friend’s fabulously triumphant or habitually disheveled lives, both equally distracting enough to see past my own current state. After spending a good portion of my day trying to accomplish tasks for my day off, I had decided to crawl into bed with no proof of action except a $22 receipt for margarita lunch with my girlfriends and a $5.67 receipt for mailing my dad’s birthday package. I craved distraction to quiet my disappointed mind.

My big plans for today taunted me from the dark corner of my bedroom as I tried to sleep, and I wanted to throw a flashy, flaming saber forcing them to just leave me alone.

Ira Glass has this brilliant video on youtube about the Creative Process. I find it soothing because it validates current failures and promises that success is only gained through hard work and lots of it. Some of that hard work will include bad stuff, the things that might be funny in ten years at a cocktail party but right now feel like a big, fat blemish on your record. After a particularly hard night at work recently, I watched the video no fewer than twelve times. He’s that good.

While I want to be inspired by his brilliance, I am somehow paralyzed by its sheer wisdom and truth. It inspires a panic in me, how will I ever do something so good? So poignant? So true?

And then the defeat rushes back in, right where the inspiration had tried to take root.

My floor didn’t get swept, my dishes didn’t get scrubbed, and my closet still looks like the scene of a rushed robbery with sloppy evidence of open drawers and tipped stacks of jeans. Couldn’t I just go to sleep and try again tomorrow?

No. I could not. I needed to get on facebook in hopes of finding inspiration that enabled me to feel excited about tomorrow or read sad news about someone who wishes that a dirty floor, a messy closet, and a sink packed with old dishes was their day’s problem. I needed a slap of perspective to put me to sleep.

Instead, I found a recipe for a chocolate chip skillet cookie with which sweet redemption for today winked at me.

Did I mention that my day started with a failed attempt at cream cheese biscuits? As a professional cook, I find something truly unsettling about cooking bad food at home for the people whom I love most in this world. As if in those rare occasions when I cook at home, the universe should conspire with me to produce something truly magnificent and representative of my desire to be a skilled cook. Gorgeous meals at home should be my peace offering to my loved ones for supporting me in an industry that requires long hours, cranky phone calls, and missed holidays. Anyway, that didn’t happen to me today.

So a skillet cookie with a cup of butter and two cups of sugar seemed like a good comeback move even if fifteen minutes prior, I had warded off my loved one with a passive attitude and a desire “to just be alone.” I’ll pick up ice cream and bring him some skillet cookie tomorrow.

As I stirred this undeniably accessible combination of ingredients, I imagined the guy who posted this recipe doing the same at his home in Chicago. He is a CIA graduate, my former supervisor on externship, and a talented cook. His blog offers a glimpse into a kitchen filled with knowledge and passion for good flavors and solid technique. I imagined mixing a pisco sour for him with pisco that I brought back from my winter in Chile while he sat at my kitchen table and helped me grate Chancaca, also from Chile, to mix with white sugar as a brown sugar substitute in his recipe.

While the cookie was baking, I washed my dishes and I wrote this blog entry. Not exactly a flaming saber to the demons in the corner telling me that I’m not good enough, but I’ve got a warm cookie so who cares?

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Career Services: Friends for LIFE

In order to truly set the mood for this blog, I feel it appropriate to step back quite a few years. Back to the years when I was still deciding where to go to school, what to do with my career, who to be…the beginning of the future.

Before attending any school, it is smart and almost essential to tour the campus and see if you get “That Feeling.” You know, the rumored feeling that occurs within you when you step on to the right campus’s soil. Like you had returned home to a place you had never before laid eyes on. A feeling that I was convinced was created by Universities to get people to visit their gift shops. That is, until I visited CIA. But I’ve already told you all that story...I digress.

Each of these tours were pretty basic: on your left is this, if you look to your right you’ll find that, etc. And during the awkward walking lulls between buildings, the tour guides would always bring up extra material about the school’s special services. Things such as meal plans, financial aid and, of course, career services. This was the portion of the tour where, as sorry as I am to admit this, I usually tuned out to think of more “important” things like whether or not the sun would hit that tree when I was studying on the quad.
Nothing changed during my tour of CIA. When the tour guide started telling us about the loyalty and persistence of the career services office, I was wondering how long it would be until I was in Chocolates class creating the beautiful candies that were currently staring back at me from behind glass. It was not until I was enrolled at CIA looking forward to my future externship that I thought twice about Career Services.

In the midst of all the craziness that is starting at a new school, all the students were reminded that our required externship was coming up fast and that we had to be fully prepared when our time arrived. There was a lot to do of course before we could go: refresh resumes, write cover letters, attend a career fair, secure a job site, conduct an interview, find housing…the list went on and on. All of that on top of school work was enough to make my head spin and I didn’t know where to start. It was then that I turned to career services.

Within an hour meeting with my supervisor I had a renewed resume, an outlined cover letter, and most importantly, a plan to move forward. I was amazed at how quickly the people in career services were able to set me on the right track. Not only did they help me during my appointment, but they also encouraged me to keep an open relationship with them throughout my search for my externship. It wasn’t long before I attended a career fair and nailed down the perfect externship.

From that experience forward, I have always relied on career services. They were always extremely helpful with anything career related while I was attending The Culinary. BUT WHY AM I TELLING YOU ABOUT THIS NOW?? Why not while I was at CIA actually working with career services?? There is one thing I have not yet told you about Career Services. The counseling and resources offered at CIA’s career services are available FOR LIFE. This means that any member of the CIA Alumni family can contact career services whenever they are in need of assistance. Whether it be for advice on how to take the right first steps shortly after graduation or for information thirty years down the road on a job in a new area of the country, career services is always here to assist us. How many schools can boast that??

Even though I graduated just over a year ago, I have already found myself using the resources made available to me by career services. I have attended meetings to reboot my resume, used the online database for job openings, and plan to attend a career fair in the near future in order to stay relevant and further develop my career on the correct path. There are obviously many reasons that I loved being a student at The Culinary Institute of America. Now, even after graduation, the school that I called home for so long continues help shape my career and to give me further reason to love it.

For any CIA student or graduate looking to further their career, the first place I would suggest to look would of course be career services

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Becoming An RA At The Culinary Institute of America

Becoming an RA
I recently was offered the position to become a residential assistant here at The Culinary Institute of America. When I first pulled up to the CIA in February, I was welcomed by the residential staff here at school and the welcome team to help me as a new student. At that moment I knew that I wanted to be in an RA position sometime while I was a student here at the CIA. Becoming an RA has four steps a student must go through before completing the process and being introduced as an RA. I have learned more about myself and others while going through the process of becoming a residential assistant and I am truly grateful for the memories and experiences the school has offered me.

Step 1... RA Interest Meetings 

The first step in becoming an RA here at The Culinary Institute of America is to attend an RA interest meeting. At the meeting the potential candidates go around to different stations in the room and each current RA talks about something different about the job.
  • RA Duty 
  • Programming
  • Acting like a role model 
  • Time Management 
RA duty is when an RA sits in the residential hall office from 8pm - 12am in case a resident needs toilet paper, paper towels, or has an emergency. As an RA, you have duty nights three times every three weeks in your resident hall.

At The Culinary Institute of America there are many programs throughout the week that RAs put on for the students across campus. Some programs include "Cinnamon Rolls in Cinnamon Lodge," "Milk & Cookies at The Lodges," or "Pickling In Pick." These programs are great for students to meet new people and learn something new about food or life in general.

Being a resident assistant here at the CIA the residents look up to you as a role model. During the process the residential life staff refers to RAs as being in a "fish bowl"; as in all people are watching you all the time.

Time Management is a big part of the industry and an on campus job like being an RA. School work comes first, but the RA job comes second and it is your job to balance between the two.

Door Decs
Step 2... Formal Interview

The next step to becoming an RA here at The Culinary Institute of America is to sign up for a formal interview with the residential life staff. Remember that this interview is formal and you should dress in business causal. The interviewers are made up of one pro staff member (Residential Life staff) and three current RAs who ask a series of questions that would happen to you as an RA and how you would react to them. Do not be scared, just be yourself because that's the person the team wants to hire.

The interview is about thirty minutes long and just gives you the opportunity to become more familiar with the Pro staff and possibly your future peers. The interview process really separates the RAs who think they want the job from the RAs who really wanna learn something new and help people. Helping people is what our job is all about and becoming an RA is a great reward because you get to create so many friendships and memories.

Step 3... RA Social 

This was my favorite part of the whole RA process. The RA social is by invitation only, after the interview stage the pro staff meets and narrows the candidate pool down to who best fits the job description. This fun night is all about getting to know all the current RAs on campus. All the newbies sit down in Nutmeg Lodge to have a game night and just relax after the interview stage.

There are six different stations set up all around the common area and each station is a different game with current RAs teaching you how to play. We played Catchphrase, Pictionary, and even a game where you throw pigs. I loved hanging out with all the diverse people on campus who are now my new co-workers.

Step 4... RD Social 

The last mandatory step in the process is to have one on one time with each resident director. A residential director is in charge of their building, they are your boss for whatever building you work in. This is your last chance to sell yourself to the pro staff of why you should become an RA. Each RD meets with a candidate and asks them questions and asks if you have any questions for them about any subject about the RA job. This is a great time to ask any last minute questions and to show that you are going to be dedicated to this job and help better The Culinary Institute of America's residential life for our students.

Director of Residents: JJ Manley Helping New Students Move In

Optional Steps of The RA Process 

  • Welcome Team 
Becoming part of the Welcome Team here at The Culinary Institute of America is a great way to see what residential life is all about and how we run things here. The Welcome Team is in charge of making new students feel right at home as soon as they get out of their cars. Volunteers on the Welcome Team help carry new students belongings up to their new room for a smoother start to school. I personally loved working on Welcome Team, I made so many new friends and shared a lot of laughs with people. It is a great way to start if you are thinking about becoming an RA on campus.
Move In Day 
  • Individual Meeting With Pro Staff 
Meeting individually with the pro staff is a great way to talk privately and ask any questions you might not be comfortably asking in front of a group of people. I personally took the opportunity to meet with the pro staff because I knew they were the ones who where going to hire me and I wanted to get my name and face recognized as much as possible.

Becoming an RA is rewarding and pushes you to new heights as a person, a leader, and a role model. I am excited to have become an RA at The Lodges and to meet all my new residents. As an RA and a member of the Residential Life staff many doors will open just because you took the initiative to become a leader at The Culinary Institute of America

Monday, July 13, 2015

Less Meat, More Plants

The Culinary Institute of America has been shifting its dynamic when it comes to food. In 2013, their farm to table concentration was released for students to understand where their food was coming from. This past year, the Applied Food Studies faculty and students have planted an edible garden from the ground up. The ecology of food course has opened the eyes of students by discussing the global food concerns affecting our environment. And the other day, Dr. T Colin Campbell, author of The China Study (based on the Cornell-China-Oxford-Project), reached out and spoke to our students about how the future leaders of the food industry can help our world grow a healthier lifestyle. "It's about a whole food, plant-based diet," Campbell says. 

Photo Credit: Katie Fenton

Dr. Campbell has been working 59 years now to improve worldwide long-term health. His passion with food and science stemmed from working at one of his first jobs: a dairy farm. As a scientific researcher and graduate of Cornell University for Nutrition, Campbell took his degree and background on farm work to find an area of study he was passionate about. From here, he decided to begin researching the links between protein diets and disease. One of his original studies was focused on milk proteins and their affect on human health.

In addition to writing and contributing in five books, Campbell has spoken at conferences and has reached to get his message out to thousands of people. He also teaches at Cornell and participated in his son's new film, Plant Pure Nation.

At the presentation, students learned that there were significant links between eating a protein-based diet and the contraction of various diseases. Some of the diseases that meat eaters were more likely to develop were cancer, Alzheimer's, high cholesterol, heart disease, obesity, Type I & II diabetes and arthritis. "The disease is controlled by nutrition," says Campbell, "bringing it back to food." The Whole Food Plant Based diet also contributes to restoring nutrients that are displaced in protein-based diets. These studies have placed the fate of a healthier planet into the hands of us: the food industry.

Photo Credit: Katie Fenton

Campbell says that "[n]utrition is infinitely confusing for the public." In order to make change, we have to start by getting people to listen to the evidence. From here, we can use our food knowledge to create a movement towards the goal of following the Whole Food Plant Based diet. It's our job as future leaders to not only to make people think deeper into what they are eating, but also to enable whole and plant-based foods to be a part of a lifestyle that people will stay hungry for. 

If you'd like to get more involved:

Teach yourself about creating a sustainable WFPB diet:
-Do some research: read books and publications, anything that you can find to educate yourself 
-Take classes involving the WFPB diet
-Keep up with what's going on in the food industry
-Create WFPB recipes 
-Visit local food businesses and see what they've been doing about it
- Follow a WFPB diet (or work towards it)

Educate others on creating a sustainable WFPB diet: 
-Help with growing fresh fruits, vegetables and legumes 
-Spread the word through local events or publications
-Contact local Hudson Valley businesses to get them on board to support the movement
-Get groups to create WFPB meals at local soup kitchens by offering recipe suggestions

Photo Credit: Katie Fenton

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Print Out the Resume and Iron the Chef Coat, Because its Career Fair Here at The CIA

Career Fair here at The Culinary Institute of America is like Disneyland for up-and-coming chefs. Over one hundred employers looking to hire CIA students to travel all around the world and do what they do best: Cook! Employers at the CIA career fair are here to hire externs about to leave for their fifteen-week, mandatory externship or students who are about to gradate and looking for potential jobs. Major companies like The Four Seasons Resort, The Ritz Carlton, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, and many more prestigious companies wanting to hire you!

Nestle Corporation Looking For Externs

The Career Fair is all about marketing and putting yourself out there. Companies love when students like you and me come to their booths and ask questions pertaining to them. I found my externhip at the Spring Career Fair here at The Culinary Institute of America. I will be spending fifteen weeks soaking up the sun in Palm Beach, Florida at The Four Seasons Resort.

Before even showing up to career fair, make sure you:
1. Have at least five professionally written resumes printed out.
2. Have a freshly ironed chef jacket or throw on a tie for business causal.
3. Are ready to be yourself. Companies don't want to hire a fake person. They want someone with a personality who can get the job done.

Students Talking To Future Employers

When I walked up to The Four Seasons booth at the career fair, I stated my name, what program I was in, and how much I knew about The Four Seasons. Companies love when students do history on them before you even step through the doors, it shows that you're dedicated and are willing to put in work to get the job. If I can give you one piece of advice to take away from his entire blog, it is to send a thank you letter. The thank you letter can either make or break the deal, if you send one you look professional and that you care, if you don't then it could show that you're not grateful and do not have time for them. Career fair is exhausting, stressful, and makes you go crazy, but the moment you receive the call from the restaurant, hotel, or theme park stating that you were offered the externship position it is all worth it.

Summer Career Fair 2015 

As I walked around career fair, I interviewed a CIA student, Crystal Mitchel, She is a baking and pastry student who is halfway through her second semester here at The Culinary Institute of America. Crystal leaves for externship the last week of September, so this is the perfect opportunity to find a potential externship site. She had an interview with Walt Disney Theme Parks, and I asked her "How was the interview and what kind of questions did they ask you?" She responded, "The interview was stressful and they asked me how to make crème brulée and chocolate mousse." She also said, "They asked me if I had to create a kid-inspired dessert, what would it be?" The interview process can be stressful and frightening, but just remember to answer every question to the best of your ability and you will be fine.

Chef Egan and I Setting Up The Buffet For Employers 

I thought since I was going to write a blog about career fair, it would be great to know some qualities externship employers look for. So I did some digging and went to many different booths asking the same question: "What do you look for in externship candidates?" I received a lot of different answers:

  • Biltmore Estate looks for good eye contact, good smile, and has done research in the company before coming to career fair. 
  • Royal Caribbean hires baking and pastry, culinary, and front of the house externs. Externs must be strong, be able to work seven days a week, have loyalty, and have passion for what they are doing. 
  • Marta, a restaurant in downtown New York City hires baking and pastry, culinary, and front of the house. Externs must have a positive attitude, willing to learn, and wants to have fun while working. 
  • Mountain View Grand Resort & Spa hires baking and pastry, and culinary students. Externs should be friendly, cooperative, motivated, and want to develop skills to move up the latter.

Jose and I Helping Chef Egan Every Chance We Get

The Career Fair here at The Culinary Institute of America is a global marketing tool that can land you in any city, state, or even country in the world. Take advantage of Career Fair when you become a student at the CIA; it is an opportunity you will not want to miss. I am truly grateful for the CIA and everything they do to help better my future in this amazing culinary world. I would not be externing at The Four Seasons Resort if I was not at the CIA. And, remember three things, print out the resume, iron the chef coat, and write the thank you letters.