Tuesday, January 20, 2015

School to Table

Special Projects Day – School to Table, An Ancillary Experience
by Deja Burrows, Associate in Culinary Arts,  from La Papillote

The Culinary Institute of America held a Special Projects Day recently on Monday, December 8th. It was entitled “School to Table: An Ancillary Culinary Experience.” The event featured an agenda full of captivating, eye-opening, and inspiring events.

The day began with a panel discussion, which was led by Mrs. Leitu Hsu of Heritage Radio, and included four former CIA students: Zach Goebel & Michael Muzyk of Baldor Specialty Foods, Bob Ambrose of Bella Bella Gourmet Foods, and David Wells of Saugatuck Kitchens. Each of the gentlemen shared what a typical day at work was like for them. From completing orders and working personally with some of the most demanding chefs in the industry, to traveling at least 80 days of the year, their education obviously has taken them much higher than sous chefs and line cooks.

David Wells and his wife are the co-owners of Saugatuck Kitchens and they have molded the establishment to be successful while allowing employees, including themselves, to stay family oriented.

Bob Ambrose told the story of how he came to form a tight knit relationship with one of only three foie gras farms in the country and how this blossomed into Bella Bella Gourmet, which now has been serving foie gras twenty-five years.

Zach Goebel, who is a sales representative for Baldor Specialty Foods, shared how his time as a dishwasher was an opportunity into the culinary world. Mr. Michael Myuzik, president of Baldor Specialty Foods, left CIA and went on to work with world renowned chefs such as Todd English. He continues his loyalty to The Culinary Institute of America by making Baldor one of the main providers of food for the school.

As if these gentlemen’s success stories weren’t enough to get inspired, they went on to share advice, not just for later on in life, but for students now. They encouraged students to take the mantra of “mise en place for life” as a personal one because organization and planning is essential to success. Goebel said, “CIA is the place to build that drive, that purpose, that push that will set you apart in the industry and make you almost indispensable.” After the lively discussion, students asked questions about the companies’ ability to adapt to the ever-changing world.

After the panel discussion, the students were all led down into the lower conference room where an expo of specialty food purveyors was displayed. Upon entering the room, students were met with a large display of produce set up by Baldor Specialty Foods and they were invited to take fruits and vegetables with them. This exposition was seen as more than a way to try out new specialty foods, but also as a source of inspiration. It got students thinking about careers in food productions  and about dishes they could create using these quality foods. The company representatives were personable and shared knowledge about their establishments while encouraging the students to try new foods, such as seared foie gras and milk that was not homogenized. Most students left with a bag full of literature and treats and full of new ideas and knowledge.

The day was completed with the screening of the documentary Farmland, which was just released in March. It is a film all to do with farming and ranching in America, and it looks into the lives of a group of young farmers, each in their twenties, who have either taken over the risky business from their parents, or have ventured out on their own as first generation farmers. The disconnect between those that farm and those that do not, as well as the fact that a high percentage of Americans have never set foot on a farm or ranch before, was emphasized in the film.

As culinary students, knowing where our food comes from, understanding seasonality—the ebb and flow of the market—as well as fully understanding terms such as “natural” and “organic,” should be important to us. One of the young people highlighted in the film commented on the fact that many young people are not interested in ranching or farming, and that they are not being encouraged to view it as a viable career choice. Our school’s farm to table concentration and the population of students that are also interested in agriculture made this a good atmosphere for the film to be screened. If students weren’t thinking about farming before, they are thinking about it now.

“School to Table: An Ancillary Culinary Experience” was a school-wide event we won’t soon forget. It was a day of sharing good information and pure inspiration.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Bringing Pride to the Institute- Part 2: Tempo Urban Kitchen

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

What would a story about a Chef be without a story about his food?  I had to try all the Tempo had to offer, and I wanted to share my experience with you, to show the delicious side of what being a Culinary Institute of America graduate really means!

Tempo Urban Kitchen is located in Brea, CA and is the home to modern American cuisine, with a menu created and carried out by CIA graduate, Zach Geerson '13.  The atmosphere, the decor, the bar, the tables, and even the uniforms all sync up with the theme of blending modern and classic America into one cohesive environment.

Hospitality. I felt from the moment I sat down at the bar to get a drink and chow down on some good grub for lunch. A Pisco Sour to start, the real deal folks, call me old fashioned, but if you don't make it with egg whites, then you shouldn't have it on your menu. These guys deserve to have it on their menu. One of the best cocktails I have ever had, I knew it as soon as I saw the bartender pick up the shaker. Balanced, frothy, with a hint of sweetness... I feel like I might have to work my way through the entire drink menu after just one sip.
Then the spicy steak tacos came. As my tastebuds exploded and my mouth was sent on a fiery ride of flavor, I looked around and watched as not only the servers, but Exec Chef Zach made it a point to come out and talk to the various tables and he himself does the table side liquid nitrogen ice cream, adding a little Tempo Flair at the same time. That's not all, the owner, Jorge Cueva  is out on the floor too, making rounds just like Zach, insuring the quality of not only the food, but the service and restaurant as a whole are kept up to standard. Definitely needed that Pisco Sour after those tacos...

Then came the Porchetta Sandwich. Wow. Tender, moist, bursting with flavor, paired with salsa verde and pickled cherry peppers. Served with house made fries and house made ketchup. I didn't look up, I didn't talk, all I could do was eat. It was that good, and I say this all remaining objectively unbiased as a writer. Did I mention that everything is made from scratch, in-house? You can taste not only how fresh everything is, but how passionate the hand are that create all of it. You don't get that everywhere you go, but here, this is something special. I sat for 2 hours at the bar and I was never forgotten. They made me feel like I was sitting in my kitchen at home.

And that was just lunch.

I returned to the dining room of Tempo for dinner, this time with several friends and we got seated at a table rather than at the bar because I wanted to make sure I got the full experience of the restaurant. From the get-go, no matter how busy it was, I always felt like I was being given the attention I deserve as a customer and experiencing the hospitality I had felt at the bar when I was dining by myself. It was made personal, with a good balance of casualty and professionalism.  From start to finish, we were not only taken care of by our excellent server, Freddy, but by the Jorge and Chef Zach as well.  It was seemingly their goal to make us feel like part of the Tempo Family.  The fried pickles were a fresh take on a bar classic, and the charcuterie board was bursting with flavor.  The highlight of the board was the house made beef jerky which, odd as it sounds, was more like beef candy.  Unlike any other jerky you've ever tried, this was slightly crunchy with a bit of chew, spicy with a hint of sweetness to balance completely. If I could buy it by the pound there wouldn't be any left for the other customers.

Then the gnocchi. An extremely classical take on gnocchi, this is unlike any other I have tried as it is actually worked by hand instead of any kind of machine from start to finish, giving it an incredibly unique mouthfeel and flavor.  My mind... And stomach was reserved however for my upcoming ribeye.

Beautiful presentation caught my eye and kickstarted my stomach as I gazed upon the literally glistening glory of the steak, surrounded by perfected roasted vegetables with just the slightest bit of char for a smoky characteristic to match the smoked cauliflower purée.  The purée caught me off guard, but in a good way, it was a new dimension given to a very traditional cut of beef that was much needed in a world where some things really should be changed for the better like they are here at Tempo.  To finish off the night, we ordered the Table-side IceCream as a group.  A flavor that changes constantly, made right in front of your eyes with liquid nitrogen then garnished on the table is an absolute crowd-pleaser.  Even before we got to it, like I mentioned before, I saw it ordered by most of the tables around us and each time it was made by either Jorge or Zach.

 No matter how busy they were, they always had time for their customers, proving that they are indeed the top priority.  They truly march to their own beat as they take the classics and spin them in a way that is both clever,fresh, and served with true passion that you can taste in every bite.

All in all, Zach and the Tempo Team have worked extremely hard with Jorge in order to create an incredible dining experience, a venture in which this writer claims it to be an absolute success.  I look forward to seeing what Zach and many more CIA graduates have in store for the industry, because this is just of over 46,000 possible stories in the making.

Looking for info on Tempo? Check out www.tempourbankitchen.com

If you are like me and want to be a part of the incredible institution that is the CIA, get in touch with us! Go to www.ciachef.edu/admissions for more information.

Bringing Pride to the Institute- Part 1:The Zach Geerson Story

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

The Culinary Institute of America is known as the World's Premier Culinary College and well, that's for a good reason.  We constantly hear of great chefs who are graduates like Grant Achatz, Cat Cora, Duff Goldman, and Anthony Bourdain. But there are over 47,000 graduates of the institute and so many of them go on to do absolutely amazing things. Now this is a chance to hear about one of them.

Meet Zachary Geerson, a 2013 Culinary Arts Associates graduate of the CIA. 

Right after graduation, he came back to the CIA where he presided as the MIT (Manager-in-Training) for the kitchen in the Caterina Restaurant on our campus from September 2013 until July 2014 under the direction of Chef Giovanni Scappin.  I had the pleasure of working alongside him while I worked as the Al Forno MIT in Caterina. An extremely passionate and driven individual, Zach could never be kept content with anything but the absolute best wherever he went, even when we would cook at my apartment; a challenge to create a dish made from leftovers lead us to making a Mac n Cheese Soufflé and well, a roasted chicken and spam terrine. I know what you're thinking, but it was fantastic once we put our minds to it. All of this lead him to stay in the Hudson Valley for several months working for Chef Scappin at his Cucina restaurant in Woodstock, NY while he planned his next move.  In October it looked all planned out, he packed up and moved to Miami where he would be working as a chef for a hotel. Upon his arrival, he realized it wasn't what he thought it was going to be in many aspects, including a dampening of his creativity.  Unwilling to compromise on the integral standards he had honed and developed through his years at the CIA and working in the hospitality industry, he promptly packed his knives and left once he found his next calling.

Here's the twist.

Whilst scrolling through Facebook while still in Miami, he saw a status from a friend asking for help in a restaurant in Southern California. Within minutes and after a short phone call, he headed on a cross-country road trip to Brea, California to take a job at a brand new restaurant called Tempo Urban Kitchen.

As a Pastry Chef.

Once in sunny Brea, Zach started at Tempo on November 2nd as a Pastry Chef and started to put his innovation to work as he kept his head down to not make a splash and just do good work.  This was not to last, because being his good friend, I can say that he's not one to be quiet. Quickly his ideas, techniques, and passion were noticed by the rest of the kitchen including his boss and restaurant owner Jorge Cueva.  He began to get more hands on with the savory production of the kitchen and from there, well, there was no stopping him. On December 20th, just 49 days later, Jorge named Zach the new Executive Chef of Tempo Urban Kitchen.  Since then he has continued to innovate, completely changing the menu, working to perfect the Chef's Tasting Menu which is made personally for each table who reserves for it, and is never the same.  It is quoted that upon his promotion, he said... Or at least thought, "These guys don't even know what they got themselves into".

For Zach, it never stops. In fact, I'm sitting in the office at Tempo writing this because it's where we came after he picked me up at the airport, as I flew down for the day to talk to him about everything that has happened in the past two months and also to dine at Tempo. It's not just the food, he keeps involved in the service and truly cares about his clients who come to eat every day.  In fact, just a short while ago, a group came to Tempo at 10:30 in the morning for a reservation made in Open Table which had glitched, as they don't open until 11:30 for lunch. After talking to them and realizing what had happened, he didn't send them away, instead he worked with them,coming up with a personalized breakfast menu on the spot, cooking everything to order, serving it, and taking care of the group.  "They all got together from all over the area just to see each other and eat at Tempo, to eat at my restaurant.  It's not their fault OpenTable made a mistake, why would I turn them away? Everything I learned at CIA was about the hospitality industry. It's integral to my job as a chef to be hospitable to the most important people- my customers"- Zach. Tempo Urban Kitchen is now one of the hottest new restaurants in the OC with the potential to become the best restaurant in the OC.

It's amazing to me as a fellow CIA graduate/student and as his friend to see how everything we would spend hours talking about, from the passion that drives us to cook and serve, to why we both are called to this industry, to the integral standards we both agreed upon have not ever left him.  He has taken it and continued to hone everything, truly believing as we both do, that Blood, Sweat, and Tears are what we put into our careers every single day. But you know what they say, "If you love what you do, you'll never work a day in your life".

If that wasn't one hell of a success story, I don't know what is.
Now if you excuse me, I need to see what all the talk about Tempo is really about! Cheers!!

Daily meeting of Owner Jorge Cueva 
and Executive Chef Zach Geerson

If you're interested in checking out Tempo, just click on the link below to see their homepage! I'll be posting again soon with my review of the restaurant!

Tempo Urban Kitchen


Monday, January 5, 2015

Living All Days with Morrie

With the passing of my twenty-first birthday, one gift that I found truly beautiful was the book, Tuesdays with Morrie, by Mitch Albom. After watching the 199 pages quickly slip from the fingers of my right hand to my left, I was intrigued to find inspiration for an article that would speak to the students at CIA.

For those of you who don’t know of this masterpiece, I’ll just give you a brief synopsis. It’s about this young man (Mitch Albom) and his wise, but fatally ill old professor (Morrie Schwartz). Every Tuesday in college, they meet up to discuss schoolwork, and even life lessons. As years pass, Albom, in his thirties, is living a life that ceases to grant wholeness to his being. He starts visiting his professor once again every Tuesday, and begins to unlock the true meaning of a successful life. It’s really a touching story. I’m not writing about this book to get you to invest in reading it. This isn’t a book review.

I’m writing about it because I believe Morrie’s words pertain to a lot of us at CIA. Whether we came here because we were lost in a passionless career path, or because we always knew our love for culinary/baking, one thing stays constant through all of us, and that is we’re searching for a direction through food that will give our careers and lives wholeness. One of my favorite quotes in Tuesdays with Morrie is something I believe to be an exceptional piece of advice:

“So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they’re busy doing things they think are important. This is because they’re chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that give you purpose and meaning” (Albom 43).

For us, we start here with two years to make worthwhile (a little over three if you’re getting your bachelor’s). We build up our resumes through the experience of externship. We spend block after block honing our skills through numerous methods of cooking in various types of cuisines. We sharpen our minds with knowledge we acquire each day. This, I believe is a path many people don’t find even after college. To hold our time here more preciously and to leave with a more satisfied soul is a gift that will never lose meaning. Maybe it means taking that trip into the city to dine in that restaurant, or going with some friends on that skiing trip to Jiminy Peak that CIA offers. Maybe it means finding the confidence to converse with employers at the career fair. Maybe it’s joining that sports team or that club. Maybe it’s finding that courage to taste something new, or volunteering for the community. Maybe it just means flipping through some of the hundreds of cookbooks there are on the bottom floor of Conrad Hilton. Whatever it is, you should do it because you’re going to leave here and your time won’t come back.

You came here because you have a passion for food, no matter what direction you want to go with it. Once you graduate, I hope you will remember to take endless opportunities, acquire relentless curiosity, and never regret a minute of the time you have.