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!!