Wednesday, October 5, 2016

CIA News: CIA Launches Advanced Course in Japanese Cuisine

by Jeff Levine, Staff Contributor of La Papillote

An innovative immersion into the cuisines and culture of Japan joined the CIA course listings this fall. Advanced Cooking: Japanese Cuisine is a multi-faceted discovery of Japanese flavors, techniques, and food culture. The class, offered to juniors and seniors, is jointly taught by CIA Chef Martin Matysik and Chef Hiroki Murashima of Tsuji Culinary Institute of Osaka. Chef Murashima is the inaugural Suntory Visiting Professor of Japanese Studies, a position created with the support of Suntory Group, one of the world's leading consumer product companies.

Chef Hiroki Murashima, Suntory Visiting Professor of Japanese Studies at the CIA, explains to students the different knives used by Japanese chefs during the first session of the new Advanced Cooking: Japanese Cuisine course.

The curriculum covers Japanese history and culture, along with the ingredients, flavors, textures, and techniques of authentic Japanese cooking. It delves into dashi stocks, rice and noodles, sushi, tempura, and the principles of umami, as well as kaiseki cuisine and the cultural aspects of the Japanese dining table. The 16-student class filled up the first day it was offered to CIA students.

CIA students learning about the new Advanced Cooking: Japanese Cuisine course.

The course and the launch of a broader CIA Japanese studies initiative are underwritten by a multi-year grant from Suntory. As the initiative expands, it will include a greater depth of instruction in Japanese agriculture and the production of traditional foods and beverages, as well as ways to adapt Japanese flavors and products into innovative American menus. Opportunities for international travel/study experiences in Japan as part of the CIA's bachelor's degree programs are also under development. 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Just a Tip

by Tristan Heath, Associate Degree in Culinary Arts, excerpted from La Papillote

                                                   photo courtesy:

If I were to compile a list of tasks that humans should be good at, but tend to perform poorly; 'treating each other fairly' and 'math' would be high on that list. Therefore, it befuddles me that some countries (including the U.S.) continue to employ practices of gratuity determined by the patron. I know it might seem very simple and logical: potential for tips should make servers more motivated to perform better, right? In a world where we humans are unbiased at our core and decent at math maybe, but that is not the world we live in unfortunately. Motivation in itself is a complex issue that cannot simply be controlled by money as a carrot on the end of a stick. Whether examining studies that discredit the effectiveness of tipping, or considering the disparity in pay it contributes to with regards to Back of House and Front of House, tipping emerges as a broken, old-fashioned practice that we as potential industry leaders should try and phase out moving forward. 

Let's start out by examining the science behind the issue. There are hundreds of studies on the topic. I will summarize some of the larger points that often get brought up but I encourage you to research the topic yourself if you are curious about the statistical math or any other finer details. Here is a quote from a study done by Professor Michael Lynn of Cornell University that hits a lot of points at once: 

"From a theoretical economic point of view, gratuities solve the principal-agent problem, and many managers believe they provide incentive for greater worker effort. However, studies of the real world practice show that tipping is often discriminatory; workers receive different levels of gratuity based on factors such as age, sex, race, hair color and even breast size, and the size of the gratuity is found to be only very weakly related to the quality of service."

The stereotypical situation of the young, attractive waitress pulling in far more tips is not only a cliche but a true occurrence that indicates how biased patrons can be. An interesting, commonly known fact in the service industry is the power of a smiley face. If a server draws a smiley face on the bill, their tip average will increase across the board. That is utter craziness. Again, this shows that until we can escape our own subconscious impulses, we humans really shouldn't be determining the welfare of servers. 

Having a system of included gratuity may seem strange to our American mindsets, but it is actually quite common (and effective) in many parts of the world. Most of Europe has gratuity included on the bill, and many Asian countries as well. In fact, if you try and tip in some of these countries, it is interpreted as very rude. Despite the lack of motivation for tips, the level of service is still held to a high standard in these countries. Even here in the states we are starting to see industry leaders going the route of 'gratuity-included' bills. Recently, Danny Meyer has made a splash in the fine-dining world by eliminating customer choice tipping from his restaurants. I doubt the quality of service in Danny Meyer's restaurants will dip as a result of this move.

Tipping can almost be seen as an indication of inconsistent quality. The guest experience should be at the same level with each visit. When you are cooking in a restaurant setting, your goal is to recreate the same plate of food every single time at the same caliber. The service aspect of the experience should be no different. Servers should try and deliver the best possible experience to each and every guest. 

The way tipping fluctuates between restaurant price points doesn't make much sense logically. The higher the bill, the larger percentage of the tip. I understand that a server at a fine-dining restaurant might have higher standards and expectations than a server at a chain restaurant, but this can only go so far. Let's just do a basic hypothetical. The server at a chain restaurant turns a $50 table and gets a $10 tip, if they are lucky. The server at the fine-dining restaurant turns a $500 table and gets a $100 tip. In my heart of hearts, I find it hard to believe that the fine-dining server is doing $90 more work than the server at the more casual establishment. I understand the more casual place is turning more tables but the system still seems broken, mathematically. 

                   photo courtesty:

While eliminating tipping across the entirety of the industry will likely take time, I think we will see it becoming more common in the future which will serve as motivation to others who are more hesitant to take such actions. I feel that as potential future leaders in the industry, we ought to strive to make a life in the service industry more sustainable and realistic for people in entry-level positions. If we do not take steps to make these jobs more desirable, we will likely continue to suffer a shortage of talent. 

Friday, August 26, 2016

Humans of the CIA: Asher Chong

by Joseph Haffly, Associate Degree in Culinary Arts, excerpted from La Papillote

                                            Photo courtesy: Arianna VonWeiler

Q:What led you to the CIA?
A: I was living in Singapore where I was working in a restaurant. I have been in restaurants for 15 or so years and I knew that I needed better training. I did a lot of research on the different schools around the world and I came to the conclusion that the CIA was the best option. I had heard about the school from different people, and from books and movies too, but it wasn't until I really looked at it that I knew I wanted to go. I read about a lot of really great chefs that came from here and thought that I should follow the steps they took.

Q: Why did you choose the bachelor's program?
A: I feel that a bachelor's degree is necessary for what I want to do. I am pursuing a concentration in wines so that I can have a good knowledge base to further expand and study. I never expected to pursue something like wine. I always saw myself as a kitchen worker and never thought twice about working front of the house. At some point during my time at the CIA I realized that I really enjoy meeting new people and getting to know them.

Q: What is it you want to do upon graduation?
A: I have no specific restaurants or countries I want to work in. I am very interested in French wines, so getting to go there would be really cool. I enjoy bringing happiness to people. I want to offer a global experience at the table to customers through food and wine. I want to teach people about the wine by sharing stories. I want to tell them about the vineyards and the people so that they can feel like they have been there before. I want to create an experience where the guest uses all 5 senses during their meal. If they experience it in as many ways as possible then it might be more enjoyable. My ultimate goal is making them happy and making them happy makes me happy. This is a win-win situation for me and I love it.

Q: What would you tell any students considering this bachelor's program?
A: Come in with an open mind. Having a love for wine is a must. Even if you don't have much industry experience you have to love wine and want to know everything about it. You have to always be willing to learn about anything regarding this industry, not just wine. You will never stop learning in this degree, there is always something new coming up. There is so much wine out there, so many different kinds of grapes, and it is so exciting. If you want to keep up with the flow of knowledge, you have to keep up on your reading. Read the text book, magazines, even maps of the different wine regions of all the countries that are major wine producers. Exploring the subject of wine is so helpful. I have learned that if you stay humble you can learn from everyone, not just the greats. I have been tutoring a friend in wines and so far I can see that there are changes in the wines class since I took it. I am learning new things about wine from helping a friend and I think that is amazing.

I would like to step back from the interview and explain why I chose Asher. I came to this school knowing only one person. I was moving somewhere entirely new and unknown to me. I started working on campus within the first two months and Asher was one of the people I met through work.  He has been very kind and welcoming to me and has helped me to feel comfortable and at home here at the CIA. From when I first met him to when he sat down for this interview, he has always been kind and genuinely interested. I look forward to hearing of the things he achieves and the places he goes. I am glad that I can call him a friend.

Friday, August 5, 2016

A Moment with a Master Brewer

by Joseph Haffly, Associate Degree in Culinary Arts, excerpted from La Papillote

                                                                                        photo courtesy:

Hutch Kugeman is the head brewer for the Brewery at the CIA.

JH: What brought you into brewing?
HK: I started out as a home brewer, just a hobby really. My older brother taught me how and I have kept up with it since. I was a middle school teacher for some years and kept going with the home brewing, it definitely helped me relax after work. I moved to Portland, Oregon, where I eventually realized that I really wanted to pursue a career in professional brewing, so I started looking for a position. I lived there for a few years and, in that time, applied for a brewing position at the Pelican Pub. I didn't have the experience they wanted, so I didn't get the job. I kept in contact with the owner and head brewer and eventually got a call about working as an apprentice brewer. I spent about a year working at the Pelican Pub before coming to New York, where I have been for nearly 15 years.

JH: What led you to the CIA?
HK: I was brewing in smaller locations for the last 14 years. I spent 5 years brewing at Crossroads Brewing Company in Athens, NY. I love to teach; I was a teacher for so many years and I saw the opportunity to combine my love for brewing with my love for teaching. I saw the position here at the Culinary was open and knew it was something I wanted to do, so I applied and here I am. I have been here for 8 months now as the head brewer. I really enjoy the small scale brewing I get to do here and the interaction with the customers. I really missed the connection with the customers and all the amazing people you can meet.

JH: Why do you think microbrews have become so popular?
HK: I think it's been building for a while. There are so many reasons why: people love supporting local business, they are starting to appreciate the unique flavors, and they are starting to demand artisanal products. I mean, in the last 5 years we have seen 15% to 18% industry growth. People are willing to spend more for better beer with better flavor. We are seeing 1.8 new breweries open every day in the U.S. We have more breweries now than ever, even more than pre-prohibition times. People want to be more in touch with the products they purchase and consume.

JH: Do you feel that this industry is going to keep growing?
HK: Yes. You do have to be cautious of economic downturns. A lot of breweries worry about quality and sometimes that comes with cost. Many lack the training or equipment to brew mass volumes of beer, which lowers their incoming profits. This makes small brewers more susceptible to economic issues. There is a huge push for the education of brewers. There aren't many people qualified, on the spot, for brewing. If the number of educated people increases, then the industry will grow. Another sign of positive growth is the number of small breweries being bought by the big beer companies.

JH: What do you enjoy the most about working at the CIA?
HK: The student knowledge of craft beer is awesome. There is a lot of energy and creativity when it comes to beer and brewing; a lot of intelligent and inspired people are here asking questions I never thought to ask. There's also a large mix of students interested in the program, which is really cool to see. A lot of conversations on the whole process, business to creativity, some of the flavor ideas are amazing. 

JH: Beer dinners?
HK: There is a possibility of dinners in the fall featuring beer and food pairings.

JH: What are your goals for this program or the outcome?
HK: I would love to see our students obtain a better command of how we achieve flavor in our beers. I want them to see what ingredients we use, understand the entire process, and know beer's uses in the industry. If they understand the possible pairings, beer can have a broader range of flavors than wine, allowing it to be matched with more food. 

JH: Are craft brews taking place in high class restaurants?
HK: I think every restaurant that doesn't have a good beer list looks like it is doing something wrong. Anything that doesn't have a good beer list is behind the times. Beer is more accessible than wine. I don't want beer to replace wine, I want it to compliment it. I think because beer is more inclusive financially, generally, people are less intimidated by beer. High end restaurants having beer includes more people in the overall conversation. The beer at the moveable feast in early June made people feel included. The restaurants had both wine and beer which allowed everyone to enjoy themselves and focus on the food. 

JH: What do you think of molecular tempering with beer?
HK: It's great. There isn't a lot of molecular gastronomy with beer, but there are people trying to figure it out. It's hard to tamper with the beer using the standard processes. There is a rise of creativity and innovation in the brewing process and ingredients. I think beer has the potential for some really cool molecular gastronomy. Food science and beer pose some really good challenges. I think there is a great future for scientific innovation with beer. 

Friday, July 22, 2016

Chef's Table Review

by Lauren ByrneAssociate Degree in Culinary Arts, excerpted from La Papillote

                                             photo courtesy:

The first time I saw Chef's Table, the first season was inconspicuously placed in my Netflix queue as  something in which I might be interested. It was Sunday, I was bored and so I ventured. What unfolded in the next hour was a beautiful, personal, food-driven documentary about Massimo Bottura, the famed Executive Chef of Osteria Francescana in Moderna, Italy (which is now rated as the #1 best restaurant in the world according to San Pellegrino's 50 Best List). I was hooked and could not stop watching until the very last episode was over. I was starving for more but it would be another year until that thirst was quenched. Quenched it was, as I am happy to report the second season delivered. 

If you haven't caught the second season of Chef's Table you are behind the game big time. David Gelb, of Jiro Dreams of Sushi fame, delivers the same romantic and inspiring episodes he produced the first time around. In each episode of Season 2, which premiered on May 27, he focuses on one particular chef, their restaurant, and their backstory. Each episode is an opportunity for the viewer to get a rare look into the psyche of a successful chef and help them to understand how such creative food is produced. The audience also gets a glimpse into their personal lives--from Dominique Crenn's recent passing of her father to Grant Achatz's struggle with stage four tongue cancer.

The way Gelb tells his story his highly palatable as well. The cinematography is so artistic; every shot could be a framed photograph. The music composition matches the elevation of the cuisine in a stylistically classy way. It is this type of format which makes Chef's Table, Season 2 appeal to the masses. It is not just another foodie show or something which only culinarians could enjoy.

On the flip side, if you are an aspiring culinarian, you need to watch this series. We are novice chefs in culinary school bound by deadlines and tests. For the next two or three years, we are sequestered among these walls and limited by financial resources (for the most part). What Gelb does during each hour show is transport the viewer to another time and place. From the rolling hillside of Slovenia, to the bustling, colorful streets of Bangkok, and the jungles of the Amazon, you are there with the chefs cooking their food. You are in their kitchen; you feel the heat when Crenn screams an order.  You are there to feel the comradery of Enrique Olevera's kitchen when the whole staff tries a new dish. You are there sitting beside Gagaan as he anxiously waits for his name to be called at Asia's 50 Best reveal. Most importantly, you are there inside the mind of a chef as they walk you through their process of creating new dishes. I am not sure how many of us have the time or ability to travel to Brazil, L.A., Mexico, or Slovenia to experience these items in person. Which is why I think it is extremely important for us to devour them through media.

With Season 2, Chef's Table continues to be an important docu-series for the moment; a food-driven biographical series which appeals to both industry insiders and the lay person. This series sets expectations high with poignant delivery of memoirs for some of the greatest culinary artists of our time. I will continue to be on the lookout as Netflix has renewed the series for a third and fourth season already, with the next season focusing solely in France. 

Friday, July 8, 2016

Choosing to Go to Culinary School

There was a time in my life when everything was heading toward studying whatever I could make a lot of money doing. My goal was easy money—instead of finding a way to get it by doing what I love to do, cooking. Before enrolling at The Culinary Institute of America, I was studying accounting. While I still think that it was a wise idea to choose a field that could help me to manage my own restaurant, I would love to go back and put all my hard work in the kitchen.  I spent my college days thinking about what to do? How I can make it through life with a career? Or just be a lucky guy that drops from college and becomes a millionaire. I clearly didn’t like where I was headed. I asked some of my closest friends if they look at me as a great accountant in the future, and they said, “NO!”

So I jumped into a kitchen with no experience at all. I was determined that this was my chance to have a career that I could build a life around. Then I enrolled in one of the best culinary schools.

When it comes to choosing the best culinary school, it’s a matter of your personal opinion and what you are looking for from that school. It can be location, financial budget or school reputation. There are many culinary schools in the United States, but in my opinion I chose the best one. The best thing to do is to focus on what they offer that will benefit your future in the industry. Look for knowledge, student activities, networking, career fairs and discipline.

But the real question—to go or not to go to culinary school at all— is an issue being talked about in kitchens everywhere. So, can you make it in the kitchen without enrolling in culinary school? My answer is, yes, you can make it. You will learn a lot of culinary skills and techniques. But what about hospitality? The point of going to culinary school is not just learning to cook or dicing potatoes to perfection. It’s about following your passion and making a professional life out of it. You will need to know how the waiter/server and kitchen systems work and so much more that school can teach you.

The first thing you should ask yourself is what you can get with an education and how you perceive education. In my opinion, education should be looked at as an investment. In finance before making an investment, you should do research about the company, study the risks and possible return on investment. It is the same with an education—just because you have to take loans doesn’t mean you are not going to be able to pay them back. It all depends on you.

In my case, I chose to go to culinary school rather to grow as a line cook. I wanted an education that could provide me a great perspective of the industry along with networking, knowledge and experience in hospitality and cooking skills. I completed my associate degree at the San Antonio campus, which is smaller than Hyde Park while still providing the same quality of education. (Here you will be able find the differences between those campuses.) After completing that degree, I took a break from school for a few months. I asked myself, what if I need a loan to start my own business? Do lenders consider educational background? What if something happens and I can’t cook for the rest of my life? Do I really need some business knowledge? The answers for all these questions were yes—so I decided to pursue my bachelor’s in culinary arts management.

The Culinary Institute of America has different majors and concentrations, which will let you choose the one that sparks your interest. You can take classes in food writing, food styling, film, wine, beer, food studies, farming, food photographer—the list goes on and on! It’s not only about cooking! Studying at the CIA includes everything related to food, which can really help spark your passion and grow your career.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Trending Podcasts: Gravy & Burnt Toast

by Makena Wininger, Associate Degree in Culinary Arts, excerpted from La Papillote

Currently, iTunes hosts 240 different food-related podcasts covering everything from home-brewing to vegan cooking. They are hosted by people from every level of the culinary world, from famous chefs to food bloggers to home-cooks. Having all of these different voices commenting on our food, how we grow it, the way we eat it, and how to make it better, lends to a great wealth of information out there just waiting to be heard. But with over 240 options, where does one even start? Well, I have a couple suggestions for those who are willing to give podcasts a try.

           photo courtesy:

From the curators of the food blog, Food52, comes Burnt Toast, a show hosted by Kenzie Wilbur and a rotating cast of guests. Burnt Toast discusses all the things that don't make it on to the Food52 website, but what Wilbur says they're all talking about anyway. Wilbur is often joined by Food52 founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs to talk about controversial cooking topics, food culture, and have the occasional good-spirited debate. One of my favorite episodes of the show is, And the James Beard Award Goes To. This episode takes the listener on a tour of the James Beard Award process, following the journey of a cookbook from submission to award-winning.

                         photo courtesy:

Produced by the Southern Foodways AllianceGravy is now a two-time James Beard Award-winning podcast that tells the stories of the changing American South through the foods we eat. This broadcast uses food as a means to delve into the culture of the South. The host, Tina Antolini, navigates the listener along a road trip of stories, seeking to show how the states below the Mason-Dixon line accommodate new immigrants, adopt new traditions, and maintain the old ones. The best episode I've heard so far is Episode 16: Fried Chicken: A Complicated Comfort Food. This episode reaches into the history of fried chicken as it has long represented the American South. Reporter Lauren Ober takes her listeners from the Gordonsville, VA Fried Chicken Festival to a soul food restaurant in Harlem to discover how fried chicken has been both the embodiment of empowerment and racism.

As an avid podcast listener myself and a lover of so many things food, the discussions taking place in this slowly emerging form of food media are fantastic ones. They're full of thoughtful, intellectual, and purposeful commentary on topics that culinarians should have on their minds. Why don't you, too, listen to a podcast and join the conversation. 

Friday, June 24, 2016

Humans of The CIA: Chef David McCue '93

by Joseph Haffly, Associate Degree in Culinary Arts, excerpted from La Papillote

Chef McCue is one of the many personalities here at the Culinary Institute of America that everyone has heard about at least once. Most know of his Facebook page highlighting some of the innocuous student behavior in the kitchen. We have also heard, or will hear, at some point about the burnt museum that he has collected over the years. But what else is there? What kind of stories and advice does Chef McCue have? I had the opportunity to sit down with Chef McCue and give him some questions in hopes of entertaining and enlightening answers. What I got was exactly that. 

Q: What can you tell me about your time working with Martha Stewart?
A: I rather enjoy telling stories. I would have to say that my time at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia was some of the more content rich harvesting stories. It was a very good experience.

Chef McCue continued to tell me of the process behind working in a television studio. He worked on production of recipes and finished items to be featured on the show. The onscreen production of recipes required everything to be broken down into many more steps than one might expect. During the filming, Chef McCue would need to have a showpiece for every step of the recipe from start to finish. This kind of production required excellent time management and precise repetition. 
During his time with Martha Stewart, Chef McCue also catered to her, as well as guests of her show privately. Some of the more well known individuals for whom Chef cooked for are John Cleese, Cyndi Lauper, Aretha Franklin, former Secretary of Defense Colin Powell, Chef Julia Child, and Chef Jacque Pepin. On occasion, Chef McCue was also hired for private catering. At one point, he found himself in the Manhattan penthouse of 'Sting'. Over the course of catering Sting's rainforest charity event, he met 'Madonna' and finished the night off by sharing a beer with James Taylor. This is just one of the many stories from the rock n' roll years of Chef McCue.

Q: What advice can you give to students looking to go into food media? Anything they should focus on strengthening?
A: Be very meticulous in your work. Become a perfectionist, it doesn't hurt to be OCD. You also need to be able to keep your head down and work. A career in food media, as with any kind of media, is a lot of hard work. Seeking out a mentor with experience in such a career to help you prepare for this type of career is not a bad idea. You have to work hard and love what you do. Just remember that if you don't work hard, you don't get rewarded.

Q: What is one of your greatest frustrations with students?
A: Apathy. I can deal with anything; naivety, ignorance, lack of talent, any kind of injury. If you want to learn I can teach you. But, if you don't want it then I don't want you in my kitchen. Apathy is the worst attribute in my opinion. Most students underestimate the amount of work. They always refer to the Food Network and TV shows. A lot of students get the wrong idea from TV and have a rude awakening when they get into a real kitchen.

Q: What do you enjoy the most about your students?
A: Seeing their changes. Having a student come in with little or no ability in the kitchen only to see them leave with a noticeable improvement in their abilities. Mentoring students who come in and are fighting for something, fighting to make it through, almost like they're fighting for their lives. The positive change that I have on students, that's what I enjoy about this job.

Q: Do you have any tips for new students?
A: Saying 'Yes Chef" will save your life. Never any excuses, we don't want excuses. 'Yes Chef' means 'I hear you, I understand you, and I will make it so.' Be respectful. Again, no excuses and no lies, just do what chef says. If you are wearing whites in a kitchen then everything is your responsibility. Remember, if you want responsibility then you have to respond with ability.

Q: Can you offer any advice for students wishing to work abroad?
A: Do it! We as chefs can work anywhere in the world. Food is essential and it is everywhere. I recommend making an effort to learn the language of the country you try to find work in. Not knowing the spoken language only makes the learning curve harder. Just make an effort not to be a tourist, most people don't like tourists. If you want to be successful abroad or at home then stay humble, always.

Q: What do you think makes a successful restaurant? 
A: Put the right concept in the right spot. It really does come down to location. You can have an amazing menu and restaurant layout, but if you're in the wrong neighborhood it's game over. As far as a menu goes, it is built on three legs. Leg one is proper seasoning, leg two is proper serving temperature, and leg three is making sure it is properly cooked. You can do two of the three really well, but if one is missing then the whole thing falls down. Most importantly is to make sure you are happy. If you aren't happy then your work will suffer and that will show. Most people don't know what makes them happy. Find what makes you happy before committing to opening a restaurant. 

Q: Can you tell me about the side towel scholarship?
A: When I first started teaching at the CIA, I mentored under a young man by the name of Barry. He would collect any forgotten side towels and resell them to students for $1 each and deposit the money into a jar. I adopted this practice and eventually we realized that we were gathering a lot of forgotten tools, aprons, and towels. We continued to offer them to students at a greatly discounted price and used the proceeds to start up the side towel scholarship. Since then, we have also added McCue t-shirts to the list of items for sale. All earnings from sales goes directly to the scholarship fund; 100% of it. The scholarship is awarded to the good and hard-working students so that we can make sure they can stay in school. To date we have helped over 200 students reach graduation with this scholarship.

Thank you, Chef McCue, for taking the time to help the students who need it. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

Food and Fitness

By: Lyanardo Holland, Associate Degree in Culinary Arts, excerpted from La Papillote

            It’s 11 p.m. on a Wednesday night and you just finished cleaning your station and you’re headed out the door. You’ve been at work since noon to help pick up the slack from an absent co-worker. In addition, the Sous Chef has been on you all night demanding perfection from you. Johnny Quick and Susie Shuffle mention that they know the bartender down the street and have ensured that you will get your money’s worth tonight if you go out with them. Do you go out and get plastered tonight, making tomorrow’s day of work that more daunting? Do you go to the late night gym or get to bed early to exercise in the morning? It’s a tough decision in the moment but if you take the time to weigh out the long-term effects, I’m hoping you would make the decision for exercise. If not, let me try to persuade you.
             Exercise isn’t just for the protein drinking, sun tan lotion wearing, macro counting, bodybuilding extraordinaire. It’s for the average person who’s worked a long day for low wages who wants to keep their mind and body in the best condition that they can to prolong their life. Exercise isn’t just about fitting into the swimsuit you want for the summer or shaping those “guns” for the sun. It also has benefits that deal directly with the stressors of a demanding fast pace working environment. This is certainly true when that job takes 10 hours out of your day and one extra teaspoon of an ingredient in the wrong dish can make that day disastrous.
It’s no secret that drugs and alcohol are problems within our cooking community. Cooks, chefs, and bakers are all looking for ways to relieve some stress and far too often they lean on drugs and alcohol. The non-profit medical practice and medical research group, Mayo Clinic, said it best about exercise: “It’s meditation in motion”. The good thing about using exercise as a form of meditation is that virtually any activity done for fitness can be used. Whether it be swimming, running, Zumba, jiu jitsu, bicycling, or hiking; your mind is off of the stress that you have been put through for the day. You will be focused on the task at hand and not about that pan sauce that you burned or that cake that you left in the oven too long. The time spent on not thinking about your errors will allow you to reset and refocus. The time that you spend meditating in motion will eventually turn into physical progress.

The physical progress or “gains” can turn into positives in the kitchen. Your body will be more adept to handling physical stressors at work because those stressors won’t be as profound anymore. If Johnny Quick occasionally lifts 30 pounds only to lift the stock pot then that 30 pound stock pot may be an issue for him. It’s not something that his body is used to doing, so physically it becomes more of a stressor. Now, if Susie Shuffle happens to go to the gym and routinely lifts 70 pounds then that 30 pound stockpot is not going to be as big as a problem for her as it was for Johnny Quick. Additionally, Susie’s body will be able to handle the environmental stresses of the kitchen such as high heat.
The last issue that I want to highlight is the diet that we eat while working. A lot of us can’t eat while we are working. If we do, it may be something that was unsuitable for a patron, family meal, or whatever is left after service. Also, who wants to cook after working 10-12 hours? This brings convenience foods into play like pizza, burgers, and prepackaged ramen. None of those practices are part of a healthy diet. However, exercise can help combat some of the negative effects of eating poorly. The American Heart Association recommends exercising at least 30 minutes a day, five days out of the week. They also mention that something is better than nothing. Don’t think that just because you can’t fit or do 30 minutes of activity 5 days of the week that you shouldn’t do anything at all. What would be most important in that scenario is that you start.
We’ve went over a few reasons why exercising can be a good thing in the culinary world. This is in spite of working long hours and eating infrequently. Exercising can help you relieve mental and physical stress. This leaves you more prepared for work and life. Exercise can extend your life expectancy by making sure your cardiovascular organs are working at an optimal state. You can also meet awesome people at the gym. Exercise isn’t just something you should do to prepare for summer, but something that you should do for life—your life. It can help combat depression. It can make a person more productive. Exercise can even help a person understand that even though they may be tired that they can keep pushing and get the job done. It’s important to exercise when you have a stressful job. The benefits of exercise aren’t just physical. It’s a good way to relieve stress in a healthy manner. 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Food Trucks: It’s Not Just Hotdogs and Ice Cream Anymore

by Patty Dennison, Culinary Arts Major, from La Papillote

How is it that food trucks suddenly became so popular? They abruptly morphed from rusty hotdog stands and creepy ice cream trucks to pizzeria trucks that even have wood burning ovens in the back of the truck. Food trucks are becoming the center of popularity in the restaurant industry next to kale and molecular gastronomy. We now have large food truck festivals and even TV shows like “The Great Food Truck Race,” Johnson and Wales’ own, dedicated to these mobile eateries. So why is it that food trucks finally received an invite to the popular table, after being kept in the shadows for so long?

The first food trucks came into existence before cars were even an option and succeeded the Civil War. In the late 1800s is when they first started showing up. The original food trucks rooted from two different vessels: chuck wagons and push carts. The chuck wagons originated in the Wild West, to feed the cowboys that were on the road by giving them simple and convenient meals while they were traveling. In more urban areas, like New York City, pushcarts were becoming popular. These were carts that sold premade items like sandwiches and meat pies. These carts slowly started to morph and escalate over time. The simple carts were soon horse drawn, and were functional as a kitchen as well and not just a mere serving stand. They soon became very popular lunch carts in major metropolitan areas, and in the mid 1900s the notorious ice-cream truck first opened. It is understandable how the trucks became more functional as restaurants because it helped the trucks meet the needs for the customers easier, and as soon as they met the needs of the customers the owners started to go above and beyond the customers’ needs and expectations.

This is something that CIA students, professors and alumni are tackling head on, and some with even more innovative approaches than what we have seen. Student Adam Belward is the executive chef of Iron and Grain, a food truck based out of Connecticut. With his “mobile gastro-pub,” he has 6 beer taps on the truck as well as a wood-burning grill, which sets him apart from many food trucks. Their cuisine encapsulates upscale bar food serving sliders topped with quail eggs and charred Brussels sprouts with buffalo seasoning. His innovative truck is built in a classic Chevy Viking, which is strongly demonstrated in the style of their truck. Their cuisine embraces the ever-growing farm-to-table food trend, which has yet to break through the food truck scene. Belward is hoping with their approachable truck and local food that they are going to continue this movement is the food truck craze.

Chef Pardus, Cuisines of Asia teacher, is also the owner of a food truck known as Lucky Noodles. While his food truck design is more traditional than Belward’s, he does embrace the diversity of the food truck movement. Chef Pardus’ menu is what really differentiates him from the more mainstream food trucks. His Lucky Noodles food truck focuses on the wide variety of flavors in Asian cuisine. His menu features more exotic dishes including noodle bowls, bahn mi, and spring rolls. With his non traditional menu, he is inspiring and attracting young chefs and students of the CIA to be creative and pursue different avenues of the food industry like food trucks.

Many people, including myself, are wondering why food trucks? What is the benefit of having a food truck instead of a store front. Belward said:
"without having a brick and mortar we can be far more flexible in many areas.  For one we are not stagnant in one area targeting just one demographic of that area; we can move the truck from event to event all throughout the state which allows us as culinarians the freedom to have a changing menu depending the area."
Many students are very interested in opening companies right after graduation, and this can be a safer avenue. Food trucks are far less expensive to open up as restaurants, and they can give you a platform to build your clientele before you open an official storefront. Food trucks are a diverse and expanding section on the restaurant industry that could be in the future of many of our students. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Graduation: Looking Back on My Time at CIA

Dear Students, Faculty, and Everyone Else in Between,

The phrase, “that changed my life” might be one of the worst phrases imaginable. Why? Because life is change.  To imply that only some events are life-changing is misleading. However, some changes do have more of an impact on our lives than others. The day I stepped out of a cab and into Rosenthal Hall for the first time was one of those important changes. That singular moment made me realize that determination can pave the way to greatness.  I had arrived at CIA and I knew that I would do everything in my power to extract as much from the life I would be living here as I could.  I can safely and humbly say that I succeeded. Life here at CIA has been a blur.  As I sit here writing this, I cannot help but think back to my first day in Chef Cerrone’s Fundamentals class. My classmates and I looked around at each other nervously, unsure of what we had actually gotten ourselves into. That moment seems so distant now.  We made a mistake when we arrived here two years ago: we blinked. Somehow we opened our eyes again to find that we had reached the end of time here.  Now that this chapter of my life is coming to a close, I find myself reflecting.  My last duty here as a CIA student is to recognize the people that have impacted my life.

To the chefs that I had the privilege of learning from: I became a better cook and a better person in your kitchens. I am constantly reminded of how remarkable each one of you is; I will forever be in awe. You all taught me more than cooking; you taught me discipline, humility, and accountability. Grateful is the word that comes to mind when I think of how I feel towards you, but that word does not seem like enough.  Thank you.

To the professors that taught me about table service: you opened up an entirely new world to me. When I stepped onto this campus, I wanted to stay as far away from the dining room as possible. I am happy that your classes made me realize how wrong I was about the front of house. I found a side of myself that I had been underutilizing. I will have endless options upon leaving here, and that is an incredible feeling. You have my sincere thanks.

To the students her that I have come to love: I will never forget you, truly. I will miss the daily run-ins, the late night diner visits, the countless inside jokes, the camaraderie of this industry, and the support that we have all had for each other. If you have touched my life, please stay in it. I know we are all going to accomplish great things.

To the editors and contributors of La Papillote: from the week I stepped onto campus, this paper has given me many gifts. I reclaimed my love of writing and rediscovered my determination. I learned about what it means to be part of a strong team. Being your copy editor has been one of the biggest honors of my career and of my life. I am proud to say that I served alongside each and every one of you. Never stop printing what needs to be printed.

To all of the people that work in the Library Learning Commons: when I was at my lowest points here at CIA, all of you made sure to help me; you picked me back up.  I would not have gotten through a handful of my classes without your expertise and your compassion.  Biggest of thanks to James and Sheri—you two are my angels.

To Chef McCue:  knowing you has been one of the highlights of my life. Your support has always guided me in the right direction. I am a stronger person for having known you. Whenever I underestimate myself, I think of what you would say. You have shown me what it means to lead with humility, compassion, integrity, and intelligence.  Keep fighting the good fight…and try not to scare too many more students.

To Professor Lauria: Seeing life through your eyes has been refreshing. There are few people that walk into other people’s live like you do. You are a shining star that has taught me that I can shine, too. Thank you for being the type of person that moves me. We are forever stuck.
My last words are to the students that will be here as this issue hits the stands.  My advice to you is to live each day fully. Never hold back, never miss an opportunity.  Extract as much knowledge as you can from this campus and its inhabitants. If you can do that you will leave with no regrets. CIA, it is not goodbye, it is simply see you later.

This is your senior copy editor, signing off.

Fondly yours, Sarah Lubitz

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

CIA, San Antonio

By CIA Student Bernard Padin

The decision of applying to The Culinary Institute of America was an easy one. It’s the best school, simple. Now, choosing between the campuses, you will have to put in a little bit more thought. Each of them will provide the same education and professional environment, but the location is what makes the difference and is what you really want to focus on. In my case, I completed my associate degree in the San Antonio, Texas campus, located in the heart of the American Southwest and a really cool site called the Pearl Brewery. I’m now at the Hyde Park, New York campus completing my bachelor’s degree in culinary arts management. Let me tell you a little bit about how the Texas campus stacks up:

What’s Nearby
As I mentioned, the Texas campus is located in the historic Pearl district and surrounded by a great culinary environment. The area is full of restaurants, the River Walk and employment opportunities. It’s the perfect culinary environment to enrich your education and provide experiences you’ll value throughout your entire career.  There’s a local vibe: you will find a farmers market every weekend, coffee shops and delicious pastries.

Campus Size
It’s like a high school, in the sense that you will be able to meet the entire faculty and create a good bond with all the chef instructors. But, like any other school, everything depends on your input and how willing you are to learn. This campus offered me great networking opportunities that made me feel confident enough to say that I could find a job anywhere at any time. In addition, there are great job opportunities around campus where you can work to get experience and knowledge from experienced chefs. The Pearl restaurants love to hire CIA students; they like their passion and commitment with food and school. Also, they will be flexible and will work with the student to fit their schedule.

Campus Life
Campus life in San Antonio is less than a typical college life that some students are looking for. The groups will vary in ages—some students will be more mature than others and they will often help younger students to mature and learn. When I started I was 27 and living with an 18-year-old roommate. So I was like his older brother—waking him up for class, helping him out with homework and helping him to be more responsible with school.

The life outside campus is fun and there are a few activities to do. My favorite ones were going to Austin (which is about 1:40 hours from San Antonio), visiting Jacob’s Well and hunting fresh produce at different farmers markets. The San Antonio activities are slightly different from Hyde Park. The main campus holds more activities, has more students clubs and offers on-campus housing.

Talking about housing, which I personally think is something that every student should consider, it is cheaper in Texas than New York. I was paying $475 per month and around a maximum of $30 in utilities. The only issue could be the transportation, but there are some affordable places around the campus.

Meal Plan
The meal plan works differently and offers fewer options than at the Hyde Park campus. In San Antonio, everyone has lunch at the same time and in same dining room. It was nice to sit with Chef and students at the same table and comment about our performance and food. If you were organized while cooking and not behind in your classes, there is plenty of time to have lunch and walk around the Pearl to have a coffee or relax a little bit. In Hyde Park you have two swipes per day, which is an amount of points given to each student to pay for the meals using the student ID card. In my opinion, I prefer the Hyde Park system because you have different options rather than have a specific menu.

Chef Instructors
The professors or chef instructors approach is probably one of the things I liked the most of my experience in San Antonio. Since the campus is only about the size of the first floor of Roth Hall in Hyde Park, it’s easy to bump into every chef instructor and faculty member. As someone said, “great things come in small packages,” and in a small place like this you will
be treated like family. I was there on my own—my family, dog and friends where in Puerto Rico. It felt good to find not just a great education, but the opportunity to build a bond with amazing chef instructors. It’s an experience that I will always carry with me. I was treated like family: spending time with the cool Chef Paul Sartory helping him out in his beautiful garden and working alongside Chef Von Bargen and being part of the delicious meals cooked by his family. It felt more than good to find Latin chefs like Sergio Remolina and Alain DuBernard—they are such a great inspiration and humble chefs that will drive you in the correct path. As I said before, if you’re willing to work, the opportunities are limitless.

The main reason I chose the San Antonio campus was because of my financial status. I didn’t have the money to go to the Hyde Park campus, or at least to start there. So, when I heard about the great scholarship opportunity in San Antonio I didn’t hesitate to contact the faculty to ask for more information. El Sueño Scholarship is a tremendous opportunity that covered almost half of my tuition. It helped me out to reduce the financial burden that almost everyone is scared about.

In Conclusion…

Honestly, my decision to apply to the San Antonio campus was because of financial issues rather than anything else. But I would not change my decision and I’m grateful for what San Antonio has offered me. The campus and faculty provided me excellent assistance and education that has helped me to succeed at the main campus and to get good financial aid through scholarships. Like I mentioned, it is up to you to succeed. Choose wisely at which campus you are going to have the most benefits and least distractions. The more committed to your passion, the more you will benefit from the opportunities.

Friday, February 26, 2016

“Top Chef” Nina Compton Finds Success

CIA Alum Finds Success in The Big Easy

I became aware of Chef Nina Compton ’00 back in October of 2013, the same time that millions of other viewers of “Top Chef” did. The thing that struck me about her was her ability to always produce exceptionally polished and well-balanced dishes. Watching her devise, then cook these dishes was similar to watching an artist conceptualize and then produce beautiful paintings. I believe that I was just as shocked as the rest of America when she was announced as the runner up that season. Thankfully for us all, Chef Compton remained posed and driven. After having been at the helm of CIA alum Scott Conant’s Scarpetta Miami, she left in 2014, resurfacing in New Orleans just last year.

Chef Compton opened Compère Lapin in New Orleans in the Central Business District. Perhaps the greatest description of this restaurant can be found on its website:
“Inspiration for the menu comes from the traditional Caribbean folktales featuring a mischievous rabbit named Compère Lapin that Chef Nina Compton read during her childhood in St. Lucia. Drawing on the story’s themes of exploration and play, she mixes the indigenous ingredients and rich culinary heritage of New Orleans with those of her Caribbean roots.”
 While I was home for Christmas break, my dad and I had the chance to dine at Compère Lapin. Eating at this gem of a restaurant was both thrilling and inspiring. While I did not get the chance to talk to Chef Compton during my visit, I was able to talk to her once I had returned to CIA.

Chef Nina Compton, from
Sarah Lubitz: First of all, I want to say that I enjoyed eating at your restaurant when I was home.

Nina Compton: Oh, thank you.

SL: It was wonderful. I got the curried goat.

NC: Oh, good, good, good.

SL: I know that you filmed “Top Chef” in New Orleans. Was that a big deciding factor for you when you decided to open a restaurant there?

NC: I always wanted to live in the city. My husband and I, we wanted to have our honeymoon here, but it didn’t work out. So, when we filmed the show here, I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed the charm of the city. It does have a lot of soul; it has a lot of character. And, I think for a chef, having people that really enjoy eating out, I think that it’s a big thing. I think for me, it was an easy move to open a restaurant here.

SL: How has New Orleans changed the way that you look at food?

NC: I’ve only been here for nine months, and, when I moved here, they’d just had the ten year anniversary of Katrina. Speaking to a lot of locals, you try to understand what they go through, and I don’t think people really understand what they went through when Katrina hit. And, to rebuild and get to where they are ten years later I think is huge, because you would never know that the whole city was wiped out. You hear different stories of what people went through and people almost say that it’s a good thing that it happened because it was able to start fresh. So, to be able to rebuild the city to where it is right now I think that’s a great thing. There are so many restaurants opening up, there are so many hotels. I think the economy is better than it has ever been, post and pre Katrina. I think that that’s really a great thing.

SL: I know, for me, that I grew up two hours away, so being able to watch the city rebuild was really inspiring. It’s hard for me to even keep up with the amount of restaurants that are opening right now, so I think it’s really great as well.
SL: One of the biggest issues that we are focusing on right now is sustainability. What do you think are some of the biggest issues that we are facing in the industry regarding sustainability?

NC: I think you see it in a lot of restaurants now, and people are a lot more conscious of certain species that they want on their menus. Some species are being overfished, and I strongly believe in that. Things like Chilean sea bass are being overfished. I think supporting the farms, especially local farms, because the city of New Orleans has so many farms around it, it’s a very big thing to support. That’s one of the things that I try to have on my menu, supporting the local farmers, getting the goats from the local farms, getting the pigs. The vegetables are from twenty miles away, not even. But, getting those things in, it makes a difference.

SL: How do you feel that the landscape has changed for women in the industry?

NC: I think it’s changed a lot. I think it’s an even playing field for women in the kitchen. I think that you always have to try harder and excel because, for a very long time, it was a man’s kitchen, which is funny because “a woman’s place is in the kitchen.” I think now that you see a lot of really good female chefs that are coming out on top and are really pushing to get things done and get recognized. I don’t think that it’s as sexist as it used to be. I think people are more open-minded to female chefs; we’re not frowned upon in the kitchen.

SL: Who has inspired you the most as far as cooking concerned?

NC: A lot of people played parts in my career. My grandmother was always cooking in the kitchen. My mom loved baking, so I grew up around that. I also got into cooking because I enjoy eating, and I enjoy making people happy. As a child, I would cook for my family. And seeing the reactions on their faces, it made such a difference. I think that’s why people cook, because the want to make people happy. That’s a genuine feeling.

SL: I know you graduated in 2000. How has CIA influenced your career?

NC: Hugely. I definitely wanted to go to one of the best facilities in the country, if not the world, and learn from the best. I think it’s a great facility. It’s definitely one of the best in terms of providing the right tools and knowledge for young cooks. I don’t think anybody has kitchens or wine programs available like that. It’s so well versed. Having different guest chefs doing cooking demos or speaking to students, I think that’s huge. And I don’t think that anywhere else does that as well as the CIA does.

SL: What is the most important thing that you took away from being a student here?

NC: To be discipline, organized, and very professional. I think that the way that you carry yourself shows. You see the way that people from the CIA carry themselves, and it’s different. It’s more polished, more refined. I think they have a better chance of excelling in any program or in any restaurant because of the tools that they have been given.