Jul 15, 2013

Visiting the Culinary Institute of America

Visiting the Culinary Institute of America has been on my Bucket List for years and now I can finally cross it off.  John and I had a wonderful guide, Bo Nu, a lovely young lady from Korea who was in her senior year at CIA.  I asked her why she chose CIA and she said, “It was the best culinary college that offered a Bachelor’s Degree.”  Oddly enough she doesn’t plan to work in the cooking part of the culinary field and actually felt she was not a good cook.  She is more interested in the restaurant management.  Bo Nu is just one of many foreign students as the CIA has an excellent international reputation. Students alternate with three weeks in the back of the house with three in the front of the house so they have a complete experience. Tip: unless you love to get up early – really early – don’t plan to be a pastry chef.  They start work at 4 a.m. However, besides degree programs they also offer classes for “Food Enthusiasts” that range from demonstrations to wine tastings to a variety of cooking classes.

The CIA was founded in 1946 in New Haven, CT to provide culinary career training for World
War II veterans and later moved to its current location which was a former Jesuit novitiate St. Andrew-on-Hudson. The campus is expansive with new construction in the works.  The main building, Roth Hall, is home to the bookstore (tip: go before dinner if you want to buy a cookbook because they may be closed when you finish dinner) and restaurants.  There are several places to eat. The Apple Pie Bakery Café is the place where on weekdays they showcase the talent of the baking and pastry students.  The newest dining establishment is the Bocuse Restaurant for lovers of French cuisine. The Ristorante Caterina de’ Medici, once the Jesuit chapel, has an elegant Tuscan flair. The tour was fascinating and made me realize how intense the program must be intense because the students and staff were focused and busy.  In fact, the place was buzzing with staff, students and restaurant-goers making me thankful we had dinner reservations. CIA has 2800 students at the Hyde Park campus but they also have schools in California, Texas and Singapore.

I was happy that we had reservations at the American Bounty Restaurant where we had a fun view of the kitchen. I like that. I started with the Spinach Coach Farm Goat Cheese Tart with a marinated leek salad, followed by Grilled Rib Eye of Beef with Crunchy Potato Cheese Gratin, and finished with Vanilla Mouse with Strawberry Sorbet.  Oh, my, life is good!

We dined like royalty. Speaking of that, earlier in the day we
visited the Vanderbilt Mansion, euphemistically called by the family, “Uncle Freddy’s Cottage on the Hudson.” Frederick Vanderbilt was one of the wealthiest Americans having made his money in the railroad business.  The American Beaux-Arts mansion is a glimpse into the days of the Gilded Age before taxes. Even though the mansion is elegant with imported furniture, fireplaces, marble and more, the guide explained that it was “modest” in comparison to some of the other Gilded Age mansions but then it was mainly their spring and fall getaway home. Even though I crossed off the CIA in Hyde Park I replaced it on my Bucket List with wanting to visit the one in Singapore.