Thoughts For Food

Insights into the Mind of a Culinary School Student

Life in the CIA: Classes and Schedules


Today we have the introduction of a brand new category of entries on my blog: Life in the CIA. I’ve decided to give yet another dimension to my blog by writing about how my time at the Culinary Institute of America is going, as I’m going through it. That way, any culinary hopefuls can get an insider’s look at the CIA! Without further ado, here we go!

The first thing that a lot of my friends ask me is: “What have you made so far?” Truth time guys; it takes a while before we get into any actual kitchen classes. sad, I know, but there is a reason for this. When you first enter the CIA, you take a placement test to determine what class block you get put in; A-Block or B-Block (more on class blocks later). If you get put in A-Block (which is what happened to me) you take a 3-week math refresher course called Culinary Math. It re-teaches you basics math principals, but in a kitchen/restaurant/bakery setting. Some people think it’s pointless and a waste of time. DON’T BE ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE. It’s actually incredibly helpful. Moving onto B-Block, you finally get to more food-centered classes…and more Culinary Math (hence why A-Block math is incredibly helpful).

B-Block classes are: Culinary Math, Product Knowledge, Food Safety and Gastronomy.

B-Block Math is where you begin to see a lot of more complex stuff, such as recipe costing forms, recipe scaling and unit conversions. All useful stuff for when you own your own place after school.

Product Knowledge is exactly as it sounds. The entire class is devoted to identifying fruits, veggies, herbs, dairy and other products, as well as identifying correct selection factors, ripeness, etc. It’s a really informative class and you may even get to taste some things that you may not have tasted before!

Food Safety may seem like a no-brainer at first, but in actuality, it’s quite informative and very very fun. The class teaches you how to keep you and your customers safe from food-borne pathogens, diseases, viruses, bacteria and parasites, as well as giving you insight on state and federal food law and practices.

Gastronomy is a fantastic class. It’s honestly one of my favorite classes this block. It teaches you how food, society and history are all shaped by each other. In essence, it’s how food and culture are intertwined. It’s a fantastic class, in my opinion.

Finally, here’s a description of how classes are laid out here at the CIA. When you first enter the CIA, classes for your first 2 years will be arranged in 3 – 6 week blocks, designated by letters of the alphabet (A – T). Yes, classes for the first 2 years only last 3 – 6 weeks at a time. Crazy isn’t it? That schedule is for both the Associates and Bachelors programs here on campus. If you’re in the Associates Program, you’re done after 2 years! Congrats, now go and make a mark on the industry! If you’re like me and are signed up for the Bachelors Program, you’ve still got one more year to go. That last year is structured more like a traditional college setting where there are 4 semesters of classes and each semester is 15 weeks long.

Oh, and before I completely forget. Between your Freshman and Sophomore years, you have something called Externship. During this time, you’ll be asked to find an extern site anywhere in the country or even beyond. There, you spend 21 weeks working at that site and honing your craft. it’s designed to give students a taste of what the industry is like, as well as giving the students the opportunity to make contacts within the industry and even find future employers once they’re out of school.

Hope you enjoyed this sneak peak at the CIA!


Author: NJ_Chef

A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and aspiring food-writer. 28-year old chef, blogger, eSports fan, gamer, jack-of-all-trades and master of none.

8 thoughts on “Life in the CIA: Classes and Schedules

  1. Yes I am definitely considering it, I’m a sophomore at a university now, living on campus for my 2nd year as well, so I think it would be better for me to live on campus at a new school to meet people, so Thanks for your opinion!!


  2. Thanks so much for your info, one more thing.. Do you live on campus? and if so.. how do you like it?


    • I do indeed live on campus.

      I’ve done the whole college dorm thing before coming here so it’s no real new thing to me. I have 2 other roommates which I am also OK with.

      Honestly, living on-campus is really great because you get the full experience of the school that way. You meet new people, there’s always events going on, so there’s never a dull moment.

      My personal suggestion: go for it if you’re considering it!


  3. First off, I love your blog, I’ve been searching for info about the school for the past week and just came upon your blog. Something that I can’t figure out is how the academic calender is set up.. I found a calendar on the website but was confused about it..The university I go to now, has 2 semesters in a year with a “fall break” and a “spring break” and may- august summer break, like normal schools. How does CIA work


    • Well thanks for checking out my blog!

      The schedule here at the CIA depends on which program you enter; either the Associates Program or the Bachelors Program. The Associates Program lasts 2 years and the Bachelors Program lasts 3 years.

      Basically, the 2 years of the Associates Program are your Freshman and Sophomore years, and if you stay on for the Bachelors Program, that’s your Junior and Senior years lumped together.

      During the first two years you’re here at the CIA, the classes last between 3 – 6 weeks in “blocks.” After those first 2 years, the classes flow more like a regular college.

      You have 3 major breaks: Summer, Thanksgiving and Winter, but you will have some 3-day weekends as new classes enter the school.

      I hope this answered your question!


  4. Hey I was wondering: could you give specifics as to what the A block math course covers? Like how high does the math go? Algebra? Trig? Basics?


    • Absolutely!

      Honestly, there’s very little Trig or Algebra. It’s pretty basic stuff. Unit conversions, personally, were the hardest part of A-Block and B-Block math. But other than that, it’s pretty bare bones stuff. I hope that was helpful to you!


  5. thankyou por send me information