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!