Saturday, October 22, 2011

It's been ages!

But I'm pleased to report that I am having an absolute ball. The campus is gorgeous, the students are brilliant, the resources and tools are better than I could have imagined, and the instructors- oh where to even begin- they are the best of the best. You simply don't get a job at the CIA if your anything but the top in your field. I know if I don't map out what I'd like to say I'll be pontificating for days, so I'll just extrapolate on what I've already mentioned.

1-The campus is gorgeous.
 I just so happened to begin my classes during my favorite season, Autumn. And if you have not seen an upstate New York autumn, you're missing out. We're right on the Hudson river, so we've got that revitalizing, crisp breeze sweeping over the campus. There are trees and gardens everywhere, my favorite is the big old patch of lavender flowers that dozens of monarch butterflies call home. My dorm backs up to the forest's edge, and as the trees change it gets more and more beautiful. We also have fountains right in front of our main building, Roth Hall, and the architecture is striking. Not to mention the Chapel that we call our dining hall. The building we are in was built to be a Jesuit monistary, so there is stained glass covering the walls, mosaics and murals lining the ceiling, and hallways straight out of Hogwarts.

Standing in front of Roth Hall (in the photo above), the next picture is at your back. No matter what way you are facing, you have something beautiful to look at.

2- The resources.
  I know that a tutoring center is certainly not unique to the CIA, however some of the services that they offer may very well be. No matter what it is that you are having trouble with, they will help you. You don't even need to be having trouble, if you'd just like someone to help you study they are happy to assist. You can bring in your parchment paper and cake circle and someone will help you with your piping, or you can simply show up and ask to speak to someone who has passed the infamously hard wine course, and they will discuss the regions of France with you until the cows come home. The tutors are paid positions, but it all comes from tuition, so you can simply walk in as often as you'd like for no extra charge. Or, if you have a fondness for a particular tutor, you can set up appointments so that you know you will get that person. Another unbelievably cool resource is the writing center, which I plan to frequent. You can take any paper you're working on over there and a tutor specifically trained in writing will work with you to make your paper the best it can possibly be. They will help you clean up spelling and grammar, edit or re-write phrasing to be cleaner, more concise, or if need be, more eloquent or advanced. You can take the same paper to as many writing specialists as you'd like to get a lot of people's opinions, which I find particularly helpful because each person has their own style, which they will most likely impart into their advice. I would really love to get a job there once I'm more acclimated with my classes.  Another great resource is the wellness center (that might not be what it's actually called, but it fits), they have counseling, because this school is absurdly stressful, but in a "force you to be the best you" type of way, as well as a mediation room, which I thought was pretty neat. Lastly, at the recreation center, as well as having a pool, gym, track, game room, and lounge, they also have exercise classes Monday-Friday. My favorite so far is Zumba, but I've also taken the yoga class and am looking forward to trying boxing. With all the caloric indulgences we have the luxury of calling "homework", a spectacular gym is a nessesity. We also are able to see a personal trainer for no additional charge. Sheesh, I feel like I'm trying to sell gym memberships!

3- The students are brilliant.
You don't get accepted to the Culinary Institute unless you're driven, passionate, and possibly most importantly, ridiculously hard working. This work load is absurd, so all of us here are delightfully crazy. How crazy? Well, when we get into our yeast dough class, we're leaving our dorms to head to Roth Hall at one thirty in the morning (typically you don't go into baking and pastry if you're not a lover of the early morning, the culinary arts course attracts more of the night owls, as they need to stay up late, while we are getting up early.). So suffice it to say, we do not complain about going to Food Safety class at eight thirty in the morning. I have yet to work with yeast doughs, I'm still in my first semester so I'm in baking and pastry techniques to get the basics down. I really love to hear the other students here talk about themselves, I'm so curious to find out what brought them here, and what they love most about our industry. There is such a sense of family at this school, everyone watches out for everyone else. Well, I can only speak for baking and pastry, but I would imagine that it is the same way in the culinary classes. It's so easy to make new friends here, because we all have this mad obsession with food. Some people, like myself, love the science of it, while other students are crazy for the artistry of food. Some students want to keep exactly to tradition with food, while others lean toward the avant-garde. No matter their preference, they are all hugely inspiring.

4- The instructors.
I apologise, as I will not be able to do justice in my meager explanations of why these people are so unbelievable, but I will certainly try. For ease of discussion I will tell you about each Professor/Chef in the order that I see them throughout the week. Firstly I have Food Safety, which sounds like it may be pretty straight forward and bland, but this professor makes it so much fun! He is a biologist, so he can really explain the hows and whys of all the rules we are learning. He has a really dry sense of humor, so while I'm practically bursting my seams from holding in laughter, three quarters of the class are either scratching their heads wondering if that was a joke, or are sulking in an offended silence. It's bloody great. He makes brilliant references in his sneaky jokes to movies like Young Frankenstein that get me cracking up. As well as being hugely entertaining, he's also a superb teacher, I've learned so much from him already and I've only been in class a few weeks.  My second class is culinary math, and my professor for that class is equally awesome. My jaw nearly hit the floor when I learned that he wrote the textbook that we use. That simply doesn't happen! The textbook is so helpful, it's very straight forward and easy to understand. My professor is really young and wacky, and I get the biggest kick when he goes on rants about things such as students who complain about the metric system. He is such a great teacher as well, he makes absolutely certain that we all understand before he moves on, and he explains how to work problems through in as many different ways as he knows so that we can choose the one easiest for us. I was really nervous about math class, but with this teacher I love it. A class that I only have once a week is BIET (baking ingredients and equipment technology), and the professor that I have for this class makes me think of Professor Mcgonigall. She's tough, but completely for our best interest. She was intimidating at first, but once we got into class I began to adore her. She is an artisan bread expert, and wonderfully knowledgeable. She really wants to see us do well, and she is an excellent teacher. My kitchen class is Thursday and Friday, 2-8:30 and this Chef blew me away. OK, I'll just copy and paste his experience from the CIA website and we'll see how you feel... 
Pastry Chef-Instructor, Orlando Culinary Academy, Orlando
Adjunct Professor, Valencia Community College, Orlando.
President/Pastry Chef, Desserts by Design, Inc., Orlando.
Executive Pastry Chef, Hyatt Regency Westshore, Tampa, FL.
Pastry Chef, Worthington Hotel, Fort Worth, TX.
Pastry Chef, Don Ce Sar Hotel, St Pete, FL.
Lead Pastry Cook, The Grand Floridian, Walt Disney, Fl.
46 medals in ACF competitions.
World Chocolate Masters Competition 2007
American Culinary Federation
Skills USA Competition Coach, CIA, 2010 - present
Pro Chef Exam Judge, 2007 - present
ACF Practical Exam Judge, 2005 - present
Baking and Pastry Society CIA, 2007-2010
I can not say enough about this Chef. Not only has he done ALL OF THAT, he is approachable, humble, enthusiastic, and willing to help. He encourages us to ask as many questions as we can, and he demonstrates and explains in detail exactly how to make what it is we're working on. And he can work all day on a chocolate sculpture without getting a single drop on his Chef coat or apron. He has the best phrases to get us to remember things too, like "be smarter than a sheet pan". I can hardly keep from stuttering when I speak to him.
 I think he may be an alien, this is the only explanation.
Among about three hundred more factors, these are a few of the reasons I adore this school so much.
Love and snickerdoodles,

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