The CIA

Not the Central Intelligence Agency, not at all, but something much more fun and happy! The Culinary Institute of America, widely recognized as the world’s premier culinary college. This was the day I had eagerly anticipated since the early planning stages.

The Culinary Institute began as the New Haven Restaurant Institute in downtown New Haven, CT  as the first and only school of its kind in the United States in 1946. Frances Roth and Katharine Angela created the school to train World War II veterans in the culinary arts.  Fifty students were enrolled and the a faculty consisted of a chef, a baker, and a dietitian.

In 1951 the name was changed to the Culinary Institute of America. The school grew and grew to more than 1,000 students. Needing a larger and better facility, the CIA purchased the St. Andrew-on-Hudson Jesuit novitiate in Hyde Park, NY for its new campus and opened the doors in 1972, right on the banks of the Hudson River.

Roth Hall is a gorgeous building. you can see the architectural roots of a religious order in its style and grandeur.

Al is relaxing on the terrace in front of Roth Hall.

We booked a one-hour tour hosted by a student on Monday morning. Arriving early, we first had a snack and coffee in the Apple Pie Bakery inside Roth Hall.

Inside Roth Hall is the Apple Pie Bakery Cafe where we enjoyed shared pastries and coffee.

Students hustling behind the counter in the cafe. They spend three weeks “in the back” and then 3 weeks “in the front.”

Enjoying my coffee. The white plates decorating the wall behind me are sketches of famous chefs like Julia Child, Anthony Bourdain and Gordon Ramsey.

Speaking of famous CIA alumni/celebrity chefs, there are some names I recognized –Anne Burrell, Cat Cora, Duff Goldman, Michael Symon, Michael Chiarello,  Sara Moulton, Todd English, Marcus Samuelsson, and sadly, Anthony Bourdain.

Natalie, our guide, led us through the school of baking and pastry arts. Although she told us about the School of Culinary Arts we really didn’t get to see any of that. I would happily gone on a 2-hour tour to see more.

Natalie shows us the display case of the books used in their studies.

The tour was fascinating and definitely worth it. We were told not to take photos, but after the tour I managed to sneak one little picture, much to Al’s dismay. I was discreet and no one noticed. 😉

The tour does not take you inside the kitchens or classes, you only look through special windows.

A wine studies class in progress. If you are a student under 21 you have legal permission taste but you must spit the wine out.

The student dining hall. The food is cooked by students and eaten by students. And it looked delicious, not at all like most campus food. Not only is the food exceptional, the setting is, too.

Sculptor, John F. Sendelbach, was asked to create a sculpture for the campus. He chose the Atlantic sturgeon, a migrating fish in the Hudson River region.

“Old Diamondsides”, the nickname for Atlantic sturgeon, is a 12-foot long and  360 pound ingenious sculpture created from  700 knives, 600 spoons, and 400 forks.

A closer look so you can see the knives, forks and spoons.

Chef on a rooftop? Cute.

Overlooking the Hudson River

Lunch time! After walking around the campus following our tour, we headed over to one of the CIA’s restaurants, the Caterina d’Medici.

Caterina d’Medici, with a menu of regional Italian cuisine, surrounded by gardens.

Our server, Cameron, pours an Italian white wine for us. This was his first week waiting on tables.

Since we were eating at a restaurant on the campus of a premier culinary institute, I think food photos are definitely in order.

My lunch: Roasted Beets (aged ricotta, dill, pickled calabrese pepper) Grilled Salmon (snap peas, radishes, mushrooms, creamy potatoes) Ligurian Olive Oil Cake (strawberries, mint, aged balsamic, whipped crème fraiche)

Al’s lunch – Pizzetta (asparagus, ricotta, crispy bacon) Braised Veal (spring vegetables, polenta) Gelati (chocolate, hazelnut, and vanilla) Closest he could get to ice cream!

Lunch at Caterina d’Medici (I have blatantly stolen this photo of us from Anthony’s blog post because I like it.)

What a wonderful day! If you ever have the opportunity to visit the Culinary Institute of America, I have two words for you – DO. IT.

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