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January 26, 2012 / Food Follower

Touring the CIA

Last summer, I visited the top secret  CIA: the Culinary Institute of America. Well, I confess this school is not a “secret” by any means. It is open to the public for tours, and you can also dine at one of its four restaurants. There is also a cafe called the Apple Pie Bakery which provides a more casual dining experience.

I was however truthful when I said it is a “top” school; the CIA rigorously trains students to become masterful chefs. When I was on the campus, I saw numerous people in white coats who were not doctors. Like ordinary students, these chefs-in-training were heading off to classes where they would call their teacher “chef,” instead of “professor.”

On my tour, I found out that the CIA offers two degree programs – one in culinary arts and another in baking and pastry arts. When you apply to the CIA, you have to decide whether you want to specialize in cooking or preparing desserts. My tour guide, who was a current student there, also told me that the saying there is freshman 50 instead of freshman 15. (This piece of evidence further convinced me that I made the right choice to go to a small liberal arts college). This saying makes complete sense though since the students are surrounded by good food every day and often for homework need to sample their food and other students’ food to analyze things such as the crumb structure of a cookie. (I wish that was my homework!)

After the tour, since it was my mother’s birthday, my parents, brother, and I dined in Escoffier, the French restaurant on campus. The food was very good but definitely not my favorite. Nevertheless, the entire experience overall was superb because the restaurant was run entirely by the students of the CIA. They managed the kitchen as well as the table service.

The kitchen at the Escoffier Restaurant

My trip to the CIA was truly memorable, and though I love food, I will still not be transferring to the CIA.

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