Teach me, Culinary Institute of America…please :-)

Posted by Dalia on April 9, 2012 in Food, Travel |

First off let me just say thank you very much to the Wounded Warrior Project who made the trip I am about to tell you about possible. Wounded Warrior Project is an amazing organization that helps our injured service members as well as spouses and caregivers. This organization has been a HUGE part of Kenny’s and my life and I cannot say enough amazing things about them. If you are interested in the many wonderful things that WWP does and would like to know how you can help, please visit their website at http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org. If you or someone you know is a post 9/11 injured service member, visit the WWP site for more information on their many programs and how they can assist you.

As I mentioned, thanks to the WWP I was offered an amazing experience at a Culinary Boot Camp at THE Culinary Institute of America in New York. :-) When I finally received word that I was in fact going I was so nervous, excited and after seeing our schedule a bit overwhelmed. LOL I had lists of what was appropriate wear, our daily schedule, and of course the wonderful opportunities we’d have. Being pregnant with twins and just getting over morning sickness had me both worried and happy. On the one hand I was so relieved to be done with morning sickness; I’d be able to enjoy and appreciate all the food we’d be cooking and eating at the CIA restaurants. I was also nervous because our days started at the school each morning at 6am and I was already in a perpetual state of some degree of exhaustion. These twins have been sucking all my energy, silly little vampires. :-P But truthfully, I wasn’t going to complain because above all that I was just plain ol’ excited about the whole opportunity.

So off I flew to NYC to start the journey. Almost right away while waiting for the shuttle I met one of the sweetest ladies, Katie, from Oklahoma. We waited for the shuttle together, chatted, and realized we’d been at another WWP event together. When we finally boarded the shuttle we were ready to get going. Why didn’t I google this beforehand, though? We were in for a two hour drive to our hotel. I knew it was going to be a bit of a drive but I didn’t realize it would be that long. Or maybe it was our driver who seemed to be taking all the backroads to Poughkeepsie? Oh well…we made it to our hotel just fine and our adventure continued.

Our first evening there we all (about 14 ladies) met with Bill Hannigan, our local WWP coordinator. Let me just say right off the bat, Bill is amazing for many different reasons. One big reason, though, has to be being the ONLY male in our group. LOL He put up with the many silly and different personalities of us all and was always one step ahead of us handling and dealing with it all. Many kudos to him.

Bill even had to put up with our instructors at the school as well.
Bill gets a toilet liner LOL


So every morning we were shuttled to the school at 6am and we were able to eat at the school cafeteria. Let me just say this…it’s not your average school cafeteria. It’s actually run by students there at the CIA. As part of their coursework they learn every single facet of the job which includes this fast paced line cooking. Yummy! That was my experience. :-P I tried to have something different everyday but I won’t lie…bacon was a a part of every breakfast. LOL Another thing I noticed about the students there was it reminded me a lot of the military. These guys can catch a pretty mean butt chewing if they mess something up. Something you’d think was minor earned you some public humiliation in front of anyone within earshot. A little awkward and nostalgic on my end.

Okay, so I won’t bore you with a play by play of my week. Instead I’ll share some of the more cool moments…in pictures. :-)

Look at me cooking there. :-) The lady on the left, Mary, was in my cooking group.
Look at me blanching them veggies :-)


Each day after the cooking portion of our day, we had to set out our group’s food on the table so we could all taste and eat for lunch. We had four groups, I was in group 4.

All our food ready to go (4 teams)


We also had to plate our group’s dishes for critique after lunch. My group’s (can’t remember which day). I made the beef stir fry. We had brown rice and mushroom soup to accompany it.
Team 4's presentation plate (my team)


We were also very lucky to be able to dine in one of the school’s restaurants every evening. The restaurants (like the breakfast cafeteria) is run by students at the end of their schooling to learn every aspect of the fine dining industry…chefs, waitstaff, etc, all students. I’m sharing two of my favorite things.

The first is the best mussels I have ever had. EVER. I would have eaten the entire plate but it was just an appetizer and I needed to leave room for my actual entree. But really…the BEST.

best mussels ever


The second was this waiter who was very, very accommodating to my “fun” table. That’s my way of saying a tad loud and ridiculous. LOL But seriously, we were having a great time and our waiter was great about it. He even let one of the ladies in our group assist him with the Bananas Foster.
Look at that flame, too cool!!


A full week of classroom lecture, exercises and hands on kitchen experience ended with a fun game of Culinary Jeopardy. My group got 2nd place. :-)


So yes, it was a very long week. I was beyond exhausted when it came time to go home but I would do it all over again. The experience was beyond phenomenal, I am so very lucky. Our instructors, Chef D and Chef Ski were fantastic, our local WWP coordinator, Bill Hannigan, was great, and all the wonderful spouses and caregivers who accompanied me were not only inspiring but also just loads of fun. Thank you to everyone! :-)

With a couple of ladies missing :-( here is our group on our last night dining in one of the restaurants of the Culinary Institute of America.
last night's dinner group shot


If you’d like to see all my pictures from the trip, click here to visit my Flickr page. Some pictures are mine, some borrowed from one of the other ladies (Jennifer Cazares) and some from Bill Hannigan. Enjoy!

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