Sunday, January 24, 2010

Culinary Institute of America Cooks Satisfaction in San Antonio

In the early 1980's Jim worked at Cafe Pacific, it exposed him to a new level of food and helped him decide that his career needed a more formal education (thank you Jack Knox).  So at the "late" age of 26 he enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America, requiring a two year commitment to living around Poughkeepsie/Hyde Park, New York.  Back then most of the top culinary schools in the U.S. were either on the left coast or the right, and for those in the middle it required moving to one or the other sides of the country.

I was not enrolled, I just hung out and listened, drank beers with the group at Augie's, (occasionally) snuck into the school Cafeteria, and participated where possible (basketball cheerleader chant:  Mirepoix, Mirepoix, Roux, Roux, Roux.  Chop 'em up, Dice 'em up, Throw them in the stew!).   It is a group-based educational process, and Jim's two-year group was an amazing mix of people from around the states and the world, they spent more than just classtime together.  I like to say we "took big bites of life", we were poor but managed to travel, to enjoy and explore food and life together.

For those not familiar with the educational process by which this school trains their students, I could recommend a great book that details the expectations and sacrifice it takes to earn a degree from this institution.   It was (back then) a mix of old-school "hands on" European apprenticeship (up at 4 am) with modern educational techniques, textbooks, tests.  But also stressed with the classical learning was the training to see food as an art form, visually and flavorfully, and to keep innovating the shape of that form.  They strive to teach the love of the art, as well as master the technique of the art.

Word came last night via Lucian LaBarba that there is a new branch of the CIA now open in San Antonio.  Financed by a very large ($35 million) donation from a SA gentleman, Christopher Goldsbury wanted to take the "This stuff's made in New York City!" chant to a new level.   His four year campaign finally convinced the school that the city of San Antonio could well represent the Center of Foods of the Americas.  His donation helped finance the San Antonio site (which currently has a 30 week program), establish a program of Latin Food studies at the Hyde Park campus, and provides full 2 and 4 year scholarships for those who finish in the top of their San Antonio class to continue their studies in Hyde Park. Longer term plans for the SA campus is for expansion into a degreed program for it's students.

I wonder if they know their initials, SACIA translates from Spanish, "satisfies" or "to satisfy"?  How fitting.  According to their website,
Located at the gateway to Latin America, the CIA, San Antonio attracts a unique blend of students: future chefs, food lovers, and established culinary leaders. Through educational programs our goal is to elevate Latin American cuisine to its rightful place among great cuisines of the world.
Set among restored 19th century buildings once part of the Pearl Brewery, the CIA, San Antonio campus is as diverse as the culinary world itself. Located on the San Antonio River just north of downtown, the 20-acre Pearl Brewery site is developing into a exciting center that will be filled with cafés, schools, lofts, services, and events. The CIA classrooms and kitchens are state-of-the-art, dedicated to real-world experiences, creating an ideal setting for learning.
A strong Dallas link to the CIA is former restaurateur/chef (and now Associate VP of the Culinary Institute of America) Dr. Victor Gielisse, C.M.C, C.H.E..  Many Dallasites remember Victor's restaurant, Actuelle, a 5 star world-class restaurant he owned with his wife, Kathryn and partner Clive O'Donoghue back in the late 1980's.   Both of his cook books, Cuisine Actuelle (by Victor) and In Good Taste, A Contemporary Approach to Cooking (co-authored with Kathryn and Mary E. Kimbrough) are in The Collection.  Hey Victor, old buddy, we've got lots of interested students here for the school, as well as some excellent scholarship opportunities - let us help get the word out!

With over 35 chef graduates from the CIA in the Dallas area, what a fun time we could have!   Road trip on 281 anyone?

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