Thursday, May 29, 2014

Who Comes to The Learning Commons?

by Jodi Amato, Manager, Learning Support Services

Students come to the Learning Commons.

Many come to study on their own, to work on projects, to take monitored tests and to consult with counselors but among the most important role is the help from tutors that is offered, free, to all AOS and BPS students.

There are 35 tutors working here, both students and professionals. Samantha Cancro will graduate in July and then will be on her way to a terrific job in Italy. She has been a tutor for a year and a half. She helps students improve their knife skills. Her other areas of expertise include advising with culinary math, and coaching for the costing practical exam and the 2nd and 5th term finals. She is a peer counselor for nutrition studies too.  She urges students to come to the Center often and on a regular schedule, particularly those enrolled in the Bachelor’s Degree program. She suggests that if you work well with a specific tutor, make an appointment in advance and stick with the guide who will reinforce the knowledge learned in any and every class from algebra to wines, mixology and spirits.

Michael McCarey is a 9th term student who has worked as a tutor since the early days of planning The Library Learning Commons. He is an expert “teacher” in the same areas as Samantha and his fields include microeconomics and baking and pastry.  He says, “Many students know they need help, but tend to hesitate and try to struggle along on their own. They need only ask, and they will find a hand to help with gastronomy and with setting goals. This assistance is available  from 8-11pm Monday-Thursday, 8-7 Fridays, Saturday 10-5 and Sundays 12-9.  

Other tutors in The Learning Center specialize in languages coaching engaging in conversation or even just using flash cards.

Two new additions to the writing tutors are Stephen Wilson and Theresa Edwards.  Wilson, (as he is generally called,) has been a writing instructor since 2002 following several years as a high school English teacher. He prefers to work with students, one on one, rather than in a classroom. He offers an understanding heart and vast pool of knowledge that he shares with those who are struggling with academics. He welcomes some who are desperately looking for help and others who are hoping to increase their level of expertise. He keeps what he calls, “a handle on their progress” and provides reassurance targeted to class instruction in this supportive environment.

Theresa Edwards has been a tutor since she was in high school.  She is an accomplished professional tutor with two Master’s Degrees; an M.A. in English and an MFA in Creative Writing. She has published three books of poetry. She joins the writing faculty in the Library Commons from Marist College. Her guidance is welcomed by those needing assistance with writing a cover letter and resume and with all areas of literary writing skills. She is particularly qualified to provide guidance with ESL and ELL students and, importantly, with SKYPE: enabling students on extern to communicate with her and receive advice about their all-important Journal.

Students, whether at the beginning of their time here at the college, or close to graduation, may spend a few minutes or up to several hours with their personal tutor. In the end they achieve higher grades and answers to baffling challenges. The best thing is that they leave with a satisfying sense of accomplishment.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Not Just Good, I Want to be GREAT

CIA Chef-Instructor Tony Nogales shares his thoughts on learning, and perfecting, your skills. 

Every four years excitement in the futbol (soccer) world comes to a head as nations around the globe start to make their way to the World Cup. This year it happens to be in Brazil. Last week, I attended a futbol coach’s conference where one of the breakout sessions was “Brazilian style” passing drills. During his presentation, the coach spoke about his experiences in Brazil observing the various coaching techniques around the country. One of the biggest takeaways that he shared with us was the amount of repetition that the young players go through; bouncing and kicking the ball literally for hours against a backboard. He said that this constant repetition led to a more artistic and creative game.

The learning process of any craft has a lot in common with the learning process that those young soccer players experience. The value of repetition and perseverance, along with the constant analysis of product and process, are distinguishing traits that help differentiate the good from the great. There has been a lot written these days about traits such as repetition, stick-to-itiveness and grit. In Malcolm Gladwell’s  Outliers he states, “Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.” To Geoffrey Colvin’s book Talent is Overrated, “The reality that deliberate practice is hard can even be seen as good news. It means that most people won’t do it. So your willingness to do it will distinguish you all the more.”

However, I think one of the most poignant points is from one of my favorite chefs, Thomas Keller. In Keller’s book, The French Laundry, as he goes through the introduction and describes his journey to opening his restaurant, there is a section called “Pleasure and Perfection.” This section epitomizes the feeling that cooks go through every day: the joy of repetition, the quest for perfection, and the pleasure in the task. To quote Keller, “This is the great challenge: to maintain passion for the everyday routine and the endlessly repeated act, to derive deep gratification from the mundane.” Whatever the task may be— peeling potatoes, washing spinach, dicing carrots—it should be done not with drudgery, but with the respect and analysis that comes with constant improvement. While it is important to have the end in mind, it is just as important or even more so to enjoy the process.

As we approach our everyday repetitive tasks in the kitchen—peeling vegetables, making stocks, fabricating proteins, practicing our precise vegetable cuts, making soups and sauces—the attitude in how we approach these tasks is extremely important. The joy is in the doing over and over and over, seeking constant improvement.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Options on the Horizon

by CIA Instructor Irena Chalmers

Irena Chalmers is the
author of Food Jobs
Countless hours are spent in classrooms. A phenomenal amount of physical and emotional effort is spent pursuing a degree, yet when graduation day arrives, too little time is devoted to thinking about and planning for what comes next. Too often, the first job offer is accepted because it is the only one on the table. Fortunately there are many opportunities waiting to be discovered.

There is nothing more satisfying than charting your own journey and sailing through the storm to your personal port. Having a sense of direction is infinitely less scary than being lost at sea. You have many destinations from which to choose.

You could be a private chef and travel with an international superstar or diplomat, or with an athlete who is competing on the world stage. Have you considered cooking on a small luxury yacht? You'd be responsible for preparing three meals a day, but you wouldn't need to worry about car payments or the rent for an apartment. Nor would you have to pay taxes on your income whenever you were at least three miles off shore.

Many major restaurants, fast food chains, and catering companies—including Aramark and Sodexo—have branches in several countries, as do hotels and food-processing companies. 

Employment in the US can lead to many travel opportunities abroad. Supermarkets and food-processing companies engage experts to travel the world in search of coffee, tea, cheese, chocolate, olive oil, pasta, cookies, and other prepared foods and raw ingredients.

Would you like to design vegan wedding cakes or prefer to be an ice cream sommelier or an event planner? A food scientist or the owner of a bed & breakfast? A TV star or a food cartoonist? A literary agent or a restaurant designer? A recipe tester or a flavor maker? The curator of food exhibits or a culinary librarian?

Are you interested in humanitarian causes? Have you thought about developing hunger relief programs or helping write sustainable agricultural or fishing policy? Perhaps you would consider working for a food-related foundation or charitable cause. Or you may want to work for a local soup kitchen, or a national organization like Share our Strength or Meals on Wheels, providing food for the frail and elderly. Investigate

It's admirable to volunteer, but there are many surprisingly well-paid positions to be found creating programs to counter cooking illiteracy.

Clearly these are all vastly different career paths. But if you are able to narrow your options, it becomes considerably easier to focus your research. If you are interested in science and technology, you may be able to strike art and design from your list. If you want to cook, explore the dozens of opportunities open to you in restaurants and food service. Similarly (or oppositely), if you yearn to become a writer, you may need to seek employment wherever a check can be found.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

So You Want to Be A Food Writer

By Nancy Cocola

Before I came to work at the CIA, I was already a writer. I’d written two books, many magazine and newspaper articles, countless magalogs and catalogs, and, yes, fabulous letters to my friends and family. Everyone said I had a way with words. But I worried just a little that writing about the vast topic of food, which was so new to me, would prove too complicated and difficult to master.

It wasn’t just that I needed to learn how to spell bain-marie or foie gras, it was that the language of food has its own rhythm and mysteries. Over time, I’ve absorbed lots of culinary knowledge, and, today, can even talk ingredients and techniques with our chefs without embarrassing myself. But ultimately what I have discovered is—and this is a comfort to me as a non-food professional—a knowledge of, and passion for, food does not necessarily translate into the creation of a great, readable article. You need writing skills.

Being the editor of the CIA’s alumni magazine means that three times a year I have to creatively put together a magazine filled with themed feature-length articles, personal interest stories, campus news, donor news, class notes, and, well, the list goes on and on. In the days before I actually start to write, you might peek into my office and think I’m not doing anything, just staring out my window. But while the view of the Hudson River is rather spectacular, I’m not idling, I’m thinking!

Yes, Thinking
Lots of people just start writing, assuming the muse Calliope will appear and guide the writing process—much as she did when Homer wrote The Iliad and The Odyssey. Nope. Not gonna happen. So, barring the arrival of your personal mythological Greek guide to writing, take the time to think your ideas through. Consider:

–Who is the audience for the specific publication or site? Are they seasoned chefs, business people, fellow students, or foodies?
Choose the culinary tone based on your audience’s level of expertise.
Is your topic of interesting and relevant to your audience? Does anyone but you have any interest in the topic?
What is the most important idea you want your reader to take away from your story?
Make sure the topic is narrow enough—people often try to cover too much ground, resulting in an unfocused piece.
Make an outline. I know it doesn’t sound as sexy as having a personal muse, but it can sure make the difference between a story that peters out midstream and one that has a beginning, middle, and end.
Put the piece in a drawer for a few days after you have finished writing. You’ll be amazed at how many things you will see that could use a little tweaking when you look at it again.
Show the piece to someone you respect and stay open to feedback.
Rewrite. This is the cornerstone of creating a brilliant piece.

All this advice aside, I really love to have alumni and students write for the alumni magazine. So, if you have an interest in writing and welcome the prospect of a persnickety editor poring over your ideas and writing, contact me at and maybe we’ll find a topic that works for the mise en place audience.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Spring Observations on the CIA Campus

by Andra Sramek, CIA Supervisor of Grounds, Recycling & Horticulture
Advice for your garden:
If your daffodils and/or tulips are past their prime, use a sharp scissor to cut off the developing seed heads where the flower once was. By cutting off the seed heads, you will be helping the nourishment go back to the bulb.  Neither daffodils or tulips reproduce by seed, so by doing this you are helping the bulb stay as strong as possible for next year's flowers. Also, do not cut off the foliage until it has turned completely brown. The leaves are photosynthesizing and sending "food" back to the bulb where it will soon go to "sleep" for the summer and winter. 
If the messy brown leaves are ruining the look of your garden or lawn, you can cut back the leaves by two-thirds, and you will not be sacrificing bulb health for neater looking garden.  But don't take more than two-thirds!

More spring thoughts...

Wisteria surrounds the front
entrance to Roth Hall.
1. Our hummingbirds are back on campus and have already discovered the feeder near the grounds garage.  Time to get your feeders back up at home as well. 
2.  Did you know that the praying mantis is the only insect that can turn its head?

3. Did you know that a honey bee can travel up to 60 miles in one day searching for food?  Three honey bees were observed checking out the campus dandelions two days ago.  IPM, Intergrated Pest Management, condones having dandelions in your lawn -- the flowers provide some of the first food sources for busy, busy bees.  

4. In the "Language of Flowers," the meaning of wisteria is "welcome."  You think the Jesuits knew this?  I do.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

When Food Meets Travel

by CIA Externship Advisor Maura McMahon O'Meara

Part of the allure of voyaging to foreign shores is discovering the flavors of the cuisine there. Food is a cornerstone of culture and studying the terroir, the ingredient, and the cooking methods employed in a region helps us better understand its economics, its art, and its people. Exploring different places and flavors is a pursuit very common to those of us in the food industry; the general consensus being that the broader you build your palate, the better you’ll understand flavor interactions and the better you’ll cook. For young culinarians just starting to open their eyes to the world of food, an acute case of Wanderlust often results.

It is precisely at that influential time in a cook’s life, that point of awakening, that I come along and begin talking to our first year students about options for externship. Barely a week goes by at The Culinary Institute of America without me encountering an inquiry about choosing the option to work abroad during the term of externship. The ambition is tangible, the dream is big, and I begin my explanation about how to approach this option that is filled with complicated processes and paperwork as much as it is filled with adventure.

The CIA currently has almost 50 approved partner locations outside of the United States who are willing to work with our students during externship. The foundations are set for the students already, but each applicant has to take a full assessment of their abilities and resources before pursuing this option. Below are some important questions to consider up front so that a potential traveller can figure out if this is a path they might explore.

Mandatory Research:

v What is the language? Are you fluent enough to LIVE there?

v What is the currency exchange rate?  Can you afford to LIVE there?

v What season will it be when I am proposing to go?  Do they hire then?

v How will I travel there? What will the flight cost?

v Am I eligible for a visa? Which kind of visa will the consulate require?

In July I met with a chef in Rome, Italy who sponsors CIA student externs. Chef Boswell speaks highly of his externs of the past and appreciates the skill level and seriousness they bring to their craft.  However, our conversation also included the sober reality that the rate of unemployment for Italian citizens aged 20-32 is over 30% right now.  In a socialist government, this current climate is a difficult one for chefs who advocate for hiring a foreigner for an entry level job.  It may be that for now, we will witness the quota allowed for students visas granted in Italy to dramatically decline. Familiarize yourself with the political climates of a location to fully determine the feasibility of your plan.

Desire to learn a traditional style of cuisine with boots on the ground in that country is admirable.  If that experience can happen for you during externship, great.  If it cannot happen then, your externship can still be a strategic step in getting you abroad within the first few years of your career in food.  If you want to go to France but cannot extern there, working for a French Chef in America like Daniel Boulud or Jerome Bocuse, will offer you great exposure to French cuisine and can open doors in France for you after graduation.  We also offer amazing Food, Wine and AgriCulture trips to foreign countries in our Bachelor programs that will stretch your culinary palate for miles. Bon Voyage!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

CIA Residence Halls: What to Bring

By Ronnie Genee, Director for Residence Life

It is Tuesday morning and we just had several students move onto campus and into our residence halls. It so great to see new students move onto campus every three weeks and see how happy and excited they are to leave home… wait… I mean to come to college.

Well, all joking aside, I get a lot of calls from students and parents who want to know what to bring with them when they move onto campus. This seems like it would be an easy question, but there’s a lot of important information to know: What is already in the room? What can I bring? What do I need to bring? What do I want to bring?

First, we need to talk about the differences between each hall and what you’ll find in your room:

Hudson HallMost new students move in here. A few facts:
  • Dry. That means no alcohol, regardless of student age.
  • Communal Bathrooms. Wait. Stop. There are upsides to sharing a bathroom:

    1.  You don’t have to clean it! Professional CIA staff will clean it every, single day—including weekends!
    2. You’ll meet people. And we don’t just mean if you run out of TP. Walking to and from the bathroom is a great time to see who is around and say “hello” to a new friend.Note: Some rooms in Hudson have their own bathrooms, but most do not.

  • Furniture. You’ll get:
    •  Wardrobe Unit
    • Extra-Long Twin-Size Bed
    • Desk
    • Desk Chair
  • Other Room Features:
    • Wooden Blinds
    • Combo Heater & A/C Unit

Angell, Pick/Herndon, and Rosenthal HallThese are all very, very similar. 
  • Alcohol Policy. Students who are 21 years of age or older are allowed to have a limited amount of alcohol in their room.
  • Private Bathrooms. It’s all yours (and your roommate’s). That means it’s up to you to clean it. Unless you think your parents will come and clean it for you. Good luck with that.
  • Furniture. You’ll get:
    • Extra-Long, Twin-Size Bed
    • Desk
    • Desk Chair
    • Closet

So, now you may be thinking what do I need to bring. Well, as always there is a difference between need and want. What you most likely will need is the following:
  • Alarm Clock (or Phone Alarm Clock)
  • Bed Linens
  • Towels
  • Hangers
  • Laundry Detergent
  • Toiletry Items
    • If you’re living in Hudson Hall, you’ll want a shower caddy and shower shoes.
    • If you’re living in any of the other dorms, you’ll want a shower caddy that you can put over the shower head, bathroom rug, cleaning supplies, and possibly some deodorizer spray. 
Now, the list you are probably looking forward to the most is the list of things you probably want. Such as:
  • Throw Rug
  • Lamp (non-halogen)
  • Desk Light (with vents on the top)
  • Plastic Bins (to store items underneath your bed)
  • Compact Fridge (one 3.5 cubic foot or two 1.7 cubic foot refrigerators)
  • Microwave
  • Computer
  • Supplies for Kitchen-Use: Dishes, Pots & Pans, Sponges
  • Laundry Bag or Basket
  • Iron
  • Radio
  • TV/DVD Player (with Cable Wire)
  • Sewing Kit
  • Clorox Wipes and Other Cleaning Supplies
  • Surge Protector (that has a reset button or removal fuse)
…and since this is a culinary school…a First-Aid Kit (although we have a great Health Services Office on campus)
Well, I hope I covered everything and you now have a complete shopping/packing list. Please remember that although you will be here for 30 weeks before you leave for externship, time flies here at the CIA. You don’t need to bring everything you ever purchased or owned. Before you know it, you will be packing up to move out and head off on your externship.

With that being said, savor the moment and enjoy your time here at the CIA. This is a great place to learn and live and it is our hope that you make this your new home. So we look forward to seeing you soon and welcoming you HOME! If you should need any further information please feel free to leave a comment here or call the Office of Residence Life at 845-451-1260.

Want to learn more? Check out Ronnie's post on CIA Residence Halls: Facilities.