I went here for the first time recently on a day trip. As a passionate home cook, I've always wanted to visit what is considered to be the world's premier culinary college. I was so impressed by the facilities, student body and curriculum of the school.
My trip to the CIA was taken on a rain soaked Wednesday. Once we entered the main building, I could have cared less about the weather. I became so ensconsced in learning about the history of the school, the grounds, students and the food, that the weather was an afterthought.
My group was fortunate enough to enjoy lunch at one of the school's five restaurants, Escoffier (classic French cuisine). The other restaurants include At. Andrew's Cafe (casual, family friendly fare), American Bounty (Hudson Valley regional cuisine), Ristorante Caterina De'Medici (authentic Italian fare) and Apple Pie Bakery Cafe (terrific baked goods, pizzas and sandwiches).
We were promptly seated for lunch at Escoffier at 12 and were treated to a delicious four course meal served by students who were just about to graduate (they were all in vests and called themselves the "penguins"). Our waiter graciously answered our many questions about their CIA experience and it became apparent that the students simply loved attending the CIA. Our waiter was about to embark on a three month trip to Italy to study the culture and food and will be returning in the fall to attend another 21 month program in food management.
We toured the facilities and were treated to a behind the scenes look into the kitchens which were spacious, clean and full of eager students (all dressed in white monogrammed chef garb with toques) practicing their craft under the watchful eye of professional instructors. All food served at the CIA is prepared on site by students and the Apple Pie Bakery Cafe is run entirely by students. Fortunately we were able to purchase some treats to take home (cookies, pastries, excellent breads) to remind us of our day at the CIA. The on-site bookstore carries a host of cooking accessories, local Hudson Valley foods and, of course many books on cooking.
I was most impressed by the professionalism and congenial nature of the students we met. And I sensed the passion, dedication and commitment each had for the CIA and the training it provided them. This is cooking school for the serious.
Interested in taking a course or two at CIA? You can. They offer a number of single and multi-class courses in everything from cooking basics to a week long boot camp. You can also book reservations at the restaurants through the website (www.ciachef.edu). Highly recommend a visit to the CIA if you're ever in the Hudson Valley.