“CIA is located in the buildings and grounds of a former Jesuit monastery on a Hudson River clifftop, a short cab ride from Poughkeepsie. In my buttoned-up chef’s coat, check pants, neckerchief and standard-issue leatherette knife roll-up, I arrived determined but full of attitude.”
Over spring break I had the wonderful opportunity to get out of the city. My father came to visit me and we decided to rent a car and head to West Point for a spontaneous tour. After our tour, I looked at a map, and to my great surprise I saw the letters “CIA”. Knowing that the Intel headquarters probably not located in small town New York, I suddenly remembered Bourdain’s book “Kitchen Confidential”, and how he mentioned CIA multiple times. Low and behold, I had stumbled upon the culinary institute of America!
Bourdain trained at CIA in 1975, and as he mentions in “Kitchen Confidential” it was a bit different back then. Upon arriving on the campus it truly did seem like any other college campus. Students were running down the paths to their classes, probably late and hungover just as any other campus. Except these students all looked exactly the same – checked pants, white chef’s tops and large paper chef hats.
As I continued to explore the campus the fact that it was in fact a “culinary” college became more and more evident. Instead of pedestrian walkways they had “chef crossing” signs. The ornate stained glass work above the main entrance was a pineapple instead of the stereotypical university insignia. All in all, the place screamed “chefs in training” from every corner of the campus.
Unfortunately, because my dad and I had just miraculously stumbled upon the institute we were unable to procure reservations for any of the official restaurants on campus. However, we were able to eat at the informal Italian café, which served pizzas and paninis.
All of the restaurants on the campus are student led, and it’s really interesting to see how they are progressing and all of the roles of the restaurant industry they must take on at CIA.
Again, because this was the more informal dining selection, the menu choices were not the largest, but they were still interesting. We opted to order cappuccinos, “Procusstio Pizza” and Tiramisu for dessert. To be quite honest, the food was the least exciting part of this trip. Because the chefs were all in training, the food did seem somewhat experimental to me. The pizza had scalloped potatoes on it, and a significant lack of procusstio to my dismay. Also, the tiramisu did not have quite enough solidity or liquor for my taste. In no way, shape, or form would I ever criticize the chefs at CIA, as they are infinitely more talented in the kitchen than I will ever be, and I realize that they are in fact training. The experience overall was really fun, it was especially a unique experience to see what techniques the chefs were vocationally taught in their early years.