Become a Food & Wine Agent at the CIA

Chef Andy Wild teaches me how to roast and tie a chicken properly

By Kaye Cloutman, Photography by AK Sandhu

I’ve recently been given the rare opportunity to carry out my culinary exploration of the Napa Valley a.k.a. California’s Food Mecca. Seriously folks, my palate was pampered with the best concoctions and ingredients anyone could ever wish to indulge in. From steaks, cheeses, chocolates and foie gras, every bite was savored with a worshiping tongue that was initially christened at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone (CIA). My foodie adventure started on a Saturday morning as I attended one of the weekend classes that was conducted by Chef Andy Wild. The Behind The Meat Counter class proved to be a worthy 5-hour learning experience of simple butchering which certainly provided some fundamentals in preparing food. I truly enjoyed the diverse and fun mix of students that day as well. Most importantly, the practice of sustainability, sensible eating and ability to economize were the key aspects taught in his class that truly made me value my new-found knowledge.

Their in-house restaurant Wine Spectator at Greystone offered a delightful spread of entertainment, architecture, aroma and dishes. I especially enjoyed seeing the Chefs-in-training whip up and create their culinary concoctions under the supervision and scrutiny of their chef instructors. Their sampler dishes from appetizers to desserts are simply genius allowing its patrons to truly savor, appreciate and try out all the servings without blowing their diets.

But it was definitely the brand new culinary discoveries and experiences recently introduced by the CIA which provided a truly memorable experience. The world’s premiere culinary college has just completed a major remodeling of the first floor of its historic Napa Valley building. Included in the renovations are a new campus store, chocolate lab, new teaching kitchen and a Flavor Bar which features short interactive tasting experiences for the public.

“In recreating this space, we feel it is very important to honor the historic design of our Greystone building, but also bring in beautiful, efficient, modern elements,” says managing director Charles E. Henning.

In this photo: From L-R Campus Store Department Head Patricia Donnelly, CIA Media Relations Specialist Tyffani Peters, Chef Andrew Wild, Chef Toni Sakaguchi, CIA Managing Director Charles E. Henning and GEV EIC Kaye Cloutman

Interior shot of the newly renovated store at Greystone.

The new campus store, called the Spice Islands Marketplace, is now located adjacent to the Grand Atrium of the CIA at Greystone. Its clear glass enclosure and open feel create an irresistible pull for food and wine lovers at all levels of experience. Whether they are searching for the latest cookbook, kitchen tool, wine book or gadget, or top-of-the-line cookware, the knowledgeable staff is ready and well qualified to answer questions and help customers locate their heart’s desire.

Inside the store is a new 16-seat Flavor Bar where guests may participate in an interactive tasting experience. Currently scheduled are:

  • Chocolate Tastings: Participants learn how chocolate is made and how the percentage of cacao and a chocolate’s origins vary flavor. They will have the opportunity to taste cacao in its various stages and compare chocolates from different parts of the world.
  • “Taste Like a Chef: Calibrate Your Palate”: Participants explore the sweet, sour, bitter, and salty areas of their palates. They learn how chefs balance ingredients and make food flavors “pop” in a dish, lessons that can be also be used in home cooking.

And last but definitely not least is the new Viking Teaching Kitchen. This wonderful new kitchen facility outfitted with the finest state-of-the-art cooking gadgetries and equipments gives students an extra 1,950 square feet of space conducive to learn and create. The kitchen includes three cooking suites containing the latest Viking commercial apparatus. Each suite is prepared with an energy efficient, variable speed hood system. Electronic sensors automatically adjust the fan speed and respond to the amount of smoke generated in the work area and pretty soon, some of the college’s weekend food enthusiast classes for consumers(similar to what I took) will also be held in this space. The Weekend Classes in CIA are mostly based on their own cookbooks which I had the pleasure of reviewing in the past. A culinary enthusiast who would like to make their love of cookbooks come to life should definitely experience these classes where they not only meet like-minded people and enjoy a scenic drive up to Napa but go home with a happy stomach, a new cookbook to try out and a kitchen to conquer once again.

Chef Toni Sakaguchi discusses "Flavor Dynamics" at the Flavor Bar

Flavor Bar experiences will continue to be added, including tastings of super premium olive oils at a new Oleoteca slated to open in late spring. The current Flavor Bar sessions run approximately 15 minutes at various times of the day where Chef Toni Sakaguchi teaches and demonstrates the science of flavor dynamics. The frustrated chef in me found this experience to be extra useful of course, because I certainly would want to know how to trouble shoot a dish that is either lacking or overpowered with too much of a certain flavor because guess what? You can definitely make something really salty taste sour or sweet if you know how to manipulate flavors…

The new chocolate lab, which is my personal favorite, is adjacent to the store and Flavor Bar and separated by a clear glass wall. Visitors may have the opportunity to see students working in the 675 square-foot space designed with optimal conditions for confectionary work. The temperature and humidity in the room are carefully controlled and the lab is self-contained so that no other cooking odors negatively impact the chocolate and other confectionaries. The chocolate lab will be used for a three-week curriculum in chocolate and other confectionary work for all Associate in Occupational Studies (A.O.S.) degree students. It will also be used to create Greystone Chocolates for sale in the store.

Chef Andrew Wild’s Book Recommendations:

My favorite book is always changing.  I have thousands of cookbooks and it really is about what strikes my mood.  Some of my favorites are:

From the Earth to the Table by John Ash

This beloved cookbook is now available in a handsome paperback edition. Completely revised and updated with 45 all-new recipes, each delicious dish reflects acclaimed chef John Ash’s commitment to sustainable agriculture—and his love of fresh fruits and vegetables. More than 300 recipes, inspired by the California Wine Country—featuring soups, salads, pastas, pizza, risottos, poultry, fish, meats, vegetarian courses, desserts, breads, and more—include wine recommendations and abundant tips on how to incorporate everything from chipotle chiles to persimmons into delectable meals. This is a time-honored classic, sure to continue enticing cooks for years to come.

Fat by Jennifer McLagen

For all of history, minus the last thirty years, fat has been at the center of human diets and cultures. When scientists theorized a link between saturated fat and heart disease, industry, media, and government joined forces to label fat a greasy killer, best avoided. But according to Jennifer McLagan, not only is our fat phobia overwrought, it also hasn’t benefited us in any way. Instead it has driven us into the arms of trans fats and refined carbohydrates, and fostered punitive, dreary attitudes toward food–that wellspring of life and pleasure.

In Fat, McLagan sets out with equal parts passion, scholarship, and appetite to win us back to a healthy relationship with animal fats. She starts by defusing fat’s bad rap, both reminding us of what we already know–that fat is fundamental to the flavor of our food–and enlightening us with the many ways fat (yes, even animal fat) is indispensable to our health. Mostly, though, Fat is about pleasures–the satisfactions of handling good ingredients skillfully, learning the cultural associations of these primal foodstuffs, recollecting and creating personal memories of beloved dishes, and gratifying the palate and the soul with fat’s irreplaceable savor.

Jamie at Home by Jamie Oliver

“This book is very close to my heart. It’s about no-nonsense, simple cooking with great flavors all year round. When I began writing it, I didn’t really know what recipes I would come up with, but something began to inspire me very quickly . . . my vegetable patch!” – Chef Andy Wild

I came to realize last year that it’s not always about looking out at the wider world for inspiration. Being at home, feeling relaxed and open, can also offer this. I love to spend time at home in the village where I grew up, working with the boss, Mother Nature, in my garden and seeing all my beautiful veggies coming out of the ground.

Inside you’ll find over one hundred new recipes, plus some basic planting information and tips if you fancy having a go at getting your hands dirty as well! – Jamie Oliver

Chef Toni Sakaguchi’s Book Recommendation:

This is hard to say because so often it depends on what I’m cooking or interested in at the moment.

One of my favorite books is The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking by Barbara Tropp. It’s a classic if you want to understand the ins and outs of Chinese food. Thorough explanations about cooking techniques and ingredients, great recipes and has classic methods along with unusual ones. Barbara Tropp was an amazing chef. When Tropp returned to America, she soon dropped out of Princeton and moved to San Francisco to be closer to a vibrant Chinese community and food markets. She soon had a contract to write the The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking, a book which James Beard described as “…a unique achievement. Her intelligent and thorough explanations are detailed and truly great. The choice of recipes is exciting. This is a magnum opus for any cooking addict.” The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking brought Barbara international acclaim as it served as a guide for non-Chinese speakers into the subtle delicacies of an elaborate and highly refined cuisine.

Take Note!

Here are my personal favorite cookbooks which were patterned after the Weekend Classes at CIA…

Kitchen Pro Series: Guide to Meat Identification, Fabrication and Utilization by Thomas Schneller and The Culinary Institute of America

Guide to Meat Identification, Fabrication, and Utilization is the definitive guide to purchasing and fabricating meat cuts for professional chefs, foodservice personnel, culinarians, and food enthusiasts. Part of the CIA’s new Kitchen Pro Series focusing on kitchen preparation skills, this user-friendly, full-color resource provides practical information on fabricating beef, pork, veal, lamb, game, and exotic meats. Helpful storage information, basic preparation methods for each cut, and recipes are included to give professional and home chefs everything they need to know to produce well-primed cuts of meat. For anyone who believes that butchery is a lost art, The Culinary Institute of America’s Chef Thomas Schneller counters that notion by providing a close examination and explanation of the craft in this clear and concise book.

The Flavors of Asia by Mai Pham and The Culinary Institute of America

The second book in DK’s series with the CIA covering the “Worlds of Flavor” International Conference and Festival, ,The Flavors of Asia culls recipes from 40 leading chefs from Asia, India and the U.S., including Masaharu Morimoto, Suvir Saran and many others. By transforming the “Worlds of Flavor” festival into a cookbook, the Culinary Institute of America — one of the best culinary schools in the world — brings the conference’s superb culinary talent right into the home kitchen. Award-winning restaurateur, chef, and author Mai Pham joins the CIA in presenting 125 accessible recipes, from Ammini Ramachandran’s Spicy Fritters with Coconut Chutney to Fuchsia Dunlop’s General Tso s Chicken, from Myung Sook Lee s Korean Lettuce Wrap with Spicy Beef to Elizabeth Andoh’s Kabocha Squash with Red Beans. The chefs’ cooking techniques and regional notes appear in feature spreads throughout the book. An enthusiastic foreword by conference chairs and culinary experts Suvir Saran and Fuchsia Dunlop as well as an introduction by Mai Pham, describe Asia’s rising influence on world cooking round out this must-have book.

Exploring Wine: The Culinary Institute of America’s Guide to Wines of the World by Steven Kolpan, Brian H. Smith, and Michael A. Weiss

In its previous editions, Exploring Wine has been called “a large jewel and a classic,” “one of the most intelligent, most easily understood books on the subject of winegrowing,” and “a must-have resource for the weekend novice drinker and the everyday tasting professional.”  This new edition includes even more practical, comprehensive information on wine regions, growing, purchasing, tasting, and pairing.  Based on advice from professors and other wine professionals who use the second edition of Exploring Wine, we have included more balanced coverage of the various winegrowing regions, more tasting notes on international wines, a pronunciation guide for foreign words, and more basic, practical information in the business section.  The third edition also includes more information on the health effects of wine and responsible drinking, as well as an improved guide to types of glassware and bottles.  In addition, the food and wine pairing section will go beyond merely matching menus with wine choices, to show why certain flavors go together and teach students how to identify the best matches.  Throughout the book, easy-to-use charts, tables, and maps help to simplify the subject for students and wine enthusiasts, and beautiful color photographs and personal interviews with winegrowers bring the encyclopedic content vividly to life.  From the vine to the table, Exploring Wine encompasses all aspects of wines througout the world, and is an essential reference for any student, professional, or wine aficionado.

Chocolates and Confections at Home with The Culinary Institute of America by Peter Greweling and The Culinary Institute of America

Chocolates and Confections at Home offers detailed expertise for anyone who wants to make truly amazing homemade confections and candies. The Culinary Institute of America and baking and pastry arts professor Peter Greweling provide recipes and step-by-step techniques that make even the most ambitious treats simple for any home cook.

In addition, Chocolates and Confections at Home includes ingredient and equipment information, packaging and storage practices, and troubleshooting tips for common preparation issues.

  • Richly illustrated with more than 150 full-color photos that illustrate key techniques as well as finished confections
  • Covers chocolates, truffles, toffees and taffies, fudge and pralines, marshmallows, jellies, nuts, and much more
  • Author Peter Greweling is a professor of baking and pastry arts at the CIA, as well as a Certified Master Baker and Certified Hospitality Educator

Chocolates and Confections at Home is the ideal resource for anyone who wants to graduate from chocolate chip cookies to create impressively decadent delights.

Book It!

The Culinary Institute of America, Greystone
2555 Main Street St. Helena, CA  94574
(707) 967-1010
http://www.ciachef.edu/california/

Photography by AK Sandhu