Thanks for checking into my blog!

As a "recovering" middle school teacher with a unique outlook on life, I stopped active teaching in 2010 and moved into another career path... writing! Here goes! In addition, I am a travel buff, forever baseball addict, movie fan, music fan, foodie extraordinaire, NCIS devotee, gardener, and more.

Just love writing for kids, travel writing and basic journalism. Pretty unusual, since I taught Home Economics! But there's a story here too - a non-fiction one or more...

Monday, October 13, 2014

Pride and Food Porn - yes, together

Rule #2 – Write from what you know.

     How do you tell a grown nephew how proud you are of what he has done? Or a niece for that matter? I tell my kids all the time how proud I am of them all, and how much I love them. I go all goofy and braggy about my kids and they are used to it. They act all embarrassed but they love it. But the extended kids… that’s different, sort of. But I can still be super proud of them all. And now to get all goofy and braggy… 
      I was bursting with pride when my nephew asked me to attend his graduation from Culinary Institute of America recently. You know this recovering Home Ec teacher jumped at the chance to go. And I was rewarded with one of the best weekends ever! Oh, and they served food, too.
Welcome to the Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, NY
      Let me tell you about the school… Culinary Institute of America has three USA campuses and one in Singapore. The school is internationally renowned for producing chefs, and bakery and pastry chefs who have gone on to make their marks in the hospitality industry. And we can’t forget to mention the Food Network also. Distinguished alumni include writers Anthony Bourdain and Jamie Purviance, executive chef Llewellyn Correia, of Wegmans, and Bobby Flay, from – well, you name it. Pastry chef Duff Goldman from Charm City Cakes walked the halls at CIA, as did Michael Symon from “The Chew”.
Roth Hall facing the Hudson River
      The New York campus is in Hyde Park, just north of Poukeepsie.  It sits on the banks of the Hudson River, which provides beautiful views no matter the season. Located just up the road from Marist College, the campus site was once a monastery. Remnants of its former occupants are evident in Roth Hall, where the architecture of monastic life is still visible. Now the building houses culinary classrooms, food production laboratories, several award winning, student-staffed restaurants, the Craig Claibourne Bookstore, and is the center of student learning.
Fountain at Anton Plaza, in front of Roth Hall
      Many of the other buildings are more recent construction. You will find the Colavita Center for Italian Food and Wine near Roth Hall. The design considers the entire food experience, right down to the room ambiance. The building is designed as a Tuscan villa and boasts its own restaurants, and is  also student-staffed. Many students are found in the Conrad Hilton Library completing the research needed for their studies. There are student dormitories, lodge housing, and townhouses throughout the campus area.
Marriott Pavilion - Conference Center
      We spent most of the graduation day at the Marriott Pavilion on campus. This is the newest building and is designed to be a conference and event site. The building houses the Ecolab Auditorium and a fantastic reception area in its two-story building. Here you will also find the Gastrotyographicalassemblage, a unique piece of artwork by the late CBS studio graphic artist, Lou Dorfsmann. This unusual piece of 3-D art was originally displayed at CBS studios in New York City. It was rescued and restored by Nick Fasiano. It now occupies a place of honor in the atrium of the Marriott Pavillion.
Small sample of the Gastrotypograhicalassemblage, located in the atrium of Marriottt Pavillion
Seat, courtesy of Todd Rundgren
     The graduation ceremony was in the state-of-the-art Ecolab Auditorium. We had fun scoping out our seats and choosing where we sat. Many of the individual chairs were donated by celebrities and were identified with name plates on the back. I think I sat in Todd Rundgren’s seat. The ceremony itself was impressive as the graduates walked in with their white coats and toques on. Each student walked across the stage and received their medal signifying curriculum completion. They walked in front of professionally produced pictures of themselves on the large screen. The guest speaker this day was Frank Crispo, owner of Crispo Restaurant in New York City and CIA alumnus. The recessional had the students walk under the Arch of Tools of the Trade, oversized spoons, whisks and knives.
My nephew receiving his graduation medal

Frank Crispo giving his keynote address
Passing through the Arch of Tools
Congratulations to all graduates
     And then the party started… and what a party! In the reception hall, the students prepared the reception food at stations all over the room, hallway and atrium. Everywhere we turned there was more beautifully presented morsels to delight our palates. I can now say that I’ve tasted some of life’s delicacies, like foie gras, rabbit, assorted sausages, unique fish items, Earl Grey ganache candy, and the temptation of my dreams – chocolate covered cheesecake pops. Bless me, Waistline, for I am sinning… and loving it. Such freshness, such deliciousness, such presentations! Just look at all of this…
Chef at work at a reception station
Student serves a bean stew in recyclable bowls
Unique presentation of a pinwheel hors d'oeuvres
Preparing meat and fish samples
Fresh bread

Oh, and don’t drool on your keyboard…

Far left - Earl Grey ganache in dark chocolate - Food to chase my bluesy mood
Calamari - mmmmmmm
Carrot mango gazpacho shooter

Top - White chocolate covered cheesecake pops. Bottom - lemon meringue pie pops

Student preparing small sandwiches
Excellent Reuben sandwich bite
Yes, you are looking at food porn…

Vanilla raspberry truffle
Cheese plate
Small samples - looks good, tastes better
Line-up of deliciousness
This chef enjoys her work
Processed meats to make your own sandwich bite

And can you beat this display?

Mini cakes and raspberry bombe - presented on an ice-filled tray
     What really impressed me is the school’s commitment to the environment. We had small sample plates that were 100% recyclable. We had some small bowls made from manufactured cellulose products that were 100% compostable. We enjoyed drinks and soups in modified test tube shooters, again all recyclable. Not one Styrofoam item to be seen anywhere! Yes!
     Now my nephew can count himself among the great chefs of the world, as he should. He is still there, since he will complete his Bachelors program in 2015. Another graduation ceremony? I can’t wait!
Chef Michael P. Knipp - Culinary Institute of America Class of 2014
     Do you think I can get any more proud? Or goofy and braggy? More graduations to come…

All photos by Marge McGugan. No reuse without written permission.