Secrets of the CIA
No, no — it’s not that CIA we’re talking about. Still, we’re pretty sure you’ll find the inside scoop on the Culinary Institute of America to be just as intriguing
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Greening up: The sustainable cooking program
At 9:30 a.m. on an overcast day in late August, students are already hard at work completing dishes for the lunch service at St. Andrew’s Café. Standing at what chef-instructor Dan Turgeon calls the “locally raised station,” a small group prepares the day’s specials. To start, there’s a soup of pureéd mushrooms from Bulich’s Creekside Farm in the Catskills, served with clabbered cream from Ronnybrook Farm’s herd of pampered Holsteins. The entrée is braised, pasture-raised beef from Rykowski Livestock in Rosendale, accompanied by organic greens from Taliaferro Farms.
It’s been a year since the CIA began its sustainable cooking curriculum. In addition to the daily hands-on, get-out-the-food pressures, by the end of their two-week kitchen rotation, the students will have read and discussed Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food and been tested on food policy issues ranging from the USDA Farm Bill to local food economies. Although the CIA has had a composting program in place for almost 25 years and now buys almost 40 percent of its produce locally, it has not been at the forefront of green or sustainable initiatives. In the past few years, though, seeds of change have been sown throughout the institution — a welcome development for many of the faculty who have privately lamented the CIA’s lack of focus in this area for years. Lou Jones, associate dean for restaurant education, got the ball rolling on the sustainable cooking movement at St. Andrew’s Café. “This had once been a cutting-edge nutritional restaurant,” he says. “Over the years, it had morphed into a casual global menu facility without a distinct identity. I kept hearing ‘green this’ and ‘local that’ and I thought, ‘It’s time to open up the sustainable door. Our job is to prepare our students to enter the industry, and the industry is moving in this direction.’ What I did not anticipate was the enthusiasm with which this was embraced among the faculty.”
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