Thursday, November 10, 2011


I had the marvelous opportunity whilst visiting my brother - David and sister-in-law - Lauren - who live in upstate New York to go and visit the Culinary Institute of America - New York campus. The Culinary Institute of America has three campuses - one in New York; one in Texas and the other in California.
The Culinary Institute of America is located in Poughkeepsie - about 50 miles north of New York city. It is in a really beautiful location on the banks of the Hudson River. The Culinary Institute of America started off as being a Seminary for priests, who at a later stage sold most of the land to the Culinary Institute of America. So the Institute has some old buildings but some very new ones as well.

Fig 1a - The Culinary Institute of America

Fig 1b - the symbol of the Culinary Institute of America within the floor of the main building.

We arrived at the Culinary Institute of America just in time for lunch. There are four restaurants run entirely by the students of the Institute - the Ristorante Caterina de' Medici restaurant; the American Bounty restaurant; the Escoffier restaurant and the Apple Pie Bakery Cafe. We went to the Medici restaurant which is of course Italian. The restaurant is entirely conducted by students - both the chefs and the waiting staff. The Medici restaurant - Fig 2

Fig 2 - Ristorante Caterina de' Medici

has quite a comprehensive menu Figs 3,4

Fig 3 - my brother David, my sister in law Lauren, and myself in the Ristorante Caterina de' Medici

Fig 4 - Lauren perusing the menu

and I ordered Bresaola with olive oil and Grana Padano; Potato gnocchi with beef ragu; and finally three mixed sorbets. I specifically ordered the gnocchi dish because I felt that being an Italian restaurant - the gnocchi should be extra special! Well they were special but not extra special - I imagine that it takes some time to get the gnocci to that 'mouth watering' level! Everything was served neatly and correctly, and full marks to the waiters and their instructors. You couldn't help but notice that some of the waiters and waitresses were a little nervous, but that added to the overall charm of the restaurant. There was a note on the menu to engage the waiting staff in conversation - and this we certainly did. And it was marvellous what we found out. One stunning factor was the cost of attending the Institute, which amounted to quite a sum of money. It was not surprising, therefore, that two members of our waiting team, had taken some time off 'mid course', to get a job and earn more money.
After lunch was complete, we went for a walk around the immediate area Figs 5,6,7,8,

Fig 5 - Lauren and Barry infront of the main building

Fig 6 - the fountain opposite the main building

Fig 7 - the education center

Fig 8 - walkway up to the main entrance

and then went on a tour of the various kitchens in which the students were taught. One of the kitchens was at the back of the Apple Pie Bakery Cafe where we saw the trainee chefs putting the final touches to some desserts. And the next kitchen we went to was the 'bulk kitchen' where most of the meals for the staff and students was cooked. It really looked like a 'production line' and I suppose - considering the large number of people attending the Institute, it would really have to be like that. The next kitchen we went to see was the bread making kitchen - Fig 9.

Fig 9 - a view into the bread making kitchen

The students working here are on 'night shift' where they start at about 10pm and work through the night to get fresh bread ready for the morning rush. They make a variety of different types of bread with an enormous variety of different seeds and grains. The next kitchen we visited was the cake making kitchen where students had to be precise and were weighing out the different constituents in preparation for their baking. They were making cakes, biscuits and brownies, and we were permitted to taste a coconut macaroon that some of the students made.

Interesting, the students are given an exercise where they are required to make the same tasting food in three different ways - one using a normal technique; one using gluten free techniques; and one using techniques for specific allergies to a particular product. This is extremely important considering that a significant number of the population are either gluten free or allergic to some particular product.

One thing that I noticed that was not readily apparent, was the almost complete absence of molecular gastronomy teaching, products or techniques. Being one who is very interested in molecular gastronomy techniques - it's absence was a little disappointing.
And finally the tour took us to all the four restaurants previously mentioned Fig 10,

Fig 10 - the outside of the the American Bounty restaurant

where the aim behind each of the restaurants was fully explained.

Really a thoroughly delightful day in an absolutely beautiful location.


  1. Wow! Fascinating post, Barry. Your pictures are terrific and the commentary gave me an excellent understanding of the Institute and its New York campus. Thank you.

  2. Thank you WriterBee! I'm glad that you found it very interesting.