My First Days in the CIA

My First Days in the CIA

Chefs & Experts

My First Days in the CIA


_Allison Cox is serving an 18-week externship at_ The Food Channel® as part of her training at the Culinary Institute of America. In this blog she will provide her perspective on her inclination toward food, her training, and her experiences. You never know what you’ll learn!

For the past year, I’ve been completely immersed in food. It’s always been my passion, but lately, it’s all I think about.

Ten days after graduating from Tulane University in New Orleans last May, I started school at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA). I had planned to go to culinary school for as long as I can remember, and had dreamed about finally starting at the CIA. Then, when the moment finally arrived, it was like a whirlwind of food swirling around me.

Like egg whites in a Hobart, the CIA had me on high speed and was quickly whipping me into shape. For instance, when you first see a sea of students in chef whites with knife kits and toques, briskly walking everywhere you look, it seems funny – almost silly, in fact. But in a few weeks, I was one of them, and I was serious about getting the look right, too (hair pulled back, freshly pressed chef coat, no jewelry, minimal makeup). I learned how to be a hospitable student at a school that is practically a tourist attraction.

With a new class of students arriving every three weeks, my classmates and I were suddenly helping students who were even newer than ourselves, forcing us to actually know what we were talking about.

What are the three types of meringue? (French, Swiss and Italian)

Where is K-16? (Kitchen 16 is where the Quantity Food classes serve breakfast, lunch and dinner)

How do you tie a neckerchief? (Carefully)

There is so much to learn, and there’s always another opportunity to immerse yourself even further. There’s a student club for everything from ice-carving to ‘Say Cheese,’ and no, it’s not a photography club, it’s really a club about cheese. The CIA library is packed with every food publication you’ve ever heard of, plus many more you haven’t.

The chefs, who are an international collection of celebrities, legends, and basically some of the most influential people of the culinary world, possess a food wisdom they are willing to share, as long as you are willing to listen and learn. I indulged. Classes go by quickly, so I tried to get to know the chefs and soak up as much as I could.

Afterwards, I would find myself in the library, scouring the shelves for food articles in the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times, marinating myself in everything food – where the raw product is coming from, how you are supposed to make everything, and what the current news and trends are. For now, I was conditioning myself to think, breathe, and eat food; I was determined to transform this passion into my life.

Next week: No Typical Student


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