Day 1 - Monday, March 26, 2012

Six o'clock am came far too early on the morning of Monday, March 26, 2012.  We had all stayed up quite late Sunday night, visiting in our hotel rooms, and now we had to be at the CIA by 6:40 am to check in!  Plus, we had to stop for breakfast on our way, since room service didn't begin until 7:00 am in our hotel.  We found our daily stop "Einsteins", loaded up, and headed for the unknown location of the Culinary Institute of America.  This was all in the wee hours of the dark morning being led by the GPS device in our rental car!  Luckily we found the campus and checked in on time.  We were so excited to be there!

We met our instructor and head chef, Michael Katz, got our cool CIA duffel bags, complete with two uniforms, and were off and running.  Each day consisted of approximately 2 hours of classroom instruction, followed by a short break and planning session with your team, then we cooked for 3-4 hours, and then we ate!  There were two other CIA students besides the six gourmet girls - Cathy and Kirk.  They were both troopers to put up with us!  The eight of us were divided in two teams of four.


Perhaps the most important principle we learned during the week was the concept of "Mise en Place" (pronounced "mis - on - plas"). This is a French term, which essentially means "everything in place". It refers to order in your preparation and cooking: thinking about your day the night before, the ingredients, marinating, reading your recipes (the entire recipe) and understanding the steps, gathering ingredients, and being mentally prepared to cook. Specifically, we learned that it meant to not only gather all of your ingredients, but to chop, mince, slice, etc and measure everything out into small "mise cups" in the order called for on the recipe. This had to be done prior to beginning the actual preparation of your dish. At first it seemed tedious, but I believe we all came to understand the importance behind this type of order in the kitchen.

This is the kitchen we cooked in each day

One of the things I appreciated most about the CIA was the high quality of their fresh ingredients. Each day all of our ingredients would be waiting for us on the "farm table". We would go here to gather and measure out everything we needed.  Look how beautiful all of this food looks!


I should also mention how fantastic Chef Katz was. He was super patient, explained things very thoroughly, gave excellent demonstrations, and was obviously highly skilled and experienced. We all loved the opportunity to learn from him throughout the week.

The menu on our first day consisted of Mediterranean food. We made dishes from Southern Italy, Spain and Greece.

Neapolitan-Style Pizza

This pizza was amazing. I think it was for two reasons: 1) Chef Katz pulled the fresh mozzarella right in front of us and 2) The pizzas were cooked in a wood-burning oven. I would like one of these in my kitchen.

 Happy to be making (and eating) pizza at the CIA!

Pizza and Pita-Making in Action!

Chef Katz showing us how it's done

A peek inside the oven

Fresh Egg Pasta with Hot Sausage Ragu

Swordfish in Savory Sauce

Sauteed Broccoli Rabe with Pancetta

Tortilla Espanola
(Basically a frittata)

Paella Valenciana

See what I mean about fantastic quality ingredients? Look at those prawns! I had fun making this dish. Here are a few "in process" shots.


Moorish-Style Kabobs

Grilled Vegetables with Romesco Sauce

Jodi had fun preparing this dish!

 Andrea hard at work!

 Lynley was excited about all of the knife use!
Note: The tray in front of Lynley is a perfect example of "Mise-en-Place". She has all of her ingredients chopped and ready to go in "mise cups".

  Our buffet table Day 1. Man this was a long day!  
We worked hard and our food was delicious!

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