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Did you know that the French Culinary Institute in New York City has a sister? Her name is The Italian Culinary Academy and she's beckoning you to join her in Italy. Come on! Does that not sound exciting to you? Even a person not interested in becoming a chef would want to register as a student for this opportunity!
Students of this program spend 10 weeks learning the basics in New York City, and then hone their skills during an 18 week trip to Italy. Nine of those weeks are spent apprenticing in Italian restaurants. The curriculum includes the essence of cooking pasta, pizza, polenta, Italian Meat, Italian Poultry, pastries, gelato, knife skills, deboning and filleting.
It's hard to wrap your head around the idea of spending that much time in Italy, at the heart of the culinary experience. The best way to learn is to totally immerse yourself in the culture, which is exactly what students are encouraged to do. In order to really bring some culture to the kitchen, you actually have to step out of the kitchen once in a while.
Learning the language and the culture are important aspects of the learning experience. Students should be able to bring a certain flair and flavor to their dishes that don't entirely rely on garlic, onions, and spices. When you understand the culture you're representing in your cuisine, you bring a special nuance to the dish. For this reason, students of the French Culinary Institute's sister college are given the opportunity to make Italy their temporary stomping ground.
There's nothing quite as exhilarating and nerve-wracking as knowing that at any minute, the rug is going to be yanked out from under you. Decisions will be yours to make. The silver platter of kitchen management will soon be handed over to you. At this stage of your culinary arts education, it's important to keep your head high. Remember your accomplishments so far and take comfort in knowing that you wouldn't be given this opportunity if you didn't have the skills to back it up.
It's show time. If you happen to be a student of the French Culinary Institute in New York City, it's at this stage of the game when you move into the renowned on-campus restaurant L'Ecole. Here, you'll be preparing meals and menus. Everything you've learned comes together here at L'Ecole. If you're not fortunate enough to be a student at the French Culinary Institute, you might be able to use this stage of your education to move on to voluntary internships where you'll get a similar experience. You need to put yourself out there in the real world of restaurant and meal management in order to gain the confidence you need to become a chef.
As much as you want to head right to the kitchen, there are a few basics you first have to learn in cooking school. As a new culinary arts student, you might be anxious to start cooking, but it's important to learn the foundations of the curriculum so that you'll be prepared to eventually get into the more advanced cooking techniques. The introductory skills you'll learn as a culinary arts student are your initial building blocks. Flavor doesn't come to a meal when you cook it first and add the stock later. It's the stocks and sauces; crèmes and pates, that should come first in the culinary arts education.
Now, stop and have a look around the kitchen you'll be working in for the next several months. Pretty big knives! Do you know how to use them safely and efficiently? If you don't want your first day in the kitchen to look like a Saturday Night Live skit, pay attention to the safety training aspect of the curriculum. Personal safety and safe food handling should be taken as seriously as any other part of your culinary arts education.
As a new culinary arts student, you're going to bursting with energy and anticipation. Just remember, these building block foundations in your curriculum are going to follow you throughout your entire career.
|Sheri Ann Richerson|