Day 1 - CIA Culinary Boot Camp


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Day 1 - CIA Culinary Boot Camp

A week of learning in the Napa Valley

Hi folks, I'm out in Napa for the week attending Culinary Boot Camp: Basic Training at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone.

When I mentioned this week to my friends they all asked why are doing that? You already know how to cook! True I do know how to cook however I have no formal training whatsoever in this field. Well unless you count the hours of Food Network programing I have watched. Not that learning thru the tube is such a bad thing but I wanted to learn from an actual Chef in person, in a real kitchen, with real ingredients. I also wanted to learn not only the right way to do things but also the reasoning behind doing it that way. So enter the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone.

CIA at Greystone Campus

Some pictures of the campus - FYI I'm just using my iPhone for these pictures so the qauilty is not the greatest.

I decided to do the afternoon session because well I'm not exactly what you call a morning person. So I arrived at CIA this afternoon to get all checked in. Upon arrival I was given a duffle bag - yes a duffle bag, not exactly what I expected but I have learned to roll with things. The contents - Chef's Jacket and pants, a neckerchief, class curriculum and a nifty coffee mug. I didn't know this but part of the chef uniform is a neckerchief so the first thing I learned was how tie a half-windsor for my newly acquired neckerchief. I was off to good start I was able to tie it in one try (we'll see if I remember how tomorrow).

Lecture Time

Next up was our first lecture so we headed upstairs to the classroom. Todays focus was stocks, thickening agents and knife skills. Chef Patrick started the lecture by talking about "Mise en Place" meaning everything in it's place. There were several french words that I learned today all of which I had trouble pronouncing so guess who's talking to herself practicing how to say all these french things...

Chef Demos and a Tour

After the lecture we went over the production for the day meaning the recipes we were going to prepare. We then got to tour the kitchen which is huge, beautiful and well being the Disney fan I am reminded me of one of my favorite movies Ratatouille. After the tour Chef did a knife demo. The demo included proper care, handling and then some different knife cuts that we would be using throughout the week. It was amazing how fast he could chop, slice and dice. After the demo we got to practice our knife skills on some onions and shallots.

CIA Bootcamp Knife Demo

Chef Demoing choping garlic into a Brunoise cut

Some of the cuts we learned today:

  • Brunoise - 1/8 x 1/8 x 1/8"
  • Small Dice - 1/4 x 1/4 x 1/4"
  • Medium Dice - 1/3 x 1/3 x 1/3"
  • Large Dice - 3/4 x 3/4 x 3/4"
  • Julienne - 1/8 x 1/8 x 1 -2"

It sounds like we learn different cuts everyday so I am excited to see what we learn tomorrow.

Chef also demoed orange supremes which is segmenting the orange. We didn't practice this but I am definitely going to give it a try when I get home.


After practicing our chopping skills we we started in on our production for the day. I was put on team one and we were responsible for making Brown Veal Stock, Basic Roux, Clarified Butter and Chicken Veloute.

We started out on the stock by roasting the veal bones. Something I never knew and always wondered - what is the difference between a stock and a broth? Well today I learned! A stock is made with bones and a broth is made with meat. What this means to us? A stock is going to have more robust flavor then the broth because of the gelatin from the bones.

I volunteered to make the Mirepoix for the stock because I wanted more practice with my chopping skills. Your all probably wondering what a Mirepoix is. Well I can tell you now! Ah the beauty of learning. A Mirepoix is a mixture of aromatics - diced onions (50%), diced carrots (25%) and diced celery (25%). You can also make a white Mirepoix where you substitute parsnips for carrots and celeriac for celery.

Another french term I learned today is Pincage which is a technique derived from the French pincer, "to stiffen or pinch". After browning my Mirepoix I added in tomato paste and cooked it until it turned reddish brown making it a Pincage. Fancy right? I know I feel pretty fancy right now just writing about this.

CIA Bootcamp at Greystone Kitchen

Some pcitures of the kitchen - my station, my Julienne of red onions and me in my chef's uniform - notice the neckerchief tied prefectly :) oh and I also have a Toque on my head.

Well anywho while the veal bones were roasting away we worked on our other tasks being Clarified Butter and a Basic Roux that then got turned into Chicken Veloute. Chicken Veloute is a mother sauce meaning you use it as a base to create many different sauces. It sounds like we will be using everything we made today as the week goes on.

Once the veal bones were done roasting we moved them to a stock pot and added water bringing the whole darn thing to a simmer. Now you are suppose to simmer this for 8 hours or so which meant we couldn't finish it tonight. So we left it at a very low simmer overnight and then tomorrow morning a kitchen assistant will add the Pincage I made and the Sachet d'epices (a cheese cloth sack of herbs and spices) and finish it off for us (yippee! I didn't want to spend all night over a pot of Brown Veal Stock).

After Smelling Delicious Food all Afternoon
We Finally Got to Eat!

After we had finished production for night it was time for dinner. It sounds like the rest of the week we will eat what we prepared during class for dinner however because tonight was stocks and mother sauces (which does not make a very tasty dinner on its own) we got to enjoy the student buffet. There was a variety of choices - I wanted to try everything so I did! I had Veal Piccata, Grilled Eggplant, Strawberries with Fig Balsmic and a Mixed Green Salad and a Creamy Rosemary Dill Salad Dressing. Super yummy. Across from our kitchen is the baking kitchen so we also had freshly baked bread and for dessert cake! Which I was super excited about because I had been smelling chocolate cake baking all night.

CIA Bootcamp Dinner Buffet

This was our dinner buffet and behind it is the biggest dinner bell I have ever seen!

After dinner we finished off the night with a review of the day and final clean-up of our stations. Now I wasn't sure what the dirty dishes situation was going to be here and I am happy to report that you don't have to do any dishes! There is a neat little window where you drop off the dirty dishes and they are whisked away to be cleaned. If only my kitchen at home had one of these dirty dishes windows...

In Closing

I am feeling truly blessed to be able to have this experience. The drive back to the B&B I'm staying at with the sun setting behind the mountains was absolutely beautiful. The campus of CIA at Greystone is gorgeous and inspiring. I am so excited to be able to explore it more tomorrow. I just want to say thank you to Jason for being ok with me leaving him and Augie to fend for themselves for the week because today was one of those days I will never forget.


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