Food is Life: The Culinary Institute of America

*By: Megan Deppen and Christi Shingara*

Photo: Christi Shingara
Photo: Megan Deppen

Recently we had the pleasure of experiencing The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, NY and it was a real treat! CIA was founded in 1946 in New Haven, Connecticut by the New Haven Restaurant Association and was led by Frances Roth and Katharine Angell to lead and develop the school. It was the first culinary college in the United States. Enrollment kept growing throughout the years and by 1969 they had 1,000 students and needed to purchase another location to continue. In 1970, they purchased their current Hyde Park location. Currently the school has over 3,000 undergraduate students enrolled and additional campuses in Napa County, California, San Antonio, Texas and Singapore. Some notable CIA alums are Grant Achatz, Anne Burrell, David Burke, Geoffrey Zakarian and the late Anthony Bourdain.

CIA houses four restaurants run by the students and their instructors. Food served at the American Bounty Restaurant highlights Hudson Valley produce and is prepared in the style of cuisines of the Americas. The Bocuse Restaurant serves traditional French food using modern techniques. The Ristorante Caterina de’ Medici is a restaurant with a focus on Italian food. The Apple Pie Bakery Café has a casual atmosphere and delicious desserts such as scrumptious cookies and their signature homemade apple pie. In addition, CIA has its own brewery and houses Post Road Brew House which serves high end pub fare and CIA’s own craft beers.

During our visit we had lunch at American Bounty Restaurant. This is one of their student-led restaurants and it was such a fun experience! Their menu changes seasonally, so you can expect the freshest and most flavorful ingredients. Instead of opting for a main dish, we decided to order a bunch of starters, so we could try a little bit of everything. On the menu was Roasted Heirloom Carrots, Smoked Chicken Mac & Cheese, Grilled Asparagus, Tequila-Citrus Cured Salmon, and Sautéed Mushroom Gnocchi.

Everything was delicious, but my favorite was the Smoked Chicken Mac & Cheese. The pasta they use are cavatelli, which are small pasta shells that resemble a hot dog shape. The dish included wild mushrooms and goat cheese and was it a big bowl of creamy goodness! Another favorite is their homemade bread rolls. They’re smaller than your average dinner roll and they serve them in a tiny cast iron dish. The rolls are out of this world and it was hard not to eat just one. They serve them drizzled in warm butter and sea salt and they’re pillowey decadence in every bite.

We also stopped by the Apple Pie Bakery Cafe for dessert because you can’t end a delicious meal without a little something sweet. We got their classic apple pie and an enormous peanut butter caramel cookie and it was nothing short of amazing!

If you’re a person who loves everything food, this is definitely a destination you must experience. In addition to eating at the student-led restaurants, they also offer student-led tours of campus throughout the year, which we would highly recommend. CIA is such a fun culinary experience and we’re already planning our next trip there. Bon Appetit!

Photo: Megan Deppen

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