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Darla Cooks- At the CIA!

May 13, 2014



This is it friends! This is the post that reveals the most amazing adventure but I have embarked upon. Darla Cooks has gone to an entirely new level –I am now “Darla Magee culinary student” at the Culinary Institute of America. The Culinary Institute of America is known worldwide as the finest cooking school there is. With campuses in New York, Napa Valley, Singapore  and San Antonio. I made my application to the CIA over a year and a half ago, and was accepted at that time. However, I had some yoga injuries that I needed to clean up.  I spent that time having shoulder surgery and surgery on both wrists. Once I recovered and rehabbed (hopefully) the hunt for a place to live began. I was fortunate enough to find a very cute little three-bedroom house that is close to campus for myself and the dogs. My darling husband is of course still in Houston working very hard to make this happen. And friends, this is happening!

What’s it like? Week one I would say was quite easy. The hardest thing was learning how to wake up early enough. My day begins at the school at 7 AM, of course I’m up two hours earlier managing the dogs making breakfast and waking up. Once I’m there all about learning. We start the days off in the classroom most days learning about food, food safety, culinary math, gastronomy and theory.  Thursdays and Fridays we spend all day in the kitchen  learning how to cook, learning how to cut and how to clean. The curriculum is intense. The chef teachers are intense. And their expectations are very high for work in the classroom as well as work in the kitchen. In a nutshell – this  is a very serious school. We spent most of the first week learning where things are and learning who everyone is. We also received our uniforms which are the typical white chef’s jacket with our name on it (no beautiful CIA logo yet, you only get to wear that once you graduate) checkered chef pants and a toque. There are neckerchiefs that we have to wear as well side towels and aprons to complete the look. We also received a very nice knife and hand tools kit! (sharp!)

Just to set the tone immediately, were given special projects to do (three), that to be presented in front of the class within a group. This is in addition to the regular coursework.  The regular course work is very intense.  Homework is assigned every night in each subject. (As well as ironing your uniform. There are no slouches here!!) As these posts continue throughout the next two years I hope to update you each week with what’s happening or share a funny story.  I don’t really have a funny story this week; I did get a very clear message from our culinary fundamentals chef albeit nonverbal that he was less than pleased with the condition of my cutting board. When he came over to inspect the first days vegetable prep for mirepoix he didn’t say anything really, but he did grunt once and sighed heavily twice while he was picking the parsley from the onions and the onions from the potatoes while organizing the board the way he wanted it.  Needless to say, day two’s cutting board was much cleaner and more organized. Not only that my cuts improved greatly. This week we made stocks and broths (they are not the same!) and learned the techniques and ratios appropriate for them. My days of making “a little of this and a little of that” chicken stock are over. At the CIA we learn there is a right way to do everything, and we are to strive to do so- each and every time!  What a wonderful discipline!
With that said, I’ve got to get on the homework but here are some photographs from week one. See you next week!

This is Chef Sartory talking about the Century Egg. smelly! (I declined a sample!)

This is Chef Sartory talking about the Century Egg. By his face you can see how it smells! (I declined a sample!)

Spanish food for lunch. (yes, the lunches are amazing!)

Spanish food for lunch. (yes, the lunches are amazing!)

More lunch!

More lunch!

We had a fire drill on the same day we had a yarn bombing! IRONY!

We had a fire drill on the same day we had a yarn bombing! IRONY!

Chef Sartory and undoubtedly his first "selfie" ;-)

Chef Sartory and undoubtedly his first “selfie” 😉

Some of my awesome classmates!

Some of my awesome classmates!


8 Comments leave one →
  1. Jeffrey permalink
    May 14, 2014 3:32 am

    Awesome! Do you get time off on weekends? Would love to have you visit the burbs or just meet up for a meal!

    • May 15, 2014 3:48 pm

      yes Jeffrey! maybe we can got together after the memorial day holiday!

  2. Helen permalink
    May 14, 2014 11:04 am

    Wow! Congratulations and good luck to you on your new adventure!

  3. May 14, 2014 11:40 am

    Good Luck! Going to culinary school was one of the best decisions of my life! If you happen to have Chef George Shannon (he is an instructor there now)-tell him his old apprentice Sarah says Hi!

    • May 15, 2014 3:50 pm

      thanks Sarah! I will look for him and tell him you say HI! thanks for your positive feedback!

  4. charbon permalink
    May 15, 2014 7:52 am

    Awesome Darla I will be looking for your weekly update for sure!!!!! I found that so interesting what you doing and I cannot go my self for the full term, then I will know some of it without being there!!!! Very proud of you Darla !!!! xoxoxoxoxo!!!!!

  5. August 29, 2014 1:03 pm

    My husband and I ate at the CIA on our honeymoon. It was so amazing! Congratulations! What a great accomplishment!

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