Monthly Archive for: ‘July, 2012’

Culinary externship

July 25, 2012
Denise Simmons, Corporate Chef

I came across this blog post from a culinary student while doing menu research on the net.  I love her style-I LOL’d more than once.  I found it interesting on a couple other fronts as well-the requirements for a suitable externship location have changed dramatically in the *gulp* 25 years since I went to CIA.  I think this is a good thing, and will help students understand more of where the culinary profession is going & growing in the coming years.

I found her final notes quite interesting too.  One of the requirements CIA did have when I went is that we had to have at least one year practical experience in a commercial kitchen before we could even apply to attend the school.  It’s so important, particularly in this day of TV Chefs, for kids to understand the industry, and what they’re getting themselves into BEFORE dropping $80k on an education. 

Externship Interview

Come October, I will begin my six month externship. This is what we’ve been working towards. This is the part that counts. This is how they make or break a culinary student.

Our externship must be in a scratch kitchen (i.e. no frozen french fries) where the chef works on site. We need to work a minimum of 30 hours per week which is a frivolous requirement considering the average extern clocks 90 hours per week, usually at minimum wage. We are fed all of this information from the school’s Director of Marketing and Placement, a kind looking woman who is pushing seventy.

"There are two rules to your externship. Do not quit. Do not get fired." Okay, I thought, I can do that.

The search begins by securing a stage (pronounced: stah-je). A stage, for a culinary student, is a working (without pay) interview. A stage, however, can also be a "guest appearance" or "meeting of the minds" for industry veterans. Wolfgang Puck, for example, has staged at the French Laundry with Thomas Keller.

One of my stages (I did five total) was at a fancy-schmancy, award-winning joint, run by a European, James Beard award recipient. I arrived with sharp knives and a pressed, clean jacket in tow. The Golden Girl insisted on sharp, pressed and clean. She shared a story about one of her students who staged at a place in San Francisco.

He arrived at a fancy-schmany, award-winning joint, run by a tough chef and was asked to form a line with six other extern hopefuls, all of them from the CIA (the Culinary Institute of America, a generally esteemed culinary school). The chef walked down the line and immediately dismissed two students who had spots on their jackets. The chef then instructed the remaining candidates to unsheathe their chef knives. He quickly dismissed all but one student, the Golden Girl’s boy, since he had the sharpest knife.

I walked into the kitchen and counted nine men and zero women. Interesting, right? My first task was to peel the skin off of very tiny chanterelle mushrooms. It was tedious, but not terrible. I then chopped chives for about an hour. The chef had still not arrived by the time I finished. The chef walked into the kitchen, introduced himself to me and then one by one checked in with each of his peons to see how dinner preparations were coming along.

I didn’t do anymore prep work after the chives, but stood and watched the dinner service. These guys moved at a dizzying pace with remarkable precision. Their memory is equally astonishing. "Ordering four rib eye, one medium, two medium rare, one ruined (well done), two salmon, two halibut, three squab, one pork belly and one duck egg," the chef motored. Ten seconds later he’d shout out another set. And thirty seconds later, another. I was overwhelmed.

In the end, he offered me a job, which was exciting. I’m thinking about accepting it. My hesitation is that I’m simply not certain I’m cut out for this. I only worked 5 hours, one third of a normal shift, didn’t do any real work, and left with an aching back, neck and pair of feet. I left happy and excited, however, which hopefully counts for something. Its difficult to accept, but this externship could quite possibly be the beginning of the end.



Choosing the right carbs

July 25, 2012
Sherri Meyer, MG Registered Dietitian,

A recent article about dietitian’s “forbidden foods for weight control” got me thinking about fad diets and personal dietary restrictions.  As a nutrition professional, I have heard it all, from no carbs, to no white carbs, to no carbs at night, the list is endless.  But one thing that has never changed over the years is that there is no magic bullet to weight loss (and weight maintenance which is just as challenging).  It all comes down to calories, how much you consume, or don’t consume for that matter.  But we can choose our calories wisely and get the most nutrition bang for our buck.  Some say a calorie is a calorie, but like Mark Bittman (, I disagree.  But I think one of the biggest culprit in the American diets is our (over) consumption of refined (i.e. processed) carbohydrates.  We are lovers of all things white, be it bread, rice or pasta. But, thankfully unprocessed whole grains are becoming more mainstream, which makes it easier for fellow carb lovers to enjoy the foods they crave.  Growing up in an Italian family that never met a refined carbohydrate it didn’t like; I retrained my taste buds over the years and now I actually prefer (without hesitation) non processed carbohydrates.  Rather than reinvent the wheel of explaining what a “good” carbohydrate actually is, I have provided a very informative chart that was brought to you by the nutrition experts at Appetite for Health.  So, the next time you reach for a carb check this out

Weekly Wisdom – How to translate being more healthy.. Part 4

July 17, 2012
Sherri Meyer, MG Registered Dietitian,

How to Translate: “Eat more fruits & veggies, cut back on salt & sugar, switch to whole grain, exercise.” Part 4…Eating out

  • Asian: veggies not noodles. Order mixed sautéed veggies with chicken, tofu or shrimp.
  • Pizza: thin, not thick crust.  Ask for half the cheese, a whole grain crust if available and veggies instead of meat.
  • Mexican: tacos, not a burrito for less calories. Fajitas to share.

Trash Talk – Buy the goods, not the garbage

July 16, 2012
Becky Tweedy, Assistant to the President

Packaging makes up at least 20% of what goes in our landfills. Help reduce this extra trash:

  • Buy the largest size you can, or buy in bulk when possible
  • Choose items with minimal packaging, or with packaging that is easy to recycle or reuse
  • Avoid individually wrapped items
  • Bring your own reusable bag

Do something to help the Earth today!


Gazpacho – Cool soup for a hot day

July 11, 2012
Sherri Meyer, MG Registered Dietitian,

The past few weeks have not provided much inspiration for a food blog given the major power outage and 100-degree heat that followed.  Though I wished for power, my mind was far from thoughts of using my oven to heat an already overheated kitchen.   The day that power returned proved to be an obnoxiously hot day at over 100 degrees and despite restoration of modern conveniences, I had no desire to utilize anything that resided in my kitchen.  Thankfully my husband Tom decided that he would pull out his Vitamix and whip up a cold gazpacho.  The electricity came on just in time for us to visit the market and be guaranteed our gazpacho treasures would not wilt inside our refrigerator.  There are many variations of gazpacho out there, but I prefer my gazpacho without onions or peppers.  Tomatoes, cucumbers, even a bit of watermelon, fresh basil from the garden, the possibilities are endless.  The next day Tom decided on a whim to throw in some grilled zucchini (again no oven required) that added a whole other level of flavor.   Sitting on my back porch savoring sips of my cool refreshing soup; I must admit at that moment the heat did not seem quite so bad (although I don’t wish for it to return, gazpacho tastes just great in 80 degree weather).

August recipe: Zucchini Carpaccio

Zucchini Carpaccio
Serves 8

4 small zucchini (about 1 lb total)
2T extra virgin olive oil
2t fresh lemon juice
1/4t fine sea salt
1/8t black pepper
1/4c pine nuts
6oz parmigiano-reggiano, grated or shaved
1/3c loosely packed fresh mint leaves

  1. Cut zucchini into paper-thin slices with knife or slicer
  2. Whisk together oil, lemon juice, sea salt & pepper. Pour over zucchini slices
  3. Marinate zucchini for 30 - 60 minutes
  4. Overlap slices on platter, drizzle remaining marinade
  5. Top with pine nuts, parmesan & mint

Serve as first course or with crostini


Weekly Wisdom – How to translate being more healthy.. Part 3

July 10, 2012
Sherri Meyer, MG Registered Dietitian,

How to Translate: “Eat more fruits & veggies, cut back on salt & sugar, switch to whole grain,
exercise.” Part 3 - Eating out

  • Get salad dressing on the side Salad dressings can add 400-600 calories in a typical restaurant main dish salad.
  • Double the veggies Instead of potatoes, rice or pasta, ask for 2 sides of vegetables or extra salad.  For variety
    check out veggies listed with other entrees on the menu. 

Are you more likely to eat "exotic" foods or stick to the basics

July 10, 2012
Denise Simmons, Corporate Chef

I have owned up before to the fact that I’m not the world’s most adventurous person when it comes to eating certain things. I have a decidedly weak stomach, and can’t even watch the shows on TV where the host eats brains, still beating hearts, and the thought of eating something like that… just grosses me out! In fact, I’d probably even have a hard time trying goat. I know, other chef’s are probably booing me right now… I know I should have an open mind & be willing to try just about anything.

So I hear about this new restaurant in Richmond that’s getting great reviews. The chef is a CIA grad, so I automatically like him. The place is touted for its ‘upscale, adventurous’ dishes. I’m intrigued… especially since it’s so close & I often travel to Richmond, so I have a chance of checking it out.

I take a look at the menu. It’s nice-adventurous for those who dig that, but still has enough mainstream selections to appeal to those of us who aren’t quite so willing to try innards & stuff. Below is a few of the selections I would consider ordering if I make it the restaurant:

  • Cannellini white bean hummus over bruschetta and house made cucumber yogurt.
  • Gazpacho: fresh seasonal vegetables in a rich and spicy tomato base
  • Marinated olives (seasonal selection)
  • Pommes frites with pork dust, sea salt and garlic aioli and catsup.
  • Arugula tossed with lemon segments, shaved pecorino Romano, and hydroponic tomatoes with cracked black pepper and virgin olive oil.
  • House made ricotta with local honey and Elderflower drizzle.

I get to the dessert section. The Chocolate Godiva Pate sounds divine! Then comes this one… Chocolate and Beef Blood Swirl Gelato. OMG… am I alone in thinking that sounds revolting? Yeeashh!

I’ll probably still give the restaurant a shot, but you can bet serious money that I won’t be trying the beef blood gelato!