Saturday, March 28, 2009

Once upon a time...


First, I would like to clear some misunderstandings. On the surface, this blog may appear like a simple collection of entertaining short stories about the adventures of a culinary student. And if that's what you get out of it, then that's fine--I have entertained you, which is one of the goals of my blog. Unfortunately, if that's the only thing you get out of it, then I have ultimately failed.

Though cursing may be fun to do and mocking others an ego-booster and though at times I will use this blog as a medium for frustration peppered with obscenities, I want to be clear: I take my decision to come to the CIA quite seriously.

Although easy to do, I do not want to write a blog that is just about scathing criticisms of the CIA school system and witty insults of my peers. Let me tell you a story about what this is all about.

"Once upon a time a boy thought a six figure salary and job security was the path to happiness. But after chasing money and safety for a couple years, he realized he was miserable. So he decided that pursuing dreams was more important. Not knowing how the story will end, he is now at the Culinary Institute of America with nothing but a knife kit and a cook's uniform. Will he have what it takes to be a great chef? Or will he be burned by the fire?"

If you took the time to look around, you may have noticed that this is an exact copy of the little paragraph in the neat little picture at the top of this blog. And that is exactly why I put it at the top of my blog.

This is the unfolding real-time story about a young man who has taken one of the most, if not the riskiest gambit in his short life. He has no idea what the rewards are, how he will succeed, or how it will end, but the one thing he does know is this: he does not regret.

So, if you are:

1) having a quarter life crisis,
2) considering a career change from a secure, high-paying but otherwise joyless profession,
3) unsatisfied with the way things turned out with the choices you made in life,
4) need inspiration or encouragement to make "that" move to chase your dream,
5) and/or simply want to live vicariously through me,

then, I am talking to YOU. A word of caution: Though most everyone has a dream that is different from their career or living, the decision to pursue that dream instead is NOT for everyone. For some reason, many successful career changers, when talking about their decision to choose something so drastically different and risky, always say something like this:

"Even though I was making a ton of money as a (insert respectable profession here) , I was unhappy. Ever since I was a kid, I've always wanted to be a (insert ridiculously, almost laughable job here). There was no choice--I just knew I'd had to go for it!" This is usually where an immediate relative or close friend gives her support: "Without a doubt, I always knew he/she would be successful."

For them, it was easy as pie.

Well let me tell you the other side of the story.

For me, this was by far the hardest decision I've had to make. I was well on the path to getting a job that had high security and would pay at least a $250,000 starting salary. And believe me, I had been working my ass off my entire life to get that job and was just two years away from sealing the deal. No rational person would easily give up years of hard work and a job like that just so he can pursue a dream of being a chef. Would you?

My decision took over 2 years to make: endless wandering late at night agonizing over whether to stay or leave, heated and emotional arguments with my parents who did not understand me, hundreds of pages of reflective writing, countless sleepless hours in bed of fruitless thinking, months of clinical depression, dozens of pills, one deep contemplation of ending it all, and the constant feeling of being lost with no hope of finding my way through it all. It was a dark, dark time.

I didn't have a fairy godmother who gave me a pumpkin carriage and glass slippers and tell me to go get the job of my dreams. Hell no. I had to crawl and claw my way out of a dark tunnel that I made for myself without a flashlight. Long story short, after two, long years, I had gathered enough information, support, and above all, the courage to make that leap of faith that had me convinced that what I was doing was something I would not regret.

So if you're like me and you are considering on gambling it all for a shot at a cherished dream, then take it slow, chew the facts, learn more about yourself, and make sure you know what you know what you are getting yourself into. The thought of it may terrify you, but I promise you, once you make it far enough down the tunnel you will eventually see a small speck of light at the end. And when you do, latch on to it and don't look back.

Monday, March 23, 2009



HE is coming.

THE Ferran Adria.

If you don't know who this is, then let me give you a hint:


Not the shit. But THE SHIT. Capital S-H-I-T.

This guy runs arguably the best restaurant in the world. THE WORLD. Not best restaurant in Spain. Not best restaurant in Europe. But the whole freaking world. A big claim you say? Well if you can single-handedly revolutionize the way people thought about food and cooking the way Heisenberg and Schrodinger revolutionized physics with quantum mechanics, then by all means, take the title. I mean, for chrissakes, this man runs his restaurant at a loss and he is still thought of as the best chef in the world.

Wait, what was that? AT A LOSS? ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND?

How in the world does a man that charges over 250 EUROS for a meal at the best restaurant in the world lose money, and yet still make enough money to run it?

Cook books and lectures.

His elBulli series "books" (read: massive tomes) go for on average 130 EUROS. I can't imagine what he charges to speak for an hour. I bet he could shave his face and sell the shavings at a price higher than saffron threads.

Anyway, this man is like a chef demi-god. He is probably lightyears ahead of everyone else the way he thinks about food. Although called the godfather of molecular gastronomy, a name give to modern, untraditional means of cooking by pretentious and condescending food geeks (technically all cooking is molecular gastronomy), he himself hates the word and rejects what it implies.

When you hear about molecular gastronomy or had its derivatives for a meal, often times the food serves as vehicle to show off a particular technique. But Adria is the opposite. He only uses a technique as the vehicle to show off a particular food. He will search for a way to get to the essence of a dish or ingredient and often times, conventional means are not sufficient. So what does he do instead? He simply invents a way to achieve his goal, never losing sight of what it's all about...the food. Now that's a chef.

Anyway, as you can tell I'm pretty psyched about him coming to our campus for the first time ever in the history of the CIA and hopefully I will get to see him and shake his hand and then blush and giggle like a middle school girl who just got a note from a friend saying that Billy the captain of the basketball team wants to meet her after school.

So to conclude this unabashed, ass-kissing admiration for Adria, the demi-god of chefs, I will give a short list of his other accomplishments:

- Adria once challenged Bobby Fischer, Gary Kasparov, and Big Blue to a chess match, and then checkmated all of them at once with a single salted, sardine.
- The real reason Dr. House has a cane is because he once gave Adria a wrong diagnosis, who then proceeded to crush him so hard with: "You idiot" that his leg collapsed underneath the sheer humiliation and awe.
- Adria created a food so awesome that even he could not eat. But he ate it anyway and become even more awesome.
- Adria actually solved the world economic crisis several months ago by making a recipe with only a leek, a fermented egg, and a sweet potato. But after realizing doing so would make his restaurant earn a profit and ultimately destroy the world by upsetting the fabric of his loss-profit paradox, he invented a kitchen tool with the power to travel back in time and killed his past self with a whisk right before he made the recipe. The slick bastard.

Feel free to post any other Adria accomplishments you have heard and I'll add them to the list.


Friday, March 20, 2009

Let there be Blogging!

Hello Reader!

I am going to preface this by saying: Yes, I do not shy away from using gratuitous curse words. I think they are quite powerful and I also think when used properly it's effective in getting my point across through blunt omg-did-i-just-read-that? shock. Plus, it can be as funny as hell.

In addition, if you do not understand or have difficulty with the following terms:

1. Verbal irony
2. Subtle sarcasm
3. Hyperbole
4. Creative exaggeration
5. 1st Constitutional Amendment

Then, I suggest you learn them quickly in the next few sentences because you will more than likely be confused and offended. So that's my disclaimer. You have been warned--like it or leave it. If you leave, then in my opinion, you're gonna be missing out.

Because this blog is going to be fucking awesome.


I am currently a student at the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park, NY. Why I am writing this blog? Because the chefs who come from here are one of a kind.

Who really cares? Well, you should care because this person might actually be putting food down your throat one day...and you wouldn't ever trust a total stranger to put something in you, would you? "I mean, what else do you put in someone's body?" (BTW, for all you foodie bookworms, yes, that quote is from Buford's Heat, so don't go around saying the P word).

So what do I mean when I say that chefs who come from the CIA are one of a kind? Do I believe that we are the best?

Well, hell yeah! I paid a freaking ton of cash to be here, so it better be the best education a would-be chef can get. One year costs approximately ~$25,000. And I'm going to be here for at least two years, if not four. Do you know how many slices of Brooklyn Di Fara's margherita pizza that is? A shit-ton. (For you metric users, that's shite-tonne.) No wonder they call it the CIA--Cash in Advance. (ba-dum crash!)

Money aside, I do believe that the CIA has some world-class chefs and instructors. It has the reputation of being the Harvard of culinary schools. And trust me, reputation goes a LONG way in this industry (more on that another time).


For a school with the reputation of Harvard, it sure has its share of incredulous dumbasses, unbelievable idiots, legendary fools, epic emos, and oh yeah, just pure-mental crazies on crack.


Which brings me to the reason of why this is an anonymous blog. ANONYMOUS. Posting this on my Facebook, though it would make for some interesting scar stories, would certainly have undesirable repercussions.

Now, readers will fall into two groups: 1)Poor saps who stumbled upon this mistakenly by looking for some disillusioned Central Intelligence Agency blogger, or 2) friends (or friends of friends) who I have personally invited to read my blog because I believe my life here is just so darn more interesting than yours.
(I jest, I jest!--please do still consider investing in me in the future.) So please SUBSCRIBE, I won't invite/ask again.

Oh and when leaving comments, never refer to any part of my real name. Do not give hints that will lead my enemies to me. If you want to mail me something, bake it in a cake and pretend its from my aunt. They will skin me, stuff me, roast me, and carve me for the next day's grand buffet for the things I will be saying about them.

Suggested aliases: The Great One, Master of the Universe, Dr. Awesome, Lord Vader, etc. But I will also accept Chef-Sous, because not only is that a clever pseudonym and homophone, it means "Chef Under." And right now, I am under a bunch of crap. Debt, pressure, 4 part-time jobs, chef-instructors, books, name it, and I will somehow be under it--especially when the shit hits the fan.

So yeah, that's me. Chef-Sous. A guy who had a quarter-life crisis, changed careers, and became a culinary student extraordinare blogging about the underbelly of the Culinary Institute of America from his dingy dorm room shared with an alcoholic and a 6'6" giant that could crush my head with his biceps. So enjoy and take a shower after every time you read my blog.

I do.