Saturday, May 9, 2009

I See Dead Animals

It's been two months since I first came to the CIA and an entire month since I last updated. Apparently the second three weeks of school was much more time intensive than the first three weeks, which we call blocks here at the CIA. Since many of you may be curious as to what the curriculum is like here, I might as well describe it now:

The degree I am pursuing is an Associate’s degree. This degree takes four semesters of 15 weeks each in addition to a 18-21 week internship at a restaurant of my choice, for a grand total of approximately 80 weeks. The school runs on a progressive block system, where every three weeks a block is completed and a new block begins. It goes from Block A to Block U.

Right now, I’m in Block D, with 16 more blocks to go. This means that every three weeks a class graduates and a new class enters. This also means that things repeat themselves every three weeks in some kind of perpetual déjà vu. Teachers start to lose track of what day it is or what students are in their class or feel like they said something before to the present class when they actually haven’t or repeat the same story they told yesterday thinking that we haven’t heard it before. So we don't think in terms of dates or days of the week--it's simply Day 1,2,3,4,5...all the way to day 15 (5 school days in a week). This three week block system also means that the meals repeat themselves every 21 days.

Since this is a culinary school, we make food. This food is then served to the rest of the campus. The CIA is unique in the sense that the students and the food staff are the same people. We are actually paying the school to be a part of the food service staff for the entire campus. We also pay for the food they buy to feed us. In essence, we pay the CIA to cook and serve ourselves food they buy with our money. Kudos CIA, you’ve found a great way to legally exploit student labor!

But I’m not complaining. The food here is like an 8 out of 10. Some days I’ll get burgers and fries, but other days I’ll get sea scallops and chorizo-stuffed squid or braised beef short ribs or shrimp and lobster etouffee, replete with a variety of pastries, cakes, and other desserts freshly made that morning. It’s damn good food over here.

Anyway, I just started my 4th block for a total of 10 weeks, and I have stories from each one (which I’ll share at a later date) that will rock your world. Well, maybe not rock, but at the very least tickle your fancy.

I’ll share one today:

So one of the main reasons for my absence from updating my blog was Block C. Block C was like the anatomy lab of medical school, the very first class we take at medical school and the foundation of medical knowledge. If you ever went to certain medical school in Texas, you may remember the days where we would wake up at 7am and trudge on over to a building full of dead people. Then we would cut dead people for like 4-6 hours straight. Then we would spend another 2-4 hours just studying and looking at dead people and name every single obscure muscle or fact about them. Anatomy lab would be so intense that we pretty much had no life--the irony was that anatomy would be the easiest class we would take…

At the CIA, Block C is Seafood, Fish, and Meat Identification and Fabrication, one of the very first classes we take and the foundation of culinary knowledge. As part of the AM shift, I would get up at the god awful hour of 4:30 in the morning. If you ever heard of the phrase “getting up at the asscrack of dawn” referring to starting the day at 600 in the morning during the winter, then starting at 430am in winter is “getting up at the hairy butthole of dawn.” I mean, who else gets up at 4:30 in the morning? Apparently only rainstorms and worms because every morning for a week I trudged over to school soaked on wet sidewalks infested with worms.

We’d then get to class and that smelled like Chinese seafood markets and oxidized blood. Then we’d cut dead fish, lambs, cows, veal, etc. (if you can eat it, we’ll cut it) for 5 hours. Then we’d have lecture for another 4 hours about all the different cuts and species of animals that we were responsible for. At the end of the day we’d smell like we crawled over a pile of a fish bones or a slaughterhouse floor. You didn’t even have to smell us to know that we were cutting dead animals all day--you could tell us apart simply by looking at the amount of blood that was splattered all over our clothes, the crazed, exhausted look in our eyes, and our slow abnormal gait as if the Zombie Apocalypse had just occurred.

Block C took over my life. But the story doesn't end there. Just before Block C started, I talked to a classmate who was about to finish Block C. I asked him what the chef for Fish ID and Fabrication was like (we had a different chef for Meat), and then he looked me dead in the eye with a mock-serious tone: “Chef Viverito will own you." I simply brushed this off with nervous laughter thinking, “Surely Chef Viverito can't be that bad…”

Well, I was wrong.

To be continued...

Next entry: Chef “I-Will-Tear-You-A-New-Asshole-If-You-Don’t-Do-As-I-Say” Viverito


  1. lol..ok i don't want to go to culinary school anymore. i would not make it past hour 1 of block C. blood makes me nauseous.

  2. don't forget to learn Ma Po Tofu before you graduate.

  3. I find your blog delightfully charming, I am in the middle of B block and is anticipating C block. I guess I know what to expect now haha. Keep up with the posts! i love your humor.

    "We are actually paying the school to be a part of the food service staff for the entire campus. We also pay for the food they buy to feed us. In essence, we pay the CIA to cook and serve ourselves food they buy with our money. Kudos CIA, you’ve found a great way to legally exploit student labor!"
    This cracked me up