75 Years of The Culinary Institute of America

Emerging cuisines and service styles with CIA Dean Brendan Walsh

The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) has been at the forefront of identifying trends and emerging cuisines when it comes to educating about different flavors, ingredients, cooking styles and more.

The biggest “trend” right now, says CIA Dean Brendan Walsh, is simply the notion of adaptation. “I think a lot of restaurant owners have to think about how they can keep that pent-up demand for delicious food and hospitality, but not necessarily at the 5 o’clock dinner hour,” he says. “The question now is how do you grow your business in different ways with a limited budget and limited staff and supply chain issues? We’re living in a new environment that’s changing constantly, so here at the CIA we have to be extra vigilant about setting up our students to be able to plan for that and be successful.”

The core teaching at the CIA—mise en place, or “everything in its place”—helps with this. “’Mise en place’ doesn’t just refer to the little containers of chopped up shallots and garlic and other ingredients that you’ve prepped before starting cooking. It also refers to a mindfulness or readiness that chefs have to have before they begin their work,” Dean Walsh says. “Being extremely organized and following a sequential timeline is the basis of instruction at the CIA. Mise en place creates a calmer, more team-oriented kitchen environment, just like doctors and nurses preparing for surgery.”

Global flavors

The CIA has long championed global cuisines outside of just the fundamentals of classical French cooking.

“There has been such a growing interest in Asian cuisines coming out of India, Korea, China and Thailand—and in all of the heavily nuanced regions of those parts of the world that we have been touching on in our instruction at the CIA,” says Dean Walsh. “For years we have been bringing world cuisines into the teachings of fundamental cooking techniques. For example, a tough cut of meat might be braised in African cuisine but get treated differently in Thai cuisine.”

This global focus is supported by the various CIA campuses that have opened up in the United States and around the world, including outposts in Napa Valley and San Antonio as well as overseas in Singapore, Italy and Barcelona. The institution has also expanded its education about the African diaspora and slave trade and its impact on ingredients and cooking methods here in the U.S.; Dean Walsh says a concentration in African cuisines is currently in development.

Menus of Change

Plant-forward cooking

The CIA educates about food and menuing choices that are not just good for the planet, but good for consumers’ overall health.

“We are very much focused on training chefs of the future to think outside of the idea that animal protein always has to be the center of the plate,” says Dean Walsh. “If we can make plant-forward dishes and vegetables more appealing, we are better off as people and a society.”

The CIA’s Menus of Change and Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives initiatives—in partnership with Harvard’s T.H. School of Public Health’s Department of Nutrition—continue to educate chefs and foodservice operators, as well as doctors and others outside of the industry about the impact of healthy cooking and culinary nutrition.

Farmer-focused food systems

In an extension of the farm-to-table movement of the early and mid-2000s, the CIA is taking this type of sustainability instruction to a new level. The Farm-to-Table Concentration and other areas of instruction now focus on how chefs can play a bigger role in local food systems and regional food ways as a way to support sustainable growers and producers and connect local communities with the seasonal foods of their immediate areas around the country.

“I think a lot of young people right now want to be part of a change in the food industry,” says Dean Walsh. “We educate our students so they can reshape the food system—whether that means more connections between sustainable farms and chefs, more startup opportunities, the growth of sustainable fisheries — to encourage positive regeneration.”

A new Masters’ program in food systems and sustainability is on track to launch in Fall 2022.

farm

Culinary science

The CIA also offers education in culinary science, which encompasses the aforementioned culinary nutrition as well as food safety, large-scale food production and even the intersections between certain cooking methods and equipment and food.

Dean Walsh says the program was started in 2012, in response to growing interest among students to learn more about research and development, in part to develop their own line of food products. “Another hot topic of conversation for our faculty is how do we improve efficiencies in our kitchens,” he says. “For example, how do we write HACCP plans to be able to expand our use of sous vide cooking? Or how do we optimize taste when using pressure fryers? Our culinary science program is all about teaching the ‘how’ and ‘why’ behind food and cooking.”

training

Technology

The future of foodservice will be intertwined with technology, and the CIA has begun to explore ways to educate its students in these emerging areas. Robotics, smart equipment and other advancements are finding their way into kitchens and business planning discussions.

“The impact of technology on our industry is a conversation that we need to continue to have among future chefs,” says Dean Walsh. “Robots may not replace all kitchen jobs, but they can take care of some of the more menial jobs out there like flipping burgers, which leaves more room for more skilled cooking. It’s all about striking a balance that’s sustainable for the future.”

Brendan Walsh

More about CIA Dean Brendan Walsh

Chef Brendan Walsh is dean of the School of Culinary Arts at The Culinary Institute of America (CIA). He oversees curriculum development and management of culinary arts education at the college and is responsible for the quality of academic programming, services, and staffing of culinary arts courses. He assumed his current job in 2012 after serving four years as a faculty member and associate dean at the CIA. A 1980 CIA graduate, Dean Walsh returned to his alma mater in 2008. Before that, he was the owner and executive chef of the critically acclaimed Elms Restaurant & Tavern in Ridgefield, Connecticut and has served was at one point the founder and president of Fun with Food Consulting. Dean Walsh has also held various chef positions at highly regarded restaurants around the country, pushing the boundaries of farm-to-table cuisine at each stop. As dean at the CIA, he has had the opportunity to align with the developing principles surrounding sustainable food systems, incorporating important food issues into the curriculum. An executive member of the Menus of Change University Research Collaborative, he remains current on food issues and future challenges. Dean Walsh was inducted into the James Beard Foundation’s Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America in 1987, becoming the youngest person to receive that honor.

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