Saturday, September 1, 2007

Armed to the Teeth, Part I

by The Foodist

When I first arrived at the CIA* I felt that I and my classmates were viewed as essentially on the same skill level. But what started to happen halfway through B Block was somewhat of a "growing pains" process for me. It happens every 3 weeks, like clockwork, and can be viewed at any juncture in the main hallways.

The, former, Fresh Meat B Blockers are no longer the new kids. A fresh batch of bright eyed bushy-tailed Emeril wannabes stroll through the door as the Mid-Block B Blockers stroll through the door of Central Issue to pick up their uniforms and Knife kits.

What happens then is almost alchemic. With crisp white uniforms in one hand and sharp shiny knives in the other a gleam appears in the eyes of some students. They are afflicted by what I call none other than, Stuff-itis, which I define as

The uncontrollable urge to go out and buy every new gadget, widget, thingee, and whatsamacallit that can possibly be used in the application of kitchen work in hopes of having the newest shiniest toy as well as the most stuff, thus looking the most eager and with the thinking of impressing upon the Chef Instructors the level of commitment they have to their craft.

Whoo, ok, it’s a mouthful I know. But this is, as I see, a serious issue for many reasons.

There are essential kitchen tools that you need to have on your person in the kitchen. A chef's knife, paring knife, peeler, etc etc (Some of which Ill touch on in Part II of the series).

What happens then is that these students go out and spend, in allot of cases, a few hundred more dollars on kitchen equipment they wont even use, may have stolen from them, or will break or trash in the course of their time here.

The CIA provides a decent knife kit, minus a few gripes here and there, that has everything as student should need minus one or two items that would be wise to buy.

Why do they do it? What possesses them to run to one of the two knife stores down the road (Hey, Kudos to them, they make good money off the tourists and students)? Ego mostly, I think.

The student who shows up to class with the latest Global Chef's Knife or Japanese lightweight steel blend boning knife is going to get allot of "ooh"'s and "Ahh"'s from his classmates. Watching one of these dudes produce an engraved sashimi knife from it's sheath I half imagine him saying

"It was forged on Mt. Fuji by the last decedents of the Tokogowa Shogunate with the finest material known to man!"

Yeah, thats great and all.. but come on!

Don’t get me wrong, there are some GREAT products out there that make the work allot easier (Hold your horses, that comes in part II) but keep in mind you are here as students. You are here to learn the basics. Why not learn the basics with basic equipment given to you by the institution teaching you? Well, one argument I hear allot is

"But some of this stuff stinks! I want equipment I can rely on!"

Valid point, but keep in mind the equipment is only as good as the person using it and taking care of it. I still use my knives that I got from the school over 2 years ago. They work just as well now, though I admit I do need to get them sharpened, as they did when I got them.

So please, Help stop Stuff-itis. Friends don’t let friends buy unnecessary crap for school.

*[The] Culinary Institute of America

1 comment:

Chef Sean said...

I get a lot of "stuff-itis" in my current career as an computer systems jockey. Not a day goes by when I don't hear (or get dragged into) a conversation similar to, "My new machine has 4 gigs of RAM, dual Core2s, and a quad 400 gig drive array." When pressed for what the behemoth does for them... "Internet Explorer"

A friend of mine just confided in his recent purchase of a video card for more than $500! Stuff-itis indeed!