By The Foodist
Up until a few months ago all new students at the Culinary Institute of America ate one meal on "Stage." The first six weeks of school are spent behind a desk in academic classes, and you are fed one of your two meals at Stage as part of your acclimation and learning experience.
The dining area was called Stage because the main dining hall, Farquharson Hall (Which used to be the chapel of the monastery that preceded the school.), there is a stage like area at the head of the room. Anyone who knows what the inside of chapel looks like, will immediately recognize that the stage is in fact the base of the altar. Stage has since moved from the main hall to the C.E. (Continuing Education) Building that also houses the schools bake shops.
I still remember my first couple meals on the original Stage, and remember the overwhelming experience of being marched down rows of white and checkered clad upperclassmen to our seats. I remember the students almost burning holes into us with their eyes, sizing up the fresh meat. I remember the students in the Introduction to Table Service class (Which is now called Banquet and Catering) who were serving us, telling us what to expect and giving us tips here and there on how to survive the campus.
Now I stand where I once sat. Moved to the C.E. building I am almost disappointed that the new students don't have to endure the staring, the nervousness of being fed a three course meal while other students shoveled in their dinners and rushed off back to class. Instead they are nestled snuggly in the C.E. dining room away from the fuss and muss of Farquharson Hall.
It's funny hearing some of the same conversations that I took part in only a short time ago. They talk about where they are coming from and where they are at: their previous kitchen experience, how very boring the first two days of orientation are (Believe you me, I must have drank more coffee in those two days then I did the whole time I've been alive), and hearing them worry about this thing and that.
It's almost impossible not to chime in as an upperclassman. A week ago today (Monday) I heard one student express worry over when he was going to get his knives. I almost chuckled to myself. It seems that more than anything everyone who comes here wants their shiny sharp playthings. I ensured him as I refilled his water glass that he would be getting them soon. I'd just finished answer him when a torrent of questions started spewing from a young looking girl with curly brown hair. Her eyes were wide and almost overwhelmed, she asked me more questions in the five minutes I stood there than I could possibly remember. It got to the point that I assured her that most of her questions would be answered as she proceeded through the courses and that things would eventually fall into place. It didn't seem to ease her nervousness at all, so I reassured her that she would be fine, just to keep her eyes open and ears to the ground.
It wasn't till the end of class the next day when I returned to my room that the truth of the matter hit me like a out of control Mac truck... I am almost done.
Less then three months stands between me and graduation, and its funny what happened next.
The same nervousness that was present those first days of eating on stage seemed to return, only this time it wasn't that I was plunging headlong into the routine of school. No, this time it was that I stood on the threshold of finishing that routine and being free to pursue my life's work. Trouble is, I have no idea where to go, or what to do!
Its amusing how that feeling should creep in the same place that it all started. Nervousness about beginning meeting nervousness about the end, both on that place they call "Stage".