By The Foodist
The time is now upon me. I am about to enter the arena for which all CIA students both yearn and dread. Next week I begin...
Restaurant Row. (Dun dun dunnnn)
The last three or so months of your time in the Culinary Associate Degree program are spent in "Restaurant Row". The school houses four open-to-the public fine dining restaurants which are "run" by the students. Caterina (classic Italian), St. Andrew's Cafe (Nutritional cooking), American Bounty (American Cuisine), and The Escoffier Room (Classic French Cuisine and Service). While in Wines class you must pick the restaurant in which you want to complete Advanced Table Service and Advanced Cooking. You have two choices, E Room or American Bounty. You serve your last 3 weeks at school in this kitchen before graduation.
I guess I'm either a glutton for punishment or just plain nuts because I chose E Room. But there's method to my madness.
Classic French table service is a dying form of service. You have to look long and hard to find restaurants still motivated to this standard of service, mostly due to high labor cost associated with it. Most fine dining establishments in America today run a modified American Style of service. There is a rumor going around that the E Room's days are numbered and in conjunction with the rumor is my feeling that I am here, at the CIA, to learn the basics. I feel as though I would only be cheating myself out of a rare experience if I didn't choose E Room to end my education in.
It's a lot like running a gauntlet, this Restaurant Row. Take for example my first class which will be back of the house St. Andrew's. We are expected to walk into class day one, take the reigns, and run the show like we've been there all along. Service stays the same, menu may change slightly, but from the outside looking in it's as though the same group has been in there since it opened -at least that's the theory.
On top of that we only have 7 days in the kitchen before we move onto back of the house Caterina. As you can see its a process of endless day one's and trying to acclimating ourselves to new kitchens and situations for the next couple months.
It's a good test of a student's ability to come ready to work and applying the education they have received, and with a twist of stress. A few weeks into your start of restaurant row you are given your 5th term cooking practical. The final hurdle to jump before you get to cross that stage and get your diploma.
So suit up, strap in, and get ready for one heck of a ride....