In late March, this journey became real… Real quick.
I was on a plane headed to NYC to tour my top three choices for school: #1 The Culinary Institute of America (CIA), #2 The Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) and #3 The International Culinary Center (ICC).
Let’s start with the school that slid into last place… the CIA (cue creepy spy music) in Poughkeepsie, NY. The cost was around $45,000 per year and it was 2 hours upstate from the city. Here, I would spend a very small amount of time, around 3 weeks, learning to professionally decorate cakes, which is what I am most interested in. The school is the #1 school in the U.S. for culinary arts and their attitudes make that status well known (if you’re picking up what I’m putting down). In their Baking and Pastry Arts Program, you take a wide variety of classes in a relatively short period of time, leaving little room to do each discipline justice. The teacher to student ratio was much higher than the other schools which truly affects the outcome of learning in a culinary atmosphere. On to the upsides. The campus is seated comfortably with a stunning view of the Hudson River. That view is only complimented by the train ride from the city that boasts gorgeous views of the Hudson and the numerous small towns between NYC and Poughkeepsie. The CIA has so much to offer the student who is aspiring to learn every single aspect of baking and pastry arts as in depth as they can. They have an excellent campus with many resources for students to flourish and discover what they want to do in the industry. At the end of the day- the CIA just wasn’t for me.
The ICE had immediate turn offs because of the process just to enter the school. Follow me carefully. You walk through the main doors, up the escalator, around the corner, sign in, through security, and down several halls to find the right elevator, up the elevator, down the hall and congratulations you’ve just made it to class! The school was an accelerated program, meaning you could take the entire Baking and Pastry Arts Program in a matter of 6-9 months. The views were gorgeous; one side looked out over the city and the other over the Hudson. This school was much smaller and more personalized, but I didn’t feel at home. Again, despite the beauty of the institution and the quality of learning, the ICE just wasn’t for me.
Now on to the good stuff! The ICC (where I will be attending very soon). As soon as I began the tour it felt like home. This sense of connection with the staff and the instructors truly made a lasting impression as they went above and beyond to welcome me. One of the pastry instructors was in his classroom helping students with their projects outside of class time. This is also the teacher who invited me into his classroom to show me what it looks like to be a student there. The student to teacher ratio is much smaller and you enter and exit with the same class of students. The factor that truly pushed me over the edge, head over heels, deep in love with ICC was that I would be in the kitchen from day 1. This is so ingrained in their mantra that they don’t even have lecture halls. The Professional Pastry Program is a 6 month program, Monday through Friday, with over 600 hours of hands-on time plus an externship.
At the ICC, Ron Ben-Israel is a guest instructor, who is known for his extravagant wedding cakes and artistic capabilities. Having professionals of his stature within the walls of the school helps the students to make connections within the industry. The ICC also offers many services to assist students in making the transition from home to NYC such as helping them understand the financial aid process and finding externship opportunities. Leaving home will be hard, but the ICC already feels like where I belong.