The Culinary Institute of America is opening its newest campus, at the Copia building in Napa, in stages, beginning with classes this week.

“This will be the public face of the CIA,” said Tom Bensel, managing director for both Napa Valley campuses, including the original site at Greystone in St. Helena.

Leading a tour through the Copia building, where renovations are ongoing, Bensel gave an overview of the plans as they are evolving for the space. When completed it will offer classes and food and wine programs for the public, extensive event space, a “lifestyle” shop, and a restaurant with a new approach to dining. There will be no entrance fee to the building, and Bensel stressed that the CIA wants to welcome both local residents and visitors to the facility when construction is complete. There will be fees for individual classes. He said a grand opening is planned for 2017.

The Vintners’ Hall of Fame, now in the Barrel Room at the historic Greystone building will be relocated to Copia and renamed the Wine Hall of Fame, Bensel said. It’s expected to be in place by spring 2017.

“CIA at Copia is a first for the Culinary Institute of America,” he said, noting that the new facility will be “entirely dedicated” to offering food and wine education and experiences to the public. “It opens a window into what the CIA truly is: a visionary thought-leader and innovator in food and beverage, with world-class faculty and facilities.”

The opening of the Copia building allows the Greystone St. Helena campus to focus on education for the students and also to undertake much needed renovations, Bensel said.

The CIA at Greystone opened 20 years ago in what had been the Christian Brothers Winery. Initially, it offered a pastry and dessert training, as well as specialized educational classes for chefs. Over the years, as public interest has grown in cooking programs, the CIA began offering classes for food and wine enthusiasts, and expanded its professional training programs.

The 80,000 square-feet of indoor and outdoor event and theater space at Copia will now be the site for daily programs, wine tasting and classes taught by CIA instructors and guest lecturers that feature seasonally-themed recipes designed for home kitchens.

Beginning on Monday, Oct. 17, the CIA is offering daily food and wine programs in newly named Napa Valley Vintners Theater, formerly the Meyer Food Forum. The 72-seat theater is equipped with a demonstration kitchen. The first classes include “Basic Flavor Interactions,” “Cooking With Wine,” “Fresh Home-made Cheese” and “How to Make Fresh Pasta.”

Sundays have been designated “Family Fundays” beginning with an Oct. 23 class “Mac and Cheese,” which will “re-imagine” the classic.

A complete schedule with tickets and prices is available at

“CIA at Copia’s educational programming takes our enthusiast programming to another level, for people of all ages and interests,” Bensel said.

The Restaurant at CIA Copia

The anticipated opening date for The Restaurant at CIA Copia is mid-November. What was once Julia’s Kitchen at Copia has undergone a face-lift for the new restaurant, which will be open for lunch and dinner, under the direction of Waldy Malouf, CIA’s senior director of food and beverage operations, and chef de cuisine Chris Aken.

Malouf, who is based at the CIA in Hyde Park, N.Y., told the Register that the plan for dinner service is to blend front and back of the house service for an innovative approach to service in which chefs will come out of the kitchen to offer dishes to diners. In this way, he said, guests will be able to see both the savory and dessert dishes and also meet the chefs who create them. Sharing dishes will be encouraged as part of this “experiential dining” approach. Dishes diners select will be marked on the menu, and the number of dishes selected will be tabulated at the end of a meal.

In the same way, Malouf said wines by the glass will be offered on a cart that will move through the restaurant. Guests will be able to taste as many as six wines before selecting one or more to drink with their meal.

Lunch service will be more conventional, Malouf said. “People will be able to come in an order a burger or salad — usually that’s when people are on a schedule.”

Malouf described the menu as Mediterranean-inspired, California cuisine “with international influences.” Produce from the Copia gardens, managed by CIA Farm Manager Matthew Gunn will be utilized.

The remodel of the original Copia building by CIA and Architectural Resources Group has extended the facade nearly eight feet from its original location, allowing the dining room to blend with the property’s patio, gardens and olive grove. The restaurant has one private dining room that seats 12, and two private dining rooms that each seat 18, but can be combined to seat 36.

A 1975 graduate of the CIA, Malouf joined the administration of his alma mater in 2013. Before that, he spent 13 years as co-owner and chief operating officer of Beacon Restaurant in New York City. Malouf is known in the New York area for his time as executive chef and director of operations at the Rainbow Room and executive chef at the Hudson River Club and Le Cremaillere.

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The signature cuisine he developed at the Hudson River Club featured the culinary riches of the Hudson Valley, which resulted in “The Hudson River Valley Cookbook” (Addison-Wesley, 1996). Malouf is also the author of “High Heat: Grilling and Roasting Year-Round” (Random House/Broadway Books, 2005).

He co-founded the Windows of Hope Family Relief Fund after Sept. 11, 2001 and remains one of the organization’s three directors. He is also a former chairman of the CIA’s Alumni Council and served on the college’s Education Committee.

Aken has worked as executive chef at Avia Napa (now Andaz) and was opening executive chef at AKA Bistro. The former owner of Toast Catering, executive chef and partner at Jack London Lodge and Stomp at the Mt. View Hotel. Originally from Southern California, Aken began his culinary career in Oklahoma City in 1995 under Chef Kurt Fleischfresser and also worked at La Folie in San Francisco.

Event space

Other renovations at the new CIA include windows on the lower level opening out to the river creating a light-filled, modern atrium in the center of the building that will be available for evening receptions and can accommodate 800 guests in a standing reception or a 350-seat dinner.

Upstairs, the former exhibit hall is being turned into a teaching kitchen for hands-on cooking classes. Bensel said the plan is to have it completed by late summer 2017.

A mezzanine overlooking the atrium and the Napa River can host an event for up to 300. Adjacent to the mezzanine are two classrooms that can be used for breakout sessions, each seating 30. Outside, the newly terraced amphitheater seats 600 in rows or 375 at tables.

Meeting spaces upstairs at CIA at Copia include the Food Business School classroom with 25 seats; the boardroom with 25 seats, reception space for 50 on the balcony and a garden balcony that will accommodate 80 seated and 120 standing.

The main theater at Copia, used for movie screenings, speakers’ series, and panel presentations, seats 250.

For private event bookings, contact Amy Thomason-Richardson at 707-967-2307. For additional information, visit