One of the purposes of all the classes offered at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena may be to convince people to cook more, to learn about nutrition and to become more healthy.
If that sounds boring, it isn’t. There’s an energy on campus that starts with the faculty — just under 30 — and ripples through the staff and through the students in their chef’s toques and white uniforms.
There’s a lot going on at the CIA: tours for visitors, a quiet coffee or lunch at the Bakery Cafe by Illy, a two-hour food sampling class, cooking demonstrations on the weekends, food enthusiast classes ranging from a couple of hours to a couple of days, “boot camps” to learn a variety of cooking skills, a full range of wine education and tasting programs, continuing education programs for professionals, two certificate programs and two associate degree programs.
Add to these lunches and dinners at the Wine Spectator Restaurant, conferences throughout the year including the annual Worlds of Flavor conference that attracts chefs from around the world, and continuing collaborations with the Harvard Medical School on healthy foods, and one gets a sense of how busy it is at Greystone, the historic Christian Brothers Winery building.
“It is a very fun, very challenging place to work just keeping up with the pace,” said Dean of Education Russell Scott. “On any given day, wandering from kitchen to kitchen, you can see the core students going through their degree programs, professional classes — we do a lot of work consulting with corporations — a food enthusiast group, and walking upstairs, there might be three different culinary arts degree program classes going on, each one unique, one studying the cuisines of Asia, another the cuisine of the Americas and the third studying charcuterie.”
The CIA at Greystone offers an associate degree in culinary arts and one in baking and pastry arts. These are five-semester programs that cost about $61,000, including tuition, supplies, uniforms and books but not lodging, which ranges from $2,835 to $4,340 per semester. That’s four semesters of classes and a paid externship in the third semester.
Its two certificate programs are the Accelerated Culinary Arts Program (ACAP) and the Accelerated Wine and Beverage Program (AWBP), both 30-week, two-semester programs that cost roughly $31,000, not including lodging at a residence hall.
Scott said the ACAP is a “deep dive into culinary arts for people who have hospitality degrees or a degree from a related hospitality field. If you’re a little too far out of the hospitality realm, we won’t take you. But you might want to be a restaurant manager and, obviously, manage the kitchen.”
But, he added, most hospitality degree students don’t have enough education in culinary arts. Those students need more education “to be effective and compete on the level you need to today,” he said.
The AWBP is for people with hospitality degrees who want to specialize in beverages and sales or open their own business.
“Your hospitality degree has served you very well, but you find there’s some specialized knowledge and skills that you need to focus on beverages and spirits,” Scott said. “Where do you want to go for that? You want to come to the Napa Valley and come to the Culinary Institute of America, where we have master sommeliers (Bob Bath and Christy Default) on staff.”
Beyond the associate degrees and certificates, the CIA Greystone also offers tours and cooking demonstrations ($10 each per person), Flavor Bar menus ($10 or $15), two-hour sampling classes, at $95 per person; boot camps from two days ($750) to a week ($2,195); and a range of food enthusiast experiences, including the Sophisticated Palate program. One of its classes, “Tastes of the Wine Country,” is a custom, private experience for a group from six to 12 people that costs $600 per person per day.
The five-day basic training Boot Camp teaches participants the fundamentals of cooking, including hands-on training in knife skills, kitchen terminology, dry-heat cooking methods (roasting, grilling, sauteing, pan-frying and stir-frying), and moist-heat cooking methods (braising, shallow poaching, deep poaching and steaming). It is held from 2-8:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, and costs $2,195.
Although Scott is fairly new to the Greystone campus, he isn’t new to the hospitality field. When he was in high school, he started washing dishes because he needed some spending money, he said. When the opportunity came up, Scott also did some cooking.
“I never really considered (hospitality) as a career,” he said.
His father was a machinist and Scott thought he would follow in those footsteps. In high school, he earned a rare apprenticeship, although he struggled as a machinist.
At that time, he talked about his struggles with the owner of the business. The man told Scott he would send him to culinary school if he could.
“I laughed and didn’t think much about it at the time,” Scott said.
Shortly after that, however, he took a hard look at going to culinary school.
“At 15, I had several years in (hospitality) and I thought ‘Maybe I should do this.’ I looked harder at it and decided this is what I would do. Thirty-four or 35 years later, here we are and I’m dean of education.”
Scott has been on the CIA Greystone campus for about seven months and is glad to be back working for the nonprofit CIA. After earning his associate and bachelor’s degrees, he spent seven years on the faculty at Hyde Park. He left in 2005 when there were only the Hyde Park and Greystone campuses, one established in 1946 and the second in 1995, almost half a century later.
“There was a limited opportunity for somebody like myself then, but now with four campuses (including San Antonio and Singapore) there’s tremendous opportunity,” Scott said. “I’m so happy to be back, but also to be in this valley. I don’t know any chef who wouldn’t be happy to come to what most consider the mecca of food and beverage in this country.”
Scott is responsible for all the educational programs, and although he and his staff support the conferences any way they can, they are not his responsibility. He oversees the faculty and helps develop and manage the curriculum. At this point Scott sees several challenges.
“My two focuses are communication — making sure we have a regular and robust system of communication throughout the departments and with adjacent departments — and managing the curriculum,” he said.
The curriculum is in a constant state of flux, Scott said, and as an administrator, he is always trying to improve it. “I do believe one of the keys that keeps the CIA at the forefront of the hospitality industry is education.”
Another, he added, is the CIA’s willingness to take a leadership position in the hospitality industry by taking responsibility for health issues — like obesity, for example — and holding conferences on healthy cooking.
Experts are brought in from around the world and professional chefs are able to come to a conference and learn healthy cooking techniques to take back to their kitchens.
In that way, Scott said, the CIA is actually doing something about this national problem.
“I don’t know anyone else in the educational field that’s doing that,” he said.