My Trip to the CIA

OK, before anyone worries about my safety or legal standing, I’m not talking about “that” CIA.  I’m talking about the Culinary Institute of America, Greystone, in the Napa Valley of California.  I had the privilege of attending a multi-day event that included some educational seminars, wine tastings and out of this world food.

I have always enjoyed food.  Eating it, cooking it, baking it… you get the idea.  I have no formal culinary training or education to speak of, I just watched cooking shows and read cook books over the years.  My trip to the CIA was like stepping into another world.  Everywhere chefs in training wearing their whites.  Each morsel of food prepared with the care usually reserved for foreign dignitaries at State dinners. 

During the first day I sat in the main lecture hall listening to experts talk about wine and sauces and cuts of meat.  Another day was reserved for touring several local vineyards. I am not what you would call a wine enthusiast, but I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  Maybe it was the beautiful views, or the amazing hospitality.  The food certainly helped.  Wine never tasted so good.

I was a little worried before the trip that being among all of these culinary experts would eclipse my love of food and put me in my place.  Who was I to sit at the table with such giants?  I’m no chef.  But rather than make me feel small or unworthy, every person I spoke to encouraged me to pursue my love of food.  They answered my questions, no matter how simple.  They didn’t laugh when I had no idea how to properly taste wine. Apparently you are supposed to spit it out (seems like a waste to me).  I left feeling inspired.

If you find yourself in the Napa Valley of California, or anywhere close to there, I’d encourage you to stop by the CIA.  They have a restaurant that is open to the public, and several CIA trained chefs have opened restaurants in the vicinity of the school.  And drink some wine, even if you aren’t a wine person.  You won’t regret it.

One of the many vineyards  I visited on my trip to the CIA

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