Editor’s note: Shere Henrici, local cooking enthusiast, is passionate about cooking. “It’s the Italian in me — I just love to feed people,” she says. In addition to establishing her San Antonio Supper Club, she is also immersed in the early stages of developing a mobile food truck business. We asked her to be a student for a day at the CIA Thursday and share the experience with us on SavorSA.
By Shere Henrici
Today was a dream come true experience. I got to cook in the kitchens of the Culinary Institute of America’s San Antonio campus at the Pearl Complex!
It was Student for a Day, which the school sponsored to promote its new associate degree program starting in August. We joined current students in the school’s 30-week certificate program.
The last time I was in the kitchens there was during a tour I took with my oldest daughter, who at the time thought she might want to attend their Certificate Program. That has since changed. During that tour I was so excited by the gorgeous professional stoves that, OK, I got weak in the knees: the amazing perfectly stocked pantry, the stainless steel counters. I wanted so much to cook in that kitchen.
At some point I remember starting to giggle and was thrown the “don’t-you-dare-embarrass-me-mother” glare. So here I was on Thursday, ready to realize my dream. We were given chef’s coats to wear with CIA logos, huge drag-on-your-shoes aprons and that cute little paper chef’s hat.
We took a tour of their new and much larger facility, were given a lunch of grilled salmon, Israeli couscous and a variety of really nice salads. So far lunch is my favorite part.
We were then partnered up with a student who was most likely briefed to not let us chop any of our parts off or light ourselves on fire. OK, so my apron string perhaps got a little close to the flame on the stove! I’m not used to a gas stove, so no big deal.
It was a flurry of activity. The day’s instruction was the basics of proteins. That means eggs, folks. I’m thinking “no problem, who doesn’t know how to cook an egg?!” We were given five “simple” dishes to prepare and then watched as the chef and lecturing instructor, Michael Katz, demonstrated each. This was important, we needed to follow instructions exactly, no winging it here.
Then we were on our own, working in our teams of course. The challenge most of the time was not running into the person next to you or the one behind you. Oh, sort of like a real professional kitchen — imagine that.
We worked for three hours making eggs like crazy. I had some humbling experiences, like producing the “perfect” over easy egg. We had to flip it in the pan, no spatula. It must not have any color, too much grease on top and do not even think about having any of the white folded under. You getting the picture? Who thought that making breakfast could be so stressful? In all, we learned how to (correctly) boil eggs, make soft and regular scrambled eggs, baked custard and Eggs Benedict (with hollandaise sauce).
It seems I passed, but I’m thinking chef Katz might have cut me some slack. Just a thought. It was an awesome day. Lots of great camaraderie, and as much as I hate to admit it, I learned a lot.
After our cooking demonstrations we had dinner together, as at lunch, family style. Very nice and casual. This time we had rice, a perfectly roasted pork loin with a demi-glace sauce, a fresh tossed salad with Italian vinaigrette and shaved Parmesan. For dessert we had the custards we had made for our presentations to the chef Katz.
I had a fantastic day, made new friends and got to cook in a CIA kitchen. I can cross that one off my list. I will be looking for other opportunities to come and do this again.
Photographs by Bonnie Walker