Culinary Heaven: Thomas Keller Day

name tagThis week was straight up incredible. No other way to say it. I’ve just completed the first week of training for my new job with The Culinary Institute of America as their new “Capital Area Regional Admissions Counselor.” I’ll be fortunate enough to work from my home office where I live in Maryland/the greater D.C. area.

I’m currently halfway through my full immersion into learning who and what this great school is all about; what the food tastes like (tough life, I know), how and why the students’ schedules are arranged, what the classes look and feel like, how their rolling admissions process works, how to maneuver a new database, how to connect with many crucial offices (financial aid, marketing, etc.) that will help with each new student’s transition, and so much more. I’m very grateful for this time in order to better relay this perspective of campus to our future students and chefs.

As a result of my training, this week was packed with out-of-this-world cuisine on campus, daily tastings, demonstrations, observations, and many meetings. The staff, students, and remarkable Chef Instructors are all incredibly welcoming and friendly. I instantly felt at home. Even more so than I had anticipated. I can’t even begin to explain how lovely that feels, knowing that this was a pretty life changing decision to leave GMU for “the CIA.” It’s just so great to feel “home” already.

So, what was first?! Below is the first of the many highlights of what happened during my first week:

“Thomas Keller Day”

Like…as in THE Thomas Keller – voted the best and most influential Chef in America – world-renowned author and restaurateur – owner of Per Se (New York, NY) and The French Laundry (Napa Valley, CA) – just to name a few of his 47394032 accomplishments. So, what about him? He was there, at the CIA, on my first day. What a way to dive right into the world of all-things-culinary with a visit from Thomas Keller himself! The CIA rolled out the red carpet with an extraordinary day to celebrate his influence in the industry. Students were preciously sitting on the edge of their seats in their perfectly pressed chef whites while listening and taking notes from just about every word he had to say.

The afternoon portion of his visit was my personal favorite. Everyone on campus was told that he was going to perform a cooking demo. Pretty cool, right? So I walked in with two of my new co-workers (special shout out to Bob and Nicole!) and we were invited to sit in the front row…um, haha…YES that’s just fine with me! So there we were, waiting for the “cooking demo” to start. We were handed a Playbill, which then prompted a few perplexed faces. As the lights dimmed, Thomas Keller and his team from The French Laundry came on to stage, one by one…but something was different…this was no ordinary demo…they were suddenly re-enacting a classic night in their kitchen. This play-like format was an amazing surprise to the entire audience. I had chills! We literally had a chance to see what goes on behind the scenes in what has been noted as one of the BEST restaurants in the WORLD. Every few minutes the chefs (or “actors” in this case) would freeze as the lights dimmed, and a solo light then dramatically shined on select speakers who work with Chef Keller’s inspiration and production: the gardener in Napa Valley, the fisherman in Maine, the farmers all over the country, the bakers who produce some of the world’s finest chocolates and hearth-baked breads, and many others. It was so humbling to hear from each of their perspectives; what it takes to whole heartedly nurture the food that we prepare, appreciate (hopefully), and consume each day. I was nearly tearing up at times hearing the love and adoration for their career and collaboration that this great industry boasts. “Get it together, Katherine!” I thought to myself, “It’s your first day!”

If you’re as excited about this production as I was, then I suggest you read more about it here: http://www.ciachef.edu/thomas-keller-day-release/. Also, here’s a slide show of photos that the CIA took as well (Photo credit: CIA/Phil Mansfield) – look for me in one of those photos…I’m in there! Front row, side section:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There’s a million other things that I want to write about from my inspiring first week, but I’ve realized that it’s worthy of other posts. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, happy Saturday 🙂

Office Space

Ladies and Gentlemen….my commute is over!!!

Last Friday was my final day working for George Mason University. It was hard to leave Mason…I just adore that university as well as the talented staff that I was fortunate enough to work with for nearly 3 years. But I was also ready to have my time and life back. No more commuting, and particularly no more stressful attempts to balance those very few hours at home before sleeping and then sitting in traffic again the next morning. (Out of the loop?! Check out my last post for an update on what I’m doing next: Newlie News: The “CIA”.)

I’m so excited (and we all know that my usual level of excitement is abnormally high) to start working with the CIA (www.ciachef.edu) in less than one week! In the meantime, I get to soak up this week of my own little “stay-cation” at home, allowing time to reflect on what’s about to happen.

Transitioning from one job to the next is usually both daunting and refreshing. Am I right? But having this week to set up my home office and enjoy a little bit of the easy life is such a treat! This was my day yesterday:

Woke up – made coffee & breakfast (egg whites, scrambled with sautéed mushrooms, topped with feta cheese) – snuggled with Stella while watching Good Morning America (TOTALLY my pick over the Today Show by the way…major new fan of “GMA”) – did laundry – ran 4 miles with Stella – made lunch (power salad! arugula, avocado, tomatoes, broccoli, and sprinkled with chunks of cheddar cheese) when Sean came home – went to Target – came home and cleaned up a bit – made a delicious dinner with Sean (spaghetti with sausage, and a side of garlic bread), watched T.V. … but got restless … so I made chocolate chip cookies from scratch (yep…same recipe from this post: cookie baking time lapse), finished the night laughing hysterically at our new favorite show, “Duck Dynasty.” End scene. 

Today I set up my new “office space” here at home. Now, this bad boy seen below is no ordinary desk – it’s my great-Grandfather’s desk. His name was William McKay, and he was from St. Paul, North Carolina. When my parents recently moved out of their home in Pennsylvania for their retirement in the North Carolina mountains, I was thrilled to inherit this beautiful roll-top antique desk. I’ve jazzed it up a bit to be a little more “Katherine” and girly…but I can’t even begin to tell you how happy I am to get to work here.

Great Grandfather's Desk

I especially love thinking about how happy great-Grandaddy McKay would be if he knew that his desk would be home to three generations: his daughter’s family, and then her daughter’s family, and then even further to HER daughter’s new family (our little Mason home!). This desk has already brought me so much joy.

Here are a few goodies that I decided to decorate it with:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I can’t even begin to tell you all how lucky I feel to have this new sense of career independence, such an exciting company to work for, the life I’ve been dreaming about for years, and a chance to celebrate our sweet family throughout our home. I can’t wait for all that’s in store for this life-changing switch.

And on that note…it’s time to get ready for my first ever mid-day Zumba class!!!

Happy living.