You might expect the world’s premier culinary college to have great restaurants, and the Culinary Institute of America does not disappoint. The Hyde Park, NY-based school, a BevX winner for Multi-Concept Restaurant, has four on-campus public restaurants that serve as educational labs.
It also has a Wine, Beverage and Hospitality concentration in its Bachelor’s program, which has sent dozens of graduates specializing in beverage operations out into the industry.
The restaurants feature craft cocktail lists as well as innovative wine programs. “The students are on the cutting edge of whatever is going on,” says Rory Brown, associate professor of restaurant beverage education at the CIA. “Their ability to find something unique or interesting or trending helps us stay in touch with what might be coming up or would be important.”
When developing cocktails for the restaurants, the CIA has to balance offering drinks that are on-trend and on-brand for the guests, but also have some historical significance or seasonal relevance for the students. Brown says that tequila has been popular with guests, along with classic cocktails and recognizable riffs on the classics.
He’s also seeing an interest in demi or half-portions of drinks, which enables guests to have more flavor experiences without consuming too much alcohol or sugar.
In addition to its cocktail and wine programs, the Institute has a brewery on campus that was named Brewery of the Year for New York State in 2019, and is the lab for the Art & Science of Brewing class. The CIA’s beers are sold in all of its restaurants and distributed by CBG from Westchester County up to Lake Placid, NY. And as the Asahi-Shuzo sake brewery — located near the campus — ramps up production, the CIA is increasing the availability of different sake in all of its beverage programs.
The college is becoming a hub for beverage professionals as well, with the Court of Master Sommeliers conducting levels one and two on the campus each year, and the Beverage Alcohol Resource team making the CIA the new home for their B.A.R. 5-Day program every winter.
A new generation of beverage pros
The CIA has been seeing the traditionally back-of-house operations moving toward the bar. “We’re finding that our bakery and pastry students are way more interested in the bar than they used to be,” Brown says.
It’s an exciting development, as the culinary students understand how to balance flavor, plus they bring texture and aroma to the front of house, he notes. This is helpful in creating house-made syrups, sodas, jams and the like, and enables the bar “to really elevate experiences.”
As hospitality continues to move from a service to a profession, “I’m very excited for the next 15 years of food and beverage management to see what happens,” Brown says. “As we continue to see purpose-focused learners coming in, I think we’re going to see a massive shift from things that were very good and interesting to things that are unbelievable and going back to being world-class again.”