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Neighbor to Neighbor: Manhattan school turns food into art

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The day before Halloween last year, an announcement on Radio WOR-710 invited the audience and friends to attend an Open House the following day at the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan. The party was to include a demonstration and an opportunity to taste food prepared by students at a buffet — all free It sounded intriguing! I love good food and learning new things. Since I am the family’s present chef, I would have been interested in attending had there not been a meeting already scheduled for that date and time.

A short time later, I answered a tap at our door. It was a young lady from another block. She asked for a donation for her school, The Mary Louis Academy, since they had some special program that needed funding. As I handed her my donation, I inquired about her hopes for the future. “I’m planning on becoming a chef,” she told me with a smile.

I told her about the party at the French Culinary Institute and asked her if she would like to go if I could find out more details for her. She was interested. I called the Institute and had a very pleasant conversation with Jaull Loram. He said he would not only be pleased to have our young neighbor attend, she could bring any or all of her family. He told me, too, that a friend and I could go at another time since we couldn’t attend the party. I was delighted.

I wrote out all the details and took them to our neighbor's house. There, to my surprise, was the student and a few members of her family, waiting in the doorway. They were all smiling and pleased at the prospect. I’m sorry I haven’t seen that young lady or her family since to hear whether she has decided to attend that school. I should have followed up, but volunteer life is often too hectic to do all the things we have to do, let alone the things we wish we could do.

At any rate, I can tell you from personal experience (and I’m sure Fred Kress, president of The Rosedale Civic Association and the Cornucopia Society would attest) that a tour of the French Culinary Institute is a most interesting experience. Fred and I also decided to have lunch in L’Ecole, the restaurant on the first floor of the building which also houses the Institute.

As you enter the restaurant, there is a raised area to the left where the Institute’s chefs take their meals. The main dining area seems light and airy with immaculately white tablecloths and sparklingly clean tulip-shaped crystal stemware, three to each place setting.

The young waiters were extremely polite, professional and helpful, and the meals were beautifully presented and delicious. The food was prepared by the students of the Institute under the supervision of the staff chefs, some of whom have won worldwide acclaim.

As we toured the areas where food preparation was in progress, we noted students of different ages and races, all seemingly happy about learning the skill and art of food preparation and presentation, some with career goals, some as a hobby and some for the sheer enjoyment of cooking great meals for themselves or their families.

If I were a student or someone between jobs, I would think an opportunity to enroll in such a course would be almost impossible to resist. I can still smell those loaves of delicious bread being baked to perfection, and can still remember the beautiful designs created out of various color tones of...mmmmmm... CHOCOLATE! I was delighted, in fact, to hear from one of the neighbors on my street that he is already attending and enjoying his studies at the French Culinary Institute. He has, I think, made a very fine choice.

If you, or someone you know, might be interested in learning more about the French Culinary Institute at 462 Broadway in Manhattan, call Jaull Loram, 646-254-7525. I would strongly recommend using public transportation since parking in that area may be a problem. Transit suggests taking the E train to Canal Street, followed by about a two-block walk.

We hope you enjoy the experience as much as we did!

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