9 great take away lessons from my CIA MPS program

This past week I was fortunate enough to begin my journey with a residency in Napa for the Culinary Institute of America's new MPS or Master of Professional Studies program. An MPS degree is a master's degree with the purpose of specific professional studies. I liken it to an MBA on a mission! I fell in love with the curriculum of entrepreneurship and sustainability. Plus it is one of the hybrid/low-residency programs being offered at more schools now. I can attend online during the year and be at the campus with everyone for a week in the summer!

Here is what I learned over the past week that you might find interesting for food, nutrition, and health communication.
  1. We took a DiSC assessment to learn our strengths about our own behavior. I am not going to write at length on this topic because you can google it and learn from people who are far more knowledgeable than me. The point of mentioning it, though, is to discover how to make the most of your natural talent and vision, as well as how to realize how other people are different. The best quote from our lecturer was, "All perspectives are correct." It was a profound statement that was more easily grasped after learning about DiSC. This way of thinking promotes innovation, inclusion, and collaboration for so many activities and challenges. I found myself having more curiosity about differing opinions.
  2. Sustainability is important to ensure an adequate food supply for future generations. The CIA has developed this MPS program so professional chefs and food entrepreneurs can embrace sustainability. Things to consider include soil conservation, waste management, water conservation, organic farming practices, promoting more plant-based foods, using local farmers, helping your community, and focusing on menus planned around flavors and seasonal ingredients.
  3. Plant-forward is a new kitchen term that is consistent with the plant-based term that we all see in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. It is not totally vegan but the plant-forward menu we created in class was about 90% vegan. One amazing thing we did was to have all 50 cohorts make their own lunch. We were assigned in teams to 4 different outdoor stations and made a huge feast. I learned to make plant-forward "ricotta cheese" by soaking and grinding macadamia nuts to a fine paste and I put it on top of grilled peaches and pizza. I think you could use any hulled nut for delicious vegan ricotta cheese. More studies and recipes are to come from my own kitchen. Stay tuned!
  4. Farm to table in action is always a great discovery in your own community. I really enjoyed a chance to see a 3-Star Michelin restaurant that sources all fruits, herbs, grains, flowers, and vegetables from their own organic garden. If you visit Single Thread you can read all about them. Single Thread Farm and Restaurant uses food waste from the restaurant to make compost for the farm. They create detailed lists about the seeds that produce the most delicious fruits and vegetables so they grow food for flavor as opposed to looks. The strawberries we ate in the field were amazing. Local foods and local farmers are worth all the time and effort it takes to find them and buy their items to support them.
  5. Tasting activities are fun if done blind. When I saw the tasting activity we did for wine it immediately made me want to share it with you so you could do it with fruits, beans, veggies, milk, etc for your classes. We tasted two items at a time without knowing what they were except for the fact that we were tasting two glasses of red wine, one in the right hand and one in the left hand, dubbed right or left. We voted for our favorite with star stickers on a flip chart and discussed our own preferences. What a fun way to get people to try new things! Every item saw the audience split between the best one.
  6. It is great to have a roommate. I signed up for the dorm program and was put into a 5 bedroom house with 10 other students and we had an amazing experience! We were able to visit after class and walk to restaurants in St. Helena together. We had to collaborate to all get ready early in the morning or to carpool to class. I learned a lot more about them by sharing a house. This is a good idea for FNCE or any conference!
  7. Books are an avenue to a good life! Never worry if you have too many! With a kindle and audible you can keep buying and learning! It is even okay if you don't finish them all. I have too many to count and bought more as speakers were mentioning them. The nice thing about digital books is that you always have them with you and you can search for things digitally. Audible books are nice when you are walking or driving and they give your eyes a rest! I bought one by Kyle Connaughton about Japanese Pot Cooking.
  8. The new CIA Copia Center or CIA Food Business School has many continuing education programs and webinars for adult learners along with their prochef program. I highly recommend them! Check out ciachef.edu to learn more. And no, I do not receive any money or kickbacks although I am an alumnus from the Hyde Park campus!
  9. Mentors are a valuable part of any learning process. We have an entire mentor network of professionals to use for our projects whether as a one-time question and answer session or for ongoing help. What a useful idea for any learning program for people who are trying to learn and develop better habits to see and learn from others who are there. I am also mentoring many students from my former program at JWU! It is very rewarding to be on both sides. You can follow my progress on LinkedIn.

Here are a few photos. The first two are of the Chuck Williams museum at the Culinary Institute of America Copia campus in Napa, California. Chuck was the founder of Williams and Sonoma and he donated his private collection of cooking utensils and vessels to the CIA along with the funds to display them. Next, you will see the lunch we cooked including vegan paella and aqua fresca with fresh lemon and herbs from the garden. The CIA at Greystone campus and its kitchen is featured followed by our Single Thread Farm tour and wine tasting activity.

I am back at home and ready to work over the next year on my online classes and will be at the Hyde Park CIA campus next summer for residency number two! Of course, I will also be in the kitchen and graphic design studio preparing many great things for all of my readers. Looking forward!

By Judy Doherty, BS, PCII

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