Culinary Institute serves up philanthropic fun

Students work on various meals at American Bounty

Students work on various meals at American Bounty Restaurant at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. (Dec. 13, 2011) (Credit: John Roca)

The Culinary Institute of America is giving new meaning to the term "party school" with a senior project teaching students how to whip up themed bashes featuring big bands, special menus -- and donations for local charities.

During the school year that just ended, students ran a dozen of sold-out events, racking up $159,867 in ticket sales. After expenses, $62,000 was equally divided between the school's scholarship fund and local charities, the CIA announced.

The fine dining experiences were the capstone assignments for seniors, who are required to take a food service management course before graduating.

The sold-out activities, ranging from a Venetian masked ball to Mother's Day brunch, attracted 90 to 170 guests from a 50-mile radius of the Hyde Park campus, said course professor Pat Bottiglieri. The demanding homework assignment has proved its worth in giving students real world skill sets, he added.

The next round of parties will be held on five consecutive Saturdays in September and October. The schedule won't be posted on the school's website until August but Bottiglieri offered a sneak preview: Sept. 22's "Be Famous for A Night" will give guests the red carpet, movie star treatment. Meanwhile, the Oct. 6 "Strangers in the Night: The Rat Pack is Back" has students immersed in researching Frank Sinatra songs, tenderloin of beef roulade recipes, and how to hire a 20-piece orchestra.

The $85 ticket price covers a cocktail hour with specialty drinks, three savory courses with wine pairings, plus dessert. Afterward, patrons are asked to fill out comment cards rating food preparation, service, ambience, value for price paid, Bottiglieri said.

Charities that received donations from last year's events were: Abilities First, American Heart Association, Anderson Center for Autism, Children's Home of Poughkeepsie, Fisher House Foundation, Grace Smith House, Habitat for Humanity, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Miles of Hope and Ramapo for Children.

Famous graduates among the school's 44,000 alumni include Grant Achatz, Anthony Bourdain, Roy Choi, Cat Cora, Dan Coudreaut, Steve Ells, Johnny Iuzzini, Charlie Palmer, and Roy Yamaguchi.

The Institute recently closed its flagship Escoffier restaurant, with plans to replace it.

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