Andrew Carmellini is the executive chef for A Voce restaurant in New York CIty. In 2000, Carmellini was named Best New Chef by Food & Wine magazine. He also won the James Beard Foundation Award for Rising Star Chef, and was nominated as Best Chef in New York City by the foundation in both 2002 and 2004.
Topic: Training at the Culinary Institute of America
Andrew Carmellini: I went there when I was 18 years old. And I was either going to go to Berkley School of Music, or I was going to go to CIA. It was kind of like this big life decision because I was, you know, I studied music my whole life, primarily guitar, but other things too. And, you know, I got into both and I just made a decision to go to CIA. I think it was kind of a, kind of a very fiscal decision because I knew a lot of musicians didn’t live in nice apartments and didn’t drive, you know, nice cars. And I love to cook anyway; it just seems the business of food was a little bit more secure than the business of guitar playing at the time. I remember definitely making that decision. I’m glad I went to school when I did. With everything I know now, necessarily, I don’t know if I would have done that again. You know, you can really get an education by not going to school. But when I was 18 and being from Cleveland, like I didn’t know I could go to France, I didn’t know that I could work at pretty established restaurants, I didn’t know that I could tours of the greatest wine places, I didn’t know I could go to Italy and work at trattorias, you know, and I did all that, and I didn’t even think about, you know, coming to New York at the time. But it kind of gave me a little bit of base to go be able to do other things. So I’m glad I went when I was 18. I don’t know that maybe if I was 24 that I would have gone and done that, but for me at that time it was a good thing.I mean, I think it’s really the scope of what the business could be. I mean, there’s a lot of people that go to CIA that don’t cook anymore, that aren’t even in the restaurant business. You know, I mean, being a chef really isn’t the only facet of, you know, the whole, especially now, I mean, now there’s, you know, there’s food stylists and private chefs. I spoke at graduation at CIA about a year and a half ago, and I was amazed at the amount of graduates that were there compared to 17 years ago when I graduated. But also, you know, what they were telling me. I was like, “What are you doing after graduation?” And no one, because when I went to school, like, you know, my kind of group of friends was all about coming to New York and working for the great chefs, and there were like maybe five or six at that time. No one was coming to New York. Some were going to be food stylists, recipe testers, some were going straight to food TV, some were getting out of school and becoming consultants without really having a lot of real world experience. There was private chef people, there were, you know, people that wanted to go straight to hotels. There’s just a lot of different, you know, there were a lot of other sub kind of genres for working in the business besides being like chef guy.I mean, the apprenticeship, it depends on who your teacher is really. The way I, you know, deal with cooks now, I think it’s kind of a mix a little bit of, you know, true mentoring and letting them figure things out for themselves. I mean, I think the apprenticeship process, the old apprenticeship process, in Europe it’s for a little bit closed mindedness a little bit and a little bit less room for growth because you know this way and that’s the only way you know. What I do like about it is really missing from the culture of like, I would say modern kitchens a little bit, is what the French would call, you know, mentier [ph?] or craftsmanship, or dedication to ones craft, but also the way you behave in restaurants and the way you deal with dedication. So I think some things are good about that system and some things now in 2008 are kind of antiquated about that system.