Friday, April 30, 2010

Chef Ritter's Evening Pro Program Posts Highest Class Scores in CKCA History

The winter semester of Chef David Ritter's evening Professional Program in Culinary Arts amassed high test scores and an impressive level of commitment to the gastronomic arts. The class met three evening a week for a total of 150 hours, and ran from January to April 2010.

"They really were a sharp bunch, perhaps the best group we've ever had in terms of work ethic, intelligence and career motivation," said Jesse Blonder, CKCA's director.

Out of the eight students in the class, six of them received scores above the 90th percentile, and while one student withdrew due to professional culinary commitments, the lowest recorded grade was actually a high B+, Blonder said.

"This class was incredibly serious, working hard all the time," said the course instructor, Chef David Ritter, who has taught the Professional evening program four times since he joined CKCA in 2009. "Some students had side jobs and would push themselves to learn the material and get to class, even while Passover preparation had them working excessive hours."

"The student/class 'personality' seemed to mesh better than other classes I've had, and they all communicated with each other outside of class. Additionally, I received many e-mails throughout the semester with requests for recipes and help with catering events. These students were very serious, and were a pleasure to teach. At least half of them already work or are planning to work in the food industry in some capacity.

The students' exams for the semester included five quizzes relating to the material learned in each segment, and Servsafe, the food-service sanitation certificate program which awards a diploma from the National Restaurant Association, was taught throughout the semester as an ongoing lesson, with additional segments of classes dedicated to specific food safety chapters.

"My culinary final exam consisted of a 50-question test and a cooking practical, which were general overviews of the whole semester," said Ritter. The practical exam tests knife skills and a demonstration of the basic cooking technique of how to make an omelette. "My students did very well on these," said Ritter.

Additionally, "The Servsafe exam is a 90-question nationwide exam which the students felt they did very well on. I expect six to seven of the seven students who sat for it to pass this exam," Ritter said.

Four of the students are being placed in culinary apprenticeships through the CKCA Apprenticeship program.

Ritter mentioned that he continues to be contacted by former students through e-mail and cell phone, as they continue to have questions and request advice long after the class ends. As is the case with many chef instructors and student chefs, this relationship is often very important and influential for the student. "It is my pleasure to continue these relationships," said Ritter.

The excellence demonstrated by the class this semester is one of the reasons why CKCA is initiating a merit based scholarship competition this summer, called "The Next Kosher Chef." Visit for the details, which will be released within the next month.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Chanita Bar-Chaim Cooks Night and Day

Chanita Bar-Chaim, a soon-to-be graduate of the Center for Kosher Culinary Arts evening program in Culinary Arts, is already hard at work in "the biz," spending her days from 7am until 5pm at Basil, a "Pizza and Wine Bar" restaurant in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

Born in Israel, Chanita grew up in Elizabeth, NJ, and went to high school in Providence, Rhode Island. While in Providence, Chanita worked throughout high school for a caterer who was educated in Culinary Arts at the famed Johnson & Wales University, and Chanita spent time doing prep work in the kitchen during her first year with the chef. After that, she helped set up presentations for veggie and fruit tables and did some waitressing, but the caterer soon noticed that Chanita had a eye for plating, and so was given more responsibility for plating and aesthetic presentation.

But cooking in Providence isn't the first time Chanita has been in a kitchen. "I can't remember a time when I didn't cook," she said.

Certainly she helped cook at home since age 12 with her Chabad-associated family, which includes three sisters and a brother, and she even volunteered to cook in her seminary during her year in Israel, making Shabbos dinners, banquets and even a big Thanksgiving for all the American girls in the seminary.

Since returning from Israel, Chanita has worked in retail bakeries locally and in a wholesale/retail bakery in Florida, and has been doing party platters and even larger catering jobs like her brother's Bar Mitzvah party.

At Basil, Chanita is very busy. "Right now, I am running the downstairs prep kitchen, and doing the salad and dessert station, and assisting all the other stations that need sauces or prep items. For the fish station, I fillet the fish and do all the prep for the tartare. I am also a mashgacha, so I check all the veggies," she said.

Looking forward, Chanita hopes to eventually open her own catering business.

Friday, April 9, 2010

CKCA Pro Courses Add Culinary Drills to Curriculum

In one of the first major changes to the Center for Kosher Culinary Arts Professional Culinary Arts and Baking & Pastry Arts course curriculum, CKCA chef instructors will institute a series of Culinary Arts Training Drills built into the weekly schedule. Drills will be implemented in the Spring semester, beginning April 19th, 2010.

Culinary Arts Training Drills are 10 to 15 minute knife skill and instruction-following exercises designed to strengthen the student's skills, discipline and speed.

Drills will be held one to two days a week at the very beginning of class. The student must be on time in order to participate in the drills. Late students will not benefit from the education opportunity.

"Our aim is that these drills will help the students retain what they learn about using a knife and improve their knife skills overall so that they perform better when sent out on their apprenticeship," said Jesse Blonder, CKCA's director. These curriculum alterations, as well as other changes CKCA is making, are part of a move to provide a more professional and advanced class atmosphere, as per the interest of the many kosher-keeping students seeking a challenging and career-enhancing culinary school experience.

"Drills will help to show that our students are serious about the quality of the education they are receiving, and in turn, we are serious about producing students with highly marketable skills," said Blonder.

The Center for Kosher Culinary Arts, based in Flatbush, Brooklyn, offers 150-hour professional training programs in a kosher environment. To date, CKCA has graduated more than 125 students from all over the world.

Past students have come from 20 states as well as England, Mexico, Israel and France. This coming semester, CKCA is pleased to be welcoming three students from Panama and one student from Australia.

Classes start April 19th. For more information or to request an application, visit CKCA on the web at or call 718-758-1339.